Or – “All The Justice You Love, Now With 47% More Alex Ross!”

JSA9.jpgreviewbubble.jpgI find that I annoy people in the comics world when I state some of my beliefs and preferences. I don’t care for Wolverine. I think Batman is as valid as a smiling-squared-jawed-father-figure driving a bubble-topped land yacht as he is a grim avenger of the night. I don’t have any idea what is so compelling about the gang-wars and separatist agendas of the X-Men titles. And I just have no use for Alex Ross any more. Oh, sure, there was a day when I fell slack-jawed at the sight of his (admittedly still gorgeous) art, but being a wonderful artist does not make you the arbiter of all that is right and good in the comic book industry. And no matter how beautiful your art is, eventually, SOMEONE is going to ask you to contribute something to the story. So, given that the JSA wasn’t broken, can the second most overrated man in comics fix it?

JSA1.jpgWell, I guess it all depends on what the definition of the word “consulting” is. There are two or three moments this issue that seem obviously Alex-motivated, and only one of them was overtly annoying to me. I’m sure that many average comic readers wouldn’t even get ’em, much less be bothered by them. There’s a lot to like here, and it’s an auspicious restart for the world’s first superteam. With an emphasis on the teaching and family aspects of the JSA, obviously we’re going to be seeing some new blood, and since the cast sprawls the length and breadth of the DCU (Heck, they STARTED the DCU), you pick up Justice Society of America knowing that you’re gonna see lots of characters, more subplots than five years of “The Young And The Restless,” and action worthy of an institution like the JSA. Case in point?

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Read that caption one more time. World War @#$%ing Three. That’s just the first page of the issue, folks, and it’s about the biggest tease you’ve ever imagined. I suspect that this is the first real look at what happens at the end of “52” and it’s kind of a shockeroo, ain’t it? Note also the presence of Jakeem Thunder and Sand, two characters who have yet to appear post-One Year Later. Is that portentious, or merely noteworthy? Dunno, but we’ll all keep an eye out. Immediately after the events of World War III, the core of the Justice League (Clark, Diana, and li’l Brucie) implore the remaining Justice Society founders (Wildcat, The Green Lantern, and The Flash) to help them build a better superhero populace. Of course, they agree (or else it’d be a short comic), as we cut to a suburban home in Virginia. A new version of 40’s mysteryman Mr. America arrives at a crime scene. He’s been fighting a street-level war on the criminals that no one can touch, including beating a confession out of a murderer who was let go on a technicality. Mr A scans the scene, finding a woman and her two sons murdered, poisoned in their homes. When told that the police are searching for the husband, Mr. America responds “Don’t bother…”

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Oh, my…. I think this is exactly what the Leaguers meant when they said that the world needs “better good guys.” With that introduction, we return to the core cast, as the members of the JSA go through the “pick out pictures of the superheroes we want on our team” motions that every first issue has anymore. It’s a cliche, but at least it’s visually interesting… But I wanna know, who TAKES these pictures? In the course of conversation, we learn that Liberty Belle, the former Jesse Quick, has married Hourman. We learn that the team remembers that Power Girl is from Earth-2, which may be important. And we learn that Wildcat has no real interest in book-keeping matters. He’ll get to know the new blood, he says, “soon as they step in the ring.”

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, we see another example of why the JSA is needed, as two men in really ugly suits bust stuff up. One is Damage, wearing a costume reminiscent of his biological father, The Atom, and the other is Rebel, an Alex Ross creation straight out of the pages of Kingdom Come. Rebel seems to be wearing a white hood and a Confederate flag for a costume, and while I can’t prove he’s racist, he’s certainly not a nice man.

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Yikes… Poor Grant. I can’t remember if his disfigurement came during the Infinite Crisis murder of the original Freedom Fighters or not, but in any case, Damage is now dark and gritty. And Rebel is just plain terrible. Seriously… Alex Ross admits that many of his characters were created when he was just a kid, and if Rebel is one of those, it shows. Thankfully, Damage puts him through a wall, and Hourman arrives with new bride Liberty Belle to recruit him. Damage is less than pleased, but grudgingly agrees to go with them when they agree to pay for the, excuse the expression, damages of his latest fight. As an aside, the new Damage costume is awful. Just awful. Cornflower blue and a sickly gold with an inexplicable biohazard symbol for a chest icon. Although with Alex’s retro character designing tendencies, I suppose we should count our luckies that he doesn’t wear short pants.

