Or – “Time, Time, Time Is On My Side… Yes, It Is!”

Continuing our Major Spoilers Star-Spangled Weekend™!  Y’know, in the 21st century, it’s hard to think of Nazis as a realistic villain.  They’re so far away from their context that someone in a their paraphernalia seems as anachronistic and silly as a pirate or a cowboy or a knight.  Still, for many of the members of the JSA, World War II doesn’t seem all that long ago, and the threads of the National Socialist Party run deep.  Is the future of the Fourth Reich set in stone, or can Mister Terrific’s hail mary pass really save the members of the JSA from their worst loss ever and decades of torture?  I kinda hope so…

Justice Society Of America #40
Written by BILL WILLINGHAM
Art by JESUS MERINO & JESSE DELPERDANG
Cover by JESUS MERINO
Colors by ALLEN PASSALAQUA
Letters by ROB LEIGH
Published by DC COMICS

Previously, on Justice Society of America:  Team Chairman Mister Terrific was killed in action some issues ago, and thus wasn’t there to stop the forces of the Fourth Reich (consisting of nearly all of DC’s Nazi, neo-Nazi and general schmuck wearing swastika villains) from stealing an egg of pure darkness (the last remains of JSAer Obsidian) and using it to power a ‘Darkness Engine’ allowing them to quickly overcome the heroes.  Some twenty years down the line, we find the team (including, oddly enough, the deceased Mr. Terrific) and all the surviving heroes living in a concentration camp under the thumb of Illinois Nazis (I hate those guys.)  The heroes pull off a daring last-minute raid at great difficulty and loss of life, managing to transmit a signal back in time, telling Data to deal all threes to the mind of the dying Mister Terrific.  It’s a simple phrase, but one that can save the world from decades of evil and subjugation.

Time Won’t Let Me

“HATCH THE EGG!” cries Mr. T before collapsing back onto the operating table where he has just been pronounced dead.  Doctors Mid-Nite and Fate redouble their efforts to save the chairman, while Green Lantern sets out to do what he asked.  “And that’s how we changed history,” says the narrator, quickly revealed to be Obsidian himself.  Here’s where I don’t know if the story is brilliant or awful:  In a few pages, we are given the changed JSA history since issue #29, where the current team took over.  With Obsidian present, the JSA took out the horde of villains out to capture Stargirl (allowing Obsidian to tweak his fathers nose with, “I’m as powerful as ever.  No discernable side-effects, except that I’m no longer gay, of course.”  After a moment of stunned silence, he smiles “Relax, folks.  Only kidding.  Still gay.”  Heh…) and overcomes Mordru as before.  He is, sadly, unable to keep the JSA from splitting (thanks to Magog) but is present when the Nazis attack a second time.

The Justice Society easily overcomes the forces of the Fourth Reich, punking them out like Vince McMahon punked out WCW.  The Flash quickly disarms his foes, smiling “I’ve got your guns, your swords, your axes and knives and whatnot.”  Holding up his hands in the familiar position to anyone who has a kid, he then cries “And look at that!  I’ve got your noses!”  That’s awesome.  Obsidian even figures out that a convalescant Mister Terrific has been using his foreknowledge from his future adventures to offset tragedy a second time, and we’re shown Mr. T seeking out and giving a research grant to the doctor who was somewhat compassionate to him in the Nazi camps.  A lot more compressed time occurs, taking the team through Blackest Night and into the present and ending with Alan Scott (Obsidian’s father, the original Green Lantern) being possessed by the Starheart, as seen in the recent prelude to the JLA/JSA teamup.  There’s even a glimpse of the future, when we’re told that Jesse Quick leaves the JSA to go join the JLA, something that I don’t ever recall happening…  at least not YET.

Decisions, Decisions…

I’m on the fence about this issue.  On the one hand, a happy well-adjusted Obsidian makes me happy, seeing the team overcome Nazi $&@$heads makes me happy, even The Flash acting like Errol Flynn makes me happy.  But the fact that so much storytelling is done almost in Cliff’s Notes form bugs me.  The retconning of a dozen issues is a clever trick, but there’s a part of me complaining that I PAID for those issues only to have them immediately revamped (a complaint that plagued me around the time of Zero Hour, as well.)  It’s the classic complaint of the time travel storyline, none of it really happened in the end.  And yet I can’t help but be exhilarated by the things that work in the issue, leaving me with a dichotomous, deeply-flawed yet still enjoyable issue.  All in all, you have to shake down on the side of the positive, and what works barely outweighs what doesn’t, leaving this issue with 2.5 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s well-drawn, and it’s a good climax to the ‘Days of JSA Future Past’ storyline, but there’s ultimately too much left on the cutting room floor for a completely engrossing experience.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Does the time travel trope of  “And in the end, it never happened anyway” destroy the reading experience for you?

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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12 Comments

  1. Larry King
    July 4, 2010 at 3:40 am — Reply

    Well to answer your question, if you felt that the climax was fun, as you state, then it does not destroy it at all for me.

    In the grand scheme of comic books, Did any of ever really happen?

  2. brenton8090
    July 4, 2010 at 7:15 am — Reply

    Sometimes that does bug me, but less so if its easy to understand what the new reality is, unlike all those crises that leave us going “So wait…. what?”
    Also, the quality of the time travel story eases the pain. I really liked all the nazi issues. Something about it felt good. I don’t think I’d seen a good “days of future past” story in a while, and it was good to see the DC heroes take it on the chin for once. Which surprised me. Maybe they just feel too invincible anymore. I don’t know.

    And I liked it.

    • brainypirate
      July 4, 2010 at 7:50 pm — Reply

      It was worth it to see Bruce get killed — and it was a great touch to have Joker voluntarily join him.

