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Sunday Slugfest - Justice Society of America #1

Posted: Sunday, December 10, 2006
By: Keith Dallas

“The Next Age, Part One”

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Dale Eaglesham (p), Art Thibert (i)

Publisher: DC Comics





Average Rating:

Jim Beard:
Kevin T. Brown:
Tobey Cook:
Bruce Logan:
Chris Murman:
Caryn A. Tate:






Jim Beard

There’s a quite a lot that can be said for this book, but I think there’s one supremely important point to zero in on here: Within the opening two pages, Geoff Johns states neatly and precisely why, here in the 21st century, a Justice Society of America needs to exist. Those simple opening statements are such that can be referred back to for years to come, as this series thrives and prospers…if issue #1 is any indication of its future .

Johns’ strength, in mighty evidence, is to sum up his mission and his characters in such a way that the reader learns while continuing to move with the action and the story. The classic JSA originals are reintroduced with style and flair, the younger heroes likewise, and the bright newbies are given such engaging introductions that we are immediately taken with them. You feel as if you have every bit of what’s truly important about Mr. America and Maxine Hunkel right at your fingertips, and then you want to just run with them. You know exactly who they are and you can’t wait to see them go, go, go. Again, that’s Johns’ strength, and his obvious attention to and love for the source material made me a believer in this newest incarnation of the First and Greatest Super-Team Ever.

I also never imagined I would like Dale Eaglesham’s art as much as I did in these pages. I knew the guy was good, cared about the characters and the story, but he floored me with his layouts, his body-types, and most importantly, his facial expressions. The JSA have had one of the strongest lines of artistic integrity in comics history, and Dale picks up that heavy baton with grace and goes for the gusto. It’s as if he took all that was great about Steve Sadowski, Leonard Kirk, and Don Kramer, mixed it up, added his own unique style, and laid it out on the pages. This is one fantastic continuance of the attention and quality in art we as JSA fans expect for our team, and our heroes.

Respect for the characters, commitment to storytelling, and clarity of visuals: its all here. You could do far, far worse in your modern comic reading.




Kevin T. Brown

How many “Holy Crap!” moments can one issue have? I think I lost count somewhere around 52 with this issue. Justice Society of America #1 makes up for the fact that DC cancelled JSA before it hit #100. (Yes, I’m one of those who wanted to see that particular milestone.) If the rest of this series is even half as good as this issue, then there won’t be many books out there that can compare.

So where to begin? Therein lies the problem. There’s so much to cover, one cannot easily do justice without inadvertently omitting something along the way. So better to list those key moments I…, well…, moments I geeked over (Yeah, I said “geeked”…..):

WWIII
Justice Society is the moral compass of the DCU.
Mr. America!
Super Squad! And Robin of Earth-2!
“I will get to know them. Soon as they step into the ring.”
Damage vs. Rebel.
Maxine Hunkel (Who I already adore. Plus, what’s not to love when she’s also a Wicked fan? Defying Gravity indeed…..)
“Maxine, say one more and we’re revoking our offer. Okay?”
Thom Kallor….. Um, Starman!
“hm. It looked heavier.”
“I love Sloppy Joes, don’t you? It’s Wednesday, after all.”
What th--?? Doiby Dickles?
“You are blind.”
Maxine Hunkel!!!
“Orientation. Yippee.”
“I have to warn them. I was only the beginning. I can’t let justice die.”
“His name is Tom. He’s your son.”
Mr. America crashing the orientation.
“Coming this year….”

And those are just the key moments. There’s so much more to this issue. The little things (like Mr. America’s highly personal inner dialogue, seeing Rick Tyler and Jessie Chambers acting so lovey-dovey, Sand finally adopting the name Sandman, and Ma Hunkel commenting about Obsidian) also make this issue so special. And then there’s that last page that literally kicks everyone in the gut with one final “Holy Crap!” moment. Four panels that revealed a lot while not actually saying a lot. This is quite possibly the best thing Geoff Johns has ever written.

Joining Johns on this ride is Dale Eaglesham and Art Thibert. They have the joy of translating what it is that Johns has written. And believe me, you can see the passion, blood, sweat and tears that went into the book by looking at the artwork. The Eaglesham’s pencil work in this issue surpasses his past work. While I thought he did a great job on Villains United, this work makes VU almost look “amateurish” in comparison. He nailed every single character, immediately making each one stand out in his or her own right. The four that stood out the most are Maxine, Wildcat, Thom….. er, Starman, and Mr. America. I also loved the subtle touches he added as well, such as the close-up of Alan’s old-style ring, the obvious love between Rick and Jessie, the absolute anger in Damage’s eyes, and Maxine’s abundant joy. All in all, Eaglesham is producing the best work of his career here. He has to with the quality Johns is providing. And Jeromy Cox added some great touches with his coloring as well, especially with Maxine and her freckles and subtle color differences when depicting different eras (from the 1940’s to Super Squad to present day).

