Comic Book Review: Justice Society of America #24

The Revolution loves Black Adam and has always enjoyed the Marvel Family. I remain hopeful that Johns and Ordway have a plan in mind to undo the mess that we got from Winick in Trials of Shazam and try and help restore the Marvel Family back to its former glory. The last issue was serviceable, but nothing particularly impressive. Hopefully, the story will heat up with Justice Society of America #24. Let’s do this review.

Creative Team
Writers: Geoff Johns and Jerry Ordway
Pencils: Jerry Ordway
Inks: Bob Wiacek

Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Billy leading the JSA to the subway train that leads to the Rock of Eternity. The heroes pile into the train and then take off for the Rock of Eternity. Billy explains how it all started with Black Adam. Billy says that after the war with Darkseid that Mary disappeared. Billy continues that Mary still has Black Adam’s power inside of her. Billy states that Black Adam destroyed Billy’s family long before he infected Mary.

We flashback to Billy’s parents and Theo Adams on an expedition in the temple of Ramses the Second. There they found the scarab necklace in Ramses’ sarcophagus. Theo Adams became possessed and began speaking in Egyptian and tried to pry the scarab from the sarcophagus. The Wizard appeared and warned Billy’s dad about the power that was about to be released. The power of Theo Adam’s ancestor, the Wizard’s first corrupted champion, Black Adam.

Billy’s dad tried to stop Theo Adam from stealing the scarab. The scarab was broken in half during the struggle. Billy’s mom took half of the scarab and fled. Theo then stabbed and killed Billy’s dad. The roof of the chamber collapsed and Theo escaped with his half of the scarab. Billy’s dad’s body was never found.

Theo Adam followed Billy’s mom to her hotel and killed her. Fortunately, Billy’s mom had already hidden the other half of the scarab in Mary’s stuffed animal. (Is that a Mr. Tawny stuffed animal?) Theo allowed Mary to live.

Billy continues that he ended up living on the streets of Fawcett City. One day, the spirit of his father led Billy to the subway train that took Billy to the Rock of Eternity. There Billy met the Wizard who granted Billy the powers of Shazam which transformed Billy into Captain Marvel. Billy then shared his powers with his sister, Mary, and his best friend, Freddy Freeman. And Billy had a family once again.

Billy continues that eventually the two halves of the scarab were united and Black Adam was freed. Billy says that Isis is now using the scarab to steal the power of Shazam.

We cut to the Rock of Eternity where Black Adam is trying to convince Isis to leave the Rock of Eternity and go someplace new that is free from old conflicts and old wounds. Isis refuses to leave stating that they need to get vengeance for them and for her brother, Osiris.

Black Adam states how Isis’ new thirst for vengeance is not like her. Black Adam says that Isis inspired him to embrace life. Isis counters that Adam inspired her to control life. Isis says that she is angry. That she is beyond mercy. Isis says that she misses her brother.

Isis asks Black Adam to help her claim the power of Shazam and to help her recreate her family. Isis continues that their family can then destroy the modern world and all of its sins.

We cut to Billy and the JSA arriving at the Rock of Eternity. Wildcat is less than thrilled with having Atom Smasher along for the mission. However, Jay Garrick wants Atom Smasher to go ahead and see if he can reason with Black Adam. Jay thinks that Albert’s relationship with Adam increases the chances of resolving everything without violence.

Atom Smasher then calls out for Black Adam. Black Adam appears on the scene and tells Atom Smasher to leave. Black Adam states that he cannot promise anyone their safety if they stay. Isis then swoops in and grabs Billy. Isis says that the world must be cleansed and left to nature to restore.

Isis flies Billy over to the magical mists that form a nexus that only the wisdom of Solomon could decipher. Billy pleads with Isis stating that they were friends. Isis responds that they were never family. Isis throws Billy into the magical mists that form the nexus. Flash races up and grabs Billy’s arm. Flash then hears a voice that says “Jay Garrick. The Flash. You. Speedster. You can help.”

Jay pulls Billy free from the mists and throws him into Atom Smasher’s waiting hands. Jay is then sucked into the nexus. Atom Smasher reaches into the mist to try and grab Jay. The JSA’ers then begin to brawl with Black Adam and Isis. The same voice that talked to Jay tells Atom Smasher to leave the Flash alone. The voice says that the Flash is the only one fast enough to “rescue him from his tomb.”

Atom Smasher pulls his hands back out of the nexus and comments that someone took Jay.

We cut to Stargirl heading to the throne room to try and see if she can find Billy. Stargirl sees Billy sitting by himself on the steps to the throne room. Billy bemoans the fact that he should have prevented this from happening. That he should have paid more attention to his sister. Billy says that it was so hard for him to stay away from the JSA once Billy got “promoted” to being the Wizard. Billy says that he missed Courtney. Billy and Stargirl then kiss.

