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All-Winner’s Squad: Band of Heroes #1: Review

Jun 2011
Paul Jenkins, Carmine DiGiandomenico

Story Name:

We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young

Review & Comments

4 stars

All-Winner’s Squad: Band of Heroes #1 Review by (July 15, 2011)
Jenkins also says that he will use Taxi Taylor from Mystic#2, so I guess that's who Taylor the driver of the armoured vehicle is. Jim Taylor invented a combined car/sub/plane and offered it to the government. They turned him away so he used it himself to fight spies. Presumably the government eventually recognised the Wonder Car's potential, enlisted him in their super-squad and improved its armour. Jenkins invented Captain Flame and Transisto-Mech and the Super Hero comic they featured in. We don't yet know why #1 was scrapped. But there seems to be at least 1 other issue with Young Avenger on the cover. In his interview he says that Captain Flame can absorb an explosion and redirect its power. So that's what happened here, although I thought he just destroyed tank and shell with fire. The cover shows him flying in flames, but I don't know whether he can actually do that. (When I bought the book I thought it was the original Human Torch on the cover, possibly a marketing ploy.) There are 2 GI's Foster and Sgt Byrd who are named in one panel. I don't recognise the names and I don't know if they will be significant. I really enjoyed this issue, and eagerly await more. My only quibble is that I found it somewhat unclear in the first section what happened and which characters were which, until I reread it with the aid of Paul's interview. But one review praises this as the fog of war. I already knew quite a bit about many of these characters, and the interview helped me join the dots. I wonder if readers who know less will stick around to find out more? Much of the confusion I expect to be cleared up by subsequent issues, at least some of which appear to feature prequel episodes. All this makes me rate it a 4 rather than a 5.

Jenkins also says that Slo-Mo Jones will be the central character of the series. But from the evidence of this issue that role falls to Young Avenger, another 1-issue wonder from USA#1. Allegedly he has super-strength, but so far he just appears to be a costumed adventurer. The Victory Boys at least previously made it into 2 comics, USA#5 and Comedy#10. They were German (possibly Jewish) orphan boys led by an American boy inside Germany. They did use bows and arrows, but they wore costumes with V's painted on the cowls. However none of them were named Piotr. It remains to be seen whether Paul will alter the origins of these, or any other, characters. Merzah the Mystic was another character who only lasted 1 issue, Mystic Comics #4. Unlike Monako and Mantor who were around about the same time, he was a telepath rather than a magician. Invisible Man was another denizen of Mystic, but he occupied 3 issues #2-4. His power is self-explanatory. He was referred to as Dr Gade, the Invisible Man, to distinguish him from any other Invisible Man you may have heard of. Blue Diamond appeared in DMC#7-8, with invulnerability and super-strength, but he had a life after Timely. Roy Thomas included him in the Liberty Legion, and he cropped up as a retired superhero in Marvel Two-In-One #79.

Slow-Motion Jones was the slapstick negro sidekick of the Whizzer in Timely comics. He may only have appeared in USA Comics #6 and All Winners Comics #7, where he didn't have super-speed. In an interview in Paul Jenkins says his modernised version is actually faster than Whizzer. This is a rehabilitation of the originally racially-stereotyped character, alongside that of Whitewash in Young Allies. The same interview suggests that Archie here is Archie the Gruesome, whose only previous appearance was Comedy Comics #10. There he tried to emulate his hero Captain America. Reading this comic with no prior knowledge I would have assumed Archie was the person Cap refers to as Strong in one panel. Archie was amongst those with Cap at that point, and the name Strong isn't mentioned again. But in the interview Paul Jenkins says he will use Captain Strong, who was in the Foreign Legion in Daring Mystery Comics #3. I await further issues of this series for clarification.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

All-Winner’s Squad: Band of Heroes #1 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
This series features the adventures of some 2nd-(or even 3rd-)string Timely heroes in WWII. This issue describes 2 wartime operations. One has a band of heroes led by Captain America. Young Avenger is in both scenes, and also in the present as an old man.

In Saarlautern, Germany 6th December 1944 Cap and Bucky (wearing hardhats) lead a group of men apparently just as part of the ongoing invasion of Germany. Cap sends Sgt Slo-Mo Jones, Captain Flame (Lt Cortez - confusing ranks), Young Avenger (Bill Bryon) and the Victory Boys to the opposite side of the street, keeping Bucky, Merzah and someone named Strong with him.

Slo-Mo is I think depicted as running very fast. Captain Flame, as you would expect, has some sort of flame power. Young Avenger doesn't exhibit any powers at this point, except surviving. The Victory Boys carry bows and arrows and have a V of red feathers stuck to the front of their helmets. Merzah wears a make-shift turban over his helmet, and has mystic senses.

All but one of the Victory Boys are killed by a half-track. The last VB blows it up with an explosive arrow, but he is mortally wounded. Captain Flame is menaced by a tank. He appears to destroy a shell fired at him, and destroys the tank itself. But he seems to be severely injured by the exchange.

Cap's subgroup come to their aid. Merzah helps Cortez. Young Avenger and medic Archie comfort the last Victory Boy, Piotr, but he's beyond help. Young Avenger sends Slo-Mo and Archie away before he puts Piotr out of his misery.

We now switch to the present, with an old man whose cousin Piotr died a hero in the war, being looked after by his granddaughter Alyssa, a novelist. Gramps worked for Timely, and has a (complete?) collection of their output. In particular he has the only copy of Super Hero Comics #1 featuring Captain Flame and Transisto-Mech the Robot, which he 'rescued' when the whole print run was deliberately destroyed. Alyssa reads some of them, including an adventure shared by Blue Diamond and the Invisible Man, who get captured by the Nazis.

Cut to Vimoutieres, France 25th June 1944, where Elton Morrow (the invulnerable Blue Diamond) is being interrogated opposite a seemingly-empty chair. The Nazi officer pretends to believe that Dr Gade (the Invisible Man) has escaped. But rather than hit Morrow's diamond-hard skin he keeps striking at the empty space above the other chair, until the beaten Gade starts to appear.

The Nazi threatens to torture Gade unless Morrow tells him what his fellow operatives are up to. He goads Morrow by describing in detail the German troops between him and rescue. But that was the information Blue Diamond was waiting for, and he calls for someone named Taylor.

An armoured vehicle plows through the wall, and Young Avenger jumps out to deal with the Nazi officer. As the Avenger is freeing the prisoners, Taylor the driver pops his head out to tell him to hurry up. Inside the vehicle Transisto-Mech calculates they only have 30 seconds before more Germans arrive.

Back in the present Alyssa is still reading old comics while a mysterious man watches from outside. Gramps tells her the comics were government propaganda, but they were based on real people. The comics were eventually cancelled because many of the characters died in the war. Gramps then reveals that he was Young Avenger.

Carmine DiGiandomenico
Carmine DiGiandomenico
Andy Troy
Mico Suayan (Cover Penciler)
June Chung (Cover Inker)
? (Cover Colorist)


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Bucky Barnes
Bucky Barnes

(James Barnes)
Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)

Plus: Nazis.

> All-Winner’s Squad: Band of Heroes: Book info and issue index

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