Comic Book Review: Justice Society of America #18

Justice Society of America is one of DC’s strongest and most dependable titles. I would certainly say that this is DC’s best team title at the moment. I fully expect Justice Society of America #18 to be another fine read as we finally get to see the appearance of Magog. Let’s go ahead and hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Dale Eaglesham & Jerry Ordway
Inks: Mick Gray, Kris Justice, Nathan Massengill, Jerry Ordway

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

Synopsis: We begin with an African tribal militia raping and killing the locals of a small village. That is until Gog and the JSA show up on the scene. The JSA members begin kicking ass on the tribal militia. Hawkman shows what a bad-ass warrior he is by destroying on some of the militia members. Hawkman is about to kill one of the tribesmen when Jay Garrick stops him.

Jay reminds Hawkman that the JSA does not kill. That Jay is now the acting Chairman of the JSA now that Power Girl is missing. Jay says that this is not the way to teach the “kids.” (The new members of the fifty person roster of the JSA). Hawkman says that Jay is wrong and that his method of no killing is no way to fight a war.

Jay responds that the JSA is not here to fight a war. That the JSA is here to make sure Gog’s presence does not ignite a war. Gog says that he will end war and spread peace. Gog then says that the innocent villagers who follow him shall not be harmed as long as they are with him.

We cut to Damage reading an English-to-Japanese dictionary so he can ask Judomaster out on a date. We then see Power Girl on the run in Earth-2. And then we see Ma Hunkel tucking Sand into bed so he can enjoy his sleep that Gog blessed upon him.

We zip back to Africa with the JSA discussing what to do about Gog deciding to end all war. David Reid comments that Gog has not done anything to harm anyone and that the JSA should support Gog.

Steel says that they should keep following Gog to provide protection. Steel is clearly convinced that at some point Gog is going to grant him his wish to be cured of his inability to feel just like Gog healed Sand, Power Girl, Starman and Dr. Mid-Nite.

We slide back to the JSA brownstone where Judomaster is working out her incredibly flexible and hot body while Damage continues to figure out how to ask her on a date in Japanese. Damage tosses the English-to-Japanese book aside and tells Judomaster in English that he understands how she must feel about losing control over her powers and hurting people. Damage says that she should not beat herself up over it. Damage says that he has learned that they all get a chance to set things right. That it is never too late to be a better person.

Judomaster then places her hand on Damage’s ruggedly handsome face. Damage comments that she does understand his face. That Judomaster knows that Damage is hot now that Gog healed his face.

We zip back to Africa where Stargirl tells Steel that he might not want Gog’s help. That Starman does not seem happy that he has his sanity back. And that Power Girl has disappeared. Steel snaps that he does not want to be indestructible. That he wants to feel again.

We then see Alan, Jay, Hawkman and Kingdom Come Superman all talking. KC Superman agrees with Alan and Jay that Hawkman should not use lethal force. Hawkman snaps that Superman is not a founder of the JSA. Hawkman reminds KC Superman that he is just a “guest” on Hawkman’s Earth.

Alan says that they cannot leave corpses in their wake. That the JSA has an active member of the Marines on their roster (David Reid) and that the JSA represents America. Amazing Man then inquires who is representing the people here following Gog. David Reid answers that he will represent them. David says that he will walk with Gog. (Okay, we all figured out a couple of issues ago that David is going to be transformed into Magog, right?)

Suddenly, more of the African tribal militiamen arrive on the scene and attack the villagers. Gog states that there shall be no more war. With a wave of his hand, Gog transforms the militiamen into trees. Gog says that he does not kill. That he just made the soldiers into a more suitable form of life. That they will harm no one now. And that they will those who they have wronged with shade and fruit. Gog says that this is just. (I can’t argue with the big man about that.)

Dr. Mid-Nite counters that the soldiers no longer have brains or nervous systems. KC Superman says that the soldiers might as well be dead. Alan and Jay discuss that if Gog can change the soldiers into trees then he can change them back into their human forms. Hawkman then angrily growls “No.” Hawkman spits that they are lucky that Hawkman does not cut these “trees” down. Jay then begins to debate with Hawkman and Hawkman cuts him short by stating “Leave it.”

Suddenly, more militiamen pour into the village. The JSA members quickly begin brawling with the soldiers. David Reid snaps that they should not be treating these militiamen like everyone else. David says that these militiamen are monsters. David begins killing the militiamen.

We then see one of the African soldiers whip out a rocket launcher and kill David. Dr. Mid-Nite rushes to David’s side to try and perform some emergency surgery. However, Dr. Mid-Nite then realizes that with his eyes healed that he can no longer see inside of a person’s body. Dr. Mid-Nite spits that he is blinder than he was before. Therefore, Dr. Mid-Nite is powerless to help David. Dr. Mid-Nite then feels David’s pulse and pronounces David dead.

KC Superman snaps on Gog and yells that Gog said no one would die. And now David is dead. Gog agrees that David is dead. However, David does not have to stay that way. Gog reaches out and bathes David’s body in energy. Gog then tells the JSA members “You see. No harm will come to any of you.” Gog then says “Magog. Rise.”

We see David now transformed into Magog. KC Superman is stunned.

We shift to Earth-2 with Professor Michael Holt arriving at his office in the Physics department of the university where he teaches. Michael is his cell phone talking to his pregnant wife. Michael hangs up the phone and enters his office. Standing in the office is Power Girl who tells Michael “My name is Power Girl. I need your help.”
The Good: Justice Society of America #18 was another quality read. Johns turns in a strongly plotted issue as he continues to progress this story arc in a methodical and logical fashion. This issue moves along at Johns’ typical slow burn pace, yet it never loses its focus or direction.

