Comic Book Review: Justice Society of America #4

The Revolution has been impressed with Johns’ Justice Society of America. This has been a consistently good read as Johns has wasted no time getting this title off to a fast and exciting start. I’m sure that Justice Society of America #4 will be another great read. Let’s do this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciler: Dale Eaglesham
Inker: Ruy Jose

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: We start with Wildcat’s son, Tom, brawling with Vandal Savage. We then cut to Power Girl. Flash, Maxine Hunkel, Starman and Stargirl fighting the Nazis attacking Stripesy and his family. We get narration from Maxine about how much she has looked up to the JSA and Stargirl in particular. That Maxine placed Stargirl on a pedestal and after watching her in action fighting the Nazis that pedestal only got higher.

We shift to Damage, Hawkman, Hourman, Green Lantern and Liberty Bell arriving on the scene to fight the Nazis attacking the original Liberty Bell. We get narration from Damage about how when he was seventeen, he accidentally blew up half of downtown Atlanta. The State of Georgia told Damage that if he would leave and never come back to Georgia then they would drop the charges. When Damage got released from the hospital a month ago, he went back to the state line and wondered what would happen if he crossed it. So, Damage crossed the Georgia state line and waited. Nothing happened.

We see Hourman and Liberty Bell, evacuating all the tourists from the Liberty Bell exhibit. Hourman tells Damage to leave Reichsmark to Hawkman and Green Lantern. Damage replies that Green Lantern and Hawkman are busy with Captain Nazi. Damage then squares off with Reichsmark. Damage then sets off a huge explosion taking out half the building and Reichsmark. Unfortunately, Damage acted without care and didn’t notice that Liberty Bell was standing behind him. Liberty Bell also gets taken out by the blast and collapses to the ground. Hourman panics and runs to her side as Damage is stunned by what he just did.

We cut back to Tom brawling with Vandal Savage. Savage states how he has manipulated every major event in the entire history of mankind. At least, until the Justice Society of America formed. Since then, they have consistently foiled Savage’s plans to chart the course of history. Therefore, Savage devised his master plan was to eradicate the blood lines of the JSA members. Then once the JSA and their children are extinct, Savage can wait a century which is just like a week to Savage and then Savage can resume controlling the events of history.

We shift back to Philadelphia where Hourman is yelling at Damage for being so reckless. Hourman comments that every hero who has tried to follow in the Atom’s footsteps has no damn idea what they are doing. Damage states that he is not following in his dad’s footsteps. Hourman retorts that Damage keeps saying that, but Damage is still wearing his dad’s mask.

Captain Nazi brushes off Green Lantern and Hawkman and then grabs Damage. Captain Nazi then pulls off Damage’s mask. Hourman and Liberty Bell then take out Captain Nazi. Hourman then sees Damage’s horribly disfigured face. Damage whispers that he wears the mask because he has to. Damage begs Liberty Bell to not look at him. Liberty Bell hands Damage his mask and tells him that the Nazis are still on their feet and for Damage to help them knock the Nazis down.

We cut back to Savage battling Tom and Wildcat. Wildcat lures Savage out into the middle of the road and then jumps out of the way at the last minute. We then see a huge fire truck smashing into Savage. And Savage is knocked out. We shift to Damage taking down Captain Nazi. We then hop over to Powergirl and Starman taking down the Dragon Nazi villain. The JSA wins and Savage and the Nazis have been defeated.

We zip to the next day at the JSA Brownstone. We see Alan Scott, Jay Garrick and Hawkman asking Powergirl to accept the position of Chairwoman of the Justice Society of America. Powergirl readily accepts the position.

We see Doctor Mid-Nite asking Mr. Terrific for a second opinion concerning Nathan Heywood. Evidently, Nathan’s amputated leg is growing back. We see that Nathan has grown a steel skeletal leg.

We see Obsidian and Sandman talking. Obsidian asks Sandman “Are you sure it was her in your nightmare.” Sandman answers “Yes. And that she was trapped in a crystal ball with the rest of them.” Obsidian responds “But, she is dead…and the Huntress isn’t on our team.”

Wildcat and his son, Tom, are walking to the meeting room. Tom doesn’t know how he got his powers. They first manifested when he was a little kid. Tom says this is why Savage wanted to stop the children of the JSA’ers. To prevent the kids from inheriting their parents’ powers. Wildcat responds that Savage had it all wrong. That the JSA isn’t just about family. It isn’t about the blood that’s passed down. Look at Mr. Terrific, Sandman, Stargirl and Thunder. The JSA is about symbols. Someone else will pick up the mask and the name.

During Wildcat’s narration we see Mr. America’s FBI partner picking up Mr. America’s mask and deciding to become the next Mr. America.

We cut back to Wildcat and Tom. Tom says that he isn’t being called “Tomcat.” Wildcat responds that Tom will be called Wildcat. After all, there are two Flashes and a whole ton of Green Lanterns. Wildcat and Tom then enter the meeting room where the entire JSA roster is already assembled.

