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“Sentinels of Justice”

  • Writers:  Dan St. John and Greg Guler
  • Pencils:  Greg Guler and Matt Feazell
  • Inks:  Greg Guler and Matt Feazell
  • Colors:  Bill Fugate
  • Letters:  Greg Guler
After a year’s absence, Captain Atom returns and he brings Charlton’s heavy hitters with him.  AC Comics editor and head writer Bill Black had been making plans for a superhero team to be named the Sentinels of Justice when he was contacted by Charlton Comics with a request that AC provide material for the Charlton Bullseye comic book. The team concept was quickly revised, with a roster of Charlton characters. Charlton Bullseye was cancelled before the story could be published, but AC was granted a limited license to publish the material already prepared for Charlton.  That is how this special issue came to be.  Although not a Charlton book, it was authorized by Charlton and therefore was the last time they had anything to do with the publication of these characters.
This story opens with a news broadcast by Vic Sage (aka The Question).  He is reporting live from Ebcom International where the “latest in the recent series of related crimes has been committed.”  Millions of dollars worth of equipment has been stolen.  The thieves had been identified as Iron Arms, the Fiery Icer, and the Madmen.  Iron Arms and the Fiery Icer are, of course, super-villains that Captain Atom has faced (in Captain Atom #84 and Captain Atom #87, respectively).  The Madmen were a terrorist group the first plagued Blue Beetle in Blue Beetle #4 (Charlton Comics).

Captain Atom versus Iron Arms in Captain Atom #84

The Fiery Icer (and his henchmen) versus Captain Atom in Captain Atom #87

Blue Beetle versus the Madmen from Blue Beetle #4

(So they’re dusting off all the “greats” for this one. Ugh.)

Vic Sage asks, “When will the men running this city realize they are out of their league trying to stop these super-criminals?”  He calls on them to “stop hamstringing those who can help now!!”

From their secret lair, the Fiery Icer, Iron Arms, and the Madmen are also watching the broadcast.  They turn it off and bring up an image of a masked man on their viewscreen, addressing him as Manipulator.  He tells them that the next day will see their “greatest and most daring attack.”  He will lead them when they attack the Whittier Hall exhibit.  After he signs off, the Fiery Icer refers to the Manipulator as a nut case (glass houses, Fiery Icer).

At Cross Industries (another secret lair of the Manipulator), the masked villain is addressing what looks to be a board of directors in a conference room.  He tells them it is time for Jonathan Barrington Collingsworth, Jr. to “burn his mark upon the history of mankind.”  He plans to steal the Rockwell Solar Battery at Whittier Hall to gain “control.”  Control of what he doesn’t specify.  The world?  There is a shrouded figure in green standing behind him in the shadows as he speaks.  The Manipulator is obviously unhinged.  He screams at his people about complete raw power and strips off his mask.  One of his men refers to him as “J.B.,” so he must be Jonathan Barrington Collingsworth, Jr.  The man, Hartford, seems concerned about the potential loss of innocent lives.  J.B. tells Hartford he should be more concerned about his own hide.  The man in the shadows steps forward and puts a hand on Hartford’s shoulder.

Meanwhile, in the lab of Ted Kord, his blonde assistant (girlfriend? wife?) Tracy enters with the daily paper.  She informs him that Dr. Rockwell is exhibiting “that new solar cell you were interested in.”  As Ted reads the article, his special phone rings, meaning that Captain Fisher is calling him.  After a brief conversation, Ted instructs Tracy to activate the “Sentinel Beacon.”  He removes his lab coat to reveal his Blue Beetle costume underneath.  He boards the Bug and we are treated with that iconic image of it rising out of the river, sadly only witnessed by a drunk on the docks.

As he flies to the police station, he thinks to himself how well the Sentinels of Justice work together, “even with Captain Atom in charge.”  What the hell is that supposed to mean?  Does Blue Beetle have a problem with Captain Atom?  Old Ted Kord needs to lighten up.  He seems a bit full of himself (something Tracy remarked upon back at the lab).  He seems, ironically, a lot like Booster Gold.

Beetle arrives at Captain Fisher’s office to find Captain Atom and Fisher talking to the mayor.  The mayor doesn’t want Hub City to be turned into a super-hero battleground.  Nightshade enters the room (she’s dropped her old mini-skirt costume from the 60s in favor of a form-fitting catsuit deal).  She says to Fisher that the Sentinels are at his disposal, which prompts Fisher to remind the mayor that the Sentinels have authorization from the Governor.  With a mysterious mist surrounding him, the Question checks in and Fisher asks the sixth man in the room to tell them about his solar battery.

Dr. Rockwell addresses them from a mounted display of blueprints.  He has created false plans for a solar battery to be used as bait to draw out would-be thieves.

The next day, at Whittier Hall, Dr. Rockwell is unveiling his “important discovery.”  In the crowd (undercover) are Nightshade and Captain Atom.