Finally, I must bring up the fact that Alex Ross is adding his talent to this series as well. Not only in providing the covers, but to the story itself and in painting one panel over Eaglesham’s pencils in this issue. Based on interviews that I’ve read, all those involved with this series are committed to making this the best book out there. Once you read this issue, you’ll know they’re not just feeding you a line of bull. Justice Society of America #1 is probably the second most fun I’ve had in reading a comic this year. Geoff Johns, Dale Eaglesham, Art Thibert, Jeromy Cox, and Alex Ross have out done themselves with this issue. A job very well done, gentlemen!




Tobey Cook

I have to admit, when I first heard that JSA was being cancelled and relaunched with a new #1, I was disappointed. I’ve been a fan of the team ever since I first read some of their earlier stories in Adventure Comics, and I’ve been following them ever since. However, after reading this issue, I can definitely say this is the first time I believe that relaunching a series with a new first issue actually makes sense. While there are bits of the previous series here, Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham take the team in an entirely new direction. Gone is the more JLA-style of team structure that was used in the previous book, and in its place is a team that is firmly built around what the JSA is known for - being a family. There’s a nice little sequence here with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman talking to Alan Scott, Jay Garrick and Wildcat about what they think the JSA means, and saying that the heroes of today need a moral compass, and the JSA is the place where they can learn that sort of thing.

These little details that Johns puts into the script really make this book stand out from everything else out on the shelves. Every new member of the team has a very distinct personality and really shines in his or her respective introductions. For example, the meeting between Damage, Hourman and the new Liberty Belle (Jesse Quick, taking over the role from her mother) was interesting because of the villain they were fighting - Rebel, who we have previously seen in Kingdom Come.

We also are introduced to a new Mr. America - whose ties to the team are revealed on the last page of the story, but that’s something you’ll have to read for yourself. There’s also the new Starman, whose identity for now is unknown (speculation is he’s Thom Kallor from the Legion, which is reinforced a bit by the final page of this issue) as well as Cyclone, the granddaughter of Ma Hunkel, the Golden Age Red Tornado.

Starman is the one who is most intriguing; he really is a bit odd, and tends to hear voices. He goes out and fights crime only to return to his home, which just happens to be a mental hospital. He makes mention of “polar boys and color kids” and says “a star is waiting for him on Thanagar,” which only furthers his Legion ties. I really don’t have a problem with this if that’s the case, because again it’s something that was hinted at in James Robinson’s Starman series.

The art here by Dale Eaglesham is fantastic; he really manages to show off the emotions of the characters and make each one almost jump off the page. A great example of this is the sequence introducing Maxine Hunkel. Seeing her talking a mile a minute while Mr. Terrific and Power Girl just stand there with blank looks on their faces was absolutely priceless (and kudos to letterer Rob Leigh for filling a panel completely with words - it really helped reinforce the moment).

I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed this book, but suffice to say, this change to a new status quo for the Justice Society of America is not only brilliantly done, but there’s a final page that gives you a sample of things to expect in the coming months. I’ve rarely seen that done, but it’s nice foreshadowing that is going to keep people hooked. Highly recommended.




Bruce Logan:

Here it is kids, another Geoff Johns title. Know what that means? It means DC will be pimping the hell out of it (as they have done and are still doing). It means stories crammed full of drama, drama that gets so overwhelming that instead of adding to the overall comic experience, it deducts from it. It also means most often than not delays, if not for this one then for the other titles Johns writes (Action Comics, Teen Titans, Green Lantern). Then again, with Green Lantern already topping the DC delay rankings (Wonder Woman is late but it doesn’t have the illustrious delay history of the current GL series), and Teen Titans rising hard and fast (in the delay stakes), one hopes that the JSA won’t get the same “Quality before Timeliness” cop out lumped on it. Still, with Action Comics seeing delays, the future isn’t so bright for the Society. All this sure throws a Mogo sized monkey wrench into the “Timeliness is next to Godliness” mumbo jumbo, eh.