We shift to Arkham Asylum in Gotham City. We see the Silver Age Lightning Lord and Cosmic King as well as Tyr attacking the guards. We also see a monstrous villain that I don’t recognize. We see Doctor Destiny’s cell. Doctor Destiny has the Levitz Era Dream girl chained to the wall of his cell. Doctor Destiny stated that Dream Girl’s nightmares are delicious. They are a glimmer of the future and of destiny. Dream Girl mumbles “Star Boy…where are you?” End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Hot damn! Justice Society of America #4 was another fantastic read. Johns is really doing one incredible job kicking off this new version of the JSA. This was a satisfactory ending to the initial story arc on this title. Johns delivered an excellently balanced issue that had the perfect blend of action, drama and dialogue. Justice Society of America #4 was well paced. The story arc came to a wild finish with three separate fights but at no point did the story feel rushed.

As always, Johns crafted solid dialogue. Johns has an amazing feel for each member of the JSA. Therefore, we get nice external voices with each character possessing their own unique personality.

The fight scenes kicked ass. We got to see Tom showing off his powers as he squared off against one of the JSA’s biggest villains. Damage provided plenty of adrenaline filled action in his brawl with the Nazis in Philadelphia. And we also got a good fight by Power Girl’s team sent to save Stripesy. I dig that Johns mixed things up and had the JSA fight a three pronged battle in three different locations at the same time. It was more enjoyable than just one giant fight scene with all the characters jammed in the same location.

I though Johns did a good job describing Savage’s plan to kill off the JSA’s blood lines as well as his motivation for do such a thing. Also, Savage’s plan helps Johns to frame the new direction of this version of the JSA. Johns clearly wants to place the JSA in a more important role in this new DC Universe than the JSA has ever had before. The JSA is no longer going to be portrayed as a second rate JLA. If anything, the JSA may now garner a bit more respect than the JLA in this new DC Universe.

Plus, Savage’s plan to showcase Johns’ vision for the legacy of the JSA. Johns wants to show that the JSA members are the inspiration for the heroes in the DC Universe. And that it isn’t just a family tradition. That the JSA will inspire other people out there to pick up their fight when the various JSA members retire or die.

I love Damage. He is one seriously kick ass character. I dig the direction that Johns is going with his character. Every super team needs that unstable, dangerous and angry team member in order to stir the pot and keep things interesting. Damage definitely fills that role. We finally get a teaser of Damage’s horribly disfigured face. I liked how Hourman made the observation that every person who tries to wear the Atom’s mask is no good. That is a nice reference to all the problems that the JSA has had with Atom Smasher who is less than stable himself.

And Hourman’s shock at finally learning why Damage wears the mask was perfect. Damage isn’t honoring his father. Damage is covering his shame. And I also loved Liberty Bell’s reaction. While Damage is pleading with her to not look at his face, she just strides over, hands him his mask and tells him to do what he does best: kick some ass. Liberty Bell is such a cool character. I dig her tough no-nonsense attitude and her ability to focus Damage not on his sorrow, but on the one remaining thing he is good at doing.

I’m curious to see where Johns goes with Damage. It is clear that Damage is reckless and could care less about himself. This makes him fearless and dangerous in a fight, but it also makes him a bad teammate as we see how his recklessness nearly kills Liberty Bell. I dig how Damage talked about going back to Georgia. This just highlights Damage’s anti-social attitude that he has developed since his injury.

I have to admit that I’m starting to warm up to Tom. Initially, I was highly unimpressed with his character. And the idea of a were-cat just seemed pretty lame to me. However, Johns, as he always seems to do, is getting me to like a character I initially disliked. I thought the banter between Tom and Wildcat during the fight was perfect. Tom has plenty of potential and offers up a nice power upgrade from the original Wildcat. I am very curious to learn how Tom got his powers considering Wildcat doesn’t possess any meta-human abilities.

Of course, the best part of this issue was the ending! Fantastic! First, Johns teases us with a couple of future plotlines and then he drops a bomb on the reader with the final page. We get the first look at the new Steel as we see that Nathan has grown a steel skeleton. I always liked the original Steel, so I’m looking forward to seeing Nathan assume his family’s legacy.

We got a very interesting conversation between Sandman and Obsidian. Just who in the world is this “she” who is supposed to be dead that was in Sandman’s dream? Could it be Jade? And what is this crystal ball that “the rest of them” are trapped in. And why is the Huntress with them? Could this be more evidence of heroes from a multiple Earth? I can only hope so. I can’t wait to learn more about this plotline.

And then we get the final page that made my jaw drop open. Oh yeah, we have the Dream Girl from the Levitz Era Legion in her white bathing suit style costume. I love it! More evidence that the Levitz Era Legion exists in some form or another. Plus, we also get the Silver Age versions of Lightning Lord and Cosmic King. Plus Tyr. This would seem to hint that there may be several different eras of the Legion still in existence. The current lame version. The Levitz Era Legion and then the Silver Age Legion.

