The typical narrative in comics fandom is that Crisis on Infinite Earths really messed up the Justice Society of America, as they were tossed into the bin of history for being "redundant" as compared to the JLA.
This is, like so much commonly-accepted bits of fan dogma, entirely wrong. While the fallout from Crisis did, in fact damage the JLA by writing them out in a terribly silly way made all the moreso by being so rushed, it was the ill feelings from how DC handled writing them out that rubbed certain creators the wrong way, and they made their displeasure known at every single available moment, and ultimately this became its own meme: Crisis sucked because it got rid of the Justice Society and isn't it a shame because the JSA were the very first super-team and thus important enough to stick around forever.
I too am surprised I made it through that paragraph without using the words "Geoff Johns" or "Alex Ross" either, guys.
Sadly, the notion of them being The First, And Thus Very Important became the overriding element in the team's makeup, and so it became damned impossible to do anything with the JSA except put them up on the mantelpiece and blather at length about how important they were without actually, y'know, doing anything interesting with them to justify their importance.
Mind you, there's plenty of intriguing things to do with the JSA (less so as real time passes) the notion of the super-hero Greatest Generation still trying to make a difference and fight evil while grappling with the passage of time and fighting alongside succeeding generation/their own kids (and no, the 9 million times the JSA fought Obsidian because he turns evil every alternate Thursday don't count) is healthy grist for the mill. If you wanted to make it a little darker, you could even have them grapple with the fact that some of the things they took for granted back in the day (the casual racism and sexism, let's say) aren't the rule anymore . . .sure, it would be a bit like if Roger Sterling was a superteam, but it could totally be a thing.
All-Star Comics was an attempt to do something with the JSA before they were legends. Or, well, more accurately it was part of an effort on DC comics to roll out a lot of new books all at once and hopefully cut into Marvel's market share. It . . .well, wasn't pretty, and probably taught DC that ambitious roll-outs like that are largely a matter of timing and must be handled carefully. Probably.
In any event, All-Star Comics didn't really fret overmuch about the JSA as icons, partly because they weren't icons quite yet at this point (having been confined to the annual JLA/JSA team-ups) and partly because the book's writer, Gerry Conway, can only write characters in one voice (in comics this is not as much of a handicap as you might think), and really, that's not it. There is a certain Marvel-style pacing that creeps into All-Star (no shock, given Conway had just come from Marvel and his other collaborators had come from Charlton fandom/pro-dom during a recent flourish/implosion that had happened at Charlton in the mid-70s) partly because of the pedigree of the writer and partly because they had 17 pages to do these stories in.
This is a rather important point, because for all we moan about decompression, these comics have a tendency to be so compressed as to be a bit jumbled. Plots bleed one into the other frequently, threads get picked up and dropped, and the whole thing can be kinda . . .well, hard to absorb, really, as you have a large cast all speaking in the same way and so much stuff happening all at once that the details can get, a bit fuzzy. For that reason we're skipping the usual recaps and roll calls. Those of you who are interested have the book already. Those of you who don't probably don't care.
And yet . . .I kinda liked these. The JSA is far more relatable when they're not being venerated as icons who seem remote and distant. Here, they're just another supergroup, not unlike the Defenders to the Justice League's Avengers.
But there were a million of those books even then, what makes this one so interesting?
Well, I think it's just that I liked Earth-2.
Earth-2 was a fictional offshoot, a parallel world in which, unusually for superhero comics, time was allowed to pass and some notion of organic growth had been allowed some rein (compare this with the current "freeze everything at one specific point" mania now)--this was before the top-down "everything is homogenized" kind of superhero books today and you were allowed to play around in the margins a bit more. Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman have all retired (in a great twist, Batman is actually the police commissioner) and the last few Justice Society members are fighting crime and dealing with a younger generation coming up--namely Robin, Huntress (Batman and Catwoman's daughter) The Star Spangled Kid (a migrant from another JLA/JSA crossover) and Power Girl.
Today, these stories are almost entirety known for Power Girl's introduction, which is a shame, as, setting aside the fact that Wally Wood obviously loved every moment of drawing her (seriously it is, uh, plain to see) she's not the strongest character, as she is intended to be a "liberated woman of the 70's," which, translated from the comic book-ese means she's a bitch on wheels who's constantly going on that despite being a woman, she's not to be taken lightly.
It gets a little grating, as it is very plainly trying so hard. Likewise, Huntress is a bit of a drip early on. Yet both characters really grown on you and were the real breakout stars of this relatively short run.
I can't really say these are great comics or essential comics or anything like that, but they are terribly interesting in that they had their own distinct identity while managing to exist in a shared universe, they were given leave to do their own thing and really play with the "parallel Earth" concept in a way that DC never quite fulfilled (whichever time they brought back the parallel Earths) and broadened the fictional universe in a way that allowed for a book to have its own flavor while still being part of the larger whole.
If only that was still a thing now, eh?