Comic Book Review: Justice Society of America #12

The Revolution has really enjoyed Justice Society of America. However, I found the last issue to be a real disappointment. Johns seems stuck in a rut as we have gotten little to no plot progression. I also question the decision to hastily add a whole slew of new members to the JSA’s roster. Hopefully, the last issue was a mere aberration and that Johns can get this title back on track with Justice Society of America #12. Let’s do this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Geoff Johns & Alex Ross
Pencils: Dale Eaglesham
Inks: Ruy Jose

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: We see Jakeem Thunder and Johnny the Thunderbolt arriving at the JSA brownstone. They walk into the training room where Judomaster and Wildcat are about to spar in order for Ted to test her abilities. Wildcat v. 2.0, Damage, Starman and Citizen Steel sit outside the ring to watch. Jakeem walks in and asks Wildcat what is up with all the new members. Each new member then introduces themselves to Jakeem and gives a quick recap of who they are. Wildcat then recaps the last issue concerning what happened with Judomaster. Wildcat and Judomaster then start sparring.

We cut to Alan Scott, Jay Garrick and Hawkman sifting through pictures of potential new members. We shift to New Orleans where we see Amazing Man chasing a robber. The robber whips out a heater and shoots at Amazing Man. The bullet touches Amazing Man and he absorbs its properties and his skin turns to steel. Amazing Man then apprehends the robber.

We see Kal-El and Power Girl flying to the scene. Power Girl recounts the original Amazing Man and how he could transform himself into whatever he touched. That this ability was passed down to his grandsons. Evidently along with King and Malcolm X, Amazing Man was the third most important figure in the Civil Rights movement. Amazing Man’s first grandson died a while back. Since then Markus Clay has assumed
the name and role of Amazing Man.

We see Amazing Man engaging in some preaching from the soapbox on how the robber’s life was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, that his grandmother died since she didn’t have any medicine. That the world forgot about the people of New Orleans. But, nothing justifies the robber’s actions. That everyone needs to stop blaming and start taking responsibility for the here and now. That they need to find that amazing transition within each of them.

Power Girl and Superman then arrive on the scene. Kal-El then helps Amazing Man by moving a large barge that landed in the neighborhood when the waters receded.

We cut to Mr. America investigating the murders of the super villains who were posing as demigods. Mr. America visits the secret lair of Proteus’ teammates. There he finds the dead bodies of Argus, Antaeus, Vulcanus, Diana and Nox. We then see the shadow of Gog appear behind Mr. America.

We shift to Mr. Terrific, Stargirl and Cyclone visiting Black Lightning and his wife at their house. Jefferson Pierce’s other daughter, Jennifer, comes downstairs and is in full lightning form. Evidently, she inherited her father’s powers. Jeff says that Jennifer generated some kind of electrical field. That it triggers every time she touches anything electronic and lasts for five or ten minutes. Jeff’s wife says that his patience is short when it comes to Jennifer’s powers.

Cyclone excitedly exclaims how much fun they could have together as members of the JSA. Evidently, Jeff agrees that the JSA is the perfect place for Jennifer to learn how to control and use her powers.

We hop over to Liberty Belle and Hourman investigating the crime scene where Mr. America was just seen. We see the dead bodies of Proteus’ teammates. Liberty Belle and Hourman see the word “Gog” etched into the wall.

We cut to Northern Afghanistan and see an America soldier using energy powers to take out terrorists. His name is David Reid. We cut to David back at base meeting with Jay, Alan and Hawkman. Evidently, the military has numerous metahumans in the service working for them. David says that while he was tracking down looters of a museum in Baghdad, he found an artifact. When he touched it his blood turned to fire and the brand on his bicep started to glow and the eye in the brand opened up. Since then David can release plasma energy blasts.

Alan, Jay and Hawkman say that they are here to offer him a spot on the JSA because David’s grandfather was Franklin D. Roosevelt. That President Roosevelt is the man who founded the JSA and that makes David the JSA’s most important legacy.

We shift back to the JSA brownstone where Wildcat still can’t land a punch on Judomaster. Suddenly, a beaten and bloodied Mr. America enters the room and asks if anyone of them as ever heard of Gog. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Justice Society of America was a disappointing issue. This was a pedestrian read. However, there were some enjoyable aspects of this issue. Johns continues to display an excellent feel for the different personalities of the various JSA’ers. We get plenty of Johns’ quality dialogue. Even when not much happens, I still enjoy watching the various characters interact with each other.