      Still, I didn’t like the third issue, mostly for the way the fight scenes were handled–it was almost too much of the same thing on every page, and yet we never really got to see (as I recall) many of the key events. It was like a sloppy action scene in a movie.

  3. Allen
    July 4, 2010 at 10:30 am — Reply

    I was reading a 4 part series of books by an author I won’t name and enjoying them throroughly. I got to the 4th book and they basically time travelled and erased everything that happened in the first 3 books. I was so upset I threw the book across the room. Not a very mature reaction, but I didn’t care for the fact that I read through 3 books to find out none of it actually happened.

  4. July 4, 2010 at 3:01 pm — Reply

    As I mentioned in my JSA #38 review a couple of months back (which I think was lost to the crash), I think this entire storyline would have worked even better in an Elseworlds-style format, so that the ending wasn’t entirely predictable. However, I don’t think the inevitable ending spoils stories like this – there are plenty of great works that still have predictable finishes. I quite like to look at individual storylines as being semi-self-contained anyway, so that helps.

  5. D Longe
    July 4, 2010 at 3:26 pm — Reply

    My definition of a story is a series of events, circumstances or interactions that happen to a character over a given span of time which alter or develop the character in some way. This arc of the JSA does meet that technical definition, in that, Obsidian and Mr Terrific are impacted and developed as characters by the actions of the story. Still the whole concept of a large story being prempted by the characters actions is vaguely unsatisfing. For the other character’s in the arc nothing really happens. All of the interesting and very cool heroic moments of the rest of the cast are washed away and they are left unchanged in any real way.

    In the Next Generation episode you mentioned the conclusion is even more annoying as the whole hour never happened at all and nothing about the characters is changed at any level. I remember watching that episode and thinking, “Okay you just wasted my time and a whole hour of potential character development.” It was very disheartening.

    I don’t think this story arc is nearly that bad, but I wonder how a new reader of the book might feel about it? Readership is at a pretty unhealthy level for comics in general right now and I think stories that don’t end up taking the character’s any place are part of the problem. No matter how entertaining or well thought out a story from DC or Marvel is I always have a sense that it is never going to really effect the characters. Everything will be forgotten or ignored in due coarse, if not totally wiped away when a new writer is hired.

    Let’s take the new direction of Wonder Woman for example. While this may be the definitive retro con that sets up the character for the next decade I am having trouble believing it. I think rather that this is a one off story arc that may well cover the writers run on the book but is unlikely to be picked up as a permanent change. It makes it difficult to get involved with the new direction because I have the sense that the rug might be pulled out from under me at any moment.

    I want to read about characters that live and breathe, that struggle and triumph over adversity in a way that has some meaning to me as a reader. This kind of bait and switch story telling makes that difficult. I don’t think it’s a total deal breaker for one arc but a study diet of this for series isn’t really tolerable for me.

  6. BiffordMichael
    July 4, 2010 at 6:19 pm — Reply

    I have HATED JSA since about the last year and was going to drop it after the JLA/JSA cross-over. I almost didn’t buy this but decided to at the last minute. It was awful but gave me some kind of hope that maybe post-JLA team-up it’ll be better. Both JSA books have become un-readable since Johns left. It’s very sad. Teen Titans last month had a lot of this odd quick scene story-telling as well. Between strange things like this, the grossness of the Green Arrow and Arsenel books and the tons of art changes half-way through things going on at DC, Brightest Day is not that bright in my opinion.

    Biff

  7. brainypirate
    July 4, 2010 at 7:47 pm — Reply

    I’m with those of you who feel that the premise of this storyline is somewhat flawed: by creating a story that we HOPE will be undone, the writers run the risk of losing all tension for the final chapter. Still, it could happen, if this last issue had featured a much more difficult victory for the JSA. Even though we know they’ll fix history, we still need a fight worth paying for.

    The problem with this issue is that wraps up that fight far too quickly and easily so that it can make room for other details. I’m thrilled that Obsidian was featured as a key player in the history of the DCU, and I loved that they addressed his sexuality directly and humorously. But this issue needed to be nothing BUT the fight with the Nazis, and it needed to be a tough fight at that–as in, not resolved until the last page and with more fighting and less “and then I defeated them all” voiceovers. Then let the NEXT issue deal with wrapping up all the current storylines, etc., in prep for the JLA/JSA teamup: Obsidian reuniting with the team, talking to Holt, Holt’s scholarship visit, the JSA split, fighting Mordru, etc.

    • July 5, 2010 at 1:15 am — Reply

      The problem with this issue is that wraps up that fight far too quickly and easily so that it can make room for other details. I’m thrilled that Obsidian was featured as a key player in the history of the DCU, and I loved that they addressed his sexuality directly and humorously. But this issue needed to be nothing BUT the fight with the Nazis, and it needed to be a tough fight at that–as in, not resolved until the last page and with more fighting and less “and then I defeated them all” voiceovers. Then let the NEXT issue deal with wrapping up all the current storylines, etc., in prep for the JLA/JSA teamup: Obsidian reuniting with the team, talking to Holt, Holt’s scholarship visit, the JSA split, fighting Mordru, etc.

      What really upset me was his long and involved “No one will ever control my mind again” monologue appearing AFTER the next story in which his mind is subjugated by the Starheart. >:(

  8. July 4, 2010 at 10:11 pm — Reply

    “This is an Imaginary Story…Aren’t they all?”

  9. July 5, 2010 at 6:48 pm — Reply

    Having actually read the issue now, it can pretty much be summed up as the ‘bringing the JSA up to speed with the rest of the DCU’ issue. Certainly not bad, but hardly a thrilling ride either. I still hold out hope that the JSA/JLA crossover might be alright, so let’s see how that goes…

    • July 5, 2010 at 7:17 pm — Reply

      Oh wait, I just read JLA #46… *sigh*

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