A Tribute to the of

Time flies, doesn't it?  You are now perusing the review that marks six solid years of this uninterrupted feature.  What a great ride it's been so far, too.  Hats off to all of you who have supported the effort with your encouraging e-mails and your visits.  The meter keeps ticking along and it helps to continue to motivate me.  Special thanks, as always, to my lifelong best friend, your host and webmaster.  Not only does he provide the space, but more often than not the material that you see in this space every two weeks, year in and year out.  It was his idea to try this foray in the first place and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Okay, shall we get after it?  Since I'm sending out credit where credit is due, another gentleman requires mention.  Namely he is long-time reader and correspondent Mark Michelson, who, a little over six months ago (told you time flies) came to me with a suggestion for a review.  It was a story I was unfamiliar with and when I told him so, he very graciously told me all about it, to the point of writing up a pretty impressive review of his own.  I teased him that I had competition and he assured me that while he's an aspiring writer, I had no need to worry.  Well, I'll just mention that he does quality work and has consistently given me excellent feedback.  So, Mark, this edition of the Silver Age Sage is dedicated to you, just like the last time you had a candidate for me.  I hope I do it justice.

And speaking of Justice, as is my custom, this milestone review is another story from the Justice League of America series.  We're drifting slightly outside the Silver Age, to the early Bronze Age, but I hope you'll find it as enjoyable as I did.  The story, as usual, couldn't be contained in just one issue.  As a matter of fact, it went beyond the typical two and spread across 3 editions:  JLA Nos. 100, 101 and 102 from August, September and October of 1972.  As you can see on the cover of #100 this is, obviously, the 100th meeting of the JLA and it is also the 10th annual team-up of the JLA and JSA, AND the Seven Soldiers of Victory are thrown in as well.  33 heroes in one story.  Let's see what our creative team of Julius Schwartz, editor; Len Wein, writer; and Nick Cardy, Dick Dillin and Joe Giella, cover and interior artists, respectively, have wrought.  Oh and I'd like to mention a classy little dedication on the splash page that says, "With thanks to the writers and artists who shaped this history-making adventure those many years ago."  The title is "The Unknown Soldier of Victory!"

The first panel gives us a view in space of the orbiting HQ of the Justice League of America, a mere 22,300 miles above the surface of the Earth.  Inside it is all auto-pilot, though and we then switch to the granite chamber of the former HQ in the mountains, where Aquaman, Black Canary, Green Lantern, Green Arrow and Hawkman are in attendance, looking over the dust and cobwebs in the old sanctuary.  They are, of course, the first wave of celebrants at the 100th meeting of the League.  They are soon joined by the Atom, who uses his old trick of traveling along the impulses of the phone line to join his comrades.  We then see multiple scenes of other members, beginning with the Flash and the Elongated Man, who have joined forces in Central City to clean up a few crooks.  They're on their way.  J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, is rebuilding a world, so he cannot come.  Rex Mason, better known as Metamorpho, the Element Man is enroute, as is Batman.  Snapper Carr, humbled at the invitation, but unwilling to show his face after his betrayal in JLA #77, sits glumly alone.  Adam Strange cannot catch the Zeta-Beam in time, so he remains with his love, Alanna on the planet Rann in the Alpha Centauri system 23 trillion miles away.

Back at the mountain sanctuary, more members arrive, to include Superman and Zatanna.   Batman has brought Diana Prince, who at this point in time has lost her powers and title as Wonder Woman.  As they're about to cut the huge cake, though, the heroes of Earth One begin to shimmer and disappear.  Soon they are in the presence of their Earth Two counterparts, the Justice Society of America and the JSA looks grim indeed.  On hand are Starman, Doctor Fate, The Sandman, The Red Tornado, and Doctor Mid-Nite, Wonder Woman, Wildcat, Johnny Thunder and Hourman.  The obvious question is raised as to what is happening and Doctor Fate says he summoned them to help as the JSA deal with an incredible menace.  He conjures a view of the threat where we see a massive hand surrounding the Earth.  He explains they've tried twice to overcome the evil hand's grip, to no avail.  Hourman interjects that someone called The Iron Hand is in charge and has given them 48 hours to turn over dominion of Earth until he allows the fist to crush the planet.

