In 1999, DC ran a mini-event called "The Justice Society Returns!" which ran through a series of interconnected one-shots. After this event, the new ongoing series JSA began. You might assume these two publishing events are connected, but you'd be wrong; "The Justice Society Returns!" stories were set during the team's 1940s continuity and penned by a series of writers & artists other than those responsible for JSA; JSA was set in contemporary continuity with a new Justice Society team comprised of various surviving heroes of the 40s joined by successors to various dead or retired members.
What concerns us is the comic book Thrilling Comics #1 by writer Chuck Dixon and the amazing artist Russ Heath (who passed away last year). Each of these one-shots teamed up two different Justice Society members, in this instance Hawkman and Wildcat. The one-shots were named in honour of 1940s comic book series, although the 1940s Thrilling Comics were not published by DC Comics.
Anyway, the story--"No More Tomorrows"--is set entirely in Angola and opens in the year 1945 as a Nazi patrol out in the bush are attacked by Hawkman and Wildcat. And of course, if you know anything about which African countries participated in World War II you'd be wondering why there are Nazis in Angola, considering it was pretty far from German control and that Portugal remained neutral throughout World War II. Patience, we'll get there.
Hawkman and Wildcat easily beat the Nazis, interrogate them about their leader, then move on, unaware two other figures are trailing them (we'll later learn who they are and can only wonder why they didn't reveal their presence to their fellow heroes immediately). Flying over herds of elephants and antelope, Hawkman finds an immense crater with a transmitter tower built in its center. Hawkman is shot at by a German plane and falls to the earth.
Back with the captured Nazis, night has fallen but Wildcat remains where he is, waiting for Hawkman to return. He is, after all, just a decent prizefighter who wears tights. All of a sudden Tigress leaps out of the tall grass and threatens him, but Manhunter appears and makes Tigress back off, explaining Wildcat is on their side. No idea why they waited until nightfall to have this conversation, but these are the rules of drama. Both Tigress and Manhunter are rather complicated characters and neither are members of the Justice Society; Tigress actually debuted post-war as a Wildcat villain, but was later retconned to have been a heroine during the war, and likewise made an ally of Manhunter. As to Manhunter, DC has published so, so, many versions of the character - this one is Paul Kirk, an authentic 1940s DC super hero. There wasn't much to him back in the 40s - he was simply a former big game hunter who fought crime. Considering his background, Angola isn't such an unusual place for him to turn up at.
Wildcat brings Tigress & Manhunter up to speed on the overarching plot: there's a godlike villain called Stalker who fought the Justice Society and empowered seven of his agents, whom he dispatched around the world. Justice Society comics of the 1940s would usually feature the team splitting up into solo adventures to stop the henchman of their adversary, then meet up together at the finale to face the main villain - which is actually what's happening in this mini-event. Anyway, Wildcat & Hawkman are in Angola to find one of Stalker's men.
Meanwhile, Stalker's lackey has captured Hawkman and explains why they're in Angola: "The 'neutral' government here was kind enough to allow myself and my 'security' force to build this installation." Okay, that explains the 'why'. The lackey shows Hawkman a massive drilling machine he designed to bore deep into the earth "to the rich oil pool lying miles beneath the continent. A deposit equal to all the world's known reserves." Which, sure enough, post-war Angola did discover they had a massive amount of oil & gas (although mostly in Cabinda). Hawkman notes this oil supply would be pretty valuable to the Nazis, but that's not why they're drilling: the lackey intends to ignite the oil field and "erase Africa from the map." Which, once you say it aloud, sure sounds stupid. No matter how much oil & gas is down there, I can't imagine the explosion would wipe even Angola off the map, much less the entire continent! It's a pity this is the villain's big plan, 'cause it's dumb comic book science - but maybe it was intentionally dumb in the way so many 1940s comic books were. I mean, who would ever write a story about a super-villain trying to destroy the North American continent by lighting a match underneath Texas?
Hawkman wonders what the lackey's Nazi allies think about this plan. "They think we're prospecting for oil," the lackey (who desperately needs a name) tells Hawkman. This is why his explanation was done in English. Hawkman wonders why he was left alive, to which the lackey answers he needed bait to draw out Hawkman's allies. On cue, Wildcat, Tigress and Manhunter burst in, Wildcat and Manhunter both brandishing guns. And Tigress? She's got spunk and very nasty nails; they might even break a person's skin! The lackey is unimpressed; he obtained super powers from Stalker and wanted to test them out on super-powered enemies. The lackey transforms into a giant gooey purple monster. Whereupon, Tigress turns and runs away. Good instincts!
Hawkman orders Wildcat & Manhunter to switch off the drill while he fights the gooey monster, grabbing a rifle to slash at the monster's tentacles with its bayonet, then hurls it into the monster's eye (which is strange, actually - the Comics Code Authority was still around to police this comic in 1999 and they usually censored eye injuries; eye injuries happened a few times in 1940s comics though).
While Wildcat & Manhunter destroy the drill with grenades, Tigress returns to the fight sporting a flamethrower and saves Hawkman by burning up the monster. The drill's destruction causes a big explosion which collapses the tunnels (but doesn't blow up the continent of Africa, in case you were worried). The four heroes escape the destruction and meet up with the mystical hero Doctor Occult (also not a member of the Justice Society) to be transported to the next chapter of the story. But for us, this is where we end.
Thoughts: How do you manage to set a story in Angola (or anywhere in Sub-Saharan Africa) and not depict a single black person?
It's interesting to see Angola as the scene of the story and that Dixon had enough on the ball to know the country was neutral during the conflict. It seems as though the nation was chosen because of the oil & gas supply. Angola is seldom depicted in North American comic books, much less as the setting of a historical story.
Dixon succeeded at the extremely challenging task of writing Wildcat in a way which didn't bring out my snark; however, the real props belong to Russ Heath, who turned in the sort of lush art he was renowned for.
- +1 estrelas for correct use of an Angolan natural resource (oil)
- +1 estrelas for correct use of Angolan wildlife (elephants, antelope, lions)
- +1 estrelas for correct historical information about Angola's neutrality during World War II
TOTAL SCORE: TRÊS ESTRELAS!