The Secret City (All-Flash #31, 1947)

The story begins when both Jay Garrick and Dr. Maria Flura have an interview scheduled at the same time with newspaper publisher Dale Thomas. They bump into each other at the door, and there’s a bit of a spark between the two, which I’m sure Joan Williams would not be happy about. But that’s quickly brushed aside as Thomas insists that he has no time for either of them since he has another appointment to keep, one made 20 years earlier. However, the individual he’s supposed to meet, former reporter Jim Ronson, turns up dead in the pressroom, and then mysteriously fades away.

flash rowboatFrom there Thomas gives the story of how Ronson found a hidden city in the jungles of the Amazon twenty years earlier and promised to meet with Thomas to tell him all the details. By this point, Jay has left and returned as the Flash, and he, Dr. Flura and Thomas all decide to head to South America. The Flash borrows a rowboat, and then he swims all the way to South America at super speed, pushing the boat with Flura and Thomas inside. I guess an airplane trip would just be too slow! They are attacked by what appear to be white men in odd uniforms, who all look identical and who turn to dust when defeated like the body of Ronson did. They spot Ronson, alive, and follow him, only to fall down into a pit and into the Secret City that gives the story its name. They meet the genuine Ronson, who had learned the secret of mentally projecting duplicates of himself in order to lead them to the city. That power is held by the dictator of the city, and after the Flash has saved himself and the others from being burned alive, the dictator attacks him with it. He first tries duplicates of himself, then of the Flash, but Jay defeats them all and forces the man to surrender.

In the end, Ronson stays behind to study the city, now that he’s no longer a prisoner, while Jay takes Thomas and Dr. Flura home, where Thomas promises to publish the story.

Overall: this was Carmine Infantino’s first ever work with the Flash. He’s better known for drawing Barry Allen, but he drew a few Jay Garrick stories in the late 1940s as well. The story itself is like something from Indiana Jones or Edgar Rice Burroughs, with hidden ancient cities hidden deep in the jungle. It avoids stereotypical natives by instead giving us men of indeterminate ethnicity and strange mental powers. And lastly, Dr. Flura will go on to appear in at least two more stories. One of them is a sequel to the Secret City, and one introduces the Golden Age version of the Star Sapphire, so this is the beginning of some ongoing continuity in the form of a recurring character.

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Golden Age Superman – the changing decade of the 40s

Thanks to Kitchen Sink Press and later IDW, we have the full run of Superman’s color Sunday newspaper strips from the decade of the 1940s, and about a third of the daily strips so far. Prior to a few years ago, I hadn’t paid much attention to the newspaper comics, being more interested in the actual comic books themselves. But that was a mistake, particularly since the newspaper strips contain not only the most expansive early version of Superman’s origin, but also end up going off in their own direction as a separate continuity to the comics.

The newspaper strips give us the earliest account of Jor-L (not Jor-El) and his attempts to persuade the government of Krypton that the planet is doomed. Neither the origin in Action Comics #1 or Superman #1 go into any detail about this. The newspaper strip also spends a day or two detailing the dangerous travel to Earth by baby Kal-L and his rocket. There’s an account of how Clark Kent obtains his job at the Daily Star that differs from the comic book version. And Lois is a redhead in the Sunday strips rather than having black hair as she does in the comics.

There is some early crossover with stories printed in both comics and newspapers, but the newspaper strips soon go off in their own direction. Getting back to the Sunday strips, one of the things that we’re now able to do is see how the approach to the character changed just over the course of the 1940s. Ten short years give us three distinct periods of Superman’s fictional life.

The early 40s – Here is where we see the social crusader and crime fighter that Siegel and Shuster originally created. When we think of “Golden Age Superman”, this is the version most people are familiar with: the guy who can’t fly at first and who isn’t completely invulnerable.