Doctor Fate then reveals another clue to matters in his mystic crystal.  It shows a monolith inscribed "Here in honored glory rests an unknown solider of victory who died that his world might live."  The meaning is far from clear, but the Mystic Mage suggests that with the aid of Zatanna and Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt, they can summon Oracle, a sort of omnipotent being that may be able to fill in the gaps.  The three magical creatures join forces and Oracle appears at the summons.  He is a huge apparition with hair and beard befitting Father Time and eyes that look as though you're gazing into the cosmos.  After being briefed, Oracle gives the heroes information, but no solutions.  He explains that many years ago a threat emerged to Earth in the form of the giant Nebula-Man.  The Seven Soldiers of Victory, namely the Vigilante, Green Arrow and Speedy, the Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy, Sir Justin and the Crimson Avenger took on the villain, but did not conquer.  Later, they tried again with a new weapon and one of them sacrificed himself to defeat the Nebula-Man.  That explains the grave, but Wildcat asks why none of them can recall the Seven Soldiers of Victory.  Oracle obliges with a rundown as follows:

"The Seven Soldiers of Victory were not unlike yourselves—bold adventurers gathered together in the name of freedom…The Vigilante—in reality Greg Sanders, the Prairie Troubadour who fought crimes of the city with the weapons of the plains…The Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy—Actually wealthy young Sylvester Pemberton and his bodyguard-Chauffeur Pat Dugan—who battled injustice in the astonishing Star-rocket-racer…The Crimson Avenger—crusading newspaper publisher Lee Travis—who with the help of his oriental aide, Wing, carried his campaign of crime-prevention into the underworld's darkest holds…Sir Justin, The Shining Knight—time-tossed paladin of King Arthur's Court—who rode the flying steed, Winged Victory against the forces of corruption…The Green Arrow and Speedy—Millionaire financier Oliver Queen and his young ward, Roy Harper—who bent their longbows to protect the innocent from the grasping claw of evil…"

It is then that Oracle reveals the Seven Soldiers aren't remembered because they no longer exist…in this world.  The force that destroyed the Nebula-Man rent the very fabric of time, sending the heroes through time and space, specifically the past.  Oracle offers that he can send the members of the JLA and JSA to find the Seven Soldiers and since they need them to defeat the hand that grips the Earth, they soon break into teams, leaving Diana Prince behind to hold the fort while the power of Oracle sends the mightiest heroes of two worlds on their quests.

Our first team, consisting of Dr. Fate, The Atom and the Elongated Man soon materialize in ancient Mexico where they find the Crimson Avenger, who appears to be the King of the Aztecs.

I'd like to pause here to mention that this incarnation of the Crimson Avenger is the post World War II version of his uniform, which looks a little like The Phantom, rather than his original costume from his origin back in 1938 (Detective Comics #20), which more closely resembles that of The Shadow with the fedora, cape and twin .45's.  Heh.  Shadow to Phantom.  I crack myself up…

Our trio of heroes slip into the Aztec pyramid via Dr. Fate's magic and alert the Crimson that they've come to free him, but he sounds the alert and zaps them into unconsciousness with some sort of force from his hands.  Fate and Ralph Dibney then discover themselves chained to a wall while the Mighty Mite escaped their captor's notice.  The Crimson Avenger demands to know who they are and why they've come to spy on Huitzilopochtli, the Sun God.  The Elongated Man and Doctor Fate insist he is no god, but the Crimson Avenger and then free themselves and go on the offensive.  Ralph takes on the guards while Dr. Fate matches forces with the Crimson.  The Atom, meanwhile, lends a hand by catapulting himself into the "sun god's" jaw, ending the fracas.  Ralph and Fate then come to the conclusion that the Crimson's strange powers emanate from a nearby glowing rock within the pyramid.  They dispose of it and immediately the Crimson regains his memory.  Having safely secured the Soldier, the four heroes begin to vanish, summoned back by Oracle.

