Or – “An Interesting Take On The Law…”

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There’s a certain suspension of disbelief that comes with reading superhero comics… The plain fact is that the behaviors engaged in by even the noblest of superheroes is technically illegal. One of the great mysteries of Batman is how he manages to skip back and forth in the good graces of law enforcement while simultaneously dealing repeated beatings to Gotham’s criminal elements, speeding through the night with no lights on his Batmobile, and taking minors into hails of bullets. Even the stalwarts of the JSA run into this problem from time to time, and this issue has an interesting take on the matter…

Previously, on Justice Society of America: The world’s first super-team pulled in JSA1.jpgseveral new members when immortal nutjob Vandal Savage took it upon himself to murder patriotic super-heroes and their families (I wonder if he paid the Skull to ace Steve Rogers?) Soon after, the JSA teamed with the Justice League to solve the mystery of time-lost Legion of Super-Heroes members, culminating in the resurrection of Wally West, the second Flash. Their ranks swelled by the addition of Cyclone, (grand-daughter of the original Red Tornado) Damage, (the biological son of Al Pratt, the original Atom) Citizen Steel, (grand-nephew of Hank Heywood, Commander Steel) and Wildcat’s son, also going by Wildcat. The influx of new blood has led to an extended family vibe, and we’ve also seen the return of the second Hourman and his bride, Liberty Belle (formerly known as Jesse Quick.) This issue begins with the revelation that ALL OF THIS has happened in the span of five days, and we join Rick (Hourman) Tyler and his wife Jesse on their honeymoon in Aspen. Jesse ruminates about how she got here, thinking “I’d guess from the outside, my life might look perfect… but it’s not.”

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Johnny’s formula fails her (again) and a disappointed Jesse apologizes for failing in her task. Johnny isn’t bothered though, and helps her clean up at super-speed. Jesse wonders how some sort of weird algebra problem gives him super-speed, but Johnny reminds her that it’s not the formula that does the trick, it’s the state of mind that he enters using the formula as a totem. At that, mom Libby (the original Liberty Belle) comes down the stairs, and is angered that her husband kept Jesse out of school. “Stop filling her head with this stuff, Johnny,” scolds Libby, entreating him to give up his ‘power of positive thinking’ shtick and let their daughter have a normal life…

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Oh, Johnny… Always shooting off at the mouth… Johnny apologizes, but still believes that Max Mercury’s theories of a speed force are nothing but bunkum and hokum and hex. Jesse remembers how they divorced, and once she reached college age, she was able to join the JSA herself as Jesse Quick. Soon after, though, her father sacrificed himself to save the universe from Savitar, a crazed zealot with super-speed, ironically proving the theories that he fought against for so long. Jesse gave up her own speed, loaning it to the Flash to save the world from ANOTHER hyper-speed lunatic, this one the maniac called Zoom. As if on cue, we cut to the JSA trying to take that self-same Zoom back into custody, with Jay Garrick keeping fine pace since the return of Wally West and the speed force. Damage tries to get Stargirl to hurry up and catch Zoom so he can beat the snot out of the yellow freak, but suddenly, Green Lantern stops them cold…

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“…and he blew up half of downtown Atlanta.” That did happen, incidentally, in his own book circa 1994 or so. As for Jesse, she and Rick have finished their extreme sporting, and retired for dinner. But it’s hardly a quiet one, as Rick’s loquaciousness has the whole restaurant aware of him, even charming the waiter’s entire life story out of him in just a few moments. Jesse is no longer embarrassed by this sort of thing, smiling and enjoying her husband’s gregariousness…

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A couple brings up a copy of ‘Brides Monthly’ with Jesse on the cover (she got married in COSTUME?) and Jesse signs it, smiling indulgently. Suddenly, their meal is interrupted by the double beep of the JSA communicators…

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That’s not good. While the JSA runs crowd control, trying to keep people safe and evacuate the area, Jesse and Rick hop a quick super-speed flight to Georgia. Upon arrival, Power Girl explains that she called them because only Jesse and Rick have really been able to talk to the boy. “If his fuse lights, we’re talking hundred of thousands [of deaths.] Minimum.” Jesse agrees to talk to Damage, assuring Rick that she can handle herself, even if her speed powers ARE gone… Reminding Rick that she loves him, she crosses the police line, and finds Damage living up to his name.

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Zoom taunts the young man that if he explodes, he’ll kill thousands of innocents, and probably won’t hurt Zoom at all. “Nothing you say matters to me, Zoom,” says Damage, and suddenly Jesse arrives, asking if what SHE says matters. She tells him that he’s going about this the wrong way, but an enraged Damage reminds her what Zoom did to his face. Liberty Bell reminds him that she’s seen his face, and she wasn’t disgusted, but Damage says that she’s different. “You and Hourman are like this PERFECT couple. Always laughing and smiling…” Jesse reminds Damage that she wasn’t perfect when she lost her speed, and Zoom tries to needle her, telling her she didn’t DESERVE her speed powers. But Jesse agrees, telling Damage that she didn’t think she deserved her powers after her father died, and tried even harder to be perfect. Rick overheard, and changed her whole life by drawing the Liberty Bell and giving her a NEW mantra…

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Zoom immediately launches into motion, laughing at their tragedy, and winging a piece of shrapnel at Damage’s eye. “And you’re next…” he taunts Jesse, knowing that without her super-speed, there’s no chance that she’ll be able to save Damage in time. This theory, of course, is predicated on a very unstable premise… When has ANYONE in the DC Universe (indeed, anyone in COMICS) EVER completely lost their powers?