World War 2 – The newspaper strips delve into the war in a way that the comic books really didn’t. There’s a nearly two year long series of stories with the umbrella title “Superman’s Service to Servicemen” where he takes letters from troops serving in WW2 and answers their requests.

The late 40s – The storytelling really lightens up and there’s a mix of goofy plots along with a few more traditional crime and human interest stories, as well as a few returns to the servicemen plots. In the intro to the reprint volume, Mark Waid speculates that post-war America was ready to relax and laugh and leave the heavy drama behind for awhile. That approach is reflected in the newspaper storylines.

One of the benefits of the Sunday strips is that it doesn’t take long at all to get through ten years of comics and really see how the character changed and evolved in that first decade.

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The Planet of Sport and The Rival Flash!

I’ve been reading the Flash 75th Anniversary book, which contains four solo Jay Garrick Flash stories from the 1940s. Nice!

 AllFlash31The Planet of Sport – Bread and circuses for the alien masses. Jay Garrick and Joan Williams are escorting a pair of (unnamed) Olympic champions around the Keystone City zoo, when the four of them are teleported to an alien planet named Strobos. Jaxo, the leader, is trying to keep himself in power by finding people to fight his champions in the arena. He was only after the two athletes, so both Jay and Joan were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But that’s not a problem, because Jay puts on his Flash outfit and saves both men. The wrestler was fighting an ape-like creature, while the fencer was fighting a four-armed alien swordsman (did George Lucas steal the idea of General Grevious and his four arms from this?). Jaxo is able to see the Flash move using special glasses, and there’s a nice panel demonstrating Flash’s speed with about 12 images of him all around the alien. While not too innovative as a depiction of speed these days, that’s not something we saw much of from artist E. E. Hibbard in the early days. Speaking of which, he was drawing the Flash in 1940, and was still doing so in 1947, so that’s a pretty good run for an artist on the same character, then or now.
Flash ends up in a race with Jaxo, who sets numerous traps along the course, as well as racing mounted while Jay is on foot. The prize is Joan’s life. Flash overcomes the traps, but falls into the final one even as he wins the race, and Jaxo promises to leave him on display while the others die in the arena. Jay pulls a very Barry Allen-like move to escape a glass cell and defeats Jaxo and release the prisoners. The Strobos aliens agree to send them all home.

Overall: It’s amusing that the two Olympians don’t even get names. They only exist as a plot device to get the Flash to the alien planet so he can be put through his paces. It’s a fun little action adventure story of the kind so common in the 40s. And it’s a nice touch to give Jaxo some solid motivation for his villainy.

Rival1The Rival Flash! – Jay Garrick’s last solo outing as the Flash introduces the first “reverse” Flash in the form of the Rival, a super-fast villain who wears a darker version of the Flash costume and a mask. The story begins by retelling how Jay got his speed in the first place, back when he was a college student, and then reveals that Joan mentioned that to one of her college friends. This becomes an issue when criminals show up moving as fast as the Flash and kidnap Professor Clariss, a former teacher at Jay and Joan’s old college, who has been living in Europe but had just arrived for a visit in America.

When Flash goes after the crooks, they’re able to capture him since they’re as fast as he is and outnumber him. He’s taken to the Rival, who mocks him and then is able to take away his speed by having reverse engineered the original formula. Jay figures out that the Rival must have a supply of the hard water somewhere in order to have duplicated his speed, and he’s able to find it and restore himself. He takes on the crooks again while they’re in the midst of robbing a bank, where he learns that the Rival was only able to gain temporary super speed and had to readminister the formula from time to time, due to his imperfect understanding of the process. With only two suspects, it’s no surprise when the Rival turns out to be Dr. Clariss. He’s questioned about the identity of the Flash, and he supposes that someone had beaten him to the hard water that granted speed by sneaking into the lab after Garrick was taken to the hospital. Jay breathes a sigh of relief that his secret id is still safe.

