Ah, the end.
There’s something so bittersweet about the end. We’ve been keeping up with The Golden Age here at Classic Comics Cavalcade, and this tremendous tale is drawing to an end. Despite its dour nature, despite how dark everything has been for our heroes, one cannot help but feel like the sun is about to come out and shine brightly upon this age.
Unfortunately, as we all know, it’s always darkest before the dawn, and for some of the Justice Society, it’s going to get so dark that the sun will never shine again. For others, this will be a new beginning. For the readers, we will get both, as it’s going to be the end of something Golden and the start of something Silver.
All new births must hurt, though, as we are all well aware, and the birthing of the Silver Age would be no different, as the Golden Age’s death throes echo in me to this day. The final issue of The Golden Age is a sort of perfect amalgam of pain and beauty, chaos and stability, and hope and despair. One thing is for sure as we start off this issue: things don’t look good for the JSA right now.
That’s correct, as we told you last time, American hero, Tex Thompson, Senator and WW2 Hero, is really the Ultra-Humanite. The comic has thus far shied away from telling you who is in Daniel Dunbar’s body, and we will save that reveal for you as well, but you know that if they are only hinting then whoever it is must be rather dastardly…
The problem is that no one will listen to the JSA. I see this happen all of the time in our real world. Despite evidence that shows that this behavior is counterproductive, folks are always very willing to simply kowtow to leaders and pundits. Folks seem ever so eager to believe the biggest and smallest of lies, provided that they are uttered from “official” sources. Those that question or peruse “unofficial” sources are marginalized as quickly as is possible. It’s fascinating to see the JSA in such dire straits, as they are usually portrayed and perceived as the elder statesmen of the DC Universe. In fact, in one of my prior articles here at the Unspoken Decade, I mention that even Superman revered these guys. To see them on the opposite side is fascinating!
The first few issues of this fantastic mini-series dealt with the character of the JSA and their Golden Age pals. This issue is no different, as the few heroes in possession of this secret are testing their own character in order to forge some sort of plan that would give them a of chance against Ultra-Humanite and Daniel Dunbar…
The HUAC continues to dog Alan Scott as well, and as the government and country that he has held so dearly continues its hideous assault against him and his character, his character deepens, thrives, and becomes as strong as steel. No committee, whether it was the committees we established here in the USA to witch hunt the different people we dared not attempt to understand, nor a communist pogrom would have had the ability to pierce the spectacular moral fortitude Alan Scott possesses.
All that matters to Alan Scott is what is right and just. All that matters to Alan Scott is that he stand up for it. All that matters to Alan Scott should be all that matters to us…
In my regular life, many people have seen me stand up many times against oppressive forces. Obviously, I never stared down a committee like HUAC, but many times, I have stood up to entities that looked to hold me, my family, my co-workers, or my society down.
In my case though, any dirt on my adversaries that I got, I was more than happy to use. The moral fiber of Alan Scott is truly tough, as I think very few would face the committee as head-on as he plans too.
Of course, the challenges and obstacles we all face are never the same. Just as Alan Scott stands poised and ready to face HUAC with a most noble streak, Libby Lawrence has her own cross to bear, but in her case, it is trying to find the courage to break free of something bad.
Vices and people with vices can easily get a hold on any of us. In Libby’s case, she allowed herself to become complacent and to submerge her dreams as her boyfriend, Jonathan Law (Tarantula) has drowned his and tried to beat hers out of her. She’s finding the courage to not just break apart from Law, but to also say yes to herself. Too many of us never find that courage. In his defense, Law is sorry and is finding courage of his own, but it seems to be too little, too late…
In the meantime, the heroes gather, as they always do. From the moment I found myself hopelessly in love with the garishly colored superheroes, I have been a sucker for the moments when all the heroes gather together and stand around in their costumes, moments before uniting to combat a threat to the world, the galaxy, the universe, or reality itself. These are the times when we naturally see the heroes as people rather than just a bunch of loud costumes with a bunch of powers. These are the times, much like us, when pals get together, and just like us, those times for the heroes seem to be fleeting and rare, and the gatherings only occur during the best and the worst of times.