Just before this issue closes we're given a glimpse of a gray-haired man in a strange uniform.  His right hand is mechanical and he calls himself The Iron Hand.

Issue #101 is entitled "The Hand that Shook the World!"

The story opens with 3 latecomers arriving and meeting Diana Prince.  They are all members of the Justice Society and include Robin, Green Lantern and Mr. Terrific.  Diana briefs the heroes, giving us readers a good recap in the process.

We now join Superman, the Sandman and Metamorpho on their quest as they arrive in China, meeting up with a monk who says that Buddha has sent warriors to help them.  It appears they are up against none other than Genghis Khan and that his legions are led by an armored god on a winged horse.  This gets our heroes' attention and soon the Element Man is going on a scouting mission.  It isn't long before he discovers the encampment of the mighty Khan and soon he locates the tent of Sir Justin.  Like the Crimson Avenger, however, the Shining Knight isn't interested in being rescued and attacks Rex Mason, who simply changes his body to fluorine gas and escapes to tell his teammates what he's discovered.  Sir Justin seems to be under the spell of Genghis' personal sorcerer.  The next morning the trio awaits the attack of Khan's army.  Superman attempts to engage The Shining Knight, but his magical powers allow him to keep the Man of Steel at bay.  Superman then changes tactics and instructs his teammates to hold them off while he attends to other matters.  Rex Mason promptly forms himself into a cobalt tank and with the aid of the Sandman's formula, creates shells with sleeping gas to fire at the Mongol horde.    The gas works and Superman, meanwhile, had moved the village out of reach of the advancing legions.  The Sandman has wasted no time in administering an antidote to the Shining Knight and his winged steed and soon all are on their way back via the magic of Oracle.

Back at JSA HQ, Alan Scott, aka Green Lantern is tired of waiting around, so he, Robin and Mr. Terrific head for the Himalayas to investigate the grave of the Unknown Soldier of Victory.

We segue now to another team consisting of Hawkman, Wonder Woman and Dr. Mid-Nite as they arrive at their destination in a strange wooded area where they are immediately dodging arrows.  Counterattacking with Amazon bracelets, mighty winds from Hawkman's wings and the Jiu Jitsu skills of Mid-Nite, they quickly overcome the bowmen who turn out to be none other than Robin Hood's Merry Men.  Soon the heroes release their captives and discuss matters with Little John, who informs them that Robin Hood is to be hanged at dawn.  The heroes decide to take action and are soon taking matters into their own hands at Nottingham Castle.  Wonder Woman uses her lasso to single-handedly bring down the drawbridge.  Hawkman flies ahead with a borrowed staff, bowling over the guards and Dr. Mid-Nite brings his patented Black-out bombs into play.  He then locates, to his surprise, Green Arrow, who recognizes Mid-Nite and uses his net arrow to aid in their escape.  As they reunited with Little John, G.A. explains that Robin Hood is recovering from wounds at the home of a friar and that he, Green Arrow had driven off his attackers when he took Hood's place, but was captured.  Another hazy fade-out occurs as this group of heroes returns to home base.

We now catch up with Batman, Starman and Hourman as they arrive in ancient Egypt to witness construction of a pyramid.  One particular slave is a one-man construction crew.  It is Stripesy.  As evening falls, the heroes converge on the work crew and an overjoyed Stripesy greets them.  Unfortunately he is still in the hands of the Egyptians and a knife is placed at his throat.  Simultaneously a whip relieves Starman of his cosmic rod.  The threesome surrenders and later find themselves bound and trapped inside the center of the pyramid.  Starman tries to summon his cosmic rod with mental concentration, but cannot reach it.  Hourman's Miraclo pill has worn off.  The World's Greatest Detective then acts, using his feet to remove Hourman's hourglass from his neck, smashing it and using the glass shards to cut through their bonds.  Freed, they ponder how to navigate the maze that holds them when Batman suggests that Starman use his powers of concentration to have the cosmic rod show them the way out.  After great effort, Starman's concentration is rewarded by a glowing beam that leads the trio to an exit.  Once they are close enough to the cosmic rod, Starman mentally orders it to kayo the guards and they then find Stripesy, who uses his great strength to burst his bonds.  This group is then on its way back via the Oracle highway, ending this issue.

