Comic Book Review: Justice Society of America Annual #1

The Revolution is extremely psyched to read Justice Society of America Annual #1. Why? Because after having Earth-2 ripped from me when I was a kid, I finally am getting what I have always wished for: the return of Earth-2. It is about damn time. The minute the original Crisis ended I immediately began biding my time hoping against hope that DC would wise up and bring back the Multiverse.

With that in mind, it is obvious why this issue holds so much appeal to me. I am thrilled to finally see all those excellent Earth-2 characters that DC unceremoniously junked back and better than ever. I simply do not think there is any chance of me not enjoying Justice Society of America Annual #1. Let’s go ahead and hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Jerry Ordway
Inks: Bob Wiacek

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 the Huntress standing on a rooftop looking through the window to a hospital room where her boyfriend District Attorney Harry Sims is being treated for massive burns to his face. His head is wrapped up in bandages.

Huntress thinks how her father’s villains have all become increasingly warped and violent as they approach the end of their lives. Evidently, Two-Face and Riddler are already dead. Joker is old and increasingly psychotic. Huntress swears that she will track down the Joker and do what her father would not: kill the Joker.

Suddenly, a massive energy blast comes crashing down near Huntress. Huntress is stunned as she looks at Power Girl’s unconscious body that landed on the ground in the massive energy blast. Huntress grabs her JLI communicator and radios the rest of the team that Power Girl is alive and back.

We cut to The Justice Society Infinity headquarters where Dr. Mid-Nite is examining Power Girl. Jade is next to Dr. Mid-Nite and both of them are amazed that Power Girl has returned. Power Girl wakes up and mentions that she does not know exactly what has happened to her.

We see Huntress outside the medical bay waiting to see Power Girl. Robin (Dick Grayson) arrives on the scene. Robin says that he heard about what happened to Harry Sims and that he is sorry. That ever since Alfred passed that Huntress has had a tough time. Huntress says that the Joker felt that there needed to be a new Two-Face after Harvey Dent died. Therefore, the Joker threw acid into Harry’s face. Huntress says that despite all the surgeries that Harry’s face simply cannot be repaired.

Dick says that he knows the attack occurred on the night that Huntress and Harry got engaged. Huntress proceeds to give Dick the cold shoulder and tells him to mind his own business and for him to not touch her. Evidently, Dick operates abroad and not in Gotham City. Dick says that he can return to Gotham if Huntress wants him to. Robin then mentions that Sly told him that Huntress quit the JSI a month ago. Dick asks Helena why she is shutting him out and what exactly is going on with her.

Jade then busts through the doors to the medical bay and tells Helena and Dick that Power Girl is awake. Helena rushes to her old friend Power Girl. Power Girl is confused and exclaims that none of this can be real. That this must be a trick. That this must be the work of Psycho-Pirate.

Power Girl lashes out at her old friends and tells them to back away from her. Power Girl flies out of the room and down the hallway. Power Girl slowly gets her memories back about Gog arriving on New Earth and encountering the Justice Society of America. That Gog then transported Power Girl back “home.”

Power Girl then busts through the doors of the main meeting room and sees the massive JLI meeting table with Star Spangled Kid (Sly Pemberton), Fury (Lyta Trevor-Hall), Silver Scarab (Hector Hall), Northwind, The Atom (Al Pratt), Nucklon (Albert Rothstein), Wildcat (Yolanda Montez), Jade (Jenni-Lynn Haden), Obsidian (Todd Rice), and Dr. Mid-Nite (Beth Chapel).

All of the JLI members are stunned and excited to see Power Girl back home. Power Girl is still in shock and stammers that she is not home. Huntress then hugs her old friend and tells Power Girl “You are now. Welcome home.” Power Girl begins crying as her old friends all huddle around her.

We shift forward to Power Girl finishing telling her story about what happened to her ever since the end of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. Hector Hall states that they have had contact with parallel Earths before, but that after the skies went red (during the original Crisis) they lost all contact with the parallel Earths. Hector states that they simply thought that the other multiple Earths were all destroyed. Evidently, that is not the case.

