The cover of this book may claim "The Mystery of the Metal Menace," but once inside, we find that the story is actually titled "Vampires of the Void" and comes to us from the Fall of 1945.
It's the monthly meeting of the Justice Society and Hawkman is a bit bothered that someone hasn't shown up. That someone is a scientist whom Hawkman heard speak at a lecture and is convinced that Earth is set for an all-out invasion.
According to this scientist's theories, Hawkman explains, a ship is headed to earth from the planet and Jupiter and carrying on board, multiple inhabitants of the planet, all made of living metal and measuring 4 inches tall. It's the ship itself that concerns Hawkman, who states the metal absorbs anything it comes into contact with.
It was 1945, so scientists had yet to actually get into space and explore the planet itself as they later would with robotic spacecrafts like the early Pioneer and Voyager missions.
With what we know now, Jupiter is made up mostly of hydrogen, with a quarter of its mass being helium. It is thought to also have a rocky core of heavier elements, but Jupiter lacks a well-defined solid surface.
As radio news flashes become fast and furious, the Justice Society spread out to different parts of the globe to prevent this alien invasion.
Hawkman intervenes after a slew of four-inch robots attack a silver mine in search of 'food.' As they consume more and more silver, their metal bodies not only begin to grow, but they take on the characteristics of that mineral. Causing destruction wherever they tread, they throw even Hawkman for a loop as he tries to stop them.
The metal invaders become even deadlier when they walk through some power lines, causing their entire being to become electrically-charged, as Hawkman explains to these policeman:
Giant metal robots, surging with deadly electrical touches, making their way to cities and towns. What could possibly be done? Why, head to the bank, of course!
|"Can I cash my paycheck while I'm here?"|
Hawkman uses the copper pennies to thwart the electrically-charged robots, by throwing them at the robots and causing a short-circuit upon contact.
|We also get this little chemistry lesson and wonderful, over-the-top intro.|
Those metal monsters are now making their way into the subway systems, eating the metal that makes the tracks and pipelines running underneath the city. It runs them afoul of that Mighty Mite of a hero, The Atom.
The Atom does his best, but both he and the police force quickly become outnumbered and outmatched as the alien metal beasts continue to destroy, eat, and grow in strength and size.
|"I can't...outrun...them. Mustn't...stop." "Atom, long distance call for you!" "Oh, well if it's long distance, that's another story. Hello?"|
The robots must have given up chasing The Atom because by the time he gets off the phone, there seems to be no sense of urgency at all. In fact, once he’s done with his call, he then goes out looking for the monsters, finding them in a jewelry store and wondering the same thing the reader does – what in the world would alien beings made of metal want with ill-gotten goods like jewelry?
We don’t get an answer because The Atom barges in and engages the beings in battle until the police show up with some “chemical mix” the Atom requested of them. The hero sprays the metal marauders with it and they slowly turn color to red and stop dead in their tracks.
Why? We’ll let The Atom explain in this built-in chemistry lesson.
Green Lantern is on his way to a metals factory to talk with a researcher, when he finds the man almost put to death by one of the ever-growing mechanical monsters from outer space. GL saves the man and they pursue the creatures to downtown.
|Those fiends! That was their plan - economic depression of a small town!|
In some instances, as Roy Thomas explains in his book, The All-Star Companion, art had been completed for this story but had to be quickly changed due to the team's new roster. That's why in this Green Lantern chapter, formerly Starman's segment of the story, you actually see him holding Starman's trademark cosmic rod in some panels, an obvious oversight by whomever had to quickly re-do the artwork after Green Lantern replaced Starman due to rights issues between the All-American Comic Company and DC Comics.
The metal monsters continue to create havoc as they eat metal across the land, which include telephone cables, leaving towns like Smithville helpless. Until Dr. MidNite arrives on the scene, of course.
|Use this one next time someone asks 'when did you get here?'|
The good doctor has a plan, though.How do you foil metal beings who seem unstoppable as the gobble-up the metals of Earth?
Meanwhile, an ancient, rare, gold necklace is on display at the Metropolis Museum and is the next thing on the menu for these rampaging metal beings when The Flash enters the museum and throws a fury of super-speed punches that do little to no harm. What The Flash does manage to accomplish, though, is knocking the metal aliens off their feet, causing the necklace to fly into the air and around the neck of one of the metal marauders.
Having consumed large amount of gold, turning their own metal being into gold, the invaders make their way through more items in the museum. The police and guards think the only solution may be to dynamite the metal beings. A man of science, though, The Flash has another idea.
|Jay Garrick. Ever the academic.|
With little regard for the human race, the beings give small consideration to the super-speed powers that Jay Garrick possesses as the Flash - a mistake that costs them dearly as The Flash quickly bends and molds the soft gold bodies of the invaders into twisted piles of gold.
Before joining up with the rest of the Justice Society, The Flash makes sure to return the gold necklace to the museum collection.
Oh, and did I mention that this entire chapter is told from the point of view of...wait for it...the necklace! Yes, the gold necklace actually is the narrator of this entire segment.
Johnny Thunder, meanwhile finds himself in the cold land of the Great North. And apparently, in 1945, people in the Great North talked like this:
Johnny uncovers the spaceship (purportedly which brought the metal beings to Earth, but it's never really stated, so we'll just take that leap) and finds that it eats not only metal, but anything, including Johnny's boot and a hill of snow. The ship, much like the metal beings plaguing the Earth earlier, gets bigger the more that it consumes. Calling upon his magic Thunderbolt, Johnny wishes for the JSA to come and help and in an instant, they're transported on scene.
When the Justice Society returns to their headquarters, they find the scientist that Hawkman spoke of at the beginning of the story waiting for them. He waits, not only to speak with the JSA, but to destroy them - his body taking on all the metallic characteristics of the robots from throughout the entire affair. He uses that power to take on the entire might of the JSA, but much like they overpowered the robots, they make quick work of him.
The JSA soon learn that he summoned the robots to Earth, telling them where they could find large deposits of metal to eat if they, in turn, robbed for him and told him how to gain the characteristics of the metal like they did. Revenge was his motive, sick of being jeered at for discoveries that many found to be laughable and crazy.
Although defeated, the Justice Society takes pity on the man and decide that after he serves his time in jail, they will help set him up with a laboratory to further his experiments. Wow, talk about turning the other cheek!
An interesting story of alien robots taking on different strengths based on the metal, and in typical old-school comic fashion, we get a little lesson in each chapter about the properties of each metal. It can be hard, however, to get through the art in some of these chapters. As always, Joe Kubert's art is fantastic in the Hawkman chapter, but the rest of the book does suffer tend to suffer from lackluster illustrations.
The art in All-Star is starting to really deteriorate and it's a sign of the time period we're currently in for the book's history. Many artist came and went through the pages of this series, be it for employment reasons or because of the war. Many consider this to be a low period on JSA art, and I'd have to agree with them.