Johns has managed to establish some fantastic chemistry between the JSA members. The joking and casual dialogue between the members conveys the fact that this super team, unlike most, is a family first and foremost. And the members talk, joke and argue with each other like family members do.

Now, Johns jams in several more characters into the already overcrowded JSA roster. I have my issues with these new members, but I have to praise Johns for properly bringing more diversity to this title. Instead of just slaughtering off established white heroes and replacing them with minority heroes, Johns decides to re-invent older minority heroes or create brand new ones. Yeah, it takes more work and effort, but I commend Johns for taking the time and expending the energy in choosing this method of mixing in more minority heroes.

Eaglesham and Jose serves up their usual quality artwork. His clean style is a perfect match for this Golden Age super team.

The Bad: Justice Society of America #12 was a second straight disappointing read. The pacing and plotting on this Kingdom Come story arc is terrible. This story is plodding along at such a slow pace that Johns is risking losing my interest in this story arc. Not only is this issue slow, but it is also boring. I had to stifle yawns as I flipped through the pages of this issue.

Seriously, other than the unsurprising revelation that Gog is the person behind the killings of the various super villains, nothing at all happens in this issue. Justice Society of America #12 comes across as a total time waster. Johns wastes the first six pages of this issue by re-introducing Jakeem’s character and then re-introducing Damage, Citizen Steel, Starman, Wildcat v. 2.0 and Judomaster. We then have to sit through Wildcat re-capping the events of the last issue.

What a terrible way to start this issue. Seriously, Johns should do what Marvel does and use the intro page to give a brief re-cap of what has been going on in the title. That way Johns doesn’t have to waste six pages of the issue with tedious re-caps that make the regular readers of this title so bored that drool begins to puddle in the corner of our mouths.

Johns then waste five pages introducing this new Amazing Man. Johns then burns through four pages introducing Jennifer Pierce. And then tears through another three pages introducing David. That is a total of twelve pages introducing the new members of the JSA.

So, how many pages did we get that were actually devoted to the Kingdome Come story arc? That would be a grand total of three pages. And these were really the only three pages of this issue that I found interesting. The rest of the issue read like dull filler.

Now, while I really appreciated how Johns went about boosting the diversity of the JSA’s roster, I have to admit that I have a couple of issues with these new members. First, I just have to ask where are mi gente? Why are we the invisible people of the DCU? Right now Johns has boosted the number of black members of the JSA up to four. He also added an Asian member. Let’s see how many Hispanic members to do we have? Oh, that’s right. None. Let’s check out DC’s other premier super team, the Justice League of America. Currently, McDuffie has four black members on the roster. There are no Asian characters. And how many Hispanic members? Oh yeah, that’s right again. None.

It seems that Dan Didio, who is supposedly all about diversity in the DCU, only sees diversity through the antiquated American view of black and white. Well, in modern America, diversity isn’t just limited to black and white. It also includes Hispanic, Asian, Indian, Arab and Native American. Hispanics are currently the largest minority group in America. It makes absolutely no sense that there isn’t even a single Hispanic member on either the JSA or the JLA. If DC truly wants to reflect America’s population within the DCU, then the JSA and JLA rosters should sport more Hispanics than any other minority group. And yet we don’t even have one member between the two rosters.

All right, enough of my own personal pet peeve with the supposed diversity within the DCU. The most important issue that I have with these new members is that they are all pretty lame characters. I know that Johns has not had much time to get me interested in these new characters, but nothing in the twelve pages that we got in this issue made me even remotely interested in any of these new members.

I found Amazing Man unoriginal and boring. I rarely like preachy heroes so there is probably little to no chance that his character will ever appeal to me. Jennifer Pierce does nothing for me. She is a teenage girl with issues. I’m thinking that she probably isn’t going to appeal much to me either. Mr. America? I find him to be another dull character. First, I don’t understand why Johns would kill off the first Mr. America only to unveil a new Mr. America that is basically an exact duplicate of the original. This only shows that there was no reason to kill the first Mr. America other than for a cheap effect to try and artificially create a sense of drama.

Judomaster continues to be a completely dull character. Of course, the fact that she can’t speak any English doesn’t really help her case much. Johns is going to have to have her learn English quickly and start talking or else her character will always remain flat and one-dimensional. Lastly, David Reid comes across as a totally generic super hero character.

All I can hope for is that Johns manages to flesh out these characters into intriguing personalities that I will get excited about reading. However, that will be difficult considering we have around twenty members. That is really going to hamper Johns’ ability to spend the necessary time to mold these characters into complex three dimensional characters.