Clariss would make a return appearance in the pages of JSA while Geoff Johns was writing that book. According to that story, he had regained his speed months later and ended up in a battle with Jay and trapped in the Speed Force, which really messed with his sanity. He also turns up in an alternate reality storyline during Wally West’s Flash series as the abusive husband to Joan Williams, who married him after Jay was killed in WW2. Clariss is considerably older than both Jay and Joan in his original appearance, so I don’t know how that would work, but regardless… Captain Cold kills him in that alternate reality.

Overall: with so much of the 1940s Flash unavailable to read, I can’t say for certain that this is the first time he ever faced opponents as fast as himself. But it’s definitely the first “evil Flash” storyline, many years before Eobard Thawne would first appear. As a “whodunnit” it’s not much of a mystery, though there’s no real reason to suspect Clariss over Joan’s old classmater until the final reveal. And revisiting Jay’s origin in his final issue makes a nice bookend to his series, bringing it back to where it began, though that is inadvertent. There are five unpublished Flash stories that have survived which would have appeared in future issues had the series continued.

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All-Star Comics #57 – The Mystery of the Vanishing Detectives!

AllStar57001My original thought with this blog was to work my way through All-Star Comics in chronological order, and to branch off to other characters and stories as the mood hit me. That way I could see the roster as it changed, note milestones in the series development, and just generally comment on stories in order.

But why? Why not jump around? The early 40s seem fairly familiar with many more reprints to choose from, but the latter part of the Golden Age isn’t as well represented. And so I was interested in jumping ahead. In fact, all the way to the end and the last adventure of the Justice Society of America from 1951’s All-Star #57, “The Mystery of the Vanishing Detectives”.

The Justice Society invite four famous detectives to solve a crime which they have created in order to test the abilities of these detectives. They are Harry Wan the Honolulu Police Chief, Mustapha Hakim the Turkish detective, Jacques Durand of the Paris Surete, and Detective Drew Dawes of Scotland Yard. The JSA have built a set and stage a crime, then challenge the detectives to solve it. In the middle of the attempt, the lights go out, and when they return, the four have vanished without a trace. The Flash informs everyone that the wires were cut with a knife, and then they find a silver skeleton key. AllStar57002About that time, four telegrams for the four detectives arrive marked “urgent”, and the JSA decide to send four members to handle the cases while the other three remain to search for the missing detectives.

Doctor Mid-Nite heads to London where he works with Scotland Yard to solve a bank robbery, where another skeleton key has been found. The robbers escaped by means of a long-disused and forgotten air raid shelter. He catches up with the robbers and outfights them, only for one to escape to the foggy streets above. Due to his unique vision, he follows them through the fog to a train, where he uses his blackout bombs and subdues them all. This leaves one question… who is the key?

 

AllStar57003The Flash heads to Paris to solve a bizarre mystery where stone gargoyles are being stolen from atop the Notre Dame Cathedral. The Flash uses his old trick of moving so fast that he becomes invisible, and he catches the thieves red-handed. They have a secret passageway leading to the top of the cathedral that they’ve been using.  Jay is a little careless and knocks himself senseless, allowing the theives time to escape, but he follows, tracking the thieves down thanks to a note from the Key that they carelessly left in the passageway. The trail leads to a seedy club, where Jay locates the criminals pulling a fortune in gold out of the gargoyle. The crooks knew there was gold in one of them, and kept searching until the found the right one, but the Flash ends their plot, also wondering who the Key is.

AllStar57004Wonder Woman heads to Turkey where a swindle is taking place. The Emir of Kasdan gets his weight in gold every year from his subjects, but it turns out that an impostor has substituted himself for the genuine Emir and is in the process of stealing the gold. Wonder Woman follows the limousine tracks to the Black Sea, where the thieves are escaping by boat to a waiting submarine. She lassos the sub, then hoists it out of the water, capturing the thieves and recovering the stolen gold.