JLA #102 picks up the tale with "And One of Us Must Die!"

We see Oracle himself as he observes the happenings in multiple settings.  He notes that Diana Prince seems to be endangered by the Iron Hand and that Green Lantern, Robin and Mr. Terrific are away and unaware.  Oracle cannot interfere, but he has a stake in the outcome.

Shift scenes now to Green Arrow, Black Canary and Johnny Thunder, who have arrived on the North American plains amidst an Indian village.  It is then that they spot the Vigilante, bound and being taken toward a stake surrounded with firewood.  The hot-headed Green Arrow brings his bow into position, but Johnny Thunder says his Thunderbolt will be of more use and he utters the phrase to summon him, namely "Say You!"  After several minutes, though, no magical thunderbolt.  Unfortunately while they've been waiting they have also been discovered and are successfully ambushed.

The three heroes regain their senses in a teepee where the medicine man explains they'll be killed along with the other "white-skinned one" to make sure their land and buffalo are preserved.  He then departs to attend to the Vigilante, lashed to the stake.  Before the fire can be lit, however, a green arrow streaks across, knocking the torch from the medicine man's hand while simultaneously freeing the Vigilante.  Vig joins in the fray, noting that his captors didn't relieve him of his pistols.  Next thing out of the barrel a stampeding herd of buffalo begin to bear down on the group.  At that opportune moment, however, the long-lost thunderbolt arrives, explaining it took him about a thousand years to find Johnny.  At Thunder's command, the magical being causes the bison to turn into harmless butterflies that will regain their normal form after they've calmed down.  They are then summoned back by Oracle.

The next team we peek in on are Aquaman, Wildcat and Green Lantern, who have arrived in Cro-Magnon times where a group of cave dwellers have converged on a cave.  At the opening the heroes spot a distorted image of the Star Spangled Kid.

Unfortunately, directly after that discovery, the three heroes crash land.  GL says the yellow fog is the culprit, canceling out his power ring.  Wasting no time, Wildcat, heavyweight boxing champion, begins to use his fists to plow through the marauding cavemen.  Soon the Goliath of cavemen emerges, but Wildcat never skips a beat, dropping him like a sack of potatoes.  They then enter the cave only to find a primitive projector made up of quartz and scrap material, but no Star Spangled Kid.  The heroes split up to explore the side tunnels and Aquaman discovers the Kid, querying him as to what he's doing hiding out this way.  He replies that he's got a horrible case of the flu and feared that if one of the cavemen contracted it, the course of history could be altered irreparably.  Abruptly the cave is filled with floodwaters.  Aquaman scoops up the knocked-out Star Spangled Kid and uses his sea strength to head back for his partners.  In the next instant he and the Kid are enclosed in an emerald bubble and once they're reunited, the familiar cloud of smoke from Oracle encircles and takes them away.

The next team we join consists of The Flash, Zatanna and the Red Tornado.  They've arrived on a Mediterranean island and soon discover Speedy, but he's been transformed into a centaur by the sorceress Circe.  She is unwilling to release Speedy and indeed orders him to use his enchanted arrows to attack his rescuers.  In the next horrifying moments, the shafts find their marks, transforming the Flash into a snail-man; Zatanna into a mute hybrid hummingbird and the Red Tornado into a half-mole creature.  Then to compound matters, Circe commands the Flash and Red Tornado to battle to the death.  The Red tornado's forces meet up with the super speed motion of the Flash's arms, creating a maelstrom that Zatanna is having a hard time enduring in her hummingbird form.  Frantically she wonders how to counteract the spells of Circe and then comes upon a possible solution as she notes that the sound of her wings can produce different sounds.  She rapidly experiments with various motions until she manages to do a semblance of her voice and using her patented backwards-speak breaks the spell of the sorceress.  The heroes then converge on the temple where Circe resides and relieve her of her wand, freeing Speedy and triggering again the journey back for this final team.