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Jesse checks on Damage, who tells her she is awesome. I sincerely hope that he doesn’t fixate on her and create a crush where she’s just trying to help him… Either way, Jesse explains that while she USED to believe she didn’t deserve her speed, she got over it. Heh… The two heroes step out, and are confronted by the Atlanta P.D. who try to place Damage under arrest. Jesse steps forward, stating flatly, “You arrest him, you arrest me…” Her husband chimes in as well…

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Up until that last page, I loved this issue greatly. I really like Jesse, and I always have, and I admire the tenacity she shows in facing down the police like that. But Green Lantern has a point: Grant broke the LAW when he entered Georgia, and they ostensibly fight on the side of the law. For the team to flaunt it so obviously drew me out of the story and made me wonder what legal authority Rick and Jesse have to override the actions of the appointed police forces of Atlanta. I presume that someone stepped in and took care of things off-panel, but the switch from breaking the law to playing in the snow troubled me.

Aside from that aspect, though, it’s a wonderfully done issue, tying into previous appearances of both Jesse and Grant, pulling the question of HOW Hourman and Liberty Bell got together into perfect focus, even lightening up Jesse from her old Titans Type-A ulcer-case-waiting-to-happen days. I like the fact that Damage is a believable sullen young teen, without wallowing in the angst of his face, and I’m enjoying the interplay of the characters. If Grant DOES develop a crush on Jesse, I wonder if we’ll see another side of the playful and happy Hourman? Even with my problems regarding the legality of the teams actions, it’s a very good issue, brilliantly drawn by Fernando Pasarin and Rodney Ramos (I didn’t realize it was a fill-in art team at first) and wonderfully written, as always, by Geoff Johns. Johns has a knack for putting characters through hell and having them come out the other side stronger while avoiding the comic cliche of dressing in black and talking like Logan. It’s a 4 out of 5 star effort, as JSA continues their run of excellence…

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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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7 Comments

  1. Brent F.
    August 9, 2007 at 2:28 pm — Reply

    I think the heroes brushed aside the law because they knew the whole story. The police officers were wrong to banish Damage for life and were wrong to want to arrest him for coming back when Zoom lead him there.

  2. jman
    August 9, 2007 at 2:49 pm — Reply

    Not bad art for a fill-in, I mostly enjoyed Damage’s “THIS is more than a crack.” line, guess those scars run deep…most folks don’t like Zoom’s “I waaaaaaaaaaantto helpyou by hurrrrrttingyou” schtick… he has to have some kind of warped motiviation/personality(like a reverse Dr Phil who can move at lightspeed). Can’t say it’s not unique, kind of like Black Adam’s “I’m not a villain, I’m just a misunderstood mass murder…”. I agree with the boldness in the face of the law comment above, that left me a bit perplexed and slightly disgusted by the disrespect for law enforcement…I’d have preferred Damage surrender, and Mr Terrrific(or whoever the hell it is that has the money in JSA) bail him out…That would show how high heroic standards should be for Damage and the JSA, instead of posing in the street like a bunch of Wildstorm characters.

  3. Brent F.
    August 9, 2007 at 4:37 pm — Reply

    BTW, I don’t care how long it’s been since WWII, Nazi beat downs never get old.

  4. Mark I.
    August 9, 2007 at 4:43 pm — Reply

    Confused about power levels here…the Quicks were never depicted at Zoom’s level. They were always slower than the Flashes, who were constantly challenged to keep up with Zoom. Ah well.

    At least Damage didn’t blow up Atlanta again. Otherwise Batman would end up head of Checkmate, the U.S. would start a Meta-Human Registration Act, upstarts would be imprisoned on Qward, and Nightwing would get talked into revealing his secret identity. After Green Arrow is assassinated while awaiting trial, Superboy-Prime would show up on Earth looking for revenge on Superman, Mr. Terrific, Batman, and Wonder Woman until…you know, I’ll just stop. Those are outlandish ideas…

  5. Brent F.
    August 9, 2007 at 5:19 pm — Reply

    Zoom wasn’t using his full strength. He had been beaten by Damage and underestimated Liberty Belle.

  6. August 9, 2007 at 8:39 pm — Reply

    Strength has nothing to do with it, as a profiler Zoom got beaten at his own game by failing to realize Jessie could change, just like Damage will eventually.

  7. August 9, 2007 at 11:52 pm — Reply

    Also: Zoom’s powers AREN’T technically speed-based, they’re TIME based… I wonder if not expecting Jessica to hit that speed threshold might have caught him off guard.

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