AllStar57005And finally, Green Lantern heads to the port where an ocean liner is about to set sail for an around the world cruise, only a millionaire industrialist on board has had a short-shorter bill worth tons of money stolen from him. Green Lantern investigates and sets a trap for the thief to bring him out into the open, where after a brief struggle, he captures and imprisons him. He also learns about the Key, but the thief claims to have never seen him, only to have been given orders remotely.

When the four arrive back in Civic City, Black Canary fills them in. Hawkman and the Atom found a hidden passage leading away from the Civic City Arena. They were attacked by the Turtleneck Gang, the “toughest hoodlums in the city”, but it turns out that the thugs were hired to delay them while the Key made his getaway. The JSA follows the trail, and Flash deduces that one of the detectives is the Key in disguise. That turns out to be true as they find the missing detectives, free them from the Key’s hypnosis, and attempt to capture the fleeing Key, who jumps to his death rather than submit to capture.

And that’s the end. The Golden Age of DC Comics closes out with this issue of All-Star Comics. Five years later would see the debut of Barry Allen as a new Flash, and these characters would eventually return, though they’d never again be A-listers.

AllStar57006

The Golden Age ends along with the adventures of the Justice Society…

 

  • With the solo magazines of almost all of these characters having been cancelled a few years before, this story contains the final solo adventures of Dr. Mid-Nite, the Jay Garrick Flash, and the Alan Scott Green Lantern. It’s kind of nice that we got some old school solo chapters so these guys could have one last chance to get the spotlight.
  • How in the world does Wonder Woman get away with wearing her star spangled bikini in a Muslim country?
  • Though the characters are completely different, did the Key from this issue inspire the future Justice League of America villain?
  • This story feels very much like something that would have been written during the Silver Age Justice League era. All-Star and the Justice Society were evolving both in format and in storytelling style, and it would have been interesting to see how far that change would have taken them, had their series continued.
  • The art is pretty good in this story, and indeed has been for some time. Two different artists share the art chores, but the styles blend together very nicely.
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All-Star Comics #4 – concluded

The Sandman

“I’m only one man! Why don’t you start your war against me? I’m an American! Come on, you cowardly rats – try something!”

Wesley Dodds is on his way to prevent a newspaper from being bombed by the grey-shirts for telling the truth about dictator nations. Forcing his way past the secretary, Sandman meets with the editor and is shocked to learn that some of the grey-shirts are Americans who have fallen for propoganda. Wesley ditches the Sandman disguise and heads for the grey-shirt camp, where he forces his way in and then beats up a crowd of young recruits. When the leader shows up, Dodds clocks him too, causing the recruits to have second thoughts about their choice.

The attack causes the leader to speed up his plans for bombing the newspaper. The Sandman stops the truck and steals the bombs, detonating them harmlessly in a ravine. He then captures the recruits and marches them into town. When it is suggested that they join the army rather than face prison time, the youths are all for it, and so is the Sandman, who heads to Toledo, Ohio.

  • Newspapers attacked for printing something offensive sounds a lot like what happened to Charlie Hebdo. Again, there may well be some WW2-era pro-America propoganda in these comics, but there’s some truth there as well. And there are some scary parallels with today’s world.
  • It’s a rare thing in these stories to see two different artists tackle the same scene, but we get a second panel of Doctor Fate skywriting to get Sandman’s attention.
  • Wesley isn’t too careful with his secret identity. He takes off the mask and challenges the grey-shirts and their leader dressed in his green suit, minus the hat, gas mask and cape.
  • So he heads for Ohio at the end of the story… there’s no way he’s going to arrive at the same time as Doctor Fate or the Flash. And yet he does.

Johnny Thunder – text story

“A Fortune Teller’s Fortune” sees Johnny Thunder having trouble with his girlfriend Daisy again. She wants to have her fortune told, Johnny tries to predict it instead, and she gets all angry. Of course it’s all a scam and her pearls are stolen. Johnny knows the fortune teller did it, but the man has dangerous mental powers, and Johnny only escapes death thanks to his Thunderbolt.