The two biggest strengths to Justice Society of America continue in this issue as Johns whips up plenty more nicely crafted dialogue and character work. It continually amazes me what a wonderful feel that Johns has for each member of the JSA. Johns gives the reader an excellent taste of each character’s personality. In particular, the back and forth dialogue between the JSA’s big three of Alan, Jay and Carter was exceptionally well done.

Of course, it is always nice to get a little bit of action, especially in a story that has been as slow moving as this one. And Johns manages to give the reader just enough action to keep this story from being too boring. We get some nice action to get kick this story off with a bang and then after Johns slows the story down again, he ramps it up once more with a bit more action near the end of this issue.

The JSA member who takes center stage in Justice Society of America #18 is Hawkman. And this is one character that desperately needs work considering how much DC has messed with his origin and history. Johns does an excellent job stressing how Hawkman is a warrior first and a super-hero second. No JSA’er kicks the amount of ass that Hawkman does in the fight scenes in this issue.

Johns also wisely re-enforces the fact that Hawkman is one of the founding members of the JSA and that he has a long and storied history. Johns places Carter, Jay and Alan as the three lions of the JSA who act as the “holy trinity” of the JSA. It seems like Hawkman’s important role with the JSA always gets overlooked as Jay and Alan usually get the spotlight as the “fathers” of the JSA.

I enjoyed the amount of friction that Johns creates between Hawkman on one side and Jay and Allen on the other side as they engage in a philosophical debate about how to handle the militiamen. I also like that Hawkman had no problem getting in the face of the Kingdom Come Superman. This was an excellent scene that showed the reader that Hawkman, unlike many heroes in the DCU, does not defer to someone just because he wears a big red S on his chest.
Johns does a wonderful job fleshing out Hawkman’s character in a clear and concise manner so that readers get an excellent feel for Hawkman’s personality. I love Hawkman’s forcefulness and aggressiveness. Hawkman has a pragmatic and realistic view of life.
In an era where most comic book heroes are all seem to possess the same bland PC view of life, it is quite refreshing to get a character like Hawkman. I mean, I can appreciate tofu and vegetables, but sometimes I want a nice juicy bloody steak and a beer. And Hawkman is the red meat and beer of the JSA.
Johns continues to progress the various plotlines in a pleasant fashion. Johns unveils in this issue how all the various gifts from Gog are all turning out to be curses. Starman is worse off with his memories than before. Power Girl is trapped on Earth-2 and being hunted down like a criminal. Dr. Mid-Nite has his vision back, but can no longer use his super vision to see through a person’s body so he can pull of miraculous feats of emergency surgery. This all re-enforces the reader’s suspicions that Gog is not as benevolent as he has appeared.

And despite all of this, Steel still wants to be cured. It was logical for Steel to ignore how it seems that the various “gifts” have turned out to be curses. It makes sense that a character like Steel would be willing to risk anything in order to be rid of his curse.

I enjoyed the scene with Judomaster and Damage. It was nice to see Damage actually socially interacting with people. It seems like Damage has learned a lesson about never giving up on life. Of course, I think it is fairly obvious that Johns is setting up Damage for a fall. Johns makes a point of showing how Judomaster thinks that Damage has a handsome face. Damage even thinks that it is his good looks that makes Judomaster like him.

I would imagine that at some point Gog’s gifts will be reversed and Damage will return to his scarred face. At that point we will see if Damage can continue keeping his positive outlook on life. And we will see if Judomaster loves him despite his disfigured face.

Johns ends the Justice Society of America #18 with a solid two-prong hook ending. I loved the transformation of David Reid into Magog. Yeah, it was predictable, but it was cool nonetheless. Johns takes a pretty boring and generic character and puts him to a great use.

This transformation is consistent with David being a U.S. Marine and his open support of Gog’s mission. David is a logical character to become a weapon to end war. And the fact that he once stood with the JSA should create plenty of drama as we head to the inevitable conflict between Magog and the JSA.

I also liked the second prong if this ending with Power Girl turning to Michael Holt for help in returning back to New Earth. It was nice to see that at least the Earth-2 Michael Holt has been spared the same trauma and loss that has been laid on New Earth’s Mr. Terrific.

As always, Eaglesham does a fine job with the artwork. This is a nicely laid out story and Eaglesham mixes up varying point of views in the various panels. The splash shots add a dramatic feel to this issue. Ordway’s artwork provides for a great old school feel to all the scenes on Earth-2.

The Bad: Justice Society of America #18 may be too slowly paced for some readers. This story arc is decompressed and is crawling along at a snail’s pace. Without a doubt, Johns is writing this story arc for the trade format and not the monthly format. If you are a reader who enjoys compressed stories then you may not have the patience for what Johns is doing on this title.

Another defect to this story arc is that it is all a bit too predictable. Johns’ writing is formulaic and that is part of what makes him so consistently good as he always delivers dependable and technically well written stories. However, many readers prefer to be surprised and always wondering what is going to happen next. That does not happen to often with Justice Society of America as Johns telegraphs the direction of this story arc.

Another small quibble is the fact that Judomaster does not talk at all. Johns really needs to get Judomaster speaking English quickly. Judomaster’s character is suffering due to a lack of dialogue. At this point, Judomaster is a one-dimensional character who is just not that interesting.
Even though I liked the artwork in general, the fact remains that the inks by committee really hampers Eaglesham’s pencils.
Overall: Justice Society of America #18 was another strong read. Johns continues to let this story arc simmer as we are approaching to what is going to be a roiling boil with the next issue. This is a balanced title that should satisfy action fans as well as readers who enjoy meaty plots and quality character work. Justice Society of America continues to be DC’s premier team title. I would recommend giving this title a try.