Comic Book Review: Justice Society of America #2

The Revolution absolutely loved Justice Society of America #1. Johns delivered one incredible debut issue. There is no doubt in my mind that I’m going to enjoy Justice Society of America #2. After all, if it wasn’t for Johns violating the Nazi Rule, the last issue would have garnered almost a perfect score. And there is no way that a writer as immensely talented as Geoff Johns would be as uncreative as to violate the Nazi Rule on consecutive issues, right? Let’s find out and hit this review for Justice Society of America #2.

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

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

Synopsis: We begin with a flashback to the various Heywood family reunions. They always center around the current “Heywood Hero.” First it was Commander Steel. Then it was Steel and last year it was stud quarterback Nathan Heywood who wo0n the state championship. We see that Nathan then suffered a horrid knee injury and developed a deep infection that caused the doctors to amputate his right let below the knee. We see a distraught Nathan taking his painkiller thinking how he used to be upset, but now he just doesn’t feel anything.

We cut to Mr. America lying dead on the JSA meeting table. Suddenly, everybody and everything begins floating into the air. It is Starman’s powers going crazy. He doesn’t like murder and this entire situation has made this mentally unstable hero lose control of his powers. Starman says that he is supposed to make things heavy. Starman asks the other JSA’ers if the name Kenz Nuhor means anything to them. Starman asks if that is the name of murder. And then says 10 votes to 9!

Power Girl grabs a hold of Starman and tells him to calm down and focus. Everything comes crashing back to the ground as Starman gets control of his powers. Starman then asks the other members if they hear her. That she is crying. That she said its’ a doctor. A bad one. That there is a lightning storm coming.

We cut to Wildcat talking with his son, Tom, in Tom’s apartment. Tom says that Wildcat saved his mother, Marilyn Bronson, from a criminal named the Gambler. That after they went out for a few drinks and they ended up having sex that night. She never saw Wildcat again after that night. Marilyn never told Wildcat about her being pregnant because Wildcat had enough to worry about. Tom says that he has followed Wildcat on TV, read all his interviews in the papers and on the internet. That Wildcat always said he had no interest in being a father. That he is just here to teach rookies on the JSA how to break bones.

Tom said the JSA contacted him about this reunion. Tom says let’s make this easy. Tom doesn’t hold any grudges against Wildcat. That he doesn’t wish he had Wildcat around as a dad when he was a kid. That he won’t blame Wildcat for all his hang ups and habits. That Tom doesn’t expect anything from Wildcat because he doesn’t need a father. That they have nothing in common. That Tom will never put on a furry costume and fight crime. That he hasn’t even been in a fight since the eighth grade, and he even lost that one.

We shift to Stargirl talking with Maxine Hunkle. Maxine is having a panic attack after seeing Mr. America crash through their skylight and die in front of them. Stargirl tells Maxine that her panic attack is totally normal. That Stargirl had her own panic attack when she first joined the JSA. Stargirl says that the JSA needs Maxine and that they are going to bring Mr. America’s killer to justice. Stargirl then leads Maxine to a large room full of costume materials and tells Maxine that they are going to get her a costume.

We cut Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite, Green Lantern and the Flash in the lab examining Mr. America’s corpse. Dr. Mid-Nite’s infrared vision spies an object lodged in Mr. America’s left lung. Dr. Mid-Nite prepares for the autopsy.

We shift to the Heywood Family reunion. Nathan Heywood is approached by his brother, Kirk. Kirk asks Nathan why he hasn’t taken his proper place at the reunion as the Heywood Family hero and told everyone about his physical therapy and what he has done to get through this. Nathan snaps that he is not through it. Nathan then says that he doesn’t belong up there as the Heywood Family hero.

Suddenly, Hawkman comes crashing onto the scene. Hawkman is brawling with some costumed villain. Hawkman yells for everyone to get out of here. That they’re coming after off them. Every single one of Commander Steel’s children. Suddenly, someone touches Kirk and he turns into a metal statue.

We then get treated with the grand entrance of a new super villain team called the Fourth Reich. (Breep! Breep! Breep! That is the Bunker’s alarm that we have a Nazi Rule violation. Oh, you have to be kidding me! Nazi Rule violations in back to back issues! And from a writer who isn’t a hack! I’m stunned.)