Power Girl responds that they all though that Earth-2 and its history and all of the heroes were folded into another Earth. Robin responds that Power Girl and the Earth-1 heroes were wrong. That Jay Garrick and Alan Scott that Power Girl met on the old Earth-1 were not from Earth-2. Dick says that Jay and Alan retired but that they are still on Earth-2.

Dr. Mid-Nite states that whatever Earth that Power Girl was trapped on was not an amalgamation of the other parallel Earths. Instead, that Earth was a world that was created as a by-product of the Crisis. Jade chimes in that perhaps the Earth that Power Girl was trapped on is a “New Earth.”

Al Pratt then asks Power Girl what happened to Superman. Power Girl answers that Superman died saving the universe and reminding the rest of them that the world needs better heroes. All the JLI members are solemn faced at the news of Superman’s death.

We shift forward to later that night with Power Girl in bed in her room at the JLI headquarters. She is unable to sleep. Her old pet cat then taps at the window. Power Girl is happy to see the cat. But, when Power Girl opens the window to let the cat in, the cat suddenly hisses at her and leaves.

We slide over to Dr. Fate (Kent Nelson) investigating the scene where Power Girl crash landed onto their world. The Spectre (Jim Corrigan) arrives on the scene. Dr. Fate says that he sees the aura of one who is not of their world. Spectre adds that he sees the blood of the Multiverse. The Spectre adds that he though their universe was safe from it. Dr. Fate responds that there is no such thing as safe and that Earth-2 is not safe.

We cut to Huntress staking out Joker’s secret hideout. Suddenly, Power Girl arrives on the scene and says that she could not sleep. Power Girl offers Huntress her help in taking down the Joker. Power Girl then states that she doesn’t feel like they are friends anymore. Power Girl says that she doesn’t feel like she belongs here.

Power Girl states that she left a lot of friends behind. And that those friends she has known longer than some of the members of the Infinite, Inc or Justice Society Infinity. That her friends are now face-to-face with a god and she doesn’t know if they are all right and that she is sure that they are worried about her.

Huntress answers that of course her friends are worried about Power Girl. Huntress adds that they were worried about Power Girl for years. Power Girl says that she needs to contact her friends and tell them that she is all right. Huntress asks Power Girl if this other Justice Society is important to her. Power Girl answers that they are.

Our two heroines then proceed to bust into Joker’s lair. The two ladies kick ass on the Joker’s minions. Power Girl then rips the door off a vault that says “Do not open till X-Mas.” Inside is an old and sickly Silver Age Joker in a wheel-chair.

The Huntress then whips out a knife and lunges to stab the Joker. Power Girl pushes Huntress away from the Joker. The Joker then activates his electro-shock joy-buzzer and grabs Power Girl’s hand. The massive electrical current bounces harmlessly off of Power Girl and proceeds to electrocute the Joker. The Joker crumples to death in his wheel-chair.

We shift to Huntress and Power Girl back on the rooftop of the building overlooking Harry Sims’ hospital room. Helena reveals that with both her father and Power Girl gone that she had no one to talk to that would understand. Helena states that she and Harry had a lot of ups and downs. And that when Harry asked her to marry him everyone in the room applauded.

Then the Joker busted in and attacked Harry. Helena then reveals that she never had a chance to say “no.” Helena says that she simply could not marry Harry. Helena says that she has been in love with someone else her entire life. Power Girl replies “It is Dick, isn’t it?”

Helena answers that she cannot leave Harry like this. That it is her fault that the Joker attacked Harry. Helena says that she cannot tell anyone. Especially not Dick. Helena and Power Girl hug and Huntress says that she is glad that Power Girl is back. Power Girl answers “Me, too.”

Suddenly, the old school Power Girl arrives on the scene and asks our Power Girl who the hell she is. The Earth-2 Power Girl says that she has been searching for her cousin, Superman, all these years. Earth-2 Power Girl says that when she left Earth, Huntress told her something that only she would remember. Earth-2 Power Girl asks if the other Power Girl knows what that is. Our Power Girl stammers that her memory is bad and that she does not remember leaving Earth-2.

