Comic Book Review: Justice Society of America #1

Justice Society of America #1 is an issue that the Revolution has been psyched to read for quite some time. The last volume of the JSA ended with a complete thud. The final story arc by Paul Levitz was less than impressive. It was an unnecessary waste of paper. DC should have just cancelled the title after Johns left. It has been a long wait, but Justice Society of America #1 is finally here. Johns has spent a lot of time and effort crafting an all new Justice Society of America. I have very high hopes about this issue. Johns clearly loves these characters and is one of the hottest writers in the industry. Let’s not waste any more time and hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciler: Dale Eaglesham
Inker: Art Thibert

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

Synopsis: We start with a scene of World War III with the JSA rushing into battle. We then cut to the present with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman telling Jay Garrick, Alan Scott and Wildcat that the JSA is a family while the JLA is a strike force. That the JSA has connections to nearly every masked man and woman on this planet. That these heroes need a moral compass.

We cut to Westmoreland Country, Virginia. The FBI is investigating a grisly murder scene. A woman and her two sons have been killed. Mr. America enters the scene. Mr. America used to be an FBI agent until he was kicked out for brutally beating a murderer in order to get him to confess to his crimes. Mr. America realized he could do more to stop crime as a masked mystery man than as an FBI agent. An FBI agent tells Mr. America that the husband is missing. Mr. America takes off his mask and says that he is the husband.

We cut to Alan, Jay and Wildcat choosing the new members for the JSA. So far they have selected Mr. Terrific, Power Girl, Liberty Belle, Hourman, Stargirl and Dr. Mid-Nite. Wildcat thinks to himself that he could care less who they invite to be a member. That his role is not to be a moral compass. That he is there to train these heroes how to fight. That Jay and Alan are father figures, but not Wildcat. Wildcat leaves Jay and Alan to finish picking the members of the JSA. Alan and Jay say that Wildcat needs to know his new teammates. Wildcat tells them he will get to know them as soon as they step in the ring with him for training.

We cut to Philadelphia and see Damage brawling with a villain named Rebel. Rebel’s costume is the Confederate Flag. (Uh-oh. I feel it coming.) Rebel comments that he is here to clean the streets of the color that is destroying them. Rebel is a white racist villain. (Breep! Breep! Oh man, I knew it. We have a Nazi Rule violation. Actually, to be specific, it is a violation of a subsection of the Nazi Rule that covers white supremist themed villains. Wow, Johns, I thought you were more creative than this.)

Rebel comments that Damage wears a mask to cover his face that was destroyed by the Reverse-Flash. That the Reverse-Flash beat Damage to a bloody pulp. Damage gets pissed and kicks Rebel’s ass. The cops on the scene yell at Damage for destroying their cruiser during the fight. Damage picks up and throws the cop car to the side telling them to get out of his way. Hourman appears and catches the cop car and sets it down. Liberty Belle is with him. They are here to offer Damage membership to the JSA. Damage comments that the Teen Titans offered him membership and so did the Freedom Fighters. Damage asks what the JSA could possibly offer him. The cop then interrupts and asks who is going to pay for their car. Hourman tells him to bill the Justice Society. And with that Damage leaves with Hourman and Liberty Belle.

We shift to Mr. America breaking into his brother’s apartment. Mr. America had gotten a call from his brother pleading for help. Mr. America has figured out that the killer is Catalyst. His skin can secrete any chemical compound he imagines. He is a human drug arsenal. Mr. America sees Catalyst standing over his brother’s dead body. Mr. America goes into a rage and proceeds to whip Catalyst’s butt.

We cut to Harvard University where we see Ma Hunkel’s granddaughter. She is a very intelligent and yet very strange person who has no friends. We see her experimenting with her wind powers. Mr. Terrific and Power Girl approach Maxine Hunkel. Maxine acts like a spaz that these two great heroes are in front of her. They offer her membership to the JSA. Maxine continues to spaz and runs on and on about how great it would be to be in the JSA. Power Girl finally covers Maxine’s mouth and tells her if she says one more word then they are revoking their offer.

We shift to Opal City. We see a new hero, Starman, on the scene saving a news helicopter. The reporter in the helicopter hops out and asks Starman for an interview. Starman just replied that he loves sloppy joes. After all it is Wednesday. Starman tells the reporter to take care of herself and ignore the rutabaga and then he flies off.

We see Starman fly back to his room at a local sanitarium. The doctor asks Starman if he took his pills today. Starman said he took all four colors and then says “Color Kids and Polar Boys!” as we waltzes into his room.