We cut back to Mr. Terrific’s study at the JSA brownstone. Mr. Terrific is doing some research on the computer while Power Girl sits and waits and Starman stares at Mr. Terrific’s scientific theory that he has on a tri-level chalkboard. Starman says that it’s coming. The Great Disaster. That he has to find her and him and her. That She’s talking to him and he doesn’t know and he has to find them all before the storm. Mr. Terrific asks Starman who is talking to him. Power Girl says probably no one. That Starman is nuts.

Starman looks at Mr. Terrific’s formula on the chalkboard and says this is wrong and makes a correction. Mr. Terrific is stunned and says that is impossible. That he has been working on a theory involving superstring, dark matter and hyperspace for the past year and a half. That some scientists believe that gravity is a weak signal from a parallel universe. Mr. Terrific thinks that Starman just proved them right.

Mr. Terrific asks Starman how he knew all of this. Starman replies that he got a B+ in third grade science. Starman says that it helped him. That he was trying to come back here, but he landed somewhere lese first and he was trapped. Starman pulls off his mask and it definitely looks like the bearded Thom that I know and love from the old Levitz era Legion of Super Heroes! Starman says that he was trapped someplace that was blown to kingdom come. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Wow. Justice Society of America #2 was an incredible read. Johns has done a stellar job kicking off this new title with an impressive bang. Johns has delivered two white hot issues and has gotten this story arc off to a fast start without any of it seeming rushed.

The pacing on Justice Society of America #2 is nicely balanced. Johns isn’t wasting time getting us deep into this story arc, but he is still taking time to properly lay a sound foundation to what is certainly going to be one wild ride. Johns also turns in not just an entertaining issue, but a technically well written and sound issue as well. The scenes shift seamlessly into each other and give this issue an excellent flow which makes it a pleasure to read.

As always Johns serves up plenty of quality dialogue. Also, since nobody knows and loves the characters of the JSA more than Johns, we get plenty of incredible chemistry between the various JSA members. Each character has his own proper and unique external voice. It is impressive how Johns has such a good feel for each character and is at ease writing all of them.

Mr. America’s death is a great example of how to pull of a “good” death. I really liked Mr. America’s character and was bummed that he got killed off. However, unlike Animal Man and Blue Beetle, Mr. America definitely did not go out like a bitch. Plus, Mr. America’s death very much had a point and a purpose for this current story arc. It properly introduced a new threat to all the members of the JSA and also got across to the reader the terrible and horrifying magnitude of this threat. Mr. America’s death served as an excellent foundation for this story arc.

The scenes with Wildcat and his son, Tom, were fantastic. I love how Johns handled this reunion. I was thrilled that Johns decided to avoid the hackneyed and stereotypical reunion where the son is angry at his dad for not being there. Where the son blames all his problems on his dad not being there for him. That was an excellent move on Johns’ part and it made these scenes all that more interesting.

I liked Tom’s blunt and brutally realistic attitude toward Wildcat and their relationship with each other. And it was harsh for Wildcat to have his cocky tough guy statement about him not wanting to be a father to the younger JSA’ers. That he just wants to teach them how to break bones. I actually winced for Wildcat when Tom threw that line right back in his face. That had to hurt Wildcat.

And Johns displayed his nice sense of humor in what was an otherwise rather heavy scene. It was funny that when Tom told Wildcat he hadn’t even been in a fight since the eighth grade, Wildcat sheepishly asks if Tom won the fight. Tom says no. Johns knows that a little humor is always needed especially in an issue as serious and grim as this one.

I’m not too sure where Johns is going to go with Tom’s character. Tom has made it clear that he doesn’t want to be a costumed crime fighter. Maybe that will change in the future. Maybe not. If nothing else, Tom’s character should provide for some much needed character evolution in Wildcat. Tom is an excellent literary tool to force Wildcat to re-examine his life and his philosophy. Wildcat’s character has been stagnant for a long time and he could definitely use some character growth.

I liked all the scenes with Nathan Heywood. I liked that we got some insight into the Heywood family and the current “Heywood Hero” that would be the center of attention at every family reunion. It was a cool idea to show how each generation there is another “Heywood Hero.” And I thought it was a great twist that Nathan, even after losing his football career and his leg, is still viewed as the latest of the “Heywood Heroes.” Nathan is a sympathetic character who has seemingly lost everything that he held as important and meaningful in his life.

I would imagine that Nathan becomes the new Steel. This is definitely not how I imagined Johns introducing the new Steel, but I like it. I think Nathan and his struggles make him an interesting character and I can’t wait to see him become the hero that he claims he is not.