Earth-2 Power Girl then yells that our Power Girl is not the real Power Girl. Earth-2 Power Girl then punches our Power Girl. Earth-2 Power Girl turns to Huntress and says that Huntress told her right before she left that “Home is where you make it.” Huntress then realizes that this really is Karen, the Earth-2 Power Girl.

Earth-2 Power Girl and Huntress then approach Power Girl and demand to know who she really is. Our Power Girl says that she is Power Girl and Earth-2 Power Girl gets mad and punches our Power Girl again. Our Power Girl then uses her super speed to make a quick getaway.

We cut to Huntress and Earth-2 Power Girl meeting with the JLI. We see the JLI members from earlier plus Hawkman, Hawkwoman, Starman (The old school real deal) and the real Johnny Thunder and his Thunderbolt. Earth-2 Power Girl tells the JLI that she never found her cousin, Superman.

Earth-2 Power Girl says that her doppelganger knows something. That she might have seen Superman die. That she might have killed Superman herself. Earth-2 Power Girl states that she searched the universe for answers and there is no doubt that her doppelganger has them. Earth-2 Power Girl tells the JLI that it is time to go find this fake Power Girl.

We shift to our Power Girl running through the street terrified. Power Girl asks “Gog…where the hell did you send me?” End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Justice Society of America Annual #1 was a strong read and certainly one of the better annuals that I have read in quite some time. As a general rule, I cannot tolerate annuals. For the most part, publishers treat annuals as nothing more than double sized filler issues. It is nice to see this recent trend of using annuals to actually progress the title’s main story arc rather than giving us a bunch of dull stories from a fill-in writer.

I love the Multiverse. I love Earth-2. So, obviously, I am probably a bit biased. Still, I was in absolute heaven while reading this issue. It was fantastic seeing all of the various Earth-2 characters once again. It was like seeing long lost childhood friends. Huntress, Hector Hall, Lyta Trevor-Hall, Jade, Obsidian, Nucklon, Johnny Thunder, Star Spangled Kid, Starman, Hawkman and Hawkwoman, etc. It was absolutely magnificent. I loved every minute of it.

Justice Society of America Annual #1 was a well paced issue. Johns delivers a story that offers a good balance of action and drama. The story moves along at a steady pace slowing down for several dialogue heavy scenes and then ramping up in intensity for some quality action scenes.

Johns serves up a nicely plotted annual. This story moves with a purpose as Johns continues to craft an enjoyably complex story full of unexpected twists and turns. Johns’ greatest strength is his world building skills. And we certainly get a good dose of that as Johns begins to use his magic to massage the existence of Earth-2 back into DC’s continuity.

Johns whips up some quality dialogue. Each character talks with their own proper external voice. Johns also flashes a good feel for the various Earth-2 characters as we get some pretty solid character work in this issue. Johns does a good job quickly introducing the various members of the JLI so that newer readers would not feel completely lost while reading this issue.

Of course, the best character work is done with Huntress and Power Girl. Johns manages to craft some excellent chemistry between these two ladies as they get the best dialogue in this issue.

Johns also delivers plenty of kick-ass action in Justice Society of America Annual #1. The well done action scenes spice up this issue and keep it from being too talky and slow. Particularly enjoyable was watching Huntress and Power Girl teaming up once again.

I dig how Johns handles Helena’s plotline in this issue. I liked the evolution of Batman’s villains as they come to grips with their own mortality as they begin to get old and die. That in their last gasp of life and in their desire to cement their legacy; the Batman’s villains have become even more violent and twisted.

I particularly enjoyed the plotline involving the Joker feeling that he must create a new Two-Face in order to replace the late Harvey Dent. Johns creates plenty of drama as the Joker’s target to be the new Two-Face is Harry Sims. And I liked the tragic twist that Huntress never got a chance to say “No” to Harry’s marriage proposal.

Then you get the double whammy of Huntress feeling guilty as she views herself as the reason that Joker targeted Harry and the fact that Huntress has to stay with Harry because in light of his disfigurement that Harry losing Helena as his fiancée might be just what pushes him over the edge and makes him actually become the new Two-Face.

