Or – “The Long And Winding Road…”

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I know that I’ve used that title before, but I make no apologies.  In fact, I can pretty much guarantee I’ll do it again.  As the Beatles last single, their last #1, and the song recorded during one of, if not the last sessions that the band did together, (the day after the legendary concert on the roof of Apple Records)  that record pretty much serves as my touchstone for when things inevitably end.  I used to try and play it as the last song of the last shift of each semester in college radio (I worked Friday nights, because I had no reason not to…)  Usually, I try to avoid making these things all about me, but I hate endings, (especially in real life.) Somehow, though,  those final moments are made less painful by Paul McCartney and a piano.  Thus, I find myself in a perfect wheelhouse to review Geoff Johns swan song on the title he’s been writing for nearly a decade…

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 Previously, on Justice Society of America:  The original super-team is now also the biggest, with a couple of dozen members now, and more apparently on the horizon.  With only a handful of the original members not dead (not counting Hawkman, who may or may not have rung down the curtain and joined the other winged guys in the bleedin’ choir invisibule) the JSA is serving as a training ground for the newest crop of heroes, and as a place where guys like Damage and Atom-Smasher can rehab their reputations as superheroes.  They’ve taken down the biggest threats the world has to offer, stood against the last bastions of the Third World, and even managed to finally stop Black Adam (though we’ll have to see how long that lasts.)  The Justice Society of America has had a pretty tumultuous year, and have earned some downtime.  Of course, when 25 superheroes get together, you can pretty much throw quiet out the window…

“Black Adam ruined my birthday!” cries Stargirl, for once acting like the teenage girl she is.  Her friend Mary (Batson?  I’m not sure…) tells her that she said her birthday was no big deal, but Stargirl still resents that fact that her special day was eclipsed by a giant ol’ crisis.  Of course, you and I see it coming, but Courtney is surprised to open the door of her family home and find the entire JSA in her (apparently huge) living room.  What follows is a deft and fast-paced set of character moments, in which everybody has their moment in the sun, even Courtney’s mother and her step-father, the former Stripesy.  Starman misunderstands present, giving her her own costume and power staff as a gift, then eats all the ice cream.  Damage and Judomaster have a cute moment shopping for more (“I don’t like ice cream,” he snarls.  She looks at him confused, and replies in her rapidly improving English, “Everybody like ice cream.”  Heh…)  Wildcats old and new share a father-son bonding moment, during which Ted explains that he finally understands the urge to be a father figure.

Jakeem Thunder gives Courtney a special gift, a photo of the young members of the JSA together, inscribed “To Our Teacher.”  She doesn’t understand, but Flash and Green Lanter tell her that she’s proven herself over and over as a veteran of the Justice Society.  “You’ve grown up,” says Wildcat, just as the cake arrives.  Damage refuses to sing until “big brother” Atom Smasher smacks him and makes it clear that it’s not optional.  Courtney reveals that her biggest wish is going to come true: her braces a scheduled to come off the next day.  “Ooo!  Can I come?” asks Starman, and we cut to the whole Society watching as the orthodontist goes to work.  “I didn’t mean EVERYBODY!” snits Stargirl to no one in particular.  We end with the JSA coaxing a smile out of Stargirl, revealing…  that her braces have to stay on for another year.  As the team walks off into the sunset, Starman yells, “Thanks!”  When asked who he’s talking to, he cryptically turns to the “camera” and says, “Everybody!”

This issue is a cute one in which not a lot happens, but the writer’s affection for the characters and their world is made 100% clear.  Geoff Johns has put his heart and soul into these characters for nearly 100 issues now, and it’s a nice handoff to the incoming writer, but also serves as thank you and goodbye.  With so many characters, it’s hard to guarantee that everyone gets their due, but Johns comes damn close in this one.  Dale Eaglesham’s art is pretty wonderful, too, with a range of expression that borders upon superhuman, from Courtney’s embarassment to Power Girl’s bemusement at Starman’s ice cream gobbling (“He ate the candles, too.”) to the smile on Green Lantern’s face as Atom-Smasher sets Damage straight.  This is a good issue, hampered only by the sheer amount of material and heroes therein.  Johns didn’t join until JSA was already under way, but his contribution has made the series what it is, and he will be missed.  Justice Society of America #26 earns a long and winding 4 out of 5 stars overall, and reminds me that, in comics as in life, sometimes even the best things have to come to an end…

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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. ~wyntermute~
    May 15, 2009 at 11:28 pm — Reply

    If I were reviewing this comic for this website, I think I would have wrote the exact same words in the exact same order as Mr. Matthew. My only “gripe” (and oh god, it is SO minor) is that Courtney, in the last issue of what passes for “her book”, gets hosed and has to keep the braces~~~~!!! :( Like, Geoff Johns is so good at writing these characters that I had a momentary pang of “awwww!! Poor Courtneeyyy!!!” for an imaginary person!! I assume the JSA isn’t “going anywhere”, but I’m going to miss this spotlight-title. :)

  2. Dave
    May 16, 2009 at 5:31 pm — Reply

    God I hope the new team doesn’t suck.

  3. Jim
    May 17, 2009 at 6:39 pm — Reply

    A good almost too cute but not issue. The great thing about the JSA is that you can do somewhat cheesy issues like this because it has an old school, silver age feel. I agree with Dave that I hope the new team is up to task. Isn’t it Ordway again?

  4. David
    May 18, 2009 at 7:57 am — Reply

    Ordway? No. I wouldn’t worry about Ordway. It’s Bill Willingham…the Salvation Run author. I don’t know how anyone else felt about the series. I felt it lame. Willingham created the Elementals in the 80’s…and he would do Elemental Sex Specials in which his characters would have soft core sex. Can’t wait to see how THAT translates in JSA.

    [Insert Cosmic Rod joke here….]

  5. ~wyntermute~
    May 18, 2009 at 1:55 pm — Reply

    Salvation Run was…… Um… IMO, bad. I’m hoping he doesn’t literally kill the JSA, in light of this information… :(

  6. Dave
    May 18, 2009 at 3:06 pm — Reply

    Way I see it, this can go one of three ways: 1) ok – not great, just ok 2) he could literally kill the JSA like Jurgens is killing the second volume of Booster Gold, the character HE created or 3) he can fuck them to death.

    It happened one of those Elemental specials…as did marital relations with a dolphin. I’m just saying.

    • May 19, 2009 at 8:40 am — Reply

      The marital relations with a dolphin was an interesting plot point in a book that was on the skids… The first Sex Special (terrible idea) was, I believe, initially set to just be an issue of the book, but it sold so well that reprints and sequels were made. Wasn’t long after that Willingham left Elementals entirely…

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