Comic Book Review: Justice Society of America #16

The past couple of issues of Justice Society of America have been fantastic. Johns is white hot at the moment and is making this title a riveting read. There is no doubt in my mind that we are going to get yet another quality read with Justice Society of America #16. Let’s go ahead and do this review.

Creative Team
Story: Geoff Johns & Alex Ross
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Fernando Pasarin
Inks: Rebecca Buchman

Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: We begin with Damage talking about his dad, Al Pratt, the original Atom. Damage comments how short his dad was and that he had no powers. However, whenever the JSA got into a fight, Al was the first one to jump into the battle and the first one to get knocked on his ass. Damage thinks how Al Pratt one day was transformed into a human atomic bomb. Damage comments that his detonation power is the only thing Al Pratt ever gave him.

Damage thinks how Al Pratt wasn’t there when Damage’s foster father knocked him around. That Al wasn’t there when Damage lost control of his powers and blew up half of Atlanta. That Al wasn’t there when Damage got outlawed from Georgia. That Al wasn’t there when Zoom disfigured Damage’s face.

Damage comments how the JSA’ers think that he wears his stupid mask because of Al Pratt. That the JSA’ers all think that he joined the JSA because of Al Pratt. The fact is that Damage has never met Al Pratt and that Damage only joined the JSA because he wanted to get out of trouble.

We then cut to the present with Gog towering over the JSA and smiling at everything that he surveys. Gog announces that he comes in peace. Hawkman examines William Matthew’s lance and says that it has inscriptions on it that he has seen somewhere before. Superman and Amazing Man stand there stunned and comment that Gog is a god standing right before them.

On the other hand, Mr. Terrific is not as impressed and says that just because something is alien and has immense power does not make it a god. Amazing Man disagrees saying that that is exactly what a god is. Mr. Terrific shoots back that God is an idea and not reality.

Mr. Terrific walks up to Gog and attempts to communicate with him. Mr. Terrific asks Gog who he is and what does he want. Gog continues to survey everything around him and ignores Mr. Terrific.

Amazing Man then steps forward and tells Mr. Terrific to let someone with faith try and communicate with Gog. Amazing Man then asks Gog “Who are you?” Gog looks down at Amazing Man and answers that he is Gog. Gog asks Amazing Man “Who are you?” Amazing Man introduces himself. Gog says “Greetings.” and then turns around and starts walking toward a small village.

We see Gog bend down and look at all the people in the village who are dying of an illness due to the radiation fall out from the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo. That the waters surrounding the village have been poisoned and that all the villagers are dying.

Gog then crouches down and touches the ground and we see all these Kirby energy bubbles everywhere. Gog heals all of the villagers. Gog stands up and says that he made all the villagers good again. Gog then pronounces “I am here to save you.” (Oh no. Never, ever, eeeeeever trust anyone who says that they are here to save you.)

We then cut to two grave robbers entering an ancient tomb in the Middle East. Black Adam narrates that the powers of his gods have returned to him. But, that his gods offer him no comfort. That everything he has cared for is dead. That Isis and Osiris were stripped from him. However, what evil doesn’t know is that Black Adam is back.

One of the grave robbers opens the coffin and a hand reaches up and grabs his throat. The person in the tomb says “Shazam!” We then see a massive lightning bolt transform Teth-Adam into Black Adam and simultaneously fry the grave robber to a crisp.

Black Adam narrates that Mary Marvel returned his powers to him like he knew she would. But, he thought that she might alter his powers that would help him resurrect his wife. However, his powers remain unchanged. Black Adam then kills the second grave robber. Black Adam thinks how this is his fate. Hiding from the world with no hope and no purpose.

Suddenly, Black Adam sees a flower sprouting out of one of the cracks in the tomb’s floor that is red from the grave robber’s blood. Black Adam crouches down with a stunned look on his face and says “Isis?”

We cut back to Africa where Jay Garrick arrives on the scene and is relieved to see that his fellow JSA’ers that were transported away from New York during the fight are all okay. Superman asks Gog what world he comes from. Superman says that when he fought Matthews he saw a vision.

