March 18, 2010

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JSA Volume 2

Written by Geoff Johns and David Goyer
Illustrated by entirely too many people, including Marcos Martin
DC

No sooner does the Justice Society get started but a new writer takes them up against a family member gone bad and a hero whose lost his wings, as the series is given the dark, tragic touches needed for it to fit into the modern world.

As the JSA's membership shits to face the threats partially caused by its own connections, they must make hard choices and be willing to do anything to save the world, again and again.

I think that this volume of JSA suffers more at the hands of my changing reading tastes than in anything wrong with the story itself. These are three perfectly serviceable stories, with two one-shots thrown in back when books were less concerned with telling stories in arc form.

The problem is, they just felt empty. Black Adam beats the hell out of the team because of a medical condition. Alan Scott's son is used as a pawn by an old enemy and pays the price for not being a pet favorite of the writers. Atom Smasher's Mom is an unwitting tool of another villain leading to tragedy in our character's life.

I've read this stuff too many times before for it to feel anything other than senseless. Any one of these things happening in a single trade might be okay, but using a variation on the same theme repeatedly? It strikes me as lazy writing. What's wrong with just getting together to save the day, without a personal reason for it all?

It doesn't help that the final story dredges up Zero Hour, which should best be forgotten. We get a "final" resolution here, but not before all sorts of reality-changing, time-altering things happen. Except that we don't ever get to see much of them, so even the fun in watching alternative worlds play out for the reader is denied because it might take away from the seriousness of it all.

By the end of the trade, the JSA is a somber crew ready for more pain, which appears to be what DC wants out of its comics, going back to the years before Identity Crisis set the whole thing on overdrive. It's an approach that sells comics--this series was highly touted--but doesn't appeal to me.

My favorite story was Wildcat's one-shot, where Johns engages in some old fashioned fun. Our somewhat off-color hero gets caught with his pants down against a whole gathering of rogues, but manages to come out on top. He monologues the whole thing, too, just in like in the old days. I could have done for more of that and less of constant doubting and moping and personal tragedy that pervades the rest of the book.

If you are the type of person who likes the DC universe as redesigned by Johns (and apparently that's most of you buying capes comics these days), then this will be right up your alley. I don't care for the story Johns is telling, but I do think he does a great job of putting it together. He definitely knows how to make a team book work, giving each just enough time to shine (or fail) and not excluding anyone. At the same time, it's clear who his favorites are, and that's okay because while they get more exposure, it's not at the expense of the overall story

Conceptually, the solutions to the problems are good ones, too. Alan Scott may not be Hal, but he knows his way around willpower. Fighting a time traveler across the stream is a great idea (I just wish we'd seen more of it). Using the powers of your team to save the day without making it look easy is no small task, and I give Johns a lot of credit for doing it well.

What I don't give DC credit for is the artist rotation. We have four different pencilers and three different inkers on these ten issues, and it makes it hard to have a consistent feel. I don't understand why no one can seem to stay on a book anymore, since the turn of the century. Marcos Martin only does the Black Adam fill in, which is a shame because his pencil lines are sharp and give any book a leg up on its competition. The others are okay, but the changes in such a short period of time are troublesome.

For better or worse, my reading habits have changed. Once upon a time, I'd have probably liked this book a lot and praised the action. Now, not so much. If you still are strong into superheroes, then I think you'd like this. If you're curious because you've heard good things about the series, but aren't big on angst-filled battles with little caring about who dies in the process, then you're probably best to skip it. I'll leave it up to you.