Monday, February 18, 2013

All Star Comics #18 - "Insects Turn to Crime"

This issue is cover dated for Fall 1943, so around the time this was actually on the stands, there was quite a lot going on in the world.

The U.S. was still embroiled in World War II, with mainland Italy being invaded by U.S. forces in September, leading to Italy dropping out of the war. Benito Mussolini, who had been earlier ordered captive by the Fascist Council, was be rescued by Adolf Hitler from the mountaintop where he was held and is set up as the head of the Italian Social Republic.

As amazing as so much of this seems, it was what was happening in the real world, not even near the comic pages of the Justice Society. Pretty incredible, huh?

In a departure from the usual World War II saboteurs and spies, or the machinations of villains such as Brain Wave, the JSA dive into a more science fiction adventure this time around, battling an army of hybrid insect-men that are being used to commit crimes.

Dr MidNite, always looking on the bright side.
Hawkman informs the Justice Society at their latest meeting, that he's received reports from across the country that these insect men are on the prowl, and suggests the Justice Society investigate.

Dr MidNite scares them all just enough to spring them into action and make sure the human race's extinction and the rise of insects as the earth's rulers doesn't happen anytime soon. With that, each of the JSA members are handed envelopes at random with their missions within.

It's not exactly the most efficient way to spread out your team's resources.

It's important to note that just as the team is getting ready to depart, Johnny Thunder arrives late to the meeting, walking on the ceiling and intermittently buzzing as he speaks. Realizing something is a miss, Johnny takes it upon himself to get to the bottom of where he was injected with whatever is turning me into bugs.

Once again, despite being the most powerful member of the team, the boys leave Wonder Woman back at headquarters.

Who knew the Spectre followed sports?

The goes vary, with Hawkman battling weird creatures with mandibles that produce gummy-like substances to keep their prey confined. Sandman takes on some fierce snail-like creatures that bore through the earth, while the supernatural Spectre battles an ex-Olympic swimmer who turned to crime (and leading an army of men turned water beetle).Dr. Fate takes on an army of fly-men who are shooting down planes and robbing the passengers and crew, and Dr. MidNite helps a witness to a crime overcome his fear of spiders enough to take on some bizarre spider-men, twenty years before the name was given a less frightening connotation by a web-slinging hero of the sixties.

Ant-men are robbing banks but brought to a halt thanks to Starman and the pint-sized Atom gets a workout taking on grasshopper men.

The best part of the tale, for once, is Johnny Thunder. I would have never thought I'd say that, just for the record. It seems Johnny just can not figure out why he's taking on the attributes of a fly. So, as he wanders aimlessly through town (on the sides of buildings, mind you), he decides to back to a cafe that left a bad taste in his mouth.

I think the last thing I'd want is to go back for more bad bologna, but hey, that's me.

It turns out, of course, that criminals are creating their fly-like minions by hiding the insect-hybrid formula into food at the cafe. When Johnny decides he's had his fill, he finds out that the staff can be a little demanding.

"Eat the f$%&#n soup!!"

It's only with the help of Johnny's magic Thunderbolt that he's able to overcome the thrall of the insect formula and gain control of his human side, thought it's not until after Thunderbolt puts a stop to both Johnny and the other mind-controlled fly-men with some sticky fly paper.

Thunderbolt - unlimited magical power, respectful of union rules.
It all turns out to be the work of a scientist and exterminator calling himself the King Bee. He claims that he's isolated the hormones in insects and found a way to transfer them to men, creating his hybrid insect-beings, rented out to criminals across the country. 

Unfortunately for the King Bee, despite all his insect-men, he, himself, is still just a man, and no match hand-to-hand with the combined might of the Justice Society.

Although he does his best to shoot himself out of trouble, he is soon overpowered and captured by the heroes.

While I have yet to read it, it appears that King Bee appeared once more against the Justice Society, but it involved a bit of time travel. In All Star Squadron #1 (and its preview insert in Justice League of America #193) in the summer of 1981, legendary JSA writer and fan Roy Thomas tells a story that involves Justice Society villain Per Degaton time traveling with other villains from 1947 to 1941 to attack the heroes. This means the King Bee would attack the JSA alongside other villains two years before his first appearance on the scene in this issue.

Also, it's a reason that time travel some times makes my head hurt.

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