As a huge Legion of Super Heroes fan I am extremely anxious to find out just what is going on with all the different version of Legionnaires and Legion villains running around the present day DC Universe. This is clearly my favorite plotline and I’m psyched to see what Johns has in store for us.

Dale Eaglesham turns in a great looking comic book. Eaglesham draws some dynamic looking fight scenes that leap from the pages of this issue. Eaglesham does a great job bringing Johns’ entertaining story to life.

The Bad: Johns once again violates The Revolution’s Nazi Rule. That means that Johns gets an automatic 2 Night Girl penalty for this issue. That is why Justice Society of America #4 gets only 7 Night Girls out of 10 instead of 9 Night Girls out of 10. And honestly, did we need to get a sermon from Jay Garrick about how bad Nazis are? They are Nazis! I think the mere fact that they are Nazis immediately makes us all know very clearly how evil they are. I don’t need a little sermon about how bad Nazis are. What is it still the 1930’s and 40’s?

I found the beginning of the fight scene involving Power Girl’s team of Stargirl, Maxine, Starman and the Flash was a bit annoying. That is because of the inner narration we got from bubble headed Maxine. Wow, she is unbelievably annoying. And how fitting that the most annoying character on this title idolizes the second most annoying character on this title? I know that since Stargirl is a tribute to Johns’ dead sister that there is no way she will ever get killed off or leave the JSA. However, I can at least hope that maybe either one of those two things will happen to Maxine.

I thought that Johns had Savage go down a bit too easy. This is the JSA’s biggest villain and it only takes two not very powerful JSA’ers to take him out. And the use of the fire truck to take down Savage was too convenient of a tool and felt a bit forced.

Powergirl as the new Chairwoman of the JSA does nothing for me. I have always been neutral on Powergirl. I don’t really care about her in a positive or negative fashion. She is just an average character with big boobs and a terrible soccer mom haircut.

Now, I think that Mr. Terrific is the best choice for Chairman of the JSA. But, with him removed due to his activities with Checkmate, I still could think of a few better choices than Powergirl. First, I’d pick Hawkman. He was born to lead the JSA. And if not Hawkman, then I’d go with Sandman.

And if Johns is feeling possessed to be PC and have a female team leader, then I’d go with Liberty Bell. She definitely has the pedigree since her mom was the leader of the All Star Squadron.

I have a philosophical disagreement about what is the JSA and its legacy. To me, the JSA is a family. No way around it. Yeah, DC has attempted to shove a few non family related characters into the picture. I don’t count Sandy, because he is the original sidekick to the first Sandman and was Wesley Dodds’ orphaned nephew who Wesley ends up adopting. So, I disagree with Johns. Sandy is family.

Courtney as Stargirl again has a family connection. Her mom is married to Stripesy the partner to the original Star Spangled Kid. It may not be as strong a family connection as Sandy’s but it is still a family connection. And even though Courtney has moved on to the Starman tradition, she still has a connection with the old school JSA characters via Stripesy.

So that leaves Michael Holt and Jakeem Williams. Both characters are not family at all and were efforts by DC to increase the diversity of the JSA’s membership. So, I’ll give Johns those two characters that show the JSA is not about family.

I think that Mr. Terrific and Jakeem Thunder are the exceptions to the rule. The JSA is absolutely about family. It always has been and always will be. That is one huge difference that distinguishes the JSA from the Justice League of America. The JLA is a super team full of colleagues. The JSA is a family. That is the essence of the JSA.

The JSA is not about symbols. It is about people. The JSA’s Green Lantern is Alan Scott. The JSA’s Flash is Jay Garrick. No one could take those masks and names and fill that role. I disagree that super heroes are just a mask and a name and the rest is completely irrelevant and interchangeable. This is faulty logic that has plagued DC for years. DC treats their super heroes like replaceable parts. Just continually recycle the name and the costume.

It seems like DC is ready and eager to take out a well known hero and replace them with someone new. Personally, I think that readers love the character behind the mask. DC thinks that readers just care about the name and the mask and everything is totally irrelevant and replaceable.

Overall: Justice Society of America #4 was another excellent read. Johns has gotten off to a hot start on this new series. Johns has done a great job teasing us with numerous interesting plotlines. This is definitely going to be a wild year on the Justice Society of America. I definitely recommend giving this title a try.

1 Comments

  1. Stargirl is also a legacy in the Starman/Knight line. Jack Knight, son of Ted (the original Starman), gave his gravity rod to Courtney to carry on the Star-person line when he retired.

    As for the Dream Girl sequence, I was expecting platinum and not blonde hair; was her star-mole always on that side? It looked odd there; and the big monster-type looked like a nightmare version of Darkseid (as Tyr, Lightning Lord, and Cosmic King might also have been dream-manifestations).

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