All Winners Squad: Band of Heroes was a book I didn’t know much about when I purchased the first issue, but I’ve been increasingly happy that I decided to give it a try. The mini-series focuses on WWII veterans who were, in the 1940s, the heroes that Timely Comics (which would later become Marvel Comics) used in their comic books as propaganda for the war effort.
Comics have changed quite a bit since the ’40s, however, and this series has been a much darker take on the realities of war than what was seen in the old Timely Comics. We’re told that many of the comics never made it more than an issue or two because the real soldier the comic was based on would die. Much of this issue is told in flashback style by “Slo-Mo” Jones, who is now an old man with a dark secret. He remembers not the glossy, stylized world of propaganda as it appeared in the comics, but instead a group of frightened young men unsure of what they’d face.
Paul Jenkins does a good job in this comic of making the characters stand out as realistic people as opposed to comic book archetypes. Even as Jones sums up his teammates in quick descriptions of only a few words, we get the sense of fear they feel as they ready for a parachute jump, and then as they jump into enemy fire. From there we see things progress, as Jones watches a teammate shot from the sky and suffers a bad landing into enemy territory himself.
We’re also shown a good contrast between the old comics and the view we’re given now as heroes such as Captain America, the Sub-Mariner and the Human Torch (the original) are brought in to “meet the troops.” The heroes are dressed in their costumes, set apart from the drab olive green of the other soldiers. As the well-known heroes show off their powers, the other soldiers take bets on who of the newest recruits will die first. This is certainly not the world of a Golden Age comic, where the hero always wins.
The central plot throughout the series so far has revolved around Captain Flame, who we’re told was in one comic book that was destroyed before it was ever printed because he died in battle. The truth behind Captain Flame is a closely-guarded secret, one that his old teammates are still afraid to tell, even decades later. We’ve see a few glimpses of Captain Flame, and know he’s someone that the other soldiers fear, presumably because of his abilities to cause large-scale destruction with his fire powers. However, this issue ends with a surprising twist to Captain Flame’s story, and I’m eager to see how this will play out in future comics.
With half the series out now, All-Winners Squad: Band of Heroes continues to be an exciting read that keeps me guessing, and one that I would easily recommend.
Sara started reading comics in the third grade, and now puts her English degree to good use talking about them on the Internet. She currently resides in Western Massachusetts with a roommate, three cats, and an action figure collection and spends the time she isn’t reading comics working for a non-profit. You can visit her blog at Ms. Snarky’s Awesometastic Comics Blog.