BHOC: ALL-STAR COMICS #64

Now this was a good one–so much so that I’m pretty sure that my brother Ken later bought his own copy of it. This issue of ALL-STAR COMICS made excellent use of the skills and aptitudes of artist Wally Wood with a story that took the Justice Society back to the time of King Arthur, allowing Wood to go all-out not only on knights and damsels and castles, but also on redesigning the JSA heroes to fit into the period.

The issue opens in the Justice Society’s brownstone headquarters, where the Star-Spangled Kid reveals that he’s modified Starman’s cosmic rod into a belt (reminiscent of the one worn by T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent Dynamo) so he’ll no longer have to carry a magic want around with him. Power Girl, too, has undergone a costume change, although no attention is called to it–her “boob window” had been eliminated (which didn’t prevent Wood from drawing her breasts larger and larger as he worked over these two issues.) The Kid almost gets in a dust-up with Power Girl as he presents her with a new insignia for her uniform, a P in a shield similar to Superman’s. Power Girl angrily crushes it–she’s trying to get out from underneath Superman’s shadow.

Superman is about ready to return to retirement, leaving Power Girl to it, when he’s brought up short by the return of the Flash and green Lantern, who had gone to Egypt seeking a cure for the mysteriously ill Doctor Fate. But Fate was cured last issue, and the opening indicates that the Kid had taken weeks to build his new belt, so Flash and GL have been gone a LONG time! But what’s more, they came across the Shining Knight in Egypt. Sir Justin, a refuge from the days of Camelot had been a hero in the Golden Age–and now he tells the JSA that something is meddling with the past, changing time.

Using tech derived from Barry Allen’s cosmic treadmill, the team heads back to the days of Camelot to figure out what’s going on–all except Hourman, who is once again left behind t hold the fort, and Green Lantern, who cuts out to return to his day job as broadcaster Alan Scott. As they are transmitted into the past, the JSA’s attire is also modified to fit the era, giving Wood an opportunity to really steer into things. On the way to the castle, the team is accosted by a Black Knight who attempts to extort them. Superman defies him, and the results play out as you’d expect. 

Back in the present, Hourman is jumped by the icicle and frozen solid–a problem for another day. Meanwhile, int eh past, the JSA reach Camelot Castle, where King Arthur and Merlin tell them of attacks by Roman legions that should not be present in this time. The JSA agree to help Arthur rout the invaders. But when they depart to the front lines, Arthur and Merlin confer, and reveal a room full of super-sophisticated machinery through which they observe the battle underway. Clearly, something more is going on here.

On the field of battle, the Justice Society, mainly Superman, have a field day knocking around the Roman invaders. But Power Girl points out that these aren’t men they’re demolishing, but robots, and this immediately makes te team suspect Merlin of ill-deeds. So resolved, they head back towards Camelot. Meanwhile, in the present, Green Lantern gets bad news about the financial state of his company–it’s in foreclosure unless he can come up with half-a-million dollars. Again, another problem for a future issue, but the subplots are flying fast and furious here, the province of writer Paul Levitz.

Back in the past, it’s time for more action as the JSA storm Camelot Castle, encountering super-scientific defenses along the way. But while they’re a little bit battered in the doing, the Justice Society tears through the castle walls like they were nothing. Confronting Merlin, Superman and Power Girl find themselves enveloped in an unbreakable force-field that holds them trapped. With the two most powerful Society members off the table, the rest of the team begins to get picked off one-by-one.

With the last of the Justice Society defeated, King Arthur doffs his disguise to stand revealed as Vandal Savage, the immortal conqueror. But in his last appearance in FLASH, he has lost his immortality, and so he intends to drain the life force of Superman and Power Girl in order to get it. Don’t question the plot too much at this point–I don’t understand how sending the Shining Knight to the present in order to alert the JSA that trouble was happening in the past was meant to ensnare Superman, who was in retirement either. But it worked, proving that Vandal Savage is cleverer than you or I! And here, the issue draws to a cliffhanger close, continuing its streak as one of the best-drawn books of this particular moment. 

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