Comic Book Review: Justice Society of America #21

There is no doubt that this Kingdom Come/Gog/Magog story has taken quite a long time. Johns has stretched this story out about as long as he possibly could. Still, I have found this to be an enjoyable ride. My concern is that since Johns has drawn this story out so long that readers’ expectations for an amazing ending are going to be high. And I just do not know if Johns can come up with an ending that will satisfy readers considering the massive amount of hype and buildup we have gotten for this story. Let’s go ahead and do this review for Justice Society of America #21.

Creative Team
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Dale Eaglesham
Inks: Nathan Massengill

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 begin with Day 7 of Gog’s arrival. Citizen Steel is thinking about all the miracles that Gog has performed for the world so far. And also how Gog healed Starman, Dr. Mid-Nite, Damage and Sandman and brought David back from the dead.

Gog stands before the JSA’ers who have been following him and says “Worship me.” Only Magog and all the African refugees kneel before Gog. Hawkman, Wildcat v2.0, Amazing Man, Citizen Steel, Damage and Judomaster refuse to kneel and remain standing. Hawkman tells Gog that the JSA’ers are not comfortable with Gog’s request.

Gog points out that Earth’s god turned his back on them shortly after creation. That Gog is here to save them and there is nothing to be uncomfortable about that. Citizen Steel agrees that Gog has helped many. Suddenly, Flash’s voice says that Gog’s gifts come with a price. We see all the African refugees disappear as the Flash has evacuated them from the area at super speed.

Gog looks around and asks where his followers have gone. We then see the Flash re-appear along with Alan Scott, Wildcat, Starman, Hourman, Liberty Belle, Power Girl, KC Superman, Sandman, Mr. Terrific, Obsidian, Dr. Mid-Nite, Cyclone, Stargirl, Jakeem, Thunderbolt and Lightning.

Flash says that he took Gog’s followers somewhere safe. Jay continues that the Earth will also be safe once Gog leaves this planet. Flash disarms Hawkman and Alan tells Hawkman to get his group to stand down. Sandman then reveals that he has travelled to the core of the Earth and that Gog is forming a parasitic relationship with the Earth. That Gog has literally rooted himself to the Earth and that whether Gog is aware of it or not that Gog is going to hold their planet hostage.

Liberty Belle says that they studied Carter’s scriptures and they say that Gog will save the world in seven days. And that seven days is how long it takes Gog to permanently link to the world.

Gog says that he will not leave and asks for them to worship him. Amazing Man asks what will happen if they refuse to worship Gog. Gog answers that anyone who refuses to worship him will be transformed into sustenance for the followers of Gog. Just like the soldiers turned into fruit trees who now provide shade and fruit.

Gog says that he just wants to make the planet peaceful. That it is as simple as that. Gog then whips up a massive windstorm that blows all of the JSA’ers down except for one: Citizen Steel. Undaunted, Steel marches toward Gog. Gog comments how Citizen Steel is just like Gog. That nothing will knock them down. Gog offers to heal Citizen Steel and to let him feel his family’s embrace once more if Steel agrees to kneel and worship Gog. Steel thinks about the offer and says “No.”

Jay and Alan then attack Gog. Jay Garrick cries out that Gog cannot help people and demand something in return. That it does not work that way. Steel sees that roots have grown from Gog’s feet and anchor him into the ground. Gog says that he only wants to make the world better. Gog blasts Flash with a giant red lightning bolt. The Flash screams out and begins to vibrate faster.

Gog says that Jay will become lightning and power a continent. Gog says that he will make Jay better. That Jay will be good. Suddenly, Kingdom Come Superman steps in and punches Gog’s lightning bolt with his fist. The lightning bolt bounces back and hits Gog and causes Gog pain.

Dr. Mid-Nite tends to Jay. Dr. Mid-Nite states that Gog was trying to turn Jay into pure speed force and that they have to slow Jay down before he disperses. Alan then armors up in his Kingdom Come armor and whips out his green flame sword. Alan states that Gog made his body from the Earth. That the JSA’ers must destroy Gog’s body and separate Gog’s head from his body. Alan barks for the JSA’ers to not hold back and to start with the legs.

All of the JSA’ers attack Gog at the same time. Gog cries out asking how the JSA’ers could be so ungrateful after all that Gog has done for them. Gog then takes back his gifts to the JSA’ers. Starman goes insane again. Sandman gets his night terrors back. Dr. Mid-Nite goes blind once again. And Damage loses his face. Damage screams out No! Gog, wait I’ll…” Gog then looks at Citizen Steel and tells him that he will now feel pain in all of his nerves. Steel collapses to the ground in pain.