We see Stargirl and Doctor Mid-Nite arrive at the same sanitarium. The doctor there tells them that Starman showed up one day complaining of voices in his head. They performed some tests and think that he is borderline schizophrenic. That Starman basically lives here. He leaves whenever there is a fire or robbery and then comes back. There were a few murder scenes where he freaked out.

We cut to Boston where Mr. America is on a stake out. Mr. America beat Catalyst until he told Mr. America who he was working for. That someone hired Catalyst to kill Mr. America’s family members. Catalyst didn’t know who his mystery employer was only that he was to meet him at this location to collect the rest of his money for the job. Mr. America begins to break down as it sinks in that his family is dead and he is all alone. Suddenly, someone approaches him and calls out his name.

We then shift to the JSA brownstone. Ma Hunkel hugs her granddaughter Maxine. We see Obsidians shadow flick across the foyer. Ma Hunkel says that Obsidian is their security guard. Ma Hunkel then leads Maxine to the main meeting room where the other members of the JSA are already located. Hourman is talking to Liberty Belle about Morimoto’s restaurant/ in New York. (Morimoto is only the greatest of all the Iron Chefs!) Starman is telling Mr. Terrific “There’s a star on Thanagar. I dreamt about it. HA! 52!”

We cut to Alan, Jay and Wildcat all frantically flying to an apartment building in Brooklyn. There they see a young man standing outside of the building lighting a cigarette. We then cut to Mr. America beaten and bloodied saying that he has to warn them. That he was only the beginning. We then see Mr. America crash through the skylight in the JSA’s brownstone. Mr. America lands on top of the table in the JSA’s meeting room. We then cut to Alan and Jay telling Wildcat that the young man in front of them is named Tom and he is Wildcat’s son. End of issue.

We then get a teaser page of 4 panels giving us a taste of what is to come this year in the Justice Society of America. Go ahead and click on the scan of it so you can see the larger version of it. Go on. I’ll wait for you. Ok, you have finished checking it out. Dude!!! That is freaking Dawnstar, baby!!! Hell yeah! Plus, we see a scene with Sandman and Batman, a scene with Kal-L and Power Girl and a scene with the original Superman.

Comments
The Good: Incredible. Justice Society of America #1 was an awesome read! Johns cranked out one hell of an issue! Wait, your wondering why I’m raving so much about this issue when I only gave the story 7 Night Girls out of 10. Well, unfortunately for Johns, any violation of the Nazi Rule carries an automatic 2 Night Girls deduction on the overall score. So, if Johns hadn’t violated the subsection of the Nazi Rule then Justice Society of America would have gotten an impressive 9 Night Girls out of 10 for the story.

Justice Society of America was a well plotted and paced issue. Johns wasted no time in getting this story arc moving quickly. It was a smart move for Johns to mix the scenes with Mr. America in with the obligatory membership recruiting scenes that you get with a debut issue of a team title. This kept the reader from becoming too bored and created some intrigue and tension during the membership recruiting scenes.

The Mr. America plotline is a great way to kick off the first story arc on this title. Johns does a wonderful job writing Mr. America’s character. I liked the violent streak that runs through Mr. America. The reader also gets a good feeling for the crushing loss that Mr. America has gone through losing all of his family members. The scene where it finally sets in on him that he has lost everyone was pretty powerful and well done.

And the dramatic ending of a beaten Mr. America crashing through the skylight onto the JSA meeting table made for an impressive ending. Mr. America has stumbled onto a massive evil plot that is much bigger than just him and his family. Evidently, somebody wants to kill off the family members of certain golden age heroes. That the other members of the JSA are targets as well.

This is a great plotline that certainly has grabbed my attention. I’m curious to see where Johns takes this plotline and I’m definitely excited to see who the villainous mastermind behind this plan is.

But, the dramatic ending with Mr. America wasn’t enough for Johns. No, he mixed in another big bomb into the ending of Justice Society of America #1 with the revelation that Wildcat has a son! Wow. My jaw was on the floor at the end of this issue. Talk about an incredible one-two punch to end an issue! Absolutely, masterful work by Johns. That is one incredible ending that is certainly going to hook the reader into coming back for the next issue.

I also liked how Johns slyly built up the revelation that Wildcat has a son. Johns shows how Alan and Jay are the father figures and the moral compasses of the JSA. That Wildcat is the trainer. He gets the young heroes ready to fight with all their heart and be willing to give everything they have in their crusade for justice. Wildcat, by his own admission, is certainly no father figure. That makes the bomb at the end of the issue that he is a father all that much more fascinating.