Of course, one of the most special things about superheroes, and the mystery men of the Second World War is that they represent hope for the future. The future is always happening, even when folks aren’t aware of it yet. Here, we see the unbridled ambition of youth, that devil-may-care spirit, and that eagerness that youth has to prove itself so that it can belong, and we see it in the form of an as yet to be named Superhero that none of the other folks have heard of yet. That matters little to him; what matters is that he has a place to belong, even if many of the others don’t quite realize it yet.
I think at one point we were all that young man. We were all so angry, so eager, so dejected, so determined, and since I was young in the 90’s, so EXTREME. What we all now know, and what this young man will soon learn, is that maybe we should not be in such a hurry to grow up. Growing up means hard choices, facing tragedies, and never really knowing or understanding why your life goes the way that it does. Many of the heroes assembled here are going to be wondering what happened shortly, as a force of nature is about to upend their entire status quo, as it does for many of us adults.
In the meantime, the heroes with the skinny on what is actually going down with the Ultra-Humanite are beginning to put their plan into motion. One of them, however, calls an audible. One of them had decided she just hasn’t done enough to thwart this plan. One of them is going to jumpstart the plan on her own. One of them won’t survive her gambit, although she certainly inspires many of her fellow heroes to take up arms against their oppressor.
American culture is jazz and baseball, although I think we have to add in pro wrestling and superheroes as well. These things are inherently ours. We brought them to the world. I know folks would like to believe in a lot more of what she said, but, well, as an anarchist, I think it is a pipe dream. The state is the state, whether it is called The USA, the USSR, the UAE, or Uganda. We will see that even as our heroes expose the corruption of Thompson and how he is actually the Ultra-Humanite, that things will go along in a similar fashion, as the Joe McCarthy of this Earth rises to fill the vacuum Thompson leaves. He will engage in the same red-baiting that Thompson did, just as McCarthy did on our Earth. No nation, regardless of the ideals it purports to espouse, is immune from the power mongers and the need for the elites to maintain the status quo at the expense of the non-elite.
Robotman, as you see, has no qualms with this. I love Robotman (especially the often-forgotten Golden Age Robotman), and it is a shame to see him make such a dastardly heel turn, although it makes perfect sense. Robotman would be cold and efficient due to the dichotomy between his organic brain and his steel body, and one of the heroes most likely to buy into the law and order nonsense of those like Thompson or McCarthy. So it is he who smashes Miss America in a vain attempt to silence her truth. She dies; the truth lives on.
The government’s witch hunt against Alan Scott and others like him is continuing even as the Ultra-Humanite is being revealed. Scott is defiant, and he, like me, has nothing but contempt for government apparatuses that are utilized to hold down those who would dare to be different and question the integrity of the powers-that-be. I wonder if this cycle will ever stop. Alan Scott and I both certainly hope so.
As he faces down those small-minded men, the mystery men go to war with Dunbar, and to say they did not fare well would be such an understatement…
I have heard that the bright colored superheroes are like our gods and mythology, and there are few moments that reinforces that notion better than this one. Here we see the gods rise up as they attempt to crush their challenges, but like many of the powers that would face a god, Dunbar is in possession of a nearly limitless power all his own. We see Hawkman, Black Condor, and The Ray attempt to subdue Dunbar, and their story isn’t over.
Some gods stay grounded, looking in vain for advantages against overwhelming odds. Some gods look for inspiration in the Earth, the sky, or themselves, but some look for inspiration in the cold realm of vengeance…
Robotman vs. Tigress seems a one-sided affair, but how could one not admire the vehemence with which Paula Brooks attacks the steel monstrosity in the name of vengeance for her friend? Despite how Robotman just murdered her pal with nary a second thought, Tigress is displaying nerves of steel that despite being made of metal, Robotman could only wish he had.
The Ultra-Humanite, running low on cards in this high-stakes, high-powered game of poker, pulls a pair of kings. Just like all the demagogues of the ages, the Ultra-Humanite uses misdirection and manipulation to create rifts between friends and heroes. Johnny Thunder and The Atom, recruits in the Ultra-Humanite’s wave of the future, have fallen victim to him and his lies. Of course, who could blame them? As the outcasts of the JSA, they felt like they found a place to belong under Ulta-Humanite, and so they fight.