Add to all of this drama the fact that Huntress has only ever loved one man: Dick Grayson. Johns does a nice job with the icy relationship between Helena and Dick. Even a new reader unfamiliar with both of these Earth-2 characters immediately gets a nice feel for the complex and strained relationship between Batman’s daughter and Batman’s ward.

There is no doubt that Johns is able to craft plenty of drama involving the Huntress in this issue. I always loved Helena and I was glad that Johns allowed her to take center stage in this issue. Batman’s daughter is a great character and it was nice to see her in action once again.

And speaking of Dick, it was so cool to see the adult Robin once again. I always liked the Earth-2 Robin. I thought it was a pretty neat concept that Dick would remain Robin even as an adult and not simply take the very unoriginal and uncreative path of becoming the Batman. Plus, it re-enforces the fact that only Bruce Wayne is the Batman and no one else is worthy of that mantle. And I also dig that on Earth-2 there has only ever been one Robin rather than the rotating cast that we have had at the Robin position on New Earth.

I loved the old and sickly Silver Age Joker. This was such a fantastic take on Batman’s iconic arch enemy. Johns did a wonderful job conveyed the sick and twisted nature of the Joker. That even when wracked with the ills of old age, Joker never showed a single hint of remorse at all. If anything, age simply made Joker that much more of a warped bastard.

I enjoyed learning a bit more about this newly re-created Multiverse. DC has been extremely tight lipped about this new Multiverse ever since they brought it back at the end of 52. And I appreciate that it appears that DC is taking their time and trying to bring back the Multiverse in a logical and sound fashion rather than rushing it with a sloppy story.

I was rather surprised as Johns teases the reader with the fact that the original Crisis did not destroy the other Earths. We learn that Earth-2 continued to exist after the “skies went red” and that the heroes of Earth-2 simply thought that the other multiple Earths had been destroyed.

I am intrigued by the theory that the various multiple Earths were not folded together to make the main Earth at the end of the original Crisis. That in fact, New Earth is a completely new product created by the Crisis event. This is an interesting theory and neat twist on the original Crisis. I look forward to DC fleshing this out at some point in the future.

The fact that Jay Garrick and Alan Scott are still on Earth-2 was a pretty cool surprise. All this time, the reader has been operating under the belief that characters like Jay and Alan were taken from Earth-2 and meshed into Earth-1 by the original Crisis. Evidently, it appears that the Jay and Alan on New Earth are indeed unique to New Earth and are not dimensional anomalies. I am rather surprised by this and was not expecting this interesting turn of events. I am incredibly curious to see where Johns goes with this plotline.

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Earth-2 in this issue. I completely dig that Earth-2 is not exactly where we left it back in 1986. That since Earth-2 was never in fact destroyed, Johns goes ahead and gives us an Earth-2 that has continued to progress and evolve since the last time we visited this Earth.

I like that all the heroes have grown since we last saw them. I especially enjoy the way that Johns merged together the Justice Society of America with Infinity, Inc. into a new group called the Justice Society Infinity. This was a cool touch that was the logical progression of both super teams. I was thrilled to see that Earth-2 was not a static concept and that Johns did not simply give us the exact same Earth-2 that we last saw in 1986. This is a much more intriguing and creative direction to take with Earth-2 and its characters.

I absolutely loved seeing Kent Nelson as Dr. Fate and Jim Corrigan as the Spectre. That was fantastic. I have always liked both characters and have pretty much disliked how DC has handled both characters ever since the original Crisis. The scene with Dr. Fate and Spectre was very interesting. Johns also issues an ominous warning that with the return of the Multiverse that Earth-2 is no longer safe. I would imagine that Johns is hinting about Final Crisis.

Also in the scene with Dr. Fate and the Spectre, Johns hints that Power Girl is not actually from Earth-2. This would certainly explain why the cat hissed at Power Girl when she tried to pet it. Johns then completely ends the mystery surrounding New Earth’s Power Girl when the Earth-2 Power Girl arrives on the scene. This was a pretty sweet twist near the end of this issue that I certainly did not see coming.

