THE SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY ARCHIVE by multiple writers and artistscollects the first four issues of Leading Comics, which introduced comics’ second superhero team after the Justice Society (despite the JSA’s success, Marvel’s flop All-Winners Squad was the only other attempt at a super-team back in the Golden Age). Seven of DC’s second-stringers (Green Arrow and Speedy, Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy, Vigilante, Crimson Avenger and the Shining Knight, plus a couple of their sidekicks) take on the Hand, the Black Star, Dr. Doome and the Sixth Sense in different stories. Hardly the best of the Golden Age, but enjoyable, more than some JSA stories; the Sixth Sense story is tricky enough to be really good (no surprise it was written by Batman co-creator Bill Finger).
JUSTICE LEAGUE: The People vs. the Justice League has Christopher Priest (best known for his excellent Black Panther run) riding his usual hobbyhorses about how superheroes are kind of silly and just wouldn’t work in the real world and should probably be laughed at (exceptions being the few characters he likes, like T’Challa). Unfortunately this story of the League massively screwing up and people asking Hard Questions about whether Earth can allow unauthorized vigilantes running around only plows a field countless other writers have already farmed — and as I’ve complained before, this kind of thing is just meaningless posing as it won’t change anything. Art by Pete Woods.
THE CASTOFFS: Mage Against the Machine by MK Reed, Brian Smith, Molly Ostertag and Wyeth Yates, is a competent fantasy adventure (Y/A, so in fairness I’m not the target audience) in which three female mages must travel across a post-apocalyptic wasteland dominated by hostile mecha. Nothing really new, but enjoyable enough.
KIM REAPER: Grim Beginnings is a fantasy rom-com by Sarah Graley that happened to suit my mood perfectly. College student Becka crushes madly on Goth classmate Kim, only to discover Kim’s part-time job is claiming souls for Death (he has to hire extra help). Can she convince Kim a job in retail would be just as good? Can Kim convince Becka they’ll work as a couple even though she walks around with a scythe? Fluff, but enjoyable fluff.
PLASTIC MAN ARCHIVES Vol.2 shows writer/artist Jack Cole improving steadily from Vol. 1 , as the delightful splash page below demonstrates. And so does Plas launching his own magazine (#1 is included in this volume), as solo books were strictly for A-listers back then. Cole’s humor is often very black as in The Game of Death or The Eyes Have It (a remarkably dark story involving an orphaned child and some child murdering fiends), but he can turn in a comedy detective story (The Rare Edition Murders) or just be gloriously silly. A pleasure to reread.
ROBBING THE BEES: A Biography of Honey, the Sweet Liquid Gold That Seduced the World by Holley Bishop, is one of the few pop-science books where adding personal anecdotal touches actually works for me. Mixed in with a history of beekeeping, honey and beeswax Bishop includes her personal experiences as an amateur beekeeper and a year spent hanging with a professional in the Florida Panhandle (in a town so small it’s really surprising to see it mentioned in print). Informative and like Thief at the End of the World it makes me appreciate how incredibly important honey used to be in the world.
#SFWApro. Top image by Mort Meskin, bottom by Jack Cole, all rights remain with current holders.