When I was a little kid, one of the first ongoing comic-book series’ that I ever collected was DC Comics’ ALL-STAR SQUADRON. This book was set during World War II, when all of America’s superheroes, including the already-established team the Justice Society of America had essentially been drafted to form this large super-army to defend America from the Axis Powers. Written by the Legendary Roy Thomas, this series full of the right mix of action and drama and was relatively easy to follow for a youngster like me, despite taking place in the past and having such a large cast of characters to balance.
This special one-shot issue was published in March 1999, and features two members of the JSA/Squadron, Dr. Mid-Nite and Hourman. Dr. Mid-Nite’s super-power is that, while he is blind in the daylight, he is able to see clearly in complete darkness. He wears a dark visor to enable him to see during the daytime, and carries his own self-designed “blackout bombs”, which can make his immediate area dark, which gives him and advantage when fighting criminals, as they are unable to see in the dark. Other than that, he has no extra powers, although is said to be an excellent fighters. Hourman created a special formula called “Miraclo”, which he forges into pills. When he take a pill he is granted super-human strength, speed, and stamina, but the effects wear off after one hour.
In this story, titled NAME YOUR POISON, it’s February 1945, and the two heroes have been sent to Scotland on a mission. There’s a secret U.S Army base located there, which is working on developing some new kind of weapon. A crazed supervillain is on his way there to obtain this weapon in order to use it to wipe out all life on Earth. Dr. Mid-Nite and Hourman have to break into the base, fight their way past the soldier who are guarding it, and find out exactly what this weapon is before the villain gets to it. The Colonel in charge is initially reluctant to cooperate with the heroes, but then the villain, a super-powered madman referred to only as JENSEN, arrives and that’s when all Hades breaks loose. Without spoiling the ending, I’ll just say that despite some dicey moments, the two heroes do manage to save the day, but then the issue ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, as it is part of a series 9 connected one-shots under the banner JSA RETURNS.
This issue succeeds on multiple levels, the first of which is that although it’s part of a larger storyline, it is completely self-contained. Even with the cliffhanger, you don’t feel like the story is incomplete when it ends, if you want to get the other issues you can, but if you just read this one issue (as I have), you will be satisfied by the ending.
So, much kudos to Tom Peyer for this very well-written story, and also to artist Stephen Sadowski, who style is a perfectly blend of “modern” and “retro”, which is exactly what a story like this needs. A great issue all-around.
The interplay between the two heroes is very well-written, as Dr. Mid-Nite is a more stoic and serious type, while Hourman is shown to be a have a more aggressive personality. Dr. Mid-Nite notes that it’s not just the addition of superpowers, but that Hourman’s personality changes when he takes the Miraclo pill, and therefor he worries the pills may be addictive and dangerous, but Hourman dismisses his concerns. This is some clever foreshadowing, as while the Miraclo pills were portrayed as perfectly safe back during Hourman’s initial run of comics, modern-day comics have indeed shown Miraclo to be an addictive substance, leading to Hourman’s retirement.