Gog responds that Matthews was wicked. Gog says that he is from paradise known as the Third World. That there was a great war on the Third World and Gog refused to participate in it. Gog was cast out of the Third World. And as all gods who are cast out, Gog fell through eternity through various multiple realities on his way towards Earth. Gog’s body was dying but his soul was not.

That Gog laid buried in the ground on Earth. Then he was uncovered by a tribe of human beings who proceeded to worship him. They forged a staff to channel Gog’s powers, but eventually war, sickness and slavery took the tribe. Gog, like the rest of the Third World was then forgotten.

That was until Matthews stumbled across Gog’s temple. Matthews took the staff and Gog’s power surged through him. That Matthews then saw visions of the Kingdom Come Earth that Gog witnessed during his fall to Earth. The visions drove Matthews mad.

Gog states that Matthews was not doing his bidding. That war is not his way. Mr. Terrific counters that Gog killed Matthews. Gog responds that he simply took his power back from Matthews. That Matthews would have died long ago from disease if not for Gog’s power.

Damage is the only JSA’er who simply isn’t buying what Gog is selling. Steel points out how Gog cured the entire village. Damage retorts that this is all bullshit and that Gog is playing them. Damage says that they all know how this is going to go down. That they can’t really believe that Gog just wants to help them.

Gog responds that Damage is upset. Gog says he apologizes if he has done something to offend Damage. Damage spits out why does Gog smile so much? Gog responds that he is happy to be alive. Gog crouches down and looks at Damage and asks “Are you?”

Gog says that Damage will be happy. Gog says that he comes in peace and hopes that Damage will finally understand that. We see a bunch of Kirby energy bubbles around Damage’s head. Damage then faints. Power Girl catches Damage and demands for Gog to tell her what he did to Damage.

Damage then shrugs off Power Girl and stands up. Damage pulls of his mask and we see that his face has been completely healed. Gog smiles and says “I made him good. Who is next?” End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Johns turns in another good read with Justice Society of America #16. Johns has been moving this story at a furious pace over the past two issues so he wisely eases off the gas and slows this story back down. We get an enjoyably measured and controlled pace in this issue which works very well with the JSA’ers realization of coming face to face with a god.

Justice Society of America #16 was a strongly plotted issue. Even though this is a slower paced issue, it still moves with a purpose. Johns uses this issue to finally answer the reader’s longstanding questions concerning Matthews and Gog. It was great to finally get some back ground information on both characters.

I liked how Johns handled Gog’s character. Johns does an excellent job getting the reader to buy into the fact that Gog is truly a bona-fide god. Gog’s godly stature and nature were well delivered.

I like that Johns builds off of all the recent attention that the New Gods have received with the death of the Fourth World and the upcoming birth of the Fifth World. It shall be interesting to see how this old Third World god is going to fit into the current DCU. I have to admit that Johns has definitely piqued my interest with the re-birth of this Third World god and I cannot wait to see what Johns has in store for us.

Johns cranks out plenty of solid dialogue. As always, Johns displays his impressive feel for the personalities of the various JSA’ers. It is always enjoyable to read a comic book in which the writer truly cares for the characters he is writing about. I particularly enjoyed how Johns contrasts the differences between Mr. Terrific and Amazing Man.

I dig that a man of pure science is incapable of garnering the attention of a god no matter how loudly that man may yell. On the other hand, a man of faith need barely whisper his request and the god responds. That was a nicely done scene. And it also served to re-enforce Mr. Terrific and Amazing Man’s personalities to newer readers.

I loved the wonderful character work that Johns performs with Damage. First, let me openly admit that I am a fan of Damage. I enjoyed the opening scene where Johns deals with the father and son connection between Al Pratt and Damage. This was a sly way to give back-ground information to new readers without boring long time readers at the same time. It also establishes Damage’s angry and tortured soul that is a necessary ingredient for this story in order for the ending to have its fullest impact on the reader.