Anyways, now that small prayer (of on time releases) is out the way, let’s get onto seeing what was it that necessitated yet another relaunch of yet another DC title. Setting apart the huge sales bump that it is going to get, the Society (as with the League) ended the last run with their headquarters in ruins. However, unlike the League who went out of their minds and then scurried away like rats for a year (and what a useless year that turned out to be for the character of the Big Three), the Society seems to have fared much better. It might be because of the fact that even though things simmered down, the doors to the JSA didn’t quite ever close (well, they did get blown apart and/or crushed in the end but that is an entirely different matter). It also might be because of the three pillars that hold up the House of the JSA. (What’s with DC and threes? Ménage trios fantasies? It might work with Bats, Supes n’ Wondy but somehow I don’t think Alan, Jay and Ted quite swing that way.) Whatever it is, this issue sees the three surviving founding fathers gathering the NEW JSA, (and no, this isn’t me being sexist, they are men so they can be only fathers and not founding mothers, unless Ma Hunkel is included.)

Mr. America, Maxine Hunkel, Starman are the three brand new characters showing up here, and as it stands, none of them impressed me all that much. This sentiment might change in the future, but somehow this rapid increase in the number of metas in the DCU doesn’t sit well with me. After the crap that Marvel pulled with the mutants (all in part to move the center of the MU from the X-Men to the Avengers brand name), one can’t help but feel that somewhere down the line, DC will have its own “No more metas.” It will cut down the meta population by over 90% (98%?) but oddly enough, none of the A- and most of the B-listers will be affected by it.

Along with Mr. America (ex-FBI agent), Maxine Hunkel (college chick who will talk your ears off) and Starman (uh, even he doesn’t know who he is), we also have the new iterations of Damage, Jesse Quick and Rick Tyler (Hourman III). While Damage with his new costume and Ms. Quick, sorry, Mrs. Tyler with her mother’s name and costume are clear enough, Rick isn’t. Why I put him here is although he still carries the same name and costume as his Pre-IC self, this Rick isn’t like any other version of himself that I’ve read so far. Heck, he isn’t the same Hourman he was in the recently ended two part JSA: Classified arc. Not only does he come across as a horny teenager perpetually hopped up on Viagra (maybe L’il Ricky filched the little blue pill that mommy got for daddy, in the JSA:C story), even his overall demeanor doesn’t quite gel.

On the brighter side, Stargirl, Mr. Terrific, Power Girl, Ma Hunkel and Obsidian (with just a one-panel appearance) are themselves, as are the three founders. However, with the retcon that DC has chosen to give to events of Infinite Crisis (man, did they do a turn around fast or what?), Power Girl looks to be in for a few surprises; similar to the ones that WildCat gets here. Like I said, drama to drown you in.

Still more bright is the artwork. Even though I find Dale Eaglesham one of those artists whose work I like more as pencils than with colors, the visual half of this issue is more than a match to the writing. Nevertheless, I could have done without the “bulge” in Mr. America’s pants (and that too right in the opening panel). That goes double for the Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque physique that he’s provided with. Come on people, he was an FBI Agent, and even though I am not saying that the FBIs are Blobs-o’-Lard, they are also not also the Terminator (as much as the movies would like us to believe otherwise). However, at the end of the day, it is only on the weight of the art that I gave this issue a rating higher than the I would have given based on the writing (and had the art been just mediocre in its presentation).

Conclusion: A very big plus for this title is that unlike their League counterparts, the JSA’s Big Three didn’t go through almost three issues sitting around doing nothing except ogling at photographs.

You can find more reviews by Bruce Logan at www.xcave.net




Chris Murman:

At first glance, I wasn’t that impressed with this book. Of course, I wasn’t before the book even came out. I think the Golden Age was great for that generation, but the characters from then just didn’t have too big a place in this world to me. Just didn’t grow up reading those folks. And besides, DC has ret-conned half the stuff that had happened or just made it disappear with Superboy-Prime punches; meaning it shouldn’t matter much, should it?

So coming out with another re-launch to get a #1 out on the shelves and hand the reigns over to Johns was supposed to get me into this book, right?

Actually, yeah it did. Just not at first read.

Then, I read an interview with our favorite DC writer and boy did he spill the beans about what’s going on in the DCU. This book is chock-full of goodies to get you in the mood. The first and last pages should be enough to get you to buy this book.

World War III? Earth-2 Superman coming back to life? Batman possibly dead?