And right on cue, Black Mary, in her bondage costume like she wore when possessed by Desaad during Final Crisis, appears on the scene. Stargirl blasts Black Mary. Black Mary shrugs off Stargirl’s attack and then launches a counter-attack that takes out Stargirl. Black Mary then says that she has a new family and that Billy is about to join it. Black Mary grabs Billy.

We cut to Jay in the nexus of magical mists. The voice says that Jay has a pure heart. That Jay battled Johnny Sorrow and Vandal Savage. That Jay is fast enough to go undetected. Suddenly, out of the mists we see Billy’s father appear. Billy’s dad introduces himself to Jay. Billy’s father says “If we are going to save my children, you need to come with me quickly to the Rock of Finality.” End of main story.

We then get an Origins and Omens back-up story. We see Jay Garrick recruiting Zatarra. At least it looks like Zatarra to me. We see another young hero being recruited by Mr. America. We cut back to the JSA Brownstone where Stargirl, Cyclone and Lightning are all wondering where they are going to house all of these new recruits.

Courtney is then called into a meeting with the other “core” members of the JSA. That includes Alan, Jay, Wildcat v1.0, Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite, Stargirl and Jakeem Thunder (Ha! Stargirl and Jakeem Thunder are considered “core” members and Power Girl is not? Riiiiiight.) Alan then asks the “core” members what they think the future looks like for the JSA in light of everything that they went through with Gog.

We cut to Scar reading the Book of Black and see Magog fighting Wildcat v2.0 and Damage. We then see the JSA’ers fighting some villain that I do not recognize. We see Mr. Terrific lying in a pool of blood. End of issue.

Commentary
The Good: Justice Society of America #24 was an average read. This certainly was not as good as I was expecting. Having said that, Justice Society of America #24 was still a well plotted read. Johns and Ordway have a clear purpose and direction with this story arc. The pacing is a tad on the slow side, but given how practically all comic books are terribly decompressed these days, this story arc is actually moving along at a fairly steady pace.

The main purpose of Justice Society of America #24 was to serve as an origin story for Billy Batson (and the Marvel Family to a lesser degree) and Black Adam. This is a wise move considering how many readers are out there that have no clue about the origins of Captain Marvel and Black Adam. And since Trials of Shazam did an excellent job completely mucking up the Marvel Family’s continuity, some stream-lining was in order. Trials of Shazam is a good example of the maxim “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Unfortunately, Trials of Shazam caused many more problems than it succeeded in solving.

And the best way to clean up a mess is to take things back to their basics and look to the classic origins for the characters in question. And that is what Johns and Ordway do in Justice Society of America #24. We get an origin story for Billy and Adam that is consistent with what Ordway gave us back in the 1994 Power of Shazam! title. And in Power of Shazam!, Ordway tried to deliver an origin for Billy and Adam that was consistent with the original Marvel Family origin from the Fawcett Comics era. Hopefully, the ultimate goal with this story arc is for Johns and Ordway to retcon away Trials of Shazam and give the reader a more classic and re-invigorated Marvel Family.

We do get a new twist on Billy’s origin in Justice Society of America #24. The classic origin of Captain Marvel was that a “mysterious stranger” led Billy to the subway train that took him to the Rock of Eternity. Johns and Ordway reveal in this issue that the mysterious stranger was Billy’s father. I could not remember if Ordway included this change into Billy’s origin in Power of Shazam! One of The Revolution’s followers has informed me that Ordway did indeed have Billy discover that his father was the mysterious stranger toward the end of Power of Shazam!  However, it seems that in this origin in Justice Society of America #24 Ordway has tweaked it again so that Billy knew it was his father at the very beginning.

It is a small change and one that I like. It does not disturb the original version of Billy and gives an enjoyable explanation of the identity of the mysterious stranger. I enjoy it when writers make tweaks to origins that are respectful of the source material and organically grow them into something a bit new and interesting.

Johns and Ordway continue to do a nice job handling the relationship between Black Adam and Isis. I dig how the roles of these two characters have flipped. Isis is now the one full of anger and vengeance. Black Adam is now the one who simply wants to live in peace. And the best part is that they learned their new views on life from each other. These poor lovers are a tragic couple that seem destined to never be on the same page.

Isis’ heel turn has been handled well. It is completely understandable that Isis would become more hostile and consumed with feelings of vengeance given that her brother was killed and that she was also killed. Black Adam’s shift in his view on life has also been nicely done. The reader can feel how heavy Black Adam’s weariness sits on his shoulders. Black Adam is spiritually and mentally worn out with all that he is been through since Infinite Crisis. It is understandable that his character would be apathetic to the world at large. Black Adam’s desire to simply be alone with Isis and leave the world behind them makes sense.

