Or – “Lots Of Anniversaries Goin’ On…”

The JSA, since its relaunch, has featured a lot of characters, a lot of conflicts, and far, FAR too much Magog.  The last few months have been quite traumatic for the group as a whole, leaving Flash feeling helpless, Mr. Terrific feeling mindless, and the Green Lantern paralyzed.  But, hey, at least we won’t have people denouncing this anniversary issue on basic cable…

Well, probably not, anyway.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #50
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artists: George Perez & Scott Koblish/Howard Chaykin/Freddie Williams II/Tom Derenick
Cover Artists: Felipe Massafera/Darwyn Cooke
Colorists: Hi-Fi/Jesus Aburtov/Richard & Tanya Horie/Mike Atiyeh

Letterer: Rob Leigh
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

Previously, on Justice Society Of America: The JSA’s dealings with the city of Monument Point have not been positive, as a battle with a rogue metahuman left the town in ruins, while local politicians have gone out of their way to make things unpleasant for the team.  The revelation that the man behind their 1951 retirement, a minor government functionary, is active in the city has made things even more odd, while many of our heroes have been acting in very strange ways, and Alan Scott has been left paralyzed due to injuries suffered in the fight.  And what’s up with these new heroes?

Is It A Dream, A Hoax, An Imaginary Story?

The first page of this issue makes me smile immediately, featuring as it does George Perez art, but dealing with a character who is NOT a member of this team, Superman.  (Or, as internet wags call him, Communist Liberal Benedict Arnold Man.)  Then we get some Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and…  Mr. Terrific?  Doctor Mid-Nite, Stargirl and Firestorm join the group, and we get a big splash page explaining how these heroes are influences by the JSA, the original team.  I have NO idea what is going on at this point, by the way.  Then, for several pages, we see various alternate universes in which Per Degaton confronts alternate versions of the JSA and Infinite Inc, while being stalked by a mysterious man in the shadows.  Freddie Williams handles the art for a while, which is good (though not as good as Perez) and then we’re treated to “Episode 3.”  Wait, WHAT?  Things start to get a little more clear as we see the days leading up to the JSA’s confrontation with the House Unamerican Activities Commission led by Senator Eagin.  The JSA walks out of the commission, with The Flash telling Eagin, “we’ll continue doing what we have to do.”

Hey, There’s Some New Guys!

In the present, The Flash is about to be sworn in as mayor of Monument Point, and we finally find out the name of the woman wearing what looks like the red Blue Beetle suit and the guy who looks like a young Batman.  Their names are Red Beetle and Darknight.  Yes, seriously.  Blue Devil and Manhunter have also semi-joined the JSA, which brings the active roster to a point where it outstrips the Legion of Super-Heroes in number.  Senator Eagin confronts Flash again and tells him that something in Monument Point is dangerous and that the JSA needs to leave and blah blah blah fishcakes.  The entire scene is awkward to read and a pretty bold-faced example of a writer ignoring the principle of ‘Show, Don’t Tell.’  A Per Degaton arrives at JSA headquarters after having absorbed his alternate counterparts and gaining strange time powers, and attacks the heroes on duty including Hourman, which implies that the JSA All-Stars have returned to the main roster.  This isn’t really explained, as Degaton quickly takes out Red Beetle and Hourman and is captured by Jesse Quick, who seems to be taking a point from Wally West and serving on two teams at once.  Degaton makes them fight a dinosaur, then gets captured, then plays a mindgame on Jesse, leaving her confused at the end of the issue.  She’s not the only one…

The Verdict: Mixed Feelings, Mixed Results

I can honestly say that, aside from a nice retelling of the 1951 story where the Society disbands and some of Jay Garrick’s dialogue, most of the story this issue is impenetrable.  Doctor Fate returns mysteriously, Mr. Terrific’s situation isn’t even addressed, and most of the cast doesn’t even get a speaking part.  I’m interested in the story behind the Red Beetle, but I’m not sure what’s up with Darknight, and while I love Blue Devil and Manhunter, there’s already so many characters in the book that I’m not sure how I feel about the new roster.  Guggenheim’s story so far has been filled with things that aren’t explained (like Scythe’s backstory), don’t quite come across (Doctor Chaos) or feel way too familiar (Senator Eagin’s reprisal of the JSA’s past) but the plotting this issue is poleaxed by all three problems at once.  As much as I like things like a central role for Flash, I’m bothered by dangling plot threads and excessive characters, leaving me flashing back to the 90’s era speculator explosion.  There is some pretty phenomenal art throughout the issue, by some big names, but no matter how pretty the package, it’s not a coherent enough story to do the pictures justice (pun fully intended.)  Justice Society Of America #50 is all over the board, and not in a good way, earning a disappointed 2 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Darknight?  REALLY???

