Picked up this issue of ALL=STAR COMICS at my local 7-11 as usual. ALL-STAR was a favorite series of mine, so I’d avoid missing an issue if I could. This cover blows the big end surprise of the issue by touting the first appearance of the Huntress within it–unfortunate, as her reveal is literally the final panel in the book. Somebody thought that was a good or salable idea–oh, well.
This issue brought the running subplot in which Police Commissioner Bruce Wayne, formerly the Batman, had it in for the Justice Society based on some recent storylines in which Green Lantern and others had been influenced by the Psycho-Pirate. Wayne is waiting for the JSA at their Gotham brownstone headquarters when the team returns from that year’s team-up with the Justice League over in their own comic.
Commissioner Wayne isn’t alone, either: he’s got both a warrant for the JSA’s arrest and a phalanx of cops armed with special shock-guns. Tempers grow heated, and as Power Girl begins to get in Wayne’s face, a protective officer jumps the gun, shooting her point-blank with the weapon. for whatever reason, writer Paul Levitz made a choice here that Power Girl’s limitations matched those originally given for her cousin, Superman–i.e. that nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate her skin. And, well, those shock-guns were quite a bit more than a bursting shell. As everybody watches in horror, Power Girl goes down.
Pure chaos breaks out, with the JSA making short work of the cops and taking off to get Power Girl medical aid–but not before Doctor Fate promises a reckoning with the former Batman. But the once-Caped Crusader isn’t intimidated–he’s already got Robin and Hourman on side with him, and now he puts out the call to several other retired members of the JSA to help him even the odds: Starman, Dr. Mid-Nite and Wonder Woman. As the JSA regroup at a private hospital that will help Power Girl with anonymity, they are observed by a shadowy figure who appears to be Batman. Wonder who that could be, cover blurb.
Arranging to meet at the now-disused Batcave so that they can settle their differences far from the public eye, the JSA and Wayne’s counter-JSA swiftly come to blows. It must be said that I found the art team of Joe Staton and Bob Layton, who worked on this issue, very appealing–Layton was able to keep the essence of Staton’s cartoony figures and give them a sleek polish that was very attractive. It’s a big ol’ fun fight between relatively-evenly matched opponents, with the familiar souvenirs of Batman’s career providing the backdrop–in particular, the classic 1950s Batmobile, which Dr Mid-Nite tracks the Flash from careening into.
Back at the hospital, the Batman-silhouetted figure watches as Power Girl has a visitor, similarly shrouded in shadow. The visitor is told that she should recover, but he mustn’t wake her, even though he has a desperate need for information that she possesses. Back at Wayne Manor, the fight begins to spill out onto the grounds, the combatants to powerful to be confined to the Batcave alone. Te fight shows no sign of stopping–until a commanding voice rings out, and Superman, carrying Power Girl with him, crashes into the room.
Power Girl thinks she must have the answer to what’s been going on: just as the Psycho-Pirate influenced the other JSA members, so too must he have messed with the emotions of Commissioner Wayne. Doctor Fate checks and breaks the Pirate’s spell of hate, and a contrite Bruce Wayne falls to his knees, horrified by what he’s been doing. And at a distance, the mysterious Batman-shaped figure reveals herself as a young woman–and now that Bruce Wayne is back to being himself, her real work can begin. She’s never called the Huntress here in the book–that’s down to the cover entirely, again not the smartest choice necessarily. but from context, it’s clear that this woman is in some way related to the Batman, and it would only be a few weeks before her whole story would unfold in the pages of DC SUPER-STARS, an issue I would’t miss.