A bunch of changes were evident in this next issue of ALL-STAR COMICS. First off, the Super-Squad banner was gone, replaced by a gigantic logo declaring that, once and for all, this series was about the Justice Society of America. Similarly missing was Wally Wood, the artist who had visually identified at least the previous few issues. With this release, Joe Staton became the penciler in residence, and ALL-STAR had made its transition from a faux-Marvel book to something that felt uniquely DC. Paul Levitz remained on board, now in the driver’s seat as the regular writer.
I’ve got a real soft spot for the super hero work of Joe Staton. It was idiosyncratic at times, always just a little bit cartoony, often a bit claustrophobic especially on team book titles. But it contained heart and charm, of the sort that characterized later pencilers such as Mike Parobek and Mike Wieringo. The inking of Bob Layton gave Staton a slick finish here, one that made his work just a little bit more mainstream, which was nice.
Story-wise, we pick up with the JSA returning from last issue’s mission into the past only to discover the Injustice Gang squatting in their brownstone headquarters. The Gang plows into the JSA and gets the upper hand for the moment, but only long enough to retreat, challenging their heroic counterparts to contend with them in two far-off locations, for the lives of their captive fellow members Hourman and Wildcat. So it’s kind of a pointless action opener–made even more strange in that we then flash back for several pages to the events that led the JSA to entering their HQ in the first place.
In that flashback, Superman formally abdicates his place in the Justice Society in favor of Power Girl, and abruptly departs (before the Injustice gang is woefully outpowered.) Back in the present, the JSA breaks up into squads headed out to the two locations–with the Star-Spangled Kid scooping up Power Girl by force and insisting that they be on the same team. Not creepy at all. Meanwhile, in his windowless tower, Kent Nelson makes his goodbyes to his lover Inza once again, as he dons the golden mantle of Doctor Fate in response to the crisis. He rendezvous with Flash and Hawkman as they approach Abu-Dabi where they’re to take on the Icicle and the Thinker for the life of Hourman.
As you’d expect with those line-ups, it’s a rout, and in the aftermath of the fight, Fate carries the injured Hourman to South Africa, where Robin is currently stationed in his civilian role as a diplomat. From there, we naturally segue to Gotham City, where the now-destitute Green Lantern begins a wave of destruction, prodded on by the emotion-manipulating powers of the Psycho-Pirate. This rampage comes to the attention of Police Commissioner Bruce Wayne, and portends a showdown for another day.
Elsewhere, in Alaska, Power Girl and her youthful stalker the Star-Spangled Kid arrive to rescue Wildcat from the clutches of the Wizard and Brainwave. The Wizard’s in no better condition here than he’s been recently in SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS, and when Power Girl cleans up on him, he pleads that he’ll relocate to Earth-1 permanently. Thus does Levitz deal with the issue of the villain appearing in two titles at the same time. Brainwave, rather than relying on mental power, is stomping around in a cool-looking robot suit. But PG and the Kid tear the thing to pieces.
As the pair release the unconscious Wildcat, the Injustice Gang’s frankly anemic attack on their team thwarted and in ruin, the Star-Spangled Kid notices that a network of pipes in the oil refinery in which they’re battling have been diverted deep into the Earth. Sensing a mystery to be unraveled, Power Girl announces her intention to investigate. And so this issue comes to a To Be Continued close. It was a fun adventure, if a bit by- the-numbers. More excitingly, the letters page mentions that the never-before-told origin of the Justice Society will be revealed in a forthcoming issue of DC SPECIAL, In these days, origin stories of this sort were kind of a big deal, so that was a book I looked forward to reading.