The Hawkman

“I understand he’s the Hawkman… a fine example of American manhood, too.”

Hawkman heads to California to keep spies out of the aviation factories there. Along the way he encounters a test flight for a massive new bomber and prevents it from being captured by enemy agents when the pilots are gassed. Meanwhile, Shiera is tired of being left out of Justice Society meetings, so she decides to take a vacation and head for California. Seeing Hawkman, she gets his attention by – I’m not kidding – throwing herself out of the plane and calling for help. She did have a parachute but it didn’t open, so luckily he sees her and catches her.

They both go to work guarding the plant. Armed spies attack, but Hawkman fights them off and learns the location of their leader. He takes off for Ohio to confront Fritz Klaver, leaving Shiera behind.

  • Hawkman sleeps in his mask. I hope he doesn’t make a habit of that!
  • The spies planned to knock out the bomber pilots and then catch the falling plane in a net. Say what? I don’t think that would work, fellas.
  • Shiera pulls a crazy Lois Lane stunt long before Lois starts regularly doing crazy things to get Superman’s attention. Too funny.

The Atom

The Atom gets the college assignment he wanted, where he sees a group of men trying to spread propoganda for the dictator nations and trying to recruit. They beat up anyone who stands up to them. So naturally the Atom has to step in and pay them back in kind. The thugs don’t give up, and try their luck on tiny Al Pratt, who whips their butts and has them singing “God Bless America”.

The grey-shirt agents want revenge, but Al’s roommate tells him where to find their club. He heads there and employs his usual fisticuffs to take out every last one of them. Hearing some orders coming over their radio, he too learns about Fritz Klaver and where he can be found. Hurrying there, he finds himself staring down the barrel of machine guns held by some grey shirts…

  • Too bad Al Pratt isn’t around to clean up today’s socialist student groups. We could sure use him.
  • We get a cliffhanger ending to this particular chapter that leads directly into the final chapter of the story.
  • How in the world is the Atom the first one to arrive at Klaver’s hideout? I guess the college he was infiltrating was just next door or something.

Closing chapter

Johnny Thunder is man again because he wasn’t asked to help out, and once again he inadvertently calls up his thunderbolt and ends up right beside the Atom, and just about to be gunned down, when the entire Justice Society shows up. As you can imagine, these Nazi spies have no chance at all against the combined powers of the entire group. When Fritz Klaver himself appears and attempts to destroy the house and everything in it, Doctor Fate stops him with his magical powers.

The team gets ready to transport the spies and their records to FBI headquarters in Washington DC, but it’s Johnny Thunder who does the job, sending the entire house there. The FBI chief praises the team for a job well done.

  • The WW2 America propoganda is laid on pretty thick, but after decades of modern liberal viewpoints in comics, it’s honestly pretty refreshing to read something different.
  • The story itself is perfect for a large group like this. Forget the tired old alien invasion… these guys go to bust up a nationwide spy ring that’s trying to weaken America from within prior to war. That’s a big mission for a big group of superheroes.
  • And along those lines, this is one time when splitting the team up into solo chapters works very well. There are many occasions when they would face the threat better as a group, but here solo chapters work very well.
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Convergence is almost done….

… and my event reading binge will be over next week as of this posting. Until I resume classic All-Star reading and reviewing, how about some pages from an unpublished All-Star Story, “The Will of William Wilson”, assembled from various collectors of the original art by Roy Thomas, apparently.

a44367341d6e610eaf803c06eae70563b9a6b3ff

Follow the link to the DC Archives Message board for more art from the story.

http://marvelmasterworksfansite.yuku.com/topic/22387/Will-of-William-Wilson-copyright-question#.VV6Pt6hv7pw

 

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Reviews will resume soon!

I’ve been enjoying the Convergence event, and haven’t been doing much Archive reading lately. I’ll finish All-Star #4 soon though! Thanks for reading.