After Mr America cameos, breaking the head of old-school Blue Beetle villain The Catalyst, we see scenes from Harvard University, where beautiful, intelligent, and driven Maxine Hunkel is taking college by storm. Literally… She leaps off a building (in front of Power Girl and Mr. Terrific, mind you), and uses gale force winds to fly. Seems like Maxine has super-powers, as well as being another heroic legacy: her Gramma is the Golden Age Red Tornado (you know, the broad with the soup pot on her head). When Kara offers Maxine membership in the JSA, she responds with characteristic subtlety.

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Best moment ever! My sources point to Maxine not using the Red Tornado moniker, what with the OTHER Reddy being a big part of the new Justice League, but rather going by “Cyclone.” We’ll see if that grows on me. Meanwhile, in Opal City, a crashing helicopter is saved by the mysterious new Starman. When asked by a reporter who he is, he responds with “I love sloppy joes, don’t you?” Exiting the scene with a snappy “Take care of yourselves… and ignore the rutabega!”, Starman returns to his homebase… Opal City’s sanitarium.

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Crazy or not, he’s got panache. Oh, and there’s a rather large clue (or possibly Red Herring) in panel two. I’d explain, but you might just try googling. The site is called “Major Spoilers,” not “Clarissa Explains It All.” In any case, as the dancing Starman replaced Maxine’s wordless tearful smile of joy as my favorite image in this issue, Doctor Mid-Nite and Stargirl arrive to recruit him. Starman babbles about waffles, and finally implores them, “I think I’ve lost my mind, Doctor. Please… Can you help me find it?” Starman is another character out of Kingdom Come, and once again, terrible costume. It’s a total swipe from Mike Grell in the 70’s, for one, and the full face cowl is so similar to Damage’s as to annoy the crap out of me. Add to that the presence of Obsidian on the team (usually seen as an all-black shadow), the overall Starman visual is distracting and more than a little confusing.

But, like I said, most people don’t spend that much effort on a single character in a team of 25, and certainly I admit that it may be just me. Back at Headquarters, Jay (Flash) and Alan (Green Lantern) discuss a pressing piece of business regarding their fellow patron, Wildcat. It’s all very vague, but will be revealed soon enough. Another Mr. America cutaway leads to him being confronted by something shadowy and sinister, and then we see Maxine’s arrival at the first meeting of the re-instated JSA. Flash, Lantern, and Wildcat head for Brooklyn, and the men in red finally tell Wildcat why they’ve been so secretive and bizarre. The three men watch a young man walk down the steps, as Alan drops the bomb… “He’s your son.” Wuh oh! At that precise moment, a gravely wounded Mr America crashes through the skylight and lands in a bloody heap on the meetin’ table, putting the first official get-together of the Justice Society in a bit of higgledy piggledy. “TO BE CONTINUED!”

Then, they show us the coolest thing EVER… COMING ATTRACTIONS!

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Superman back from the dead! Kingdom Come is back! Sandman! DAWNSTAR! My head explodes! I love this concept, and wish that other books would use it. “Next year, in Witchblade: Hot girl poses wearing bikini made of rubber cement blobs.” Justice Society of America is apparently set to paint on a huge canvas, and each panel above sets up literally DOZENS of story hooks. It’s also exciting to see that a team I loved in my youth may still exist, somewhere in the multiverse. Time will tell…

This is a well-though-out, complex, and eventful issue. Eaglesham’s art is very good (though I’m not yet sold on his Flash, Hourman, or Liberty Belle), and there’s happiness galore for both new readers and old guys like me. My biggest complaint (and probably my only one of substance) is the fact that the Alex Ross cover is ugly, and gives away future developments regarding the plot and characters. Most galling is the presence of Hawkman, a character whose absense on the OYL universe is one of the mysteries that has worked. All in all, while it’s not a perfect issue, it’s still an exciting start and a good way to gain some new readers… four stars seems about right, hmm?

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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1 Comment

  1. Stephen
    December 14, 2006 at 9:46 am — Reply

    You mean the Yellow Kid making an appearance?

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