Monday, 30 September 2019

Top 5 Reasons All-Star Comics: Only Legends Live Forever Should Make Everyone's Trade Collection

It is the last day of September, which means we are literally two weeks away from the release of All-Star Comics: Only Legends Live Forever to comic book retailers, and three weeks away from the book being sold in the mainstream market.

Originally, the new Bronze Age JSA omnibus was supposed to be released in August of this year, but for some reason, the release date got pushed back to September, then later October. Fortunately, it appears the book will finally be hitting the stands sooner rather than later.

While the book is definitely a must for every fan of the Justice Society, it is also a must have for Huntress and Power Girl fans. Here are the Top 5 reasons All-Star Comics: Only Legends Live Forever should be a part of your collection.



01. Bronze Age All-Star is the definitive Justice Society run for generational legacy

When you ask fans which is their favourite Justice Society run of all time, answers will often vary between the Bronze Age and pre-Flashpoint eras. While the James Robinson and Geoff Johns runs are often regarded as the definitive Justice Society runs of the pre-Flashpoint era, a lot of their work on the Justice Society draws inspiration from the Bronze Age runs of Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz, and Roy Thomas.

While Roy Thomas' run on All-Star Squadron and Infinity Inc from the 1980s won't be a part of the upcoming All-Star collection, the definitive runs of Gerry Conway and Paul Levitz on both All-Star Comics and Adventure Comics from the 1970s are all collected in this omnibus. Now, why is that important? Despite the fact that Roy Thomas may have perfected the core mythology of the Justice Society by 1985, his work actually built upon the concept of generational legacy first established by Conway and Levitz in the decade before him, and even built upon the actual Golden Age lore.

Before Conway and Levitz, the first young generation hero to join the Justice Society in 1967 was the adult version of Dick Grayson who first appeared as Robin in Detective Comics #38 in 1940. Making his new debut in Justice League of America #55, he was a recurring character in the annual Justice League and Justice Society crossovers from 1967 to 1976, eventually facilitating the relaunch of the Golden Age era All-Star Comics with issue #58, which is collected in this volume.

Beginning with the relaunch of All-Star Comics in 1976, then creators Gerry Conway and Wally Wood decided to add more young generation heroes to the Justice Society by bringing back another Golden Age era youngster, the Star-Spangled Kid, and creating a brand new character in the form of Power Girl, who functioned as Earth-2's answer to the Earth-1 Supergirl.

Coupled with the older, more experienced Justice Society heroes of the 1940s and 1950s, the younger generation Justice Society members began to challenge many of the values upheld by the older generation, most notably with Power Girl who brought with her the core values of second wave feminism to the team, which often caused her to clash with Wildcat in particular.

On the other end of the spectrum, the All-Star Comics relaunch also explored the theme of ageing superheroes, and particularly how they adapt to a rapidly changing world. Do they still have a place in this new modern world, or do they find themselves needing to find a new purpose in life? Three of the characters that explore this theme are Alan Scott (Green Lantern), Ted Grant (Wildcat), and Sylvester Pemberton (Star-Spangled Kid). All of the stories that explore this theme are all collected in this volume.


02. Bronze Age All-Star contains the definitive first stories of Power Girl

One of the most popular young Justice Society heroes is Power Girl, who is known to modern readers as the Earth-2 survivor of Crisis on Infinite Earths. After Crisis merged the DC Multiverse into a single-shared universe, Power Girl struggled to have a definitive post-Crisis origin and especially suffered from having a conflicting history before her original pre-Crisis one was reinstated in the 2006 event comic Infinite Crisis.

After getting her original memories back, Power Girl struggled to establish a meaningful existence on a new Earth where a version of her family existed, but it wasn't her family, and none of her pre-Crisis friends existed on this new Earth as she remembered them. This status quo undoubtedly established Power Girl as one of the more tragic heroines of the DC Universe. But prior to Crisis, Power Girl served a much different purpose: she was more than just the Earth-2 version of Supergirl. She was actually meant to succeed her cousin, Superman, as her world's Kryptonian protector.