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All-Star Comics #4 continued

The Spectre

All-Star4-004

Seeing the Spectre smiling happily always seems a little strange.

The Spectre doesn’t need to open his envelope to know what’s inside. He’s directed to Pittsburgh where sabotage is taking place at munitions factories. He quickly locates and exposes the saboteur, but while the man is being taken to be questioned, the car he’s in is rammed and he’s rescued by his confederates, only to be shot to death by his boss Dorgoff because he would have told everything.

The Spectre flies along the telephone lines as the boss calls Klaver, but has to detour to stop the demolition of a vital factory. He stops the bomb by turning back time, and then returns to get the information he needs from Dorgoff. Having learned the name and location of Klaver by exposing Dorgoff’s brain and reading his mind, he heads out….

… only for the story to take a bizarre twist that has nothing to do with saboteurs or fifth columnists as the Spectre is drawn into the occult world and almost killed by some weird colored “vampire” globes, only defeating them thanks to the Ring of Life. He then heads to confront Klaver.

  • Is there anything the Spectre can’t do? How does anyone ever challenge him? And yet he’s almost destroyed by the Vampire globes, so I guess the idea is that while he’s close to all-powerful, he’s not the only one who is.
  • On the other hand, the human opponents are absolutely no match for the Spectre at all, and he easily manipulates them and learns all he needs to know without any real effort at all.
  • It’s interesting that the Spectre uses Ray Palmer’s “traveling along the phone lines” trick twenty years before Ray would adopt it.
  • They must have been a page short on story or something. How else to explain the last page with the “vampire globes” that just comes out of nowhere and has nothing to do with the rest of the story? Not that I mind bizarre things happening to the Spectre, but it’s literally just a random attack with no explanation and no motivation.

The Hour-Man

All-Star4-005Hour-Man’s assignment is to prevent the destruction of oil wells in Oklahoma. And he’s right to go, because the grey-shirts are meeting and plotting to destroy as many oil wells as they can. The grey shirts are killing guards and scaring off oil workers, to the point that it’s hard for the owners to find anyone to work for them. Rex arrives and takes a job as an oil worker in order to investigate. He jumps in and attacks the grey-shirts when he finds them, and sends them running, but his hour of Miraclo-provided power runs out just as the grey-shirts are making a getaway. With the last of his extra strength he hurls one of the spies’ bag at the driver of the getaway car, sending them out of control and into one of the oil derricks, killing the spies. Retrieving the bag, he learns the name and location of Fritz Klaver.

  • More grey-shirts in uniform. They really aren’t very subtle, although to be fair they generally dress in uniform only when in their hidden headquarters in this story. They aren’t as open as they are in the Flash storyline.
  • Rex has one of his better outings as Hour-Man this time around. He’s not captured by the villains or chased by police. He infiltrates the area and takes out the bad guys without much of a problem. He barely gets the job done within the hour of power, but he does it.
  • I know he’s not trying to kill the spies, but Hour-Man is responsible for their death at the end of the story. He’s not at all unhappy about it though. “They met a deserving end!” he tells the oil well owners.

Doctor Fate

All-Star4-006

Doctor Fate takes the direct approach.

Doctor Fate doesn’t need to open his envelope any more than the Spectre did. He’s headed to New England to stop shipyard sabotage. He sends out a magic cloud to detect evil, which seems like a mighty handy talent for a crime-fighter to possess! He prevents a bombing, traces a radio signal to the spies headquarters, and then scares them into talking by taking their ship under the ocean and freaking them out with “cosmic horrors” that look like sea-monsters. The spies are willing to say anything after that. Doctor Fate captures more spies coming in to land and turns them over to the FBI. Doctor Fate then reads the minds of the spies and learns the location of Fritz Klaver. Unlike everyone else so far he alerts some of his fellow JSA members about what he’s learned, including the Sandman and the Flash.

