All-Star Squadron #14 (October, 1982)
“Crisis on Earth-Prime, Book Two: The ‘Mystery Men’ of October!”
Writer – Roy Thomas
Pencils – Adrian Gonzalez
Inks – Jerry Ordway
Letters – Ben Oda
Colors – Carl Gafford
Plot Consultant – Gerry Conway
Editor – Len Wein
Cover Price: $0.60
Alrighty… we’re going to head into Part Two of Crisis on Earth-Prime! and it’s at this moment that I wonder… did I bite off more than I can chew? There’s a lotta stuff going on here!
We’ll, as ever, do our best…
We open with members of the All-Star Squadron and Justice Society of America performing a semi-familiar “salute”. They are doing so in reverence of he with the split-loaf haircut, Per Degaton. He is seated on a throne before a packed arena, as though he were Caesar, and the heroes give him the ol’ Morituri te Salutant… because, they’re about to fight each other… to the death!
The heroes pair off with their “most natural opponent”… which, I dunno… doesn’t always seem all that natural to me, but we’ll allow it as it really doesn’t amount to anything. During the skirmish, a man who looks like Colonel Harland Sanders, but who identifies himself as Professor Zee. He shouts to the heroes that they shouldn’t be attacking one another… but instead, should be fighting against Per Degaton! Speaking of Col. Sanders… have you tried KFC’s Chicken and Waffles basket? Popped in for the first time in years this weekend to check it out. It’s not half-bad… but, also… not half great.
Anyhoo, it turns out Professor Zee’s warning is all it takes to make the heroes snap out of it… and they turn their attention to Degaton. Lucky for him, this is all a dream! Per has had this same nightmare every night for a month… and it’s finally managed to stir his memory about his old enemies.
Ya see, Per Degaton had lost his memory of all the previous times he’d battled the good guys… and is now just a shlub, working as an assistant to… Professor Zee! He even tells him about his dream where he ruled the world… and Zee waves him off. It’s really kinda pathetic. Looks like Degaton agrees, because the next morning… he shoots ol’ Zee dead.
He then changes into his “night-dark” military outfit and hops into the Professor’s time machine. His plan is to jump into the far-flung future to grab some advanced weapons… bring ’em back, and use them to lord over the world of his present. Ya dig? And so, he picks the year 1982.
During the trip through time, Degaton feels a slight “pull”. He doesn’t pay it too much mind. Upon arrival in 1982, he grabs a newspaper… and is shocked to find no mention of superheroes in the news. He (politely) asks a newsagent where he can find all of the heroes, and is told he can find them… in comic books! Ya see, Per Degaton is now on Earth-Prime! Worth noting… I can see the only issue of New Teen Titans I need to complete my collection… and, boy does it sting!
Degaton rushes back to his time-machine before the police show up to bring him to the bin or something. He realizes that he shifted through both time and space… and lingers in-between universes to catch his breath. While there, he happens across… the Crime Syndicate! Hey, we saw them yesterday! He frees them from the construct bubble and they make a deal to work together… for now.
Per Degaton has an idea about how he can, with one action, take care of both Earth-Prime… and his own Earth. He and the Syndies head back to Earth-Prime’s 1962… right in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis. We’re about to get very Thomas-y here… some very interesting blending of real-world stuff.
I’m not much of a “real world” historian these days, so I’m gonna do my best here. Following the botched Bay of Pigs Invasion, Fidel Castro made a deal with Nikita Khrushchev to place nuclear missiles on Cuba to prevent future potential U.S. invasions.
John F. Kennedy, the then-President of the United States would respond… and after thirteen days of negotiations with the Soviet Union, were able to come to a peaceful arrangement, where the Cuban missiles were dismantled and removed by the Russians. This is a pretty big deal, as Cuba is scarily close to U.S. mainland… and the thought of them having nukes, is pretty terrifying. It’s certainly a situation that could have very easily escalated into full-blown nuclear war. Annnnnnnd, that’s where Per Degaton comes in.
Degaton tasks the Crime Syndicate with stealing the missiles… this way, the Russians can’t prove to the United States that they’ve been dismantled. This would, in theory, lead to an escalation of distrust between the super-powers… and ultimately, nuclear war! If you recall yesterday’s piece, the Justice Society arrived on a post-nuclear war Earth-Prime!
Back in the “in-between”, Degaton and the Syndies are floating about, nukes in tow. Ya see, with these missiles, Per Degaton will be able to scare Earth-Two straight, and easily take it over. It’s a win-win for ol’ split-loaf. At this point, the Crime Syndicate decides to… attack him! He doesn’t even sweat ’em… just sends ’em someplace else. Of course, we know from yesterday… that “someplace else” is Earth-One.
We shift scenes over to Earth-Two, where All-Star Squadron members Firebrand, Liberty Belle, and Johnny Quick are returning to New York City from an outing in San Francisco. They are attacked by a geek calling himself Nuclear, the Magnetic Marauder. Ay yai yai.
During the fracas, the All-Stars are joined by Robotman (not that Robotman) and Commander Steel. They battle Nuclear atop a building… and they all fall off. Nuclear is able to, I dunno, ride the magnetic waves, and get away. The heroes manage to grab onto a flagpole before becoming metallic splats on the ground.
They reconnoiter and decide to head into the Justice Society’s abandoned headquarters (the JSA had disbanded a little while back, and gave the All-Stars access to their digs). Upon opening the door, they find… the Justice League! Deja vu, all over again.
Alright, gang… we got quite a bit to unpack here.
Before going into the real-world-history bit, I just wanna say… for such a complex story, involving so many different eras and universes… Roy and Gerry did a fantastic job keeping everything easy to follow! I’d assume, under less-capable hands… this sort of a story would be a disaster! We jump from Earth-Two, to Earth-Prime… a couple of different eras… send the Syndies to Earth-One… heck, we even spend some time in-between universes, and not once did I feel lost.
I’ve said it before, but I just love Roy Thomas’ ability to connect his stories with things in the real-world. I really wasn’t expecting a history lesson on the Bay of Pigs nor the Cuban Missile Crisis when I opened this book. I think it was around then that I realized that I’d never read this one all the way through before!
It’s really as seamlessly done as I could imagine… just really great storytelling. With that one move by Degaton, he was damning one Earth to destruction… and another, to his conquer! Doncha love it when everything comes together?
They did that thing where we end exactly where we ended last chapter… which, usually gets on my nerves. That’s because it’s usually done (these days) as a way to get an extra issue out of an arc… and is usually just filled with chatter. Here, however, we get a completely different angle… which answers some of our questions, while offering up even more. Just so well done.
As if I gotta say it… this one gets a pretty high recommendation. Definitely an arc to keep your eye out for. This one is available digitally.