I do believe that the Power Girl that arrives on the scene at the end of this issue is in fact the Earth-2 Power Girl. I do not think that Johns is playing games here. It fits in nicely with the fact that New Earth is not an amalgamation of the other remaining multiple Earths from the original Crisis. And it also gels with the fact that Alan Scott and Jay Garrick are still on Earth-2. And it meshes with the fact that New Earth’s Power Girl does not retain any memories of her leaving Earth-2.

Johns ends Justice Society of America Annual #1 with a strong hook ending as the JLI band together to go hunt down New Earth’s Power Girl. I cannot wait to lean more about the origin of New Earth’s Power Girl as well as how she is going to manage to return back to her Earth.

I completely enjoyed the great old school artwork from Jerry Ordway and Bob Wiacek. Ordway delivers a nice clean look to this issue. Ordway’s style of art is a perfect match for the look and mood of the Earth-2 heroes.

The Bad: Yolanda Montez is one character that need not ever be brought back. I got flashbacks from my childhood of how much I thought her character totally sucked after they put the real Wildcat out to pasture during the original Crisis. I always found this to be one of the worst jobs DC has done forcing the replacement of a Golden Age character.

I have often stated that there is an alarming lack of Hispanic characters in both the DCU and the 616 Universe considering that we are the largest minority group in America. And the few Hispanic characters that DC has given us almost always suck.

Yolanda Montez was a crappy Wildcat. I liked Renee Montoya as a Gotham cop, but I absolutely hate her as The Question. I would much have Vic Sage back. And I would totally take Ted Kord over the new Blue Beetle any day of the week. Tarot on Trinity is a pretty stereotypical character. Gangbuster on Trinity is not much better. And don’t even get me started on the suckage known as Vibe.

Overall: I completely enjoyed Justice Society of America Annual #1. Johns did a fine job bringing Earth-2 back into the DCU. If you are a fan of the characters from Earth-2 then I would imagine that you are going to love this issue. I also think that this issue will appeal to newer fans who may not know much about Earth-2, but that are big fans of continuity and like researching the DCU and learning new aspects of DC’s history.

On the other hand, if you are not a fan of continuity and do not know anything about Earth-2 then Justice Society of America Annual #1 might not be the issue for you.

5 Comments

  1. This might have been simply an artistic flight of fancy, but I noticed The Comedian’s button on our old Joker.

    If this plot line is dealing with the multi-verse, then I wonder if more allusions to The Watchmen will be made.

  2. I knew almost nothing about Earth-2 before reading this issue; I didn’t even know there was an adult Robin. I know very little about DCU history; everything I know I’ve learned from post-Crisis comics and bits and pieces picked up from the internet.

    That being said, I had no problem following this story. I love Power Girl and Johns is delivering great Justice Society comics lately.

    Great review.

  3. The problem with this issue is that it makes no sense at all.

    I thought it was an “understood fact” that the GA Green Lantern is a unique entity, being the vessel of the Starheart. Doesn’t that preclude him from having a doppleganger?

    Also, aren’t some of the CLEARLY Earth-2 heroes part of the Earth-1 JSA? That’s a pretty big retcon if you ask me.

    I HOPE (oh, please) that it’s just an illusion or some weird dimension Gog can access (thus the crappy plot point about their thinking the OTHER Earths had died, when Crisis CLEARLY shows all the Earths merging), otherwise why bother keeping track of older storylines, when it doesn’t really matter?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a proponent of character stories without a reliance on having read All-Star #(insert relevant issue number) or knowing the difference between the “Kingdom Come Superman” and the “real” one.

    ..

  4. I’m surprised that apparently the multiverse will get redefined here in a non-Crisis book. But maybe Kirth is right about this Earth 2 being something Gog just whipped up for Power Girl. Still, I’ll be a lot more impressed by Gog if that is something he can toss off so easily.

    Rokk, you’re absolutely right about how DC screws over older characters. Why couldn’t Vic Sage be alive and training the new Question, if they needed a new one at all? In fact, doesn’t having Renee Montoya cover up her identity with the garb of The Question actually reduce her impact as a Hispanic character in the DCU?

  5. I have poor knowledge of Earth-2 and the Multiverse in general, so I can’t comment on all that. All I can say is: old Joker looks like Benjamin Franklin.

    End of non sequitor.

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