Today I’m finishing up with the All-Star Squadron and Warlord issues that were pushed out of synch because of their annuals. The next couple posts will wrap up the other 1983 Annuals and then I’ll do my preview for 1984. Last issue, Dr. Fate went looking for the Spectre and found him guarding the tomb of Kulak, evil sorcerer. Fate and Spectre fought and Fate ended up being tossed through countless dimensions into oblivion. Unfortunately, Kulak’s tomb was damaged and he got loose, tearing a hole through the dimensional fabric so he can destroy Earth. (He’s still mad that humans defeated him before, so now he wants to wipe them all out. Talk about holding a grudge.) As Kulak’s hands rend the fabric of reality, a contingent of All-Stars (Wonder Woman, Sandman, Dr. Mid-Nite, Starman, Hawkman, and Johnny Thunder) are visiting Atom in a New York hospital. The All-Stars head toward the tear in the sky, fighting through the waves of sheer hatred emanating from Kulak. Atom can’t join the fight since he’s still recovering from his radiation poisoning and wonders if he’d be any help against a magical menace like Kulak anyway. Kulak’s game of cosmic peek-a-boo isn’t just visible in New York; his twisted face appears all over the world, freaking people out everywhere. Kulak knocks the All-Stars back with a flick of his fingers, but he seems to be having trouble widening the hole in reality, so they regroup to tackle him again. Despite his injuries, Atom wants to join the battle. He gets an unexpected boost from Sargon the Sorcerer, who shows up and heals some of Atom’s injuries with his magic touch. Sargon warns that Atom’s injuries were so bad he’s still not ready to face Kulak, but Atom’s stubborn enough to want to try. Sargon flies up to help the All-Stars, letting them know that the source of Kulak’s power is the Ring of Life he wears. Since Sargon’s power comes from the Ruby of Life in his turban, he figures he can cancel Kulak’s power if he can touch the Ring. The other All-Stars distract Kulak, allowing Sargon to get close enough to touch the Ring. Kulak slaps him away, but Sargon’s plan works and Kulak’s dimensional hole closes, pushing him back where he came from. Back in Atom’s hospital room, Sargon uses the Ruby to heal himself and tells the others Kulak may send the Spectre to attack them. Sargon gives them a quick rundown on the Ruby of Life and its sister gem, the Ring of Life. Spectre used the Ring (“sent by a higher power”) to defeat Kulak, but instead of being destroyed, Kulak was pushed into another dimension and went into a mystical trance. He managed to exert control over the Ring, using it to attack the Spectre and to construct a fancy tomb around himself. When Spectre realized Kulak had control of the Ring, he confronted Kulak (which was mentioned in issue 20) but was defeated and came under Kulak’s control. Kulak used Spectre to guard his tomb and banish Dr. Fate, so now he may use Spectre as his pawn again. Sargon’s prediction is spot on … a gigantic Spectre pops up outside the hospital and the All-Stars head out to confront him, leaving Sargon to meditate. Kulak sends more waves of hate across Earth, this time causing everyone to suddenly turn on their fellow humans, including the All-Stars. Luckily, their hate for Spectre outweighs what they feel for each other, so they team up to bring the behemoth down. He’s too powerful for them, which is why Sargon is mentally searching through countless dimensions to find Dr. Fate and retrieve him. Since Nabu controls Fate, he’s not too keen on risking his ass to save humanity, but Sargon gets through to Kent Nelson’s personality, convincing him that Earth is worth saving. Sargon transports Fate to Kulak’s realm and they start fighting, while the All-Stars do what little they can against Spectre. Kulak ends up beating Dr. Fate and takes the Helm of Nabu, tossing Fate back to the real world. Kulak’s struggle has delayed the Spectre momentarily, but now Kulak is ready to destroy all of humanity. Spectre starts to realize he’s on the wrong side, but Kulak puts on the Helm of Nabu, thinking it’ll make him invincible. He’s wrong … the Helm actually turns Kulak’s all-seeing third eye inward, forcing him to see himself as he truly is … evil, wretched, and alone in a universe that hates him. That self-realization is too much and Kulak is thrown through numberless dimensions, he and the Helm lost beyond infinity. So Dr. Fate’s Helm is gone, but Kent Nelson’s not really too sad about it, since he was getting sick of having his humanity overwhelmed every time he put on the Helm. Spectre summons Kent’s wife Inza (and his back-up helmet, which doesn’t control his mind) from Salem and the Nelsons have a tearful reunion. The All-Stars (including Atom) head back to Washington, leaving Kent and Inza to have some quality time together … which I assume means they’ll bang each other’s brains out. Dr. Fate did regain his original Helm before the first JLA/JSA team-up in the early 60s, but that tale hadn’t been told at this point.