I dig that all of the JSA’ers have this warped impression of Damage’s view of his father. The reader gets such a visceral sense of Damage’s anger and resentment toward his father that burns in his heart. And it is understandable that Damage would hold Al Pratt in such low regard. And I dig how it irritates Damage so much that the other members think he wears his mask because of Al Pratt or that he joined the JSA because of Al Pratt.

Damage’s lack of honor and respect toward an original JSA member is what sets Damage apart from the other JSA’ers. New or old, all the JSA’ers display one common trait: a love and respect for the storied history of the JSA and its members. And all members of the JSA believe in the ideals of the JSA and are proud members. All except Damage.

I dig that there is at least one member of the JSA who doesn’t look at the JSA and its original members with the eyes of a sycophant. And I like that Damage simply joined the JSA in order to extricate himself from a bad situation. It is necessary that every team dynamic has a fly in the ointment. Every team needs a member who joined not for some noble reason, but for plain old selfish purposes. Damage certainly plays the necessary role as the gadfly of the JSA.

I liked that while the rest of the JSA’ers were fawning over Gog’s miraculous acts of healing the entire African village, that Damage completely refused to buy what Gog was selling. It is human nature to distrust someone bearing a peaceful message like Gog’s. I will admit that I thought to myself over and over “Don’t trust this guy. Don’t trust this guy.” as I read this issue.

Then Johns drops a huge bomb on the reader with Gog healing Damage’s disfigured face. What a great hook ending. The reader is left stunned and wondering if perhaps Gog really and truly is a benevolent force. I definitely am excited to see what Johns has in store for us with the next issue.

I absolutely adored the scene with Black Adam. I find Black Adam to be the biggest bad-ass in the world of comics. Johns definitely gets Black Adam’s character like no other writer.

I dig Black Adam’s attitude, his anger and his sorrow. Black Adam is such a mercurial and complex character. Johns does a good job contrasting Black Adam’s violent nature as he brutally dispatches the grave robbers with his tender side as he spies the flower springing from the floor of the tomb.

I am thrilled that it appears that Johns is going to bring back Isis. I enjoyed both Isis and Osiris over on 52 and never liked that they got slaughtered off. They were both neat characters with plenty of potential. Plus, I liked the concept of a Black Adam family that balanced out the Shazam family.

The reader gets treated to plenty of wonderful artwork by Pasarin and Buchman. Justice Society of America does not miss a beat at all when regular artist Eaglesham takes a break. I love Pasarin’s artwork and he creates such a vibrant and pretty issue to look at. The best part of Pasarin’s art on this issue is how he is able to convey Gog’s godly nature to the reader.

The Bad: Justice Society of America #16 is most certainly decompressed storytelling. When you read a Geoff Johns penned title you simply have to accept the fact that Johns blatantly writes with the trade format in mind rather than the monthly format. Readers who prefer a more condensed style of storytelling may not enjoy Justice Society of America as much as I do.

Overall: Justice Society of America #16 was another entertaining read. Johns continues his hot streak on this title as Justice Society of America remains one of DC’s stronger titles. I would certainly recommend giving Justice Society of America a try. Of course, if you just cannot add another title to your pull list then I’d encourage you to wait for when the trade is released. You will also get a better reading experience consuming this story arc in trade format.

3 Comments

  1. I am so torn: I love that there is a possible return to the Black Adam family but we return to the “nobody stays dead in comics” axiom.

    IS THERE NO JUSTICE IN THIS WORLD?

    Moving on…

  2. well.. i thought isis is back alive in the Black Adam series..
    well i cannot wait to see Faustus get his ass kick

  3. Well it could be a new version of Isis, and not the same girl from 52. But yeah…comic book deaths do suck when people come back. I think almost everyone has died at one point in the DCU. However, I think bringing them back after twenty years like they are doing with Barry, is probably the best idea. I hope Batman doesn’t die, for some reason I think its just going to be a symbolic death of the character, meaning Bruce is going to kill off Batman to live a normal life. But Isis coming back is a great idea. But I had an interesting thought…what if Mary Marvel became the new ISIS? I know Mary has gone evil, and ISIS is not an evil character, but still it could be interesting. It may benefit her character development after the crappy handling of her character in Countdown.

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