As one of the characters that spearheaded the successful relaunch of All-Star Comics with issue #58, Power Girl established her own raison d'être in the very first page she appeared in: She's Power Girl, not to be confused with her cousin Superman, and she does not wait to be told to respond to an emergency, she just responds.

Following her literal groundbreaking entrance, Power Girl wasted no time in joining the boys club that had been the Justice Society. Despite being new to Earth at the time, she was very eager to utilise her Kryptonian superpowers to fight crime and protect her new home from cosmic threats. She had no time for injustice regardless of whom it came from (friend and foe), she was not going to tolerate sexism from anyone (past and present), and don't especially give her a Superman emblem with a 'P' instead of an 'S'. She was a hero of her own making, not a carbon copy of her cousin, and she made sure people understood that.

Power Girl knew and understood her own worth from the beginning, and she was determined to carve out her own heroic destiny as she saw fit. But it wasn't just Power Girl herself who took note of her own feats. Her perseverance even caught the attention of her future best friend, Helena Wayne, who operated with the Justice Society as the Huntress.

Of all the Justice Society heroes, the Huntress was perhaps the member who loved and respected Power Girl the most. She valued Power Girl's friendship to the point where she even softened her rougher edges and even earned Power Girl's respect in turn. Together, these two women formed the second generation World's Finest duo, and wasted no time being each other's partners during Justice Society missions. Whereas Power Girl was very much an action girl who lived for the punches and wall-smashing, the Huntress lived for the finer details of a crime scene, always looking for hidden clues and piecing together the actual happenings of a crime. All of that is featured in the upcoming collected volume.


03. Bronze Age All-Star contains the definitive Justice Society stories of The Huntress

Power Girl may have been the first real legacy hero of the Bronze Age, but the actual breakout heroine of that decade was the Huntress. While Power Girl may have survived Crisis on Infinite Earths and continued to grow a strong passionate fanbase in the decades that followed when Helena Wayne did not, the latter character was all but forgotten by fans.

Despite the existence of a brand new Huntress in the form of the equally popular Helena Bertinelli post-Crisis, love for the original Helena Wayne Huntress endured in the decades that followed her initial Crisis erasure, and has even gained new fans in the current generation. Between old and new fans, modern DC has been more than aware that a market for the character continues to exist. To this day, fans continue to ask for a proper comeback of the original Helena Wayne Huntress on the main DC Earth.

But where did all this love for the original Helena Wayne Huntress start? Apart from getting her own solo series as a back-up feature in Wonder Woman and abundant exposure in high profile books like Justice League, Batman Family, and Brave and the Bold, it all started with DC Super-Stars #17 (collected in the upcoming Huntress: Origins), and especially her appearances as a regular cast member in All-Star Comics and later Adventure Comics.

While being the daughter of Batman and Catwoman was certainly a major selling point of her character pre-Crisis, it was also what she brought to the Justice Society table that helped endear fans to her character. Like Power Girl, Helena Wayne did not want to live in the shadows of her parents and wanted to carve out her own heroic destiny as she saw fit. She wanted to be recognised and respected as a heroine of her own making as the Huntress, and she especially wanted to be worthy of Justice Society membership.

In her first story arc, the Huntress voluntarily assists Wildcat and the Star-Spangled Kid against a new enemy known as the Task Force, and especially makes a point of showcasing her combat skills, her talents as a detective, and her ability to be a team player. In other words, her first mission with the Justice Society was essentially her audition for JSA membership. Once her membership was approved and was welcomed into the team, the Huntress proved herself invaluable to her teammates, but wasn't always respected as an equal, much to her frustration. Like Power Girl, she was often treated as a kid for her age, continuing the theme of generational differences.

Another major selling point of the Huntress in her All-Star Comics appearances is her friendship with Power Girl, which is established in this run. In addition to being a valuable relationship to Power Girl, the Huntress did more than just soften some of Power Girl's rougher edges. She was also staple to helping Power Girl adjust to life on Earth, and even helped her understand certain aspects of Earth-based cultures that seemed foreign to her. She was also one of the few people Power Girl trusted to be vulnerable with, and Power Girl, in turn, fulfilled this role for the Huntress as well.