Of course, it was kick ass to see the man himself back in action in the pages of the Justice Society of America. That’s right, I’m talking about everyone favorite feathered bad-ass: Hawkman. And talk about an entrance! Johns totally gets Hawkman’s character and he knows that this brawler would only make an entrance in one fashion: violently.

I was so psyched to see Hawkman again that I practically jumped out of my chair. I know a lot of people associate Hawkman with the Justice League of America. And I do as well to a certain extent. However, for me, Hawkman will always have his roots in the Justice Society of America. And while I think that the “holy trinity” of the JSA is Alan Scott, Jay Garrick and Wildcat, I do think that Hawkman is the next most necessary member for the JSA.

Now let’s address my favorite character of this new Justice Society of America: Starman. I know that I am totally biased in my view of Starman. I am a huge fan of the Paul Levitz era Legion and I always thought that Star Boy had the coolest looking costume ever. And seeing the final page to this issue with Starman with his mask off just brought back all those warm and fuzzy feelings I have with regard to Levitz’s Legion. It was great to see the real Star Boy again and not that fraud masquerading as Star Boy over on the current Legion of Super Heroes.

I love how Johns is handling Starman’s character. Starman is by far the most intriguing character on the JSA. You know that all of Starman’s ramblings are just full of little clues. And after the opening scene I am even more excited because this Starman has to be the Star Boy from the Levitz era Legion. We know from last issue and the beginning of this issue that Starman totally freaks out whenever there is a murder. In the beginning scene of this issue he mentions a name: Kenz Nuhor. Then he asks if that is the name of murder. He then mentions a vote of 10 to 9.

This is a reference to Adventure Comics #342 entitled “The Legionnaire Who Killed” Star Boy rejoined the Legion and fell in love with a new member: Dream Girl. They dated each other. One day they were together when the guy that Dream Girl dumped for Thom appeared. His name was Kenz Nuhor. Kenz attacked Thom. Thom tried to use his powers to defend himself, but Nuhor, anticipating this, had a special shield which reflected his power back at him. Thom was pinned to the ground, and it looked like he would die. Thom spotted a blaster dropped by a previous victim. Thom saved himself by killing Kenz Nuhor’s.

Although Thom had acted in self-defense the Legion Code had a complete ban on killing. That if there were another way for one to save his life, the killing was not justifiable. Brainiac 5 proved that there was another way. Therefore, Star Boy was expelled from the Legion by a vote of 10 to 9. Star Boy ended up joining the Legion of Substitute Heroes and then later re-joined the Legion of Super Heroes.

So, yeah, it looks like the Levitz era Star Boy has somehow managed to survive both the Zero Hour reboot of the Legion and the second re-boot of the Legion in 2005. I cannot wait for Johns to explain just how Star Boy managed to pull that off.

Oh, but it gets even better. Not only do we have a Levitz Era Legionnaire running around in our time period, but we learn that in his attempt to get from his future timeline to our present time line, he got lost along the way and was trapped in the Kingdom Come universe. So, now we have one character that is proof of existence of the Legion universe prior to Zero Hour and proof of existence of the Kingdom Come Universe which had always been viewed as nothing more than an Elseworld’s universe.

Damn! How about that! It seems like DC’s one Earth only universe that was established after the original Crisis is rapidly coming apart. And I absolutely love it. I cannot wait to see what Johns has in store for us with this plotline.

Dale Eaglesham delivers some quality artwork in this issue. Eaglesham’s Starman looks great. And Eaglesham’s Hawkman is kick ass.

The Bad: Justice Society of America #2 would have gotten a perfect 10 Night Girls for the story if it hadn’t been for the automatic 2 point deduction for violating The Revolution’s Nazi Rule. So, Johns ends up only getting 8 out of 10 Night Girls for this issue. Sorry, I won’t make any concessions just because I am a huge fan of Geoff Johns. I think very highly of his work and am impressed with his talent, but I won’t let him off the hook for being some mind numbingly uncreative by violating the Nazi Rule in back to back issues.

Seriously, Johns has been hyping this new start for the JSA as a brand new direction for this team. That this was supposed to be a re-birth where the readers get treated to a more dynamic and re-fashioned JSA that is established as one of the main pillars of the DC Universe. So, instead of some new creative and innovative villains for this new re-invigorated and re-imagined JSA, what do we get? A bunch of Nazi villains called the Fourth Reich. Are you fucking kidding me? That is the best that Johns could come up with? That is ridiculous. Johns is clearly far too talented and creative to just totally half-ass it with these lame and horridly unoriginal Nazi villains.

