BHOC: ALL-STAR COMICS #70

This wound up being the last issue of ALL-STAR COMICS from this original run that i was able to find, which is a shame, as i was a great fan of the series. But during this period, DC’s distribution seemed to start having difficulty, at least in my area, and finding the books featuring the less popular characters became a challenge. In most cases, my local 7-11 never bothered with new launches, so I never even got the chance to sample series such as SHADE THE CHANGING MAN. And now, other longer-running books were meeting the same fate. It seems clear that the 7-11 had reduced its DC draw from the distributor.

This was a quieter issue as well, focusing not so much on the assembled Justice Society of America (though the whole team is together at the opening of the issue, a hold-over from their prior adventure) but rather on giving some additional depth to series regular the Star-Spangled Kid while also bringing in the newcomer, the Huntress. The Huntress had been played up quite a bit over the past couple of months, both in house ads and in being teased in the pages of ALL-STAR as well. Along for the ride was also the irascible Wildcat, who was probably the most broadly-drawn personality in the comic.

We start out with some bookkeeping, as the much-larger-than-usual grouping of Society members breaks up and goes their separate ways. This allows for some quick character beats–Commissioner Bruce Wayne apologizing to Power Girl for his past actions, the Flash offering the now-bankrupt Green Lantern a job at his lab in Keystone City, and so forth. At the end, only Wildcat, Star-Spangled Kid and Power Girl are left to mind the store–and Power Girl storms off when the Kid suggests they play Monopoly to pass the time. Actually, she’s off to go be in her solo appearances in the SHOWCASE book, another series that stopped showing up in my area.

But the Kid has turned off the JSA’s monitor system seconds too soon, for a paramilitary group known as the Strike Force is in the process of robbing a Gotham Bank–and the local law enforcement engaged with stopping them cannot seem to cope with their advanced weaponry. While this is all going on, Wildcat and the Kid are playing checkers–until Wildcat gets so bored that he upends the board and drags the Kid off to a nearby bar for a drink. And after they go, a Batman-shaped shadow–clearly that of the Huntress–falls over the meeting room.

At the bar, Wildcat and the Kid commiserate over their problems in civilian guise. As Sylvester Pemberton, the Kid relates how he feels out of joint, having come to the present in a previous adventure. All of his old friend can’t accept him in the same way. Wildcat is similarly lonely, having given up his old gym a while back. He makes a crack about his own civilian identity, Ted Grant–and winds up in the middle of a brawl as another bargoer is a fan of the old boxer and doesn’t realize that this is actually him. The action is broken up when the Kid finally catches wind of the robbery in progress and he pulls Wildcat out of the fray so that they can intervene. They’re actually a pretty good match together, with Wildcat filling the role of the Kid’s old partner Stripesy.

But now it’s action time, as the JSA duo catches up with the retreating Strike Force and proceeds to start smacking the criminals around. But Number One of the Strike Fore retains his supreme confidence, and speaks with a cultured lilt–and eventually, he’s able to get the drop on the Kid, shocking him into unconsciousness with an electro-shock system built into his gloves. On his own, Wildcat succumbs to superior numbers and is likewise captured. As the Strike Force largely comes across as a bunch of goons, this doesn’t make the JSAers look especially effective.

Wildcat and the Kid wake up in a hidden lair within Gotham Stadium–and with the Kid still wearing is cosmic converter belt, a huge mistake on the part of the Strike Force. Before they can turn their attention to the door, the huntress breaks in, telling them that she’s been following them and has come to assist wit their escape and the takedown of the Strike Force. It’s a pretty lackluster entrance given all of the build-up for the character, to be honest. And things get worse when the Strike Force arrives, getting the drop on the three heroes. Number One reveals that he’d intended to hold them for ransom, but given the circumstances, he’s going to settle for gunning the three of them down. And that’s where the issue is to Be Continued!

The letters page includes correspondence from Dr. Jerry Bails, the grandfather of comic book fandom, whose love for the golden age adventures of the Justice Society of America set him on the path of creating some of the earliest super hero fanzines, awards and indexes about those early comics. Here, he writes about the recently-released origin of the JSA, a story which, like me, he enjoyed a great deal.

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