  • Okay, between the Spectre and Doctor Fate, the Nazis really don’t stand a chance!
  • We’re still in the days where Doctor Fate is a sorceror here, before he goes to the half-mask and loses a lot of his power. I vastly prefer this version of Doctor Fate, even though nothing really poses much of a challenge for him.
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All-Star #4 – For America and Democracy!

Chapter One

All-Star4-001

You’d never see patriotic superheroes like this today, more’s the pity.

The various members of the Justice Society head for Washington D.C. in answer to the request for a meeting by the head of the FBI. He wants them to help deal with spies and saboteurs who are seeking to undermine United States democratic ideals.  The Justice Society members are each given sealed orders, and they head out eagerly to carry out their assignments.

  • So many of the threats that the FBI director details aren’t all that different from today. Suppression of free speech? College professors hostile to America and democracy? I defy you to read the first chapter of this story and not find plenty of parallels with America in 2015. Seriously, I was amazed at how contemporary this sounded.
  • What isn’t contemporary is the automatic trust the superheroes place in the FBI. I suspect that in our cynical days, the whole thing would be a plot by the FBI to gain information on the mystery men, and possibly a trick to get them to take out innocent people that the FBI wanted silenced. But in 1941, the whole thing is refreshingly straightforward.
  • I guess the Flash is the de facto chairman of the JSA, or else he’s their pointman since he first made contact with the FBI chief.

The Flash

All-Star4-002The Flash is sent to manufacturing centers in Michigan and Wisconsin where propaganda is being spread. There, the “grey-shirts” are openly speaking out in favor of the totalitarian nations and the benefits of a dictatorship. They sound like union thugs with their attempts to organize labor and cause a strike, but their goals are sabotage rather than the good of the workers.  They attack a man who speaks out against them, but the Flash puts a stop to that with some well placed punches. He then heads to the home of the lead grey shirt and finds loads of propoganda as well as posters with swastikas, so there’s little doubt who he’s shilling for. When the man protests about his right to privacy, a fed up Flash socks him.

Flash heads back and proves to the workers who the man is working for. The enraged workers turn on the grey shirts, ending the threat. Or so it seems… at the last minute, the leader brags that a refugee ship on its way to America will be bombed, killing everyone on board. The Flash races out to the ship, finds the bomb, and saves everyone’s lives. He then notes the bomb’s manufacturer as one Fritz Klaver, and he heads to Ohio to confront him.

  • The grey shirts couldn’t be more obvious Nazis if they tried. The uniforms, the Hitler moustache on one of them, the talk about the benefits of a dictator, the Nazi symbol in the home of one spy… it’s pretty blatant.
  • Jay Garrick is just awesome. I love the way he calls out the spy for his hypocrisy.
  • The whole plot with the ship in danger feels tacked on, though it’s a nice action sequence, so I don’t mind. I do wonder how Flash found the ship out in the middle of the Atlantic though. Possibly he spent some time searching, and maybe that’s how he manages not to beat everyone else to Fritz Klaver’s hideout.

Green Lantern

All-Star4-003Alan’s orders involve investigating poor radio reception across the country. Sabotage is suspected, with the potential result being a communications breakdown during a crucial time. Alan investigates, and uncovers a plot to disrupt America’s communications using a zeppelin that is hidden in an artificially generated cloud. After a few setbacks, including a machine designed to neutralize Green Lantern by the use of electricity, Alan manages to destroy the zeppelin and put an end to the plot, before heading out to confront Klaver.

