Tag Archives: The Atom

Zero Hour Interview with Dan Jurgens!

Hey there, folks!  This is the first edition of The Unspoken Decade podcast!  I was able to get Dan Jurgens to chat with me about Zero Hour for about 45:00!  Sorry about the stammering on my end; I think I may be coming down with something!  Enjoy folks!

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The Golden Age #4-Bravery When Battling The Enemy Within…

Ah, the end.

There’s something so bittersweet about the end.  We’ve been keeping up with The Golden Age here at The Unspoken Decade, 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.

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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…

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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!

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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…

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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…

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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.

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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…

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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…

The Golden Age #2-A New That Never Was

Hey, Legions of the Unspoken!  I must beg your forgiveness for the absence!  I have just changed jobs, and while I was finishing up at one, I was training at another.  While things ain’t settled just yet, I am attempting drumming up a bit of time to get back to satisfying all the urges I know all of you have built up for more 90’s comics in general, and more Golden Age in particular!

Before I get back to the good stuff, I’d like to encourage y’all to check out the Facebook page!  It’s really starting to take off, so get over there!  I’m able to post a few pics every day, so you won’t be waiting so long for your 90’s comics book fix!

When last we visited The Golden Age, things were starting to look bleak for our beloved Justice Society of America.  And I take no joy in this, kids, but it is going to get worse before it gets better.

Before I delve too far into what happens in issue #2, I want to take a step back and discuss what happened with The Atom in issue #1.  For those of you who may not be aware, The Golden Age Atom started out sans superpowers.  He was just a short guy who was in really good shape who could fight very well.  He adopted The Atom persona and superhero life because he was tired of getting pushed around by bullies larger than him.  Later, via exposure to atomically-powered villains or possibly radiation, he gained super-strength.  Before then, though, he has some issues with feeling inferior, and why wouldn’t he?  Think about it; he was already short, had gotten into the superhero game as an act of inferiority, and then he somehow gets into the JSA, where not only were there regular-sized crimefighters who were even more skilled, e.g. Sandman or Wildcat, but he also standing next to veritable gods such as Green Lantern or The Spectre!  Anyone would feel small, but a man who already felt small would probably feel like an amoeba.

That complex leads The Atom into a dangerous waters during The Golden Age, starting in issue #1…

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Of all the issues that fester inside The Atom, causing a young man’s head to swell, I think it is his youth that ultimately leads him astray.  Doesn’t that same cloud haunt most of our youths?  Remember when we were all headstrong, extreme, and excited?  Remember when all of our dreams were going to come true?  Remember the 90’s, Legions of the Unspoken…Remember the 90’s…

The Atom, unbeknownst to him, is being used.  What he does know is that he again has meaning, he again has purpose, he again is…big.  At least for now, under Tex Thompson’s New America.

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Before we move along, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Robotman is sporting the most grotesque smile this side of Pennywise the Clown that I have ever seen.  If one of us was in this crowd, you know  that we would have noticed that and headed as far away as we could before that facade shattered.  I don’t care if he has man in his name or not, no robot with such a smile can have good intentions.

Robotman and The Atom we know, but who’s that third guy?

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Daniel Dunbar doesn’t know it yet, but he is the key to one of the most heinous plots in superhero history.  I think we’ve all figured out by now that Tex Thompson is much more than he seems, though.

We’ve also figured out that our heroes, no matter how shiny their adventures make them seem, have blotches of gray all over them.   This can make them reprehensible to us, or it make them all the more heroic.  In the case of Jonathan Law, Tarantula, his gray is shattering the respect we had for him, especially as he denigrates and mistreats Liberty Belle, a favorite of many Golden Age fans.  What’s especially poignant, though, isn’t that Law is now dark and “gritty” for the sake of being gritty.  This is a natural evolution of the character.  It makes sense that Law would have a hard time writing after penning a book about the exploits of being a wartime mystery man.  That doesn’t excuse his actions or his spiral into the clutches of alcoholism, but it does make sense.

Starman’s descent into madness appears to have quelled some, also making sense.  As someone of above average intelligence who deals with some mental roadblocks of his own in regards to anxiety and the like, I have my good days and bad days, but after a period of thought, I usually come to terms with whatever fears and mood I am dealing with.  Starman is a genius beyond the genius level, and therefore, he is able to do the same.   Of course, I feel guilty about a lot of things, but exposing the world to an energy that gave folks super powers and gave those without superpowers who fought crime under masks the inclination to do so isn’t one of them.  Johnny Chambers listens on as Starman pours his heart out.

The Golden Age #2 - Page 8“I have the stars” is a line that stands out to me.  I clung to those words tightly during a confused adolescence that was at times bereft of companionship from my peers.  I clung to Ted Knight’s notion here that he could find comfort…not just solace, but COMFORT in the stars the way I had to find comfort in my comic book heroes, wrestlers, and baseball stars when I had no one.

Johnny Quick  Chambers is in that awkward spot where he wants to help a good friend, but he just doesn’t know how.  He also doesn’t want to offend him, but he just thinks this is a crackpot of an idea.  I never understand why superheroes are such skeptics.  Johnny has seen Green Lantern, The Spectre, and many other beings powered beyond belief in hundreds of different ways, but the idea that Starman pulled this radiation to Earth and it resulted in the spawning of crimefighters with and without powers is ridiculous to him.  The Spear of Destiny sounds more ridiculous!  Then again, maybe Johnny is just too much of a realist to believe such a thing.  One way or another, he is trying to do be a good pal, and he is doing a decent job of it.