It is certainly going to be entertaining to see what Johns does with this plotline. Wildcat definitely is going to emerge from this plotline a much different man than he was before. This was a great idea by Johns and is going to serve as a good vehicle to help further develop Wildcat’s character.

Johns spins out his usual well crafted dialogue that always makes his writing such a joy to read. Johns has an excellent feel for the various characters and it shows in how he manages to craft developed and unique personalities for each character. Johns also creates some impressive chemistry between the various characters. I thought the scene with the ever babbling Maxine Hunkel and Power Girl was funny. I liked the witty banter between Dr. Mid-Nite and Stargirl. I love the chemistry between Hourman and Liberty Belle. It is refreshing to see two characters so in love with each other and that physically affectionate. The chemistry between Alan, Jay and Wildcat was perfect. You could tell that these three men have been through so much together.

I totally dig the roster that Johns has assembled for this new Justice Society of America. There is only one character that I don’t like. That would be Maxine Hunkel. For me, there are three characters who are the holy trinity of the JSA that you absolutely must have on this title: Jay Garrick, Alan Scott and Wildcat. Johns wisely placed those three characters at the top of the JSA hierarchy on this new team. It was nice to see these three characters getting the respect from DC’s holy trinity in Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Johns clearly understands the importance of the JSA within the history of the DCU.

It is great to see the JSA treated like the preeminent super team that it is rather than some red headed step child that it was treated during the 1970’s through the 1990’s. DC has a wonderful, rich and long history even though it seems that DC doesn’t want to embrace it or acknowledge it. I’m glad to see Johns forcing DC to finally pay some respect to that impressive history.

I’m a big fan of Mr. Terrific and I think he is definitely a character that is a must have on this title. I’ve never been all that crazy about Power Girl. Maybe it is the soccer mom haircut or that she is part of the Superman family and I’ve never really been a big fan of the Family of S. But, I enjoy Power Girl’s character and definitely think that she is a vital character for the JSA.

I love Hourman and Liberty Belle. They are cool characters and I dig the two of them together. I like the dialogue between these two. They are a great couple and compliment each other well.

Damage is a cool character with plenty of potential. He has an impressive pedigree since he is the son of the original Atom, a founding member of the JSA. Plus, Damage adds much needed dissension in the ranks. The JSA is a family and they all love and respect each other. However, that can get a bit boring and you need a smart assed character who likes to stir the pot a little. That is Damage. Plus, Damage brings a nasty attitude that every super team needs.

Dr. Mid-Nite is a solid character who adds a much needed dimension to the team with his incredible medical mind. I am not a big fan of Stargirl. I find her too perky and a bit annoying. However, I understand her important role in the JSA as part of the new generation and I have no problem with her being on the roster. Plus, since Johns based Stargirl’s character on his sister who died in a tragic accident, you know that Stargirl will always be in the JSA as long as Johns is calling the shots.

Of course, the character that I found the most interesting was Starman. I think that Starman is a fantastic new addition to the JSA. Of course, I’ll readily admit that I am a bit biased. Being a huge fan of the Legion of Super Heroes, you knew I’d like Starman. Plus, I always like the real Thom Kallor with his bitching beard and thought his costume design was one of the best ever. Starman is sporting the same costume that we saw the Starman in Kingdom Come wearing which is the same costume that Thom wore during Levitz’s run on the Legion only the Kingdom Come version wears a mask.

This is an interesting move by Johns to add in a character that clearly has ties to the Levitz era Legion as well as Kingdom Come. Also, the original Star Boy first appeared in the Legion of Super Heroes with powers the same as Superboy. Flight, super strenght, invulnerability, etc. It appears that this Starman has those same powers. Plus, we got a neat Legion reference from Starman when he starts talking about how he took all four colors of pills and then mentioned “Color Kids and Polar Boys.” Two old Legion of Substitute Heroes. I cannot wait to learn more about Starman. This is going to be an enjoyable plotline. It is possible that for the first time DC is starting to incorporate Kingdom Come into the DCU.

Now lets talk about teaser page at the end of this issue. We get titillated with four panels dealing with upcoming events to be seen in the pages of Justice Society of America in the next year.