We are now treated to an impressive sight as the gathering at the JSA's sanctuary overflows with heroes from the Justice League of America, Justice Society of America and the Seven Soldiers of Victory.  Johnny Thunder then asks the obvious question.  If all the soldiers are here, reunited, then who lies in the grave of the Unknown?  At precisely that moment, Green Lantern, Robin and Mr. Terrific arrive, freshly back from the tomb and are about to answer the question when the Crimson Avenger interjects:  "No, friend—let me tell everyone what you found!  The Unknown Soldier of Victory is my aide and companion—Wing!  It was he who died to defeat the Nebula-Man—and if there is any justice in this world, he was buried where he fell—with honors!"  The Golden Age Green Lantern assures the Crimson that holy men from a nearby temple witnessed the battle and laid Wing to rest.

Following that poignant moment, the assembly is startled to see the Iron Hand with Diana Prince in his wicked clutches.  The Crimson says he is their old arch-enemy and Vigilante says he should be dead, but the villain replies that he is merely damaged, with his iron appendage as evidence of that damage.  He demonstrates the power of his hand by releasing a burst of energy and Diana slumps forward in a seeming faint, only to turn and use a judo chop to sever the mechanical hand, then tossing the criminal to the floor.  She then hammerlocks him and demands to know how to stop the hand that holds the Earth.  He replies that the controls were in his shattered hand.  It cannot be stopped.  Dr. Fate suggests that if the Seven Soldiers can recreate the weapon they used on the Nebula-Man that they can still salvage the day.

Soon, working feverishly, the Nebula-rod, essentially a lightning rod that gathers nebuloid energy is assembled and charged.  Now the dilemma facing them is that it must be delivered by hand to the heart of the menace and the messenger will doubtless be consumed in the explosion.  By turns the mightiest among them volunteer, but each has a weakness that could be exploited, magic in the case of Superman, yellow and/or wood for the respective Green Lanterns, suggesting defenses the hand might use.  It is only then that they realize the nebula-rod is gone, along with the Red Tornado.  The android left a note behind:  "My friends…when you read this…it will be too late to stop me…I have taken the Nebula-rod…and gone to face my destiny…alone!  You said nothing human could do what must be done…and survive…then perhaps I have a better chance than most…an android is not human…if I perish…all that will be lost is some circuitry and gears…if I am successful…I will see you all soon…if I am not…remember me…your friend…Red Tornado!"

Then, a horrific blast of incalculable force.

A bit later, Superman, Starman and Doctor Fate are returning from a survey of space and report that there is no sign of the nebuloid hand or Red Tornado.  The final panel shows the visages of Wing and the Red Tornado waving from the clouds as the Crimson Avenger comments that, "…somewhere—somehow—Red Tornado and Wing both know how we feel."

I'd like to thank Mark for introducing me to a very impressive story of truly titanic proportions.  The volume of heroes and storyline kept things rolling along nicely through three issues.  I was pleased to see the classic method of heroes taking off on missions in groups of 3, hailing back to the first appearance of the JLA in The Brave and the Bold #28 and even further back to the original All-Star Comics adventures of the Justice Society of America in the great Golden Age.  Very good stuff.  If I could offer only one slight criticism it would be that the solution to the problem facing our heroes in this story sounds a bit familiar.  May I direct your attention to the very first review in the archives, Adventure Comics #353 where Ferro Lad of the Legion of Super-Heroes similarly sacrificed himself with an explosive weapon to save the universe from a cosmic threat?  Other than that, quite an enjoyable read.  It is outside the realm of the Silver Age, however, and as is my custom I won't offer a rating.  I did enjoy it, though and will recommend it without hesitation for your reading pleasure should you get the opportunity.

Please don't forget to come back to this URL in about two weeks for the next installment of this feature.  We'll be here, just as we have been for six years running, bringing you more great stories from the greatest era in comics.  As always, you are invited to contact me at:  professor_the@hotmail.com.  Maybe you've got a favorite story to suggest for a future review.  I'll be waiting.

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2006 by B.D.S.

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