Daniel Dunbar is trying to find meaning in his life.  In issue #1, his life fell apart, and while you didn’t see it here, I am sure that each member of the Legion of the Unspoken picked a copy!  He faces a big test soon, and he ponders his future the way any young man on what he perceives as the precipice of greatness would.  Of course, his future isn’t what he thinks it shall be…

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The Golden Age beckons us all, and it even beckons those who say that its embrace no longer holds sway over them.  The siren song sounds so sweet that it can even entice the most nobly stalwart of the heroes, especially when combined with the stress of a semi-fascist government inquiry and the resignation of his friends due to the besmirchment of their reputations by said inquiries.  It can even entice Alan Scott, Green Lantern.

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Of course, our heroes are not the only ones having to adapt to a new age.  The villains of The Golden Age are not held in some sort of stasis that enables them to elude the tendrils of societal changes and the grasp of aging.  Sportsmaster is back in the game for noble reasons of his own, even if his admirable catalyst puts him into action  of the criminal variety.

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Green Lantern’s fight against Sportsmaster sans ring is one of those moments when one is reading an epic that doesn’t stand out during the first read, but it gets better and better upon repeated readings.  I just can’t help but feel for Sportsmaster here, engaging in criminal activity in an effort to find his daughter and unable to defeat Alan Scott, even when the Golden Age Green Lantern is bereft of his magic ring.

I understand that these guys, Sportsmaster included, are the bad guys, but every now and then, I simply cannot help but feel sorry for them due to their horrendous Won/Loss records.  Even when victory seems certain for the villains, the valiant heroes conjure a way to find a win.  This time however, thanks to Green Lantern not having his ring and Sportsmaster possessing a gun and a desire to win at any costs, Sportsmaster gets the better of Green Lantern here, although Green Lantern isn’t killed.  I hope Sportsmaster goes on to a happy life with his daughter!

Tex Thompson continues his crusade for an American hero as he and his team conduct their experiment on Daniel Dunbar.  I don’t think I am spoiling anything by saying nothing good can come from this.   I mean, I don’t recall the piece of culture where folks staring at mushroom clouds from bunkers worked out well for anyone.

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That’s right folks, they nuked Daniel Dunbar.  Nuked him.  For most folks other than the Hulk, that would result in death, for Daniel Dunbar it doesn’t seem to…

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So now what I referred to earlier as ominous is now goddamn terrifying.  No one should trust Tex Thompson, no matter how much he waves the flag and spouts off rhetoric that sounds good, one should be able to discern that he is rotten to the very core.  It saddens me how often folks in our reality fall for this nonsense, but it saddens me even more when heroes I admire, such as The Atom and Johnny Thunder, fall victim to the same inanities.

The interaction between The Atom and Johnny Thunder (and Johnny Thunder and everyone) is proof of just how much James Robinson loves and understands these characters.  Johnny Thunder barges in, not thinking of protocol and security, and when he finally sits down with The Atom, The Atom has some harsh words for him.  Of course, perhaps that is because The Atom has come to play the Johnny Thunder role in Tex Thompson’s New Order, as he has been relegated, unappreciated, and perhaps only merely tolerated…

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The Atom’s youth, arrogance, and eagerness are now manifesting in disgruntlement with the administrative bureaucracy he now finds himself utterly enmeshed in, and he finds there is nothing he can do about it.  He’s wrong about one thing, though; it is now Daniel Dunbar getting most of the accolades and glory…

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Dynaman is alive, real, and perhaps we’re all damned, regardless of the bright colors and amazing powers!  His powers seem limitless, although there does some to be a caveat to that…

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The crowds gobble up every word, as they always seem to when they should be questioning the subject most.  That’s life, I suppose, and at least Paul Smith makes something so upsetting to me look so beautiful.

James Robinson also remembers all the heroes you don’t, such as little known Quality Comics hero, Captain Triumph.  No, not the Triumph who appeared during Zero Hour (although don’t worry folks, we are gonna get to Zero Hour and his adventures sooner rather than later!), but an old hero who hadn’t resurfaced in some time when James Robinson resurrected him here!  Of course, James finds a new and believable spin for him, and then Paul Smith does the best job drawing an annoying ghost I have ever ever seen.

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 While Gallant is pestered by a metaphysical annoyance, Paul Kirk is more than annoyed by the killers after him.  Life for Manhunter is constantly being on the run.  The folks willing to off an entire homeless shelter (including the padre who ran it) aren’t going to just up and quit just because they don’t get their quarry the first try.  Their motivation must also be more than cash as well, because it seems unlikely hired killers would be so messy and careless.

What the killers did not count on was Paul Kirk finding some assistance in an unlikely place.  Just as they swoop in for the kill, one of Tex Thompson’s castoffs returns to help.  He doesn’t know it yet, but Bob Daley is about to set events into motion that will keep the most nefarious plot from coming to fruition…and it all starts at what appears to be the most frigid gas station on the planet.

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I think other than the amnesia, we have all felt like Paul Kirk here and yon in our lives.  We have all felt chased and hounded.  We have all felt something gaining on us.  Something just around the corner, and we have all been too afraid to ask for help.  Thankfully for most of us, trained killers weren’t after us, but this is a nice moment to remind us that sometimes the only thing separating our heroes and us is the fact that they are on the printed page, while our pain and fear are not contained within thought bubbles and balloons….

And it would appear from the looks of things, we have much to fear…and so does the JSA…

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Hope you enjoyed this look at The Golden Age #2!  Next week, we have Hex for the Holidays as Emily Scott brings us a look at Jonah Hex:  Two Gun Mojo!  Then be back here for The Golden Age #3!