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Stars and Stripe 9
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Scott Kolins (pencils) and Dan Davis (inks)
Reviewed by: David R. Black

 Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. 9    Let me start by being honest; Being the Golden Age fan I am, I only bought this because it featured the Seven Soldiers of Victory. Based on my exposure to the new Star Spangled Kid in JSA, I figured Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. was another whiny teenage angst book with a bratty protagonist, and thus I avoided it. But after this issue, I realized I couldn’t have been more wrong. Heck, I think I’ll even stick around for a few more issues. Why? Because this book is written damn well.

    On to the story and a little background. This issue addresses one of the major problems caused by Crisis’ removal of the Golden Age Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, etc from continuity. Pre-Crisis, Green Arrow and Speedy were members of the Seven Soldiers of Victory, but after Crisis they weren’t. So if the Seven Soldiers lost two members, they become the Five Soldiers, right? Wrong. Depending on who you talked to, Stuff, Billy Gunn, or Wing (the first two being Vigilante’s sidekicks, the latter the Crimson Avenger’s) were the other two soldiers, but nobody knew for sure. Until now, anyway.

Geoff Johns does a masterful job in replacing Green Arrow with another golden age archer (I’m not going to tell, but you could find out easily on any message board) and re-telling the classic JLofA #100–102, which re-introduced the Soldiers to modern readers. As a bonus, Johns doesn’t need to use a single ret-con to do so! He even clears up all the continuity problems and inconsistencies caused by previous writers’ (mis)use of the individual Soldiers. Give the man an A+ for effort and research, because he deserves it!

Now, before you go thinking that this issue is only some continuity obsessed fanboy’s dream, let me tell you, its more than that. You don’t need any prior knowledge about the Soldiers, the Star Spangled Kid, or any character to enjoy this. A person new to comics could pick this issue off the rack, read it, and follow the plot every step of the way. Think about how rare this is. Would a new reader be able to do this with a new issue of Starman? No way. How about JLA, Flash, or any of the Superman titles? Probably not. They’d be confused and lost without reading the previous six month’s worth of issues (less in the case of the 4 times a month Superman titles). Hats off again to Johns for writing such an accessible story.

I do, however, have a few quibbles with the issue. The first is the cover. Dan Davis and Lee Moder (the series’ normal pencil artist) make Wing, Stuff, and the Crimson Avenger look way too skinny and cartoony. The poor guys look like frail old men. The interior is much better though, and Davis’ inks on guest artist Scott Kolins’ pencils grew on me more and more as the issue progressed. The archer’s redesigned costume looks great as well. Frankly, I’ve never heard of either of them, but they do good work.

My second quibble is the characterization of the Crimson Avenger. Johns’ dialogue makes Crimson sound like he has some sort of death wish. To my knowledge, Crimson never had a fascination with death, and his eventual death was as noble and as heroic as they come. Dying of cancer (or some type of incurable disease), Crimson piloted that boat away from the harbor because, knowing he would die soon anyway, he wanted to save the innocent lives. Crimson would have eventually died whether he saved those lives or not.

Nice art and a great tale that anyone can read give this story:

9 out of 10

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