First, let me once again freak out. DAWNSTAR!! Yes! I have always been a huge Wildfire fan and, therefore, I always liked his love interest, Dawnstar. Plus, as a little kid, I always though that Dawny was a total hottie. I would imagine that this teaser has something to do with Starman. I cannot wait to see what Johns does with this plotline. Dawnstar hasn’t been seen since Zero Hour when DC re-booted the Legion the first time. So, I’m thinking that maybe we are seeing Dawnstar from the Levitz era Legion. God I hope so. Maybe DC is going to work in an appearance of the Levitz era Legion into this New Earth. I would be insanely psyched if that were to happen.

The other teaser panel has Sandman in the old school gasmask and hot Sandman costume. Also in the panel is Starman, Batman and a character who looks like Booster Gold. They are outside Arkham Asylum where Sandman tells Batman he was Batman torn to shreds inside the Asylum. Starman says it is the Doctor with no face. The character who looks like Booster Gold says he will notify the League. Now, am I seeing things? Could that really be Booster Gold? And what is with Batman being torn to shreds inside of the Asylum? And who could the Doctor with no face be? Doctor Fate?

The third teaser panel is a fist smashing out of Kal-L’s grave with a shocked Power Girl watching. Could our beloved Earth-Two Superman be making a dramatic return to life? I would be thrilled if the original Superman was still alive.

The fourth teaser panel is drawn by Alex Ross and it appears to be Kal-L. He says that “It never ends…For people like us.” What could Kal-L be talking about? I would imagine it has to do with something concerning Infinite Crisis and the Multiverse.

These teasers certainly grab my interest. It appears that the Multiverse just may come back in some form or fashion. Add to these four teasers what we were teased with over in Justice League of America #0 where we see Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman talking about how the Flash has discovered that there is a second Earth. Just what in the world does DC have in store for us over the course of the next year? It should be interesting to find out. Personally, I’ll be thrilled if the Multiverse makes a return in any shape or form.

Dale Eaglesham provided solid artwork. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Eaglesham’s style. However, Eaglesham’s old school style of art does fit well on this title rich with golden age characters. And I have to say that I love how Eaglesham draws both Starman and Wildcat.

The Bad: Johns violated a subsection of The Revolution’s Nazi rule that covers white supremacist themed super villains. The Revolution has this rule because I find that the most over-used villain in comic book history is the Nazi/White Supremacist villain. To me, it smacks of zero creativity. The writer might as well just tell me that he totally mailed it in and decided to expend absolutely no effort at all in creating a new super villain.

I mean, c’mon, the Civil War ended in freaking 1865. That was 141 years ago!! The vast majority of Americans didn’t even have family in America in 1865. My god, do we really need a Confederate Flag decorated super villain calling himself Rebel in the year 2006? Jesus, that is even more pathetic than a Nazi themed villain. At least that was only 61 years ago.

I expect much more from a writer of such a high caliber like Johns. This was just a pathetically unoriginal and lame super villain. Yeah, I know, in the world of comic books, only blancos are racist. And for some reason, comic book writers feel the need to continually serve up more generic white racist themed villains than ever before. You would never see one of mi hermanos portrayed as a racist themed villain.

Rebel is lame and smacks of no effort on the part of Johns. Johns has more creativity and talent than to come up with such a pathetically unoriginal super villain.

The only character on the roster of this new JSA that I didn’t like was Maxine Hunkle. Maxine was just too annoying for words. I swear that comic book writers struggle to create and write a well developed and interesting female super hero. It seems that female super heroes are either bubble headed teen-age idiots or they are way too over the top aggressive in trying to act more manly than a man. Rarely, do we get just a cool female super hero with a well developed character.

Maxine Hunkle managed to irritate me practically within her first panel appearance. All I can hope for is that if Johns ever decides to kill off a character that it is Maxine Hunkle. Either that or we get to see Wildcat slap the spit out of her during a training session.

Overall: Justice Society of America #1 was a phenomenal read. Johns did an incredible job with the story. Strong dialogue, great character development and compelling plotlines all make for one fantastic debut issue. I strongly recommend this new Justice Society of America. Give it a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

3 Comments

  1. the person in the preview pic looks more like geo-force than booster gold

  2. Well that was a long review.
    Not that that is a bad thing.

    Got myself a blogger account, feel free to have a nosey.

    Tempted to get the issue.
    But…. I … must … resist.
    Love the way you keep drawing attention to all the Nazi characters. Its very true. But they’re are the one generic bad guy you can depend on. Nazi = bad!!

  3. The last panel appears to be kingdom come superman rather than kal-l.

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