Most of Helena Wayne's stories with Power Girl are collected in this volume, and at least one more will be collected in the upcoming Huntress: Origins trade.


04. Bronze Age All-Star defines the Batman legacy in the context of Golden Age lore

The concept of a Batman Family is not a foreign one to modern DC fans. In both the pre-Flashpoint and post-Flashpoint continuities, the Batman family has grown tremendously to include five Robins, three Batgirls, and even some 'outsiders' like Catwoman and the Helena Bertinelli Huntress. But the concept of the Batman Family actually started on Earth-2 with Batman and Catwoman getting married, and having their legacies succeeded by Bruce's ward Dick Grayson as Robin, and his own daughter with Selina, Helena Wayne, as the Huntress.

While not as big as the Batman Family of today, how the Batman Family was conceived pre-Crisis is not insignificant as it was the first to explore the legacy of Batman and how that affected his immediate successors. From Dick Grayson's point of view, he felt a strong obligation to continue Bruce's legacy as Batman as a way of paying his debt to his mentor for looking after him as a child, and even raising him like his own son.

From Helena Wayne's point of view, continuing her father's work did not entail becoming another Batman or Batwoman, but rather to continue what he started on their own terms. For Helena, that meant honouring her father's legacy in a way that acknowledged her mother's part in that legacy by becoming the Huntress, and encouraged Dick to do the same as Robin. While becoming Batman may have felt like a logical next step for Dick, Helena also emphasised the need to be his own hero and not exist in the shadow of her father.

Amongst the themes explored with Batman's legacy his how both Huntress and Robin come to terms with the deaths of both Batman and Catwoman. For Dick, it was devastating to lose his father figure and mentor, but for Helena, losing both of her parents in the hands of criminals and in such a short timeframe began to resemble the narrative of her father.

Another major consequence to Batman's death in particular was his identity of Bruce Wayne being revealed to the public, which in turn revealed the identities of both Huntress and Robin. The aftermath of Batman's death is one of the major story arcs featured in this omnibus.


05. Bronze Age All-Star is the beginning of a more mature Justice Society stories

When people read and even look back on the Golden Age comics, the style of storytelling back then was more anthological in nature and rarely afforded characters opportunities to meaningfully change and grow. The Bronze Age relaunch of All-Star Comics was the first time the Justice Society and other Golden Age characters moved away from one-and-done plot-driven stories and started to receive meaningful character arcs.

As mentioned earlier, one of the major themes explored in the Bronze Age relaunch of All-Star Comics was the concept ageing superheroes and how they responded to a rapidly changing world. With that, came the exploration of the heroes' personal lives. Some married and had children, others retired from superheroics and only responded to crises, and others experienced personal crises of their own such as Alan Scott with bankruptcy, Rex Tyler with drug addiction, Ted Grant with a mid-life crisis, and Sylverster Pemberton with time displacement and loss of family.

In relation to ageing superheroes, another major theme that's explored in this omnibus is ageism. To be more specific, the stories examine how age gaps affect the way the older Justice Society heroes view and interact with their younger successors, and how this in turn affects the way the younger heroes view and interact with their older comrades. There is a tendency from the older heroes to treat the younger heroes like children, even if those youngsters are in their 30s-40s like Dick Grayson was in this timeframe, complete with actual decades of experience.

In addition to generational legacy, heroic legacy is another major theme explored in this Bronze Age collection. Generational differences aside, there is also a recurring theme of younger heroes looking up to the older Justice Society heroes as inspirational icons with moral standards for them to aspire towards. They don't just want to succeed these older heroes as the new generation Justice Society, but they want to earn their respect and admiration as well.

While the older heroes didn't necessarily mentor their younger counterparts, they still set a standard that the younger heroes wanted to follow in order to keep their world safe from both small threats and cosmic crises, and hopefully one day, inspire the generations that follow them to do the same.

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