Or – “Turns Out He IS Who We Thought He Was!”

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reviewbubble.jpgIt’s a fact of life (especially in comics) that every experience is new for someone. No matter how many times *I* may have seen a particular plot twist, there’s always somebody who’ll find it to be the most daring and amazing story of all time. Which is why the big reveal in the latest JSA, though no surprise, really worked for me. This newest JSA incarnation debuted with a big splash, a dash of Alex Ross, and some promising new creations… Can they keep up the quality?

So far, so good… Issue two starts as last issue did, with a young man we’ve never met before. This time, it’s Nathan “Buckeye” Heywood, hiding out from all his relatives at the annual get-together. When Nate was growing up, family reunions were always dominated by the family hero: Grandpa Commander Steel of the All-Star Squadron, Cousin Steel (that’d be Steel I of the Detroit Justice League), even Nate himself when he was a football star. But now?

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Thankfully, we have the spoilery cover for last issue to tell us that things could get better for Nate. As for the members we KNOW, they’re all right where the first issue left us, with Flash, Green Lantern, and Wildcat in a less-than savory part of Brooklyn, and the rest of the team assembled in the JSA brownstone, where another hero has just smashed through the skylight and landed in the middle of their meeting table with a rather unceremonious thud. More on that, later, because Wildcat has just met the reason why his friends dragged him out to a brownstone in the middle of nowhere…

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Turns out that even thought Wildcat didn’t know about his offspring, his son Tom (Heh… Tom Cat?), but Tom knew darn well who his daddy was. The reunion is briefly interrupted by a call from JSA Headquarters, explaining the nature of the Mr America emergency. Doctor Mid-Nite confirms that Mr. A is, indeed, dead, as Power Girl scans for attackers using her super-vision, and Maxine Hunkel slowly freaks the hell out. Also freaking out? The cosmic cowboy, Starman himself, is not dealing well with the apparent murder.

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The reveal of Starman’s gravity powers (as well as the name Kenz Nuhor, feel free to google it) confirm what old guys like me expected about his identity, and only Power Girl putting him in a hammerlock convinces Senor Estrella to turn it off. Starman babbles about hearing voices again, only this time the voices are crying, and saying something about “the bad doctor.” I’m starting to wonder whether his presence here is indicative that some of his ex-teammates are out there, somewhere, as well. The reveal is coming, and we’ll spoil it in a minute, but right now suffice to say, Starman knows a girl or two who could put voices in his head.

Back in Brooklyn, Wildcat is having trouble wrapping his head around suddenly being a parent. Tom is nonplussed, tosses his pater a cold beer and points out that he doesn’t really want a dad, and it’s pretty obvious Wildcat doesn’t want a son, so there’s no problem. They have nothing in common, says Tom, pointing out that he hasn’t even been in a fight since the eigth grade.

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Focus, Ted, focus! I love that moment, you can actually hear the gears grinding in the old man’s head. Back at the brownstone, Maxine Hunkel is freaking out, and Stargirl is trying to calm her down. Max is terrified, blood on her clothing, babbling that she can’t do this. Stargirl steps up, all of sixteen years old, but still a JSA veteran, and explains to Maxine why she can and will deal… “Do you know what happened on my first day?” asks young Courtney.

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It’s so awesome to see Stargirl as one of the experienced heroes, having bought the first issue of her own book off the stands a few years ago. Her character arc is very satisfying, and her method of calming Maxine is very cute. “We’re gettin’ you a costume!” As the two young women head off to the costume room, The Flash, The Green Lantern, and Doctor Mid-Nite have had time to do a cursory examination of Mr. America’s body. The current Mr. America is the grandson of the original All-Star Squadron member who fought with Flash and GL back in the forties, but since his family was murdered last issue, and HE’S definitely dead, Mid-Nite makes the jump and figures out the horrifying consequence.

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Someone is killing the sons and daughters of the All-Star Squadron, my friends. Oh, and on that note, remember Nate Heywood? He’s finally built up the courage to head out and face down his family, but ends up taking a football in the face. Insult? Meet injury. His cousin tries to help him up, telling him the family has been worried about him.

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What nobody realizes is that the reunion is about to be broken up, as a skinhead jackass called White Dragon crashes through the table. Doc Mid-Nite may have just figured it all out, but thankfully, the Justice Society has a Legion (no Starman pun intended) of members, one of whom is back in circulation…

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HAWKMAAAAAANNNN!!! Sing it to the “Birdman” battle cry, you’ll crack yourself up, I promise. It’s good to see Carter again (although last issue’s cover spoilered both that and the revelation of Nate’s future) and he’s kicking butts and taking initials. (Doesn’t have time for the full name…) Nate is horrified to see more neo-Nazi schmucks march in, with orders to wipe out the whole family, “women and children first.” I hate them already.

I don’t hate Starman, though, as the scene shifts back to him. He stands in Mr. Terrific’s office while Terrific and Power Girl try and figure out what’s behind the murder of a peer. Starman looks at a blackboard filled with fifth dimensional math, then murmurs “That’s wrong!” and begins making corrections. Mr. Terrific’s jaw hits the ground, and he explains to Power Girl, “I’ve been working on a theory involving superstring, dark matter and hyperspace theory for the last year and a half,” and Starman just finished the proof, correctly. How did he do it? “Third grade science! I got a B+!” burbles the masked man, suddenly slightly more coherent. Apparently, the problem helped to jog his memory, reminding him that he tried to come here on purpose, but got trapped somewhere else, first…

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Ladies and gentlemen? Let me introduce you to Thom Kallor. He’s an old friend that I haven’t seen in YEARS, and more on him can be found here… With that reveal, it’s clear that more is wrong here than just someone hunting JSA families, something cosmic is in the works. Like I said, it was obvious to some of us who Starman actually is, but the more compelling questions of how, why, and most importantly, are any of the other pre-Crisis Legionnaires still out there somewhere, remain unanswered. I miss Blok and Polar Boy, dangit.

This issue was pretty much a rollercoaster ride, starting off slowish and steady, then throwing us down the loop into the plot, giving us one answer, but bringing up half a dozen more questions in the process. I’m really enjoying JSA, even if Dale Eaglesham’s art (while excellent) doesn’t exactly mesh with some of the Alex Ross designs (notably the neo-Nazi @#$&heads at the picnic.) The writing is crisp, and even with this many characters, there’s a clear idea who everyone is and the dialogue is first-rate. I would recommend this book to anyone, and I’m gonna award Justice Society of America #2 a stellar four-star rating.

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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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