I also don’t like that Johns is adding more characters to an already large roster. I think that your typical super team needs to be limited to somewhere between 6 to 12 members. Anything more than that simply muddies the water, creates a lack of team unity and hinders quality character development.

Now, I know that it will seem hypocritical for me to say this since I am a huge Legion of Super Heroes fan. But, the Legion of Super Heroes is the exception that makes the rule. The basis for the Legion has always been a teen team that depends on a massive roster. And it works since it creates that proper college dormitory feel that is crucial to the title. And it also makes sense for the Legion to have such a large roster because in their era they are tasked with the duty to not just protect Earth but all the worlds that are members of the United Planets. When you have an entire universe to protect you need enough bodies to get the job done.

Overall: Justice Society of America #12 was a disappointing read. The past two issues have been slow boring reads. It is quite surprising considering that Justice Society of America was white hot starting with issue #1 and I considered this title one of DC’s stronger comic books. Hopefully, Johns can focus his attention and finally get this Kingdom Come story arc moving with some purpose. Since nothing has happened in the past two issues, this is a good time to hop aboard this title just in time before the Kingdom Come story arc really gets going.

7 Comments

  1. In your conclusion, I think you caught what Johns was going for in this issue – new readers. This issue read like a primer for JSA going forward. Johns is trying to bring in new readers while moving the Kingdom Come plot line along. Of course, that story was put the back to make room for all of the new players.

  2. I completely agree on recap pages; I have no idea why DC doesn’t use those. Sure, they can often be a bit inadequate for a full introduction to the comic, but they help a lot, and they’re an economic use of space for exposition.

    Black Lightning’s retconned family gets larger and larger (and are he and his wife together again?).

    On Judomaster’s English, the thing is, she could speak English just fine when Gail Simone created her in Birds of Prey a year and a half ago. Johns’ characterization is a complete 180.

    In general, I think that the characters Johns has created seem pretty interesting; the problem is simply that there are 24 of them at present, and none of them have been given (or are likely to get) any significant space. Heck, the old guard (including Hawkman, who I can’t recall seeing in a good while) concluded that Cyclone and the other newbies they added ten issues ago are ready to advance to the next level, something that has absolutely not been demonstrated within the book.

    On the subject of recruiting and training new heroes, I’m not sure why they’re seeking out Amazing Man; he seems to have it all together (the Marine, too, to a lesser extent).

    As to an Hispanic hero, someone should get around to resurrecting Vibe and making him not suck.

  3. True, that “Justice Society of America” is only on issue 12 but the history can be quite daunting. It is one of the reasons it is hard to get new readers on titles like “Legion of Super-Heroes” as well. Outsiders see these titles as unapproachable.

    Now, for some reason, DC doesn’t like to do recap pages or editorial notes. The latter has been seen on occasion but could be used more as well. I’m all for recap pages, sometimes I even forget what happened in the issue that came before it.

  4. On the introduction of all of these characters – with Gog around I hope that Johns isn’t beefing up the roster with red shirts. I’d hate to see the death wagon rolling up to this title.

  5. Also, I liked the “Giant-Sized X-Men #1” cover homage.

  6. During Checkmate’s initial year, fans suggested Greg Rucka include an arc review and character summary page to organize the book’s cast. Rucka explained he had only few pages to work with, and to fulfill their request meant sacrificing either advertisement, which was impossible, or a story page. Rucka felt the story was more important than clarity for a few fans, but was willing to change his stance if necessary.

    At Marvel, issue summaries are seemingly mandatory. If you’ve read an extended mini-series, House of M, Son of M, and Silent Wars trilogy, each issue recaps pervious chapters and explains the original stories.

  7. Seemingly forever ago, when this title was first announced, Johns did interviews where he stated his intention was to do this massive cast that would be some longtime JSA’ers and a whole bunch of new, legacy-themed characters.

    Once things were settled(which I recall being around issue 15 or so), stories would then break down into arcs that would have a few of the old line shepherding some of the new kids and trying to teach them te ‘right’ way to be a hero.

    Will it work? I don’t know. I think it can. Say, take a story issue, span it out over 3 issues or so. Take a small group of JSA that has, let’s say, Hawkman and Flash leading three or 4 of these new guys. let the story focus on those new guys, and how the vets are able to help bring them up and send them out, in ther own special, distinct ways. really, really good stories could be had here. Alternately, this could collapse on itself.

    If it were any of the other of DC’s top tier thinktank, I’d have already called this idea a failure (“Let’s let Winnick reinvent something else!”), but with Johns, I’m willing to wait a little longer before I call tis experiement a failure.

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