KC Superman approaches Magog and says that David has to see that Gog is just a petulant child. Magog answers that they should have thanked Gog. Magog punches Superman and says that Gog was saving the world. Superman grabs a hold of Magog and forces him to stare at the JSA’ers who are all writing in pain. Superman says saving the world is not that easy and for David to look at what Gog is doing to the JSA’ers.

Magog then tells Gog to stop it. That Gog is hurting the JSA’ers. Gog asks “Are you defying me?” Magog answers “Yes.” Gog then says “Then like the others my blessing to you is undone.” A giant bolt of energy then blasts David. End of issue.

The Good: Justice Society of America #21 was another solid issue. Johns delivers a well paced issue that, for Johns, moves quickly and with a purpose. The reader is certainly treated to a fair amount of action as we finally see the much anticipated showdown between Gog and the JSA.

The most enjoyable aspect of Justice Society of America #21 is the quality dialogue and fantastic character work. You can tell that Johns feels so out home on this title. And it is clearly reflected in how he writes the various members of the JSA. Johns shows a deft hand for the finer details of the personalities of the various JSA’ers.

I felt terrible for Damage in this issue. As all of the other JSA’ers are defiantly standing up to Gog, none of them waver in their decision even when Gog one by one is stripping them of the gifts that he gave them. Poor Damage cries out to Gog to not take his face. The reader gets the sense that Damage would indeed bow in front of Gog in order to keep his face. And the reader would not think less of Damage for doing so.

It should be interesting to see how this impacts Damage. Having to go back to having a hideously disfigured face might just push Damage over the edge. And I noticed how Johns smartly had Judomaster, the object of Damage’s desires, standing next to Damage staring at him as his face becomes disfigured once more. Maybe Johns will give Damage a break and have Judomaster want to be with him despite his face.

Johns delivers a very heroic Citizen Steel in this issue. I like Nathan and he continues to grow into his role of being a true hero like his ancestors before him were. The scene where Gog summons up a massive storm that blows all of the members of the JSA down except for Steel was perfect. Citizen Steel trudges forward like a tank displaying how his will is as strong as steel just like his body. The reader can’t help but smile and be impressed with Nathan as he has the balls to turn down Gog’s tempting offer of letting him feel once again.

Gog’s inevitable heel turn well done. Finally, Gog reveals that what he desires is for everyone on Earth to worship him. And if anyone refuses to worship him then they will be transformed into a fruit bearing tree or water in order to provide sustenance for the ones who do worship Gog. Johns did a fine job hinting at this with how Gog turned the various militiamen into these very items.

Jay’s response that Gog cannot help people and demand something in return was vintage Jay Garrick. This moment contrasts Gog, an egocentric being who wants to “help” the world, with the true heroes in the JSA who consistently put their lives on the line to save others and ask for nothing in return.

Having Gog root himself to the world like some type of parasite was an interesting twist. I am curious to see how our heroes are going to be able to remove Gog’s head from his body in order to defeat him. Johns has done a fine job building Gog into a seemingly impossible villain to defeat.

The ending to Justice Society of America #21 was quite dramatic. David Reid stays true to his heroic nature by defiantly standing up to Gog. I am glad that Johns allowed Reid to remain the hero and true to his past. I was expecting Johns to simply morph Reid into your typical zealot who was going to fight mindlessly for Gog.

I enjoyed the various neat little Kingdom Come themes that appeared in this issue. We saw Alan Scott as he was in Kingdom Come with his armor on and wielding a sword. We also saw Jay being transformed into the Flash from Kingdom Come. These small details are effective in visually tying this story arc into the original Kingdom Come story.

Dale Eaglesham and Nathan Massengill combine to deliver plenty of quality artwork. Eaglesham is a consistent artist who always delivers a pleasant comic book to look at. Eaglesham certainly has succeeded in conveying the massive size of Gog and his godly demeanor and presence.

The Bad: Justice Society of America #21 was a very predictable read. We all knew that Gog was going to turn out to be a villain. We all knew that all of Gog’s gifts to the various JSA’ers were going to be taken back at some point. We also all knew that David Reid was cannon fodder the minute he first appeared on this title. Hopefully, Johns will be able to give us some surprising twists and turns with the finale of this story in the next issue.

Another defect with this story has been the incredibly slow pace. This Kingdom Come/Gog/Magog story has been an exercise in decompression at its highest form. The decompressed style of storytelling will probably tax the patience of some readers. This story will probably be a more satisfying read in trade paperback format.

Overall: Justice Society of America #21 was another solid read. Hopefully, Johns will be able to pull off an climactic conclusion to this story that is satisfying to the reader. Johns certainly has built this story up to great heights by making the reader wait so long for a pay-off. It should be interesting to see if Johns can deliver. If you have missed this story then I would certainly suggest picking this story arc up in trade format.