- Sargon is actually a somewhat famous stage magician (Starman says he saw Sargon at the Paramount with Dorsey, but I don’t know if he means Jimmy or Tommy), so the All-Stars are surprised to find out his magic is real.
- There’s an Infinity Inc. pin-up in the back of the issue to advertise their upcoming series. The group includes a woman in a cat-costume on a motorbike whose name is given as La Garro. I think it should actually be “la garra”, which means “claw” or “paw”. She doesn’t actually appear in Infinity Inc until much later (after the Crisis), and in a different costume, under the name Wildcat.
Last issue, Shamballah was attacked by New Atlantean forces, led by Saber-tooth, who wants revenge on Travis Morgan for his attack on New Atlantis in this year’s Annual. Saber-tooth is aided by Saaba, the witch who hates Morgan for disrupting her plans back in issue 16. Morgan evacuated Shamballah (dragging Tara with him) and now they take stock and try to decide what to do. Tara is pissed off that Morgan knocked her out and brought her to safety instead of letting her fight to the last, but Morgan points out that getting herself killed wouldn’t help Shamballah. Tara realizes he’s right and starts taking charge, making sure the wounded are taken care of during the retreat. As she did before, Saaba spies on them in her raven form, noting their movements. Farther north, Shakira is hanging out with Scarheart and they successfully bring down a deer to eat. The Kaash’ban (who have kind of adopted Scarheart as one of their own) don’t agree with killing animals for food and Shakira gets pissed off at their sanctimonious attitude. She changes to her cat form and stalks through the jungle. She runs across an army encampment and cadges some food before seeing her old friend Ashir (the Prince of Kaambuka) in chains. She runs off to find Scarheart. Back down south, the Shamballan refugees head through the jungle toward Fire Mountain. Tara says there are caves there where all of the refugees (over a hundred strong) can hide out and recuperate. But Saaba’s spying has allowed Saber-tooth to set up an ambush on the trail. The New Atlanteans attack and Morgan finally realizes who they are because of the lizard-dogs and advanced tech they’re using. (You’d think he’d have noticed that last issue, but maybe being besieged in Shamballah distracted him.) Krystovar points out that the dinosaurs the Atlanteans ride could be turned against them. He, Morgan, and Trogero (Tara’s guard captain) commandeer some dinosaurs and get them fighting each other, which disrupts the attack. The New Atlanteans retreat, but quite a few Shamballans have been killed or wounded. Saaba flies to off to change to her human form, but vows to keep after Morgan until he’s dead. The refugees make it to the Valley of the Lion, which leads to Fire Mountain. They establish themselves in caves and set up defenses around the valley. Morgan hopes the dormant volcano won’t suddenly come to life, but there’s another danger he’s unaware of … something is watching from the darkness of the caves. Morgan takes stock and suggests they send out scouts to find survivors from other cities, including Kaambuka. Morgan recalls the chamber full of exotic weaponry in New Atlantis and tells Tara it could even the odds if he can get there and bring the weapons back. Tara’s not enthusiastic—she’s afraid such powerful weapons could destroy Shamballah while trying to liberate it—but she agrees they have no choice … and she volunteers to come along to get the weapons.
Barren Earth – “Sea Change” – Gary Cohn/Ron Randall
The water pipe that’s been bringing water up to the human and lizard inhabitants of the desert has stopped working. Since none of the desert dwellers know how to swim, Jinal volunteers to go below and check things out after instructing the engineers on how to cobble together an aqualung for her. She dives down and finds what looks to be an underwater mountain pressing against the pipe. When she gets closer, she’s attacked by a spider-like robot, but her energy sword works underwater so she makes short work of it. She recognizes the spider-robot as a hull maintenance droid and realizes what the “sunken mountain” really is … a crashed spaceship. She finds a hatch and goes inside to look around. The power still works and she makes her way to the bridge, where she activates the controls, bringing the ship to the surface and scaring the hell out of everyone waiting for her.