And no, I don’t care that the JSA has been long associated with WW II. It is high time that the JSA move on past them being mere relics of the WW II era. Johns has made it his mission to make this JSA relevant to our modern age. That Johns wants the JSA to become one of the major players in the DC Universe. I agree. And part of that is leaving the tired and worn out old Nazi villains where they belong. In the past.

I mean, seriously, you see Nazi villains so often in comic books. It is freaking 2007! I can honestly say that I have never in my entire life on this earth ever seen a single Nazi. Not one. Zero. But, after reading Marvel and DC comic books, you would think that this entire world was absolutely crawling with Nazis.

Nazi villains are unimaginative and this Fourth Reich is just another pathetically boring example of that. Johns has the talent to do much better than this. Unfortunately, it appears that we are guaranteed to have massive Nazi Rule violations for the foreseeable future on the Justice Society of America as the lame ass villains from the Fourth Reich are sure to continually appear over the course of this story arc.

Maybe the revelation of the mysterious benefactor of the Fourth Reich will get me to soften my stance on the use of Nazi villains. Maybe, but I doubt it.

Overall: Justice Society of America #2 was another phenomenal read. Johns is white hot at the moment. I loved the JSA and was sad to see DC pull the plug on that title and say that they were going to re-start the JSA. I thought it was a well done title that didn’t need to be re-started unlike some other title like the JLA that desperately needed a re-start. However, I will admit that I was completely wrong. As good as John’s JSA was Johns’ Justice Society of America is even better. This was a real stroke of genius to re-start the JSA in this fashion.

Justice Society of America is definitely one of the best reads that DC has to offer. I unreservedly recommend this title to anyone. If you enjoy super hero stories on a grand scale then you will love Justice Society of America.

7 Comments

  1. About the “Nazi rule”: what about the long-established Nazi villains, like Red Skull, Captain Nazi and such? You know, Nazis that have been Nazis since WWII anyway. Does the rule apply there?

  2. pulling in kingdom come with that alex ross background art had me freaking out! i dont mind the nazis nearly as much as you, but i agree this this is a must read series. great review!

  3. Nazis… always frigging Nazis! I get sick of it just as much as seeing Marvel’s hydra group. Besides that, this issue was fantastic, and Hawkman’s entrance was nice, it’s all about action kiddies. Mr. American’s death was sad but hopefully one day they can bring him back… somehow. Anyways, Starman’s identity shocked many fans, and so I guess that Kingdom Come is a part of the DC future now? Great review Rokk as always, I am looking forward to reading more of your other articles.

  4. I agree with you re: Wildcat’s son. I really like the kid and am looking forward to seeing where things go.

    And I love the idea that Starman seems to be Star Boy. I love that JSA is covering and going to cover the whole DCU and beyond.

  5. Notice that at least one of the Nazis at the end was also from the Kingdom Come timeline – the shirtless bald guy has a negative swastika tattoo (the skin is the swastika on a black background) and imaginatively called himself Swastika.

    This guy survived the carnage at the end of the Kingdom Come story (it’s presumed that Starman did too, since we never saw his body). In the KC annotations, Alex Ross said he was an “American militia extremist with a malformed face [who] is simply a well-armed skinhead.”

    Oh, and what other time-travelling Nazi has been long associated with the JSA? I think Per Degaton is due for an appearance.

  6. Ooops, forgot to mention the other bad guys in the scene. The silver guy is Reichsmark, who looks to be the new Silver Ghost (the original Freedom Fighters’ bad guy); the woman looks like Zyklon, a WWII speedster; and the flying guy is Captain Nazi, the Captain Marvel bad guy. I think I recognize the guy Hawkman took out, wasn’t he some Japanese WWII villain? Sun- something or Fire- something maybe? So two reboots, one from an alternate future, and one or two we already knew, plus their mysterious benefactor.

    Remember how the new Steel looked very shiny on the cover and promo images? Maybe the new Steel is Kirk instead of Nate.

  7. Sorry to comment so late, but I’ve just gotten up to speed with the JSA and I think your Nazi rule isn’t valid here. The JSA is a WW2 era hero team, who regularly fought nazis and against nazis. Plus Vandal Savage, who orchestrated WW2 himself, would still use some of his old existing pawns, ie these nazi villains. And it makes sense to have the JSAs past villains come to destroy their offspring. Boo! Give back the points. JSA has been great….

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