By J. David Weter
Team-ups amongst Superheroes are common in today’s comic book medium. Some would argue that it is too common, with multiple events layered upon events, featuring characters fighting alongside each other. But, in 1959, as the silver age was just beginning, the idea of the most popular heroes of the four-color world all in one book must have been mind-blowing. Sure, there was the Justice Society of America, but that had been almost a generation earlier. Imagine, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and The Manhunter from Mars all on a single cover. A cover that is now iconic, and one of the most well-known pieces of comic art in the community. But, the issue itself is a surprise. There’s not as much teaming up as the cover implies, and instead of an origin tale, the issue begins with the team formed at some unnamed, earlier date.
When the book opens, Aquaman has learned of an invasion by the alien Starro from a puffer fish named Peter. No, that isn’t a joke, that’s directly from the panel. The Justice League group up, save for Batman and Superman, who are both too busy to help. Once again, not joking. The team already has a swank cave lair, looking very much like the hideout of a James Bond villain. Since Starro has created starfish deputies, and sent them to three separate locations, the League splits up, and goes to confront them.
Green Lantern is the first up, and he has to stop his Starro from stealing an atom bomb from a plane. Green Lantern must do some fast thinking when the atom bomb is detonated, and he is probably pretty thankful that fallout isn’t yellow. The Starro warrior absorbs the atom bomb’s power, and thrives on it. GL, in turn, uses his ring’s power, which wasn’t completely defined at this point, to will the sea creature back to a normal starfish. Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter take on a Starro Warrior who is trying to steal the brainpower of the world’s greatest minds, literally.
The Starro lifts an entire Hall of science off the ground, oddly with no structural damage to the building, and tries to make off with it. Wonder Woman slows it down with her magic lasso, and the Manhunter uses meteor fragments to momentarily blind his foe. When a fire breaks out, Manhunter does some quick maneuvering, and creates a storm. This allows he and Wonder Woman to overpower it, and bring it to the ground. In the town of Happy Harbor, the last of the Starro warriors puts the citizens under a trance. All but Snapper Carr, a hip young man with a compulsive snapping habit, who has been spreading lime and turf builder all day.
Snapper is saved from certain death by The Flash, who then goes on to chase the Starro into a local Lake, where he uses the water itself to crush Starro, thanks to his high-speed vibrations. Back at the town, Snapper’s parents have broken the trance, and tell Flash that the Starro agent was sending them to a place known as Turkey Hollow. Finally, the team bands together, in what would be an epic battle with Starro itself, except that it simply involves the heroes pouring lime on Starro, and calling it a day. But, not before Snapper is made an honorary member of the Justice League of America. And, so ends the first appearance of the Justice League.
For a team regarded as the premiere group, they sure had a lackluster debut, even in a silver-age context. Sure, when you had very little allowance, and buying one book meant you get all of these awesome heroes in one the appeal is obvious. But, the villain is defeated by a common household yard chemical. To put that in context, it would be like fending off Amazo with a rake, or Despero with WD40. The team concept hadn’t blossomed, yet to give the book it’s due. It used the same template as its golden age predecessor, the Justice Society. Those tales also featured the characters meeting to discuss the problem at hand, splitting up, and then regrouping for a finale. The book is further redeemed by the dynamic figure work of Mike Sekowsky on pencils, who gives every character their due. Wonder Woman looks majestic, Flash looks sleek, and Green Lantern looks epic. When placed into the framework of the late fifties, early sixties, the book was unlike anything the public had seen in recent memory, and it’s echoes are still felt today. Despite some of its drawbacks, reading it with modern comic book sensibilities still gives off an exciting vibe that immediately draws you in, and forces you to enjoy the book for its pure, exhilarating fun factor. Brave and the Bold #28 is an important read for historical value, but at the end of the day it’s unfiltered silver-age fun in a compact form.
Overall Grade: 6/10