Blue Beetle is watching the Whittier building from the rooftops while the Question lurks in an alley.  The Question spots the approaching hovercar first, and when it pulls up in front of the hall, “pandemonium roars forth” in the form of the Madmen, Iron Arms, and the Fiery Icer.

The group breaks into to building, followed closely by the Manipulator.  He orders the Fiery Icer to secure the solar battery and scare the hell out of the audience.

Captain Atom goes after Iron Arms, sending Nightshade to face the Fiery Icer.  This I have a problem with.  Iron Arms was defeated easily by Cap back in Captain Atom #84.  The Fiery Icer is the super-villain who gave Cap the most trouble.  So he sends his girlfriend after the hard one while he takes the easy one?  Bad form, Cap.

Captain Atom informs the Manipulator he is under arrest, then punches Iron Arms in the face, throwing the villain backward.  He leaps at Cap, who discovers Iron Arms has upgraded his equipment and is much stronger.  Just as the Manipulator is ordering Captain Atom’s death, Blue Beetle swings in through a window.  He takes on the Madmen, kicking their asses in his acrobatic style.

More Madmen show up (probably arriving via a second hovercar), as does the question.  He helps Beetle hand the Madmen their butts.  Meanwhile, Nightshade sneaks up on the Fiery Icer in her shadow form.  She demands he hands over the stolen plans for the solar battery.  When he refuses, Nightshade kicks the Fiery Icer in the chest.  He shoots her with ice, which she dodges.  She then flings an ebony bomb at the Fiery Icer, who finds himself “consumed in utter total blackness… and absolute terror!”

Captain Atom finds his hands full with Iron Arms after all, who is THOKing the heck out of Our Hero.  Just when Cap gets his second wind, the Manipulator shoots him from his floating chair.  He’s surprised the blast didn’t kill Cap.  Atom regains his composure and throws an atomic fireball at the Manipulator.  The Manipulator emerges from the wreckage of his chair, offering “ten million in gold” to whomever kills Captain Atom.  This peaks Iron Arms’ interest greatly.

The Question and Blue Beetle are just finishing off the last of the Madmen when the Manipulator calls forth his secret ally (the man in green from earlier).  He crashes in through a window, being referred to as “the Banshee” by the Manipulator (the Banshee was an old nemesis of the Question).  Beetle leaps into action but the Banshee blasts him with a stun bolt shot from his arm.  Blue Beetle is dropped to his knees and the Banshee scoops up the Manipulator and flies away with him.  Beetle calls to Cap, who is punched through the wall by Iron Arms while distracted.

Iron Arms stands over Captain Atom’s prone body.  He readies to deliver his killing blow when Nightshade smacks him in the back with the solar battery.  His power pack short circuits, causing his arms to freeze.  Unable to support the weight of his arms without the power pack, Iron Arms topples over headfirst onto the floor.  Nightshade checks on Cap (calling him “John”), who awakens and says he’s okay.  He flies after the Manipulator, leaving the others to deal with the Fiery Icer (again, delegating his most dangerous foe to others).

Blue Beetle and the Question approach the Fiery Icer, who is holding Dr. Rockwell up by his neck.  He tells them to get back or he’ll burn Rockwell to a crisp (he reveals in his inner monologue that he has no desire to kill anyone and is simply bluffing).  In a swift movement, the Fiery Icer throws Rockwell at Beetle and the Question and melts a hole in the wall through which he escapes.  Captain Fisher’s men show up to help control the room and arrest those that were subdued.

However, Captain Atom returns to the scene, having lost the Manipulator and the Banshee.  A Madman, on his way to jail, utters the phrase “gag me with a spoon,” just to remind us that it is 1983.

The team knows that when the Manipulator discovers that his solar battery plans are fakes, he’ll come back for them.  Cap vows that when that day comes, the Sentinels of Justice will be ready for them.

In the epilogue, yet another shrouded figure is watching a recorded tape of the Manipulator ranting.  The Manipulator says he knew the plans were fake all along because their is a traitor in the midst of the Sentinels of Justice.  He says he attacked them and sacrificed Iron Arms and the Madmen to test the Sentinels.  The shrouded figure erases the tape, calling the Manipulator a fool (saying to himself that he had been manipulating the Manipulator from the start).  He vows to destroy the Sentinels.

There is a note from the editor at the end of this story.

Basically, it says there will be no followup to this story as the characters were purchased by DC Comics.

This was a fun book.  I liked the team.  It is almost the Crimebusters from The Watchmen.  All that is missing is Thunderbolt and the Peacemaker.  This was a good first issue for a super team, and it is a bit sad that it was not possible for this to go anywhere.  Dan, Greg, and Matt did an awesome job.  There were also some great pinups in the back of the book.  This issue was definitely a B+.

This “universe” was absorbed into DC Comics’ Multiverse when the Charlton characters were purchased by DC.  This universe became Earth-4.