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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8 Comments

  1. Kirby
    April 29, 2011 at 10:24 pm — Reply

    The inclusion of that sort of character and Red Beetle are what’s wrong with Guggenheim’s writing on this book. I gave Guggenheim my money for this long, but no longer. With All-Stars ending next month, it may be a while before I look back into this series.

    This issue is probably the hardest issue I’ve ever had to read, and for all the wrong reasons.

  2. steviecool
    April 29, 2011 at 11:03 pm — Reply

    I agree. This was probably my jumping off point. I’m not sure what’s going on at DC, but the writing has been horrible as of late. Great concepts, but the actual issues leave me empty. JSA/All-Stars seem to keep skipping plot points. JLA seems like it’s can’t find it’s groove. Green Lantern feels like it’s been going on forever.

    • April 30, 2011 at 9:41 am — Reply

      JSA/All-Stars seem to keep skipping plot points. JLA seems like it’s can’t find it’s groove. Green Lantern feels like it’s been going on forever.

      Agreed. It’s as though there’s so much plot going on that they can’t seem to get it all in the issues, leaving us puzzled as to why in the world certain characters are acting certain ways. For my money, though, JSA is the most head-scratching.

    • Noobian74
      May 5, 2011 at 12:46 pm — Reply

      I agree about JLA. Looking for so much more from Robinson, but this latest arc with Eclipso is coming up short like Hank Pym stuck in Ant-Man form.
      Green Lantern keeps trying to do the classic “I see your current crisis and raise you one more!” Even comic characters deserve a break. The next storyline should be “Vacation of the Lanterns,” where Hal Jordan and Sinestro only fight to see who gets the luxury suite at the Palace.

  3. Cardmage
    May 1, 2011 at 6:36 am — Reply

    I have agree. The best parts of this issue are the stupendous cover and the first story showing the JSA’s inspiration to other heroes.

  4. TaZ
    May 1, 2011 at 8:47 am — Reply

    The best line of the issue was Alan Scott’s: “I’d rather my son marry Solomon Grundy than be elected to a political office.” That’s a pretty good line coming from a guy who now looks like a walking/talking traffic signal. That has to be the most god-awful costume I’ve ever seen. It makes me miss the Sentinel costume.

    While I agree with some of the points ya’ll make, I must admit that there were some parts of the comic that I did enjoy. I find it very ironic that it was “American Salt of the Earth” Martha Kent attending a Wheat Thresher convention and seeing the costumes of the original JSA that inspired her to make Super-Liberal…Excuse me, Superman’s costume. I guess the writer skipped Action 900.

    The issue was a pretty good short review of the JSA’s place in the semi-continuity of the DCU post “Crisis”. I also got confused with the Red Beetle and Darknight but I’m gussing that they are fairly new “legacy” heroes that have come to Monument to help rebuild and show that metahumans are there to help “regular people”. It’s also ironic that the JSA’s diatribe against the Commie hunters in the 50’s reflects the “fighting for the American WAY” is the exact opposite of the philosophy of the Superman arc, Wonder Woman in recent years and now Batman’s “International” focus.

    It was good to see George Perez’s art again. How I’ve missed it. The art of the 1950’s flashback looked like it was drawn with crayon and was extremely distracting from the story. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Alan Scott and Al Pratt drawn so bad.

    I also agree that Jessie Quick needs to either be in the JSA or the JLA. But then again, in the current arc of the JLA we find out that Dick/Batman’s pretty much got a “vertual” JSA on line at the Watchtower. It’s almost like the JSA and JLA are sort of the same group, which makes me wonder what the JSA All-Stars experiment was all about.

  5. Noobian74
    May 5, 2011 at 12:40 pm — Reply

    Guggenheim is doing great work on this book. The concept of a world where crime has pretty much been eradicated and one hero is the only one that wants to know how it happened is brilliant and…
    …oops. I was talking about Guggenheim’s other book, Halcyon. This is Justice Society of America.
    Yuck.
    After the fantastic work of Willingham and then Robinson, Guggenheim helped make my decision of which book to drop from my buying list. Mr. Terrific saves the DC universe from becoming the 4th Reich. How do you reward the character? Make him slowly lose his great intellect. Greeeeeeeeeeat idea!
    With Damien, Dick and Tim, there is NO reason for a character named Darknight. There’s more than enough applicants in the successor pool for Batman. Maybe Darknight will be taken out by Hemlock, Bane’s trainee who uses Poison, a Venom substitute, to gain super-strength. Or will the Clown Prince, Joker’s son, shoot Darknightress with a crossbow that makes her paralyzed on one side of her face? C’mon!

    • Damascus
      May 19, 2011 at 12:13 am — Reply

      Yes but a Dirk Knight would be welcome. Althought that sounds either like a porn star or a reporter.

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