Justice League Adventures #13
DC Comics (January, 2003)
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILER: Min S. Ku
INKER: Mark Propst
COLORIST: John Kalisz
SEPARATIONS: Heroic Age
LETTERER: Kurt Hathaway
EDITOR: Steve Wacker
Olivia Dawson is a teenager in Apex City who happened to find an amulet she calls her “star charm”, taking on the superhero identity All-Star. (I’m guessing that’s due to the amulet and the star-shaped shield she can make as part of her power set.) She runs across Green Lantern when the Weaponers of Qward come to take it. She impresses John enough that she’s invited to fill in for him when the Lanterns are all called back to Oa for a secret mission. This is big news for her little town as she’s a local favorite (too bad her brother isn’t impressed but her best friend and her mom are picking up the slack nicely). Things go well on the first few mission but when Brainiac attacks Earth using mind-controlled Lanterns (the summons was a trick by Brainiac) she finds herself overwhelmed, even hiding in the ship. Although Flash and Wonder Woman understand All-Star manages to summon up the courage to rescue the Lanterns but at the cost of her powers. Still, she impressed everyone enough to gain Justice League membership, even if it’s honorary, and Batman himself delivered it.
What they got right: Under a lesser author (and unfortunately the same author I could see falling into the trap today given how superheroines are approached in the late 2010s) I could see All-Star becoming a Mary Sue and it does skirt the line in two spots I’ll get to later. There are two things that save it. One is All-Star herself. She just such a likable character. She actually tells her mom, brother (I don’t know what happened to dad), and best friend about her powers, which is rare for teen heroes. Heck, it’s rare for adult heroes. We also do see that she has a lot to learn and we see her overwhelmed and have to find the courage to do what she needs to, even at the cost of her powers (I’ll come back to that). She’s just a great hero. Her powers are also neat. They aren’t ridiculously overpowered–we just see flight, light blasts, and a hard light shield–but she does take to them well enough without reaching Rey levels of being over the top. I also really like both of her costumes, but her “local” one has a bit more charm than her “League” costume. Plus I think the League costume needed a belt or a sash or something to break things up a bit, but the costume isn’t tied to my point. I also like the scene with J’onn talking about what it means to be part of the League with her.
What they got wrong: Those points I mentioned and they’re easily fixed. Instead of impressing John enough to call on her to pinch hit while he’s gone (at least it isn’t immediately a full member and the bestest ever–THAT would have crossed into full-on Mary Sue) maybe impress enough that he want to encourage her to continue and has her visit. Then she gets to join in just as John gets called away. We saw how this could work in practice with Static and Gear on Static Shock so I know it could work. Besides, given how John Stewart has been written in the tie-in thus far I’m not convinced he’s impressed by anyone, never mind a teenage girl who just happens to learn fast. The other is her brother. Part of the Mary Sue trope is that one jerk who clearly isn’t impressed and nobody likes because he’s not gaga over the Mary Sue. He doesn’t get that far but his lack of being impressed at his sister being a hero risks it. I would have liked a moment that show while he doesn’t have his mom’s level of enthusiasm over All-Star’s heroics (I’m not sure that’s possible without pushing into Mary Sue Land) he does care a little. Maybe in the scene where she’s trying to decide on the cape with the new costume he comes in and goes “Definitely cape. It looks cooler. Besides, your right about the costume making your butt look big!”. It satisfies the bratty brother angle while not making him a total brat. Plus you have to consider watching mom fawn all over her like she his has to make him at least a little jealous.
However, my biggest disappointment is that she loses her powers. As noted above I really like this character and would have liked to have seen more. Maybe she could find the star that would have gone on her right hand? Plus poor Apex City already has to deal with barely qualifying as a city and now they don’t have a superhero and will never be heard from again in the DC multiverse. I wonder if Slott was trying to test the waters with this character but it’s too bad Olivia won’t get to be All-Star anymore. Yeah, I know the sacrifice makes for a better ending given the theme of the story, but that’s why I said end it with either the one charm restored and finding another. This last point is not so much a complaint as me flexing my own creative muscle. It would have been interesting to see her slowly struggle not because I want to see her weak…far from it. The freak-out at the Lantern army would make more sense. If she does get her powers back, have her realize she still has more to learn and decide to stick with the local stuff, but offer to help the League if they need it. Slott couldn’t have known it was coming, but this could have lead to a return appearance in the tie-in comic to Justice League Unlimited. I just want more of All-Star and I’m trying to figure out how she could have returned. Given the current climate I’m not sure it would be safe for her to return seeing today’s writers don’t have the guts to have the superheroines struggle like the male superheroes do and losing that relatable connection everyone keeps demanding.
Recommendation: I very much recommend this issue. All-Star is a great concept I would love to have seen more of, maybe being the first character to leap from the tie-in comics to the actual show or even the main universe. Give this one a check.