ALL STAR COMICS ARCHIVES VOL. 5 (DC, First Printing, 1999; Hardcover)
Collects All Star Comics #19-23 (cover dates Winter, 1943- Winter, 1944)
Writers: Gardner Fox and Sheldon Mayer (co-plotter) with Jack Kirby (some Sandman rewrites)
Artists: Joe Gallagher, Stan Aschmeier, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Bernard Baily, Joe Gallagher, Sheldon Moldoff, Joe Kubert, Cliff Young, Steve Brodie, and Frank Harry
The novelty of reading scarce and expensive old comics has long since worn off for me after nearly fifteen years into the golden age of collected editions. We fans have been spoiled rotten by the embarrassment of riches shoveled at us in all directions in any number of formats. Since the novelty is gone, we are left with two avenues with which to judge these works. One is reading these comics in a purely academic sense, weighing their historical significance against other comics of the day. The other is how does it read through modern eyes in 2017. Modern meaning my middle-aged eyes, for what it's worth, but eyes that have still never read these comic books before.
With that in mind we jump in to this sixth volume in the line (there was a Vol. 0). The award winning formula of the day is still intact. The team starts each issue with a meeting and are suddenly presented with a challenge or mystery of some sort which requires the team to split up in order to tackle the problem more efficiently. This formula is used in every issue. While this might seem tedious or monotonous to a modern day fan, bear in mind that these comics were read primarily by children and that many people didn't buy every single issue of every title back then.
At this point The Justice Society Of America is Hawkman, Johnny Thunder (and his Thunderbolt), The Spectre, Sandman (the second, crappier version), Star Man, The Atom, Doctor Fate, Dr. Mid-Nite, and their secretary, Wonder Woman. Yes, that's right, the second most powerful member of the team is left behind to take notes. Societal mores being what they were, I guess that this appealed to the kids of the 1940s.
#20 finds the team fighting their first true super villain, The Monster. While they have fought costumed foes before, this is the first one with augmented abilities. The story in #21 would have done nothing but create multiple divergent timelines rather than solve the problem that the team faced. I wonder how the DC continuity experts have worked that one out. The Psycho-Pirate proved to be a worthwhile nemesis in issue 23.
This was a moderately entertaining read. The stories have no plot twists and the endings are telegraphed a mile away, but these were aimed at children over 70 years ago. It's easy to criticize the lack of sophistication in the writing or artwork here in 2017. This stuff is still important and worthy of your attention. If it weren't for The Justice Society Of America we would never have gotten The Justice League of America for Stan Lee to rip off with The Avengers.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- The following are omitted from this book:
On Silver Wings, a half page text story from #19.
Fuller Phun And Archibald Club one page gag strip from #20.
Fat And Slat one page gag strip from #21 and 22.
Who's Who In Whoville one page gag strip from #23.
Pervia Problem, one page text story from #23.
Why were these omitted? DC's collected editions department has little method to their madness.
Linework and Color restoration: Off-white matte coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding: Smyth sewn binding. It's a little tight but loosens as you read it.
Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: Thick laminated dustjacket. Casewrap has faux leather grain with foil stamping.