  • Alan is delighted with his assignment since he’s already in the broadcasting business. It’s a nice character beat. I always enjoy it when Jay Garrick gets to use his chemistry skills, and the same is true when other JSA members get to use their civilian identity’s skill set as well.
  • Nazis and zeppelins always remind me of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
  • This story provides a nice change from gangsters and bank robberies. The vast scale and stakes of the Nazi operation and the large and exotic nature of the threat seem like a plot that’s more in line with Green Lantern’s abilities and more of a challenge for him. I really enjoyed this chapter.
  • I appreciate the inclusion of Krapek, the German-American who refuses to go along with the spies. I’m not sure the execution is all that sophisticated, but it’s still an effort to make it clear that not all those of German descent were on the side of Hitler. Of course, it’s also another example of the issue preaching American patriotism, but I’ll take that over anti-Americanism any day.
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Leading Comics #1 – concluded

Chapter Five – The Shining Knight

sevensoldiers005In the hidden Wamona valley, cut off from the outside world, lives a tribe of Indians whose lifestyle is the same as it was hundreds of years ago. The Red Dragon arrives at the valley and promptly kills Chief Wamona, thus apparently fulfilling a prophecy about the coming of the Wendigo, and how he would take power and bring prosperity to the valley. The Red Dragon and his thugs force the Indians to mine for radium, which the valley has in abundance.

The Shining Knight arrives, and with the help of an Indian who has escaped the mines, leads the Wamona in fighting off the Red Dragon and his thugs, thus genuinely fulfilling the prophecy and bringing prosperity to the valley. The Shining Knight engages in an aerial battle with the Red Dragon and manages to down his plane and capture the Red Dragon.

  • I really like the Shining Knight with his purely heroic and chivalrous attitude. I first ran across him and Vigilante on episodes of Justice League Unlimited and had no idea who they were at the time. I’ve since learned a lot about both characters, and enjoy reading their early adventures here.
  • The “lost civilization” is an old plot, but it’s put to good use in this story. It would be interesting to see how the Wamona react to the modern (for them) world of the 1940s.

Chapter Six – The Vigilante

sevensoldiers006The Dummy has gone to Hollywood, where he is apparently turning people to stone statues and demanding a huge ransom to restore them to normal. Of course it’s a scam, and he’s actually kidnapping the victims and substituting statues in their place. The Vigilante arrives to deal with the problem, and ends up demonstrating his outstanding skills at lassoing and sharpshooting on his way to ending the Dummy’s plan.

  • Why go through all the fuss with the statues? Why not just hold the victims for ransom?
  • While not remotely plausible, the Vigilante riding bronco on the tiger and tying him up like a steer is all kinds of awesome.
  • I love how the thugs all wonder who is operating the ventriloquist dummy, not realizing that the Dummy is alive. They’re all freaked out when they find out the truth.

sevensoldiers007Chapter Seven

The Hand despairs the ruining of all his grand schemes, and declares that if he weren’t dying, he’d have been able to make them all work. He decides to challenge the Seven Soldiers on his own home turf, and tells them to come and get him, reasoning that with all the traps he has in his lair that there’s no way they’ll beat him. He comes to regret issuing the challenge though when his doctor calls him and informs him that they’ve found a surgeon who can cure the Hand’s condition. It’s too late to call the whole thing off now, and the Hand prepares for his visitors.

The Seven Soldiers arrive, and fight their way through many different deathtraps, finally confronting the Hand himself. An electrocution trap meant for them instead shocks and apparently kills the Hand, thanks to the Vigilante’s sharpshooting skills. The group decides that they should stay together in order to face any future threats.

  • And that’s the first adventure of the team. The setup is just like the JSA, with only opening and closing chapters featuring the full team, but what interaction we get between these different characters is a lot of fun. I always enjoy seeing them as a part of each other’s world.
  • The villains are pretty competent in a couple of instances. The Needle very nearly pulls off his scheme and nearly kills the Kid and Stripesy. The Hand almost kills them a couple of times in his house. I like to see the heroes challenged, and I like to see them operate with a positive attitude and just keep pushing forward until they win. Classic stuff.
  • And of course, it’s retconned later on that the Hand didn’t die here, but it won’t be until Justice League of America #100 nearly 30 years down the road that we’ll learn that.
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