Man is it going to hit the fan in the coming year for the DCU. We got a bit of a taste of what is going to happen in the last month of 52 as well as what happens in the year after it ends.

Yes, please.

That and this book contains some new and cool characters. If you don’t read about the new Starman and giggle with boyish (or girlish) delight, just stop picking up comics altogether.

What the premise about DC is trying to accomplish is very simple: change the status quo. If you want to be technical, Marvel is doing the same thing. That, however, is another rant waiting to happen. At the forefront of the renaissance is the Green Lantern-loving Johns. He took the old, brought in the new, and made it all relevant. That’s all I needed to care about the Golden Age anyway. Good thing they asked me about it. One of the sentences in this paragraph is a lie. I leave it to you to decide which.

It can all be easily summed up with the line Superman gives to Alan, Jay and Ted on page two: “The world needs better good guys.” With the Everyman Project ruining the name of good guys currently in the DCU, they do need to get better.

This team is the family that will do that for the Mystery Men out there.




Caryn A. Tate:

While this isn’t the best of JSA that I’ve seen from Mr. Johns, it is still a better than average comic. There are some surprising new developments and introductions to new characters, some of whom are pretty intriguing.

In this premier issue, we see some new, unknown heroes in their daily lives, and later some members of the society go out in an effort to recruit these heroes. The new heroes (whether they are all recruited by the JSA is yet to be seen) are Maxine Hunkel (Ma Hunkel’s granddaughter), Starman, Damage, and Mr. America. Each of these characters has his or her own issues, and a couple of them are borderline anti-heroes. The Society, in essence, is taking it upon themselves to offer membership to these characters in order to provide them with the support and family that they most likely need. In the meantime, a surprising new development takes place involving Wildcat, and something begins to affect Mr. America that will apparently involve all of the heroes in the JSA.

Probably the best aspect of this book was the characterization. I completely enjoyed the individual voices of each of the heroes, mainly the core members of the Society. This is something that I’ve always felt Mr. Johns has really gotten right on this title, and I’m happy to see that hasn’t changed with the new relaunch. Each character, from Alan Scott to Power Girl, has his or her own voice and personality; after reading some of Mr. John’s issues, I long ago began to feel that I knew these people, that I could anticipate how they would react to different situations. What a rare and wonderful thing that kind of characterization is, and it’s prominent in this installment too.

I’m betting that most people’s favorite new character will be Maxine; but for me, it was, hands down, Starman. Without giving too much away for those of you who haven’t read the issue yet, I’ll tell you this much: he’s not your typical superhero. At times he’s funny, at times touching, and always engaging. The concept behind the character is unusual and refreshing, and I can’t wait to see more of him. To be honest, the quirky Starman feels more like a character that Grant Morrison would come up with, but I’m happy to see Mr. Johns reaching out and creating a character that’s so nonstandard.

Mr. America, on the other hand, appeared to be fairly trite and tiresome at first. He reminded me initially of The Comedian from Watchmen, simply because he looks a lot like that character. But as I read, I became aware that he reminds me of The Comedian also because of his effect on the story as a whole. As his story continued, I became more interested in his character—mainly because of his reaction to the tragic things that are happening around him. His response is atypical, in contrast to my first impression of him. It’s nice to see a few unusual character twists in a superhero comic.

The flow of the story as a whole is decent, although like most first issues, it jumps around between scenes and characters a little more than I would like. I completely sympathize, though, because after all, we’re dealing with at least twelve characters here, so a little jumping around is necessary.

Mr. Eaglesham’s pencils are, as always, gorgeous. I absolutely love the way that he draws people. My favorite aspects of his style is that the men he draws are often lantern-jawed and powerful, and the women are beautiful and athletic-looking. But another great thing about his art is that each character’s face is so expressive. In general, the heroes look kind and honest. Compare that to his style on Villains United; while the characters looked beautiful, they looked shady and cunning. The best panel in this book in my opinion was the one where Power Girl and Mr. Terrific ask Maxine to join the Society, and she responds with an outpouring of words in her excitement. Their faces are so expressive, so realistic, that it made me laugh out loud. I hope Mr. Eaglesham stays on the book for quite a while. The colors, also, are bright and rich, but they never overshadow the subtlety of the penciller’s style. All of the art flows together, helping the writing tell the complete story.

While I couldn’t give this issue a higher rating, it is definitely above average, and I think that Mr. Johns will bring the book back to the old JSA title’s quality (where every issue was absolutely fantastic). I’ll definitely be buying issue #2 of this book.



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