They fight their own family, as families do on occasion. Some would say families only stop fighting when they have someone else to fight, but here, even though the JSA has plenty on its hands now, The Atom and Johnny Thunder fight. Thunder even commits an act so despicable that I find it shocking; his pet Thunderbolt finds it even more so…
The family makes up and unites against a common foe, but certain parts of the family remain apart from the rest, engaging in the tasks that make others in the tribe cringe. Vengeance once again shows up, as Paul Kirk finds Ultra-Humanite, and he is going to get revenge for his friend, Tex Thompson!
Still the Tigress and Captain Triumph struggle against Robotman, searching for a way to honor their fallen friend, Miss America. Captain Triumph also struggles against the ghost of his brother, and whether he wins or loses said struggle, is really up to the reader. One thing is for sure, he wins the struggle with Robotman…
Captain Triumph will no longer be bothered by his brother. Other heroes attack Dunbar in waves, one at a time, or from afar. None of it seems to matter, as the death toll climbs and climbs. At least Captain Triumph and his brother won’t be lonely as Dunbar sends so many to greet them…
Wouldn’t that be awful? To see one’s moral opposite showing more courage than one’s self? Especially if one was supposed to be a hero, and had looked down on his opposite with such disdain. Surely, Alan Scott has no choice but to join the battle, because if he was willing to come out of retirement to stop Sportsmaster, now he has to come out to avenge his death…and to prove he has the courage he has been showing in standing up to HUAC, this time in another arena.
And it is a good thing he does arrive, as the heroes keep falling, including Johnny Quick. Green Lantern hits Dunbar with a right fist that not only removes a few of Dunbar’s teeth, but it also instills something the JSA has lost a lot of very quickly…hope.
Even Alan Scott falls, however, and the heroes last hope against Dunbar appears to be Starman, mental illness be damned. We see Johnny Quick rushing off to grab him above, and this echoes one of the best things about superheroes to me, which is that no matter how down things look, there’s always one last chance. This is why so many sports appeal to me as well. Your team’s down a touchdown with 0:03 on the clock? Maybe they can hit that Hail Mary pass to the end zone. Down one run in the 9th? Maybe your team will score two.
The JSA is down a lot more than touchdown, however, and unfortunately, it will take more than the bipolar genius of Ted Knight to win this day…
Just when it seems that all is lost, the forgotten weapon of this story, the young man who wanted to be a hero at the start of this tale, joins the fray, and while he may not be the one who delivers the killing blow, his demeanor in the face of what appeared to be absolute defeat lives on in the minds of his world. For if only each and every one of us were to stand up to those whose tyranny we are told is inevitable.
And let’s not discount Liberty Belle and her role in the victory. Her ingenuity and resourcefulness save the day, and isn’t that how it usually goes? Youth, in combination with the defiance that goes along with it and the ingenuity of a lady with very few powers in comparison to many of the heavy hitters who had tackled Dunbar prior, saves the day. More importantly, it saves the future…but you will have to get the book to see that and to see how Paul Kirk dealt with the Ultra-Humanite.
The Golden Age is unfairly overlooked. I truly wish that these characters and their reality were as embraced as other critical darlings of the era, such as Kingdom Come or Marvels. I wish that with all of the hullabaloo at DC right now in regards to their “Multiversity” that Grant Morrison or someone of that ilk would look back to The Unspoken Decade for a universe that is ever so real and hurtful in so many ways, with so many delightful characters to incorporate into “Greater DC.”
Or they could at least bring Dynaman back.
You’re doing yourself a tremendous disservice if you do not go buy this right now. This is truly a masterpiece. If this had come out in 1985 or 2005, it would be revered. Since it came out in the 90’s, it is tossed aside and possibly even reviled. That’s more than a damn shame, as James Robinson and Paul Smith truly capture the horror, wonder, and charm that is superheroes. Perhaps, that’s the same horror, wonder, and charm that is America…