Johns and Ordway also do a good job with Billy’s character. The reader gets a good view into Billy’s mind and all that he has been through since Trials of Shazam. I dig that Johns is picking up on his old plotline concerning the romance that had been brewing between Billy and Courtney when he was with the JSA. I have always liked the pairing of those two characters.

Johns and Ordway end Justice Society of America #24 with a good hook ending as we see Billy’s father greeting the Flash and saying that only Jay can help him go to the Rock of Finality in order to save Billy and Mary. Johns hinted about the Rock of Finality back in 52. It is cool to see Johns following up on this plotline. Johns is a master plotter and has such incredible long range vision. There are very few writers who can match Johns’ plotting prowess.

Ordway and Wiacek combine to deliver some serviceable artwork. This issue is cleanly laid out and effectively conveys the story to the reader. This artwork is decidedly old school looking. That means that this style of art will probably not appeal to many readers.

The Bad: Justice Society of America #24 had its fair share of warts. The dialogue was very uninspiring. There were long stretches of this issue where the dialogue was quite stiff. In general, the dialogue seemed mechanical and that lead to this issue being a bit of a dry read at certain points.

Another quibble with this issue was that the story had a choppy flow to it. There was nothing smooth or seamless in the delivery of this issue. There was also a lack of action in this issue. Yes, we got some minor fighting taking place in the background of the panels in the final scene, but that is about it. This issue will probably not appeal to fans that require a decent amount of action in their comic books.

However, my biggest complaint with Justice Society of America #24 was the handling of Mary Marvel’s character. I had problems with the fact that she was back in her Black Mary form at the end of Justice Society of America #23. However, I figured that maybe this story arc took place before Final Crisis like many of DC’s other titles. However, we learned that this story arc takes place after Final Crisis. Billy refers to their war with Darkseid and how Mary disappeared after the war with Darkseid was over.

So, now that we know this story arc takes place after Final Crisis, I am irritated that Johns and Ordway reverted Mary back to her Black Mary form. And to make matters worse, we get the bondage queen version of Mary that we got at the end of Countdown and during Final Crisis when Mary was possessed by Desaad. Johns and Ordway forcing Mary back into her villainous form ruins Morrison’s work with Mary’s character in Final Crisis.

Morrison provided the reader an extremely simple and easy explanation that effectively wiped clear much of the stain of Countdown from Mary’s character. At the end of Final Crisis, much of Mary’s actions were blamed on being possessed by Desaad. And Morrison gave the reader a truly contrite and remorseful Mary who comes across as a total victim of black forces beyond her control.

This was the perfect moment to proceed with growing Mary back in to her prior heroic form. Unfortunately, Johns and Ordway felt the need to drag Mary back into her Black Mary status once again. It seems that DC just loves to take two steps forward and one step backwards when it comes to the handling of some of their characters.

It was also annoying how inconsistently Mary has been drawn. At the end of Justice Society of America #23, Ordway draws Mary in her Black Mary outfit from early in Countdown. However, in this issue, we get Mary in her bondage queen outfit that she wore while possessed by Desaad. And in the teaser art for the next issue we see Mary back in her Black Mary outfit. Since Mary has been freed from Desaad’s control, it makes no sense why she would revert back to her bondage queen form.

I cannot blame this inconsistency in Mary’s appearance on a miscommunication between the writer and the artist. And that is because Ordway is both a co-writer and the artist for this issue. This lack of consistency from issue to issue of Mary’s appearance is just makes it seem like Johns and Ordway are rushing their way through the story without an attention to detail.

The Origins and Omens back-up story bored me. This is no surprise since I have found the vast majority of these Origins and Omens back-up stories to be largely filler.

Overall: Justice Society of America #24 was nothing special. I would only recommend getting this issue if you are a fan of the Marvel Family. Hopefully, we will get treated with a more exciting read with the next issue.

2 Comments

  1. Just to clarify, Ordway did show the mysterious stranger as Billy’s father toward the end of the Power of Shazam! graphic novel.

    Billy realized he subconsciously trusted the stranger because he must’ve known, deep down, that it was his dad.

    In JSA #24, however, it sounds like he knew from the start, but for brevity it works.

  2. ..

    But WHY do we need ANOTHER recap of Captain Marvels origin?

    Haven’t there been two in the past ten years?

    And MORE Black Adam. I remember when the PERECT fate for him was to forget the magic word. You know, after he KILLED all those people on panel?

    But no, because Black Adam is SO IMPORTANT to the JSA. What?!

    Again, it’s the same ten stories over and over again. Isis is subjectively amoral. Wow, what a twist.

    I’d rather see some new conflict rather than this constant stream of unyeilding LEFTOVERS.

    Love Ordway. Hated this.

    ..

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