I have not been impressed at all with JSA All-Stars. At no point did I ever believe that the JSA could support two titles. This franchise has never shown the ability or sales power to command two titles. Never mind how unoriginal the idea is to break up a team into two competing factions.
At any rate, JSA All-Stars has presented the reader with a relatively shallow and uninteresting read. Matthew Sturges has not impressed me with his handling of the characters in the JSA All-Stars’ roster. Hopefully, JSA All-Stars #3 shows me that it is worthy of a spot on my permanent pull list. Let’s go ahead and do this review for JSA All-Stars #3.
Writer: Matthew Sturges
Artist: Freddie Williams II
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10.
Synopsis: We begin with Johnny Sorrow whipping out a knife and cutting out the Killer Wasp’s heart. Johnny Sorrow did this as a sacrifice to his “god.” Tigress whispers to Icicle that Sorrow is totally losing it. Sorrow comments that he can hear Tigress. Tigress responds that it is bad business to kill your co-workers.
Sorrow says that he will kill anyone in the way of what he wants. Sorrow says that Killer Wasp’s heart is beautiful and perfect for the upcoming rite. Sorrow then asks Tigress what is inside of her that he can use. Tigress has a scared look on her face.
We cut to the JSA All-Star’s headquarters. Power Girl informs the team all about Johnny Sorrow and who he is. What they do not know is why he is so obsessed with Stargirl. Power Girl and Magog then tell the team how they need to train hard to take down these bad guys.
Power Girl then asks if there is any new business before the meeting is adjourned. Damage says that Al Pratt went on a mission for the D.E.O. and has not been seen or heard from in two weeks.
Steel interrupts and says that he is surprised that Damage cares about Atom Smasher after the big fight the two of them had. Damage admits that he was wrong and Al is a good guy. Hourman says that he will talk to Liberty Belle and see if the members on the other JSA team have heard from Al. Roxy (the little computer A.I.) says she will talk to some machines she knows to see if Al is still on the grid.
We cut to Al Pratt tied up in some unknown location. We see a hooded figure standing over Al. There are a bunch of Atom Smasher voodoo dolls in the room. The hooded figure says that it is time to move and that the door is opening sooner than he thought.
We cut to the next day at the home of Liberty Belle and Hourman. The two kiss and Liberty Belle races off to go to work. Hourman’s dad, the original Hourman, arrives at the house with breakfast for his son. Hourman’s dad tells his son that Liberty Belle is a great woman and for Hourman to do everything to make sure that he keeps her.
Hourman then tells his dad that he is worried about Magog. That it is like Black Adam all over again. That Magog is violent and has no problems killing. Hourman’s dad tells his son to fight hard to keep the JSA together and to not let Magog tear it apart.
We shift to later that morning with the members of the JSA All-Stars sparring with each other. Magog then demonstrates on Power Girl all of the brutally effective ways to take down a villain. Magog says that punching a villain in the face may be fun, but it is not the most effective way to take down a villain.
We see King Chimera and Cyclone sparring. King Chimera is a rude jerk to Cyclone. Cyclone suggests that King not be so rude and that if he toned it down then he might actually make some friends around here. King Chimera responds that he does not care about making friends and has more important things to worry about.
We see Power Girl and Magog sparring. Power Girl tells Magog that he needs to stop undermining her all the time in front of the team. Magog spits that he is not undermining her. Magog says that he is telling the truth. That he is trying to teach them to survive. That there are people out there who want to kill them.
Yet, Power Girl fixates on this arbitrary moral high ground as if gently subduing the enemy and hauling them off to jail actually accomplishes anything. The villains always break out of jail and then they murder even more people.
Power Girl responds that she will not let Magog kill people. That Magog sees an enemy while Power Girl sees a person. A deeply misguided person, but a person nonetheless. Power Girl points out that Icicle fought alongside the JSA to stop the Ultra-Humanite. Magog retorts that Icicle then immediately went back to being a criminal.
The other members of the JSA All-Stars stop sparring and watch Magog and Power Girl spar. The teammates then realize that Power Girl and Magog are not longer sparring and are actually starting to fight. Hourman approaches them to break up the fight.
Power Girl then lands a big punch on Magog. Power Girl says that she doesn’t know if hitting Magog in the face was the most effective move, but that it felt damn good.
Magog gets up and says that he has more important things to be doing than this. Magog then stalks off the scene. Power Girl then apologizes to the rest of the team.
We shift to the next day where Roxy and Hourman report that they have not been able to find anything about where Al Pratt might be. Suddenly, Roxy gets an incoming call that Magog is orchestrating a prison break. Power Girl comments that Magog is probably trying to kill all of the criminals. Power Girl orders the team to head to the prison now.
We cut to Sand in a dream. Sand is naked. The original Sandman, Wesley Dodds, approaches Sand and tells him that the first turn in the cycle is coming. That Sand needs to be ready. Wesley tells Sand that Sand needs to tell his troubles to a caring star. But, that first Sand needs to wake up.
We see Sand wake up from his dream. Sand then picks up his phone and thinks “Tell my trouble to a caring star.” Sand then calls Karen Star (Power Girl). Sand says that he is finally awake so why won’t Karen pick up the phone? End of main story.
Writer: Jen Van Meter
Pencils: Travis Moore
Inks: Dan Green
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10.
Synopsis: Icicle and Tigress questioning some thugs about the location of the book that the two villains are trying to track down. The thugs give the villains a location. We cut to Icicle and Tigress tearing up a hotel room looking for the book. Tigress then finds the flight information for a plane heading to Venice.
We hop to the airport where we see Liberty Belle (in her civilian identity) purchasing the final ticket to the flight headed to Venice. Tigress is in line behind Liberty Belle and is pissed that the flight is now sold out. Tigress approaches Liberty Belle and offers her a large amount of cash for the last ticket to the plane to Venice. Liberty Belle agrees.
We cut to Liberty Belle holding Hourman and racing at super speed toward Venice. Hourman cannot believe that she took Tigress’ money for the last seat on the plane. Liberty Belle says that she used her super speed to look at the list of passengers from the plane to Venice and she saw no Mr. Blue (The guy who has the book) on the list.
We zip back to the plane heading to Venice. Icicle sits down next to Mr. Blue and demands that Blue give him the book. Icicle freezes up one of the plane’s wings and threatens to crash the plane.
Blue swears that he does not have the book. That he sent it straight to his employer by courier. But, Blue offers to get the name of his employer for Icicle in return for money. Icicle agrees and gives Blue a phone number where he can reach Icicle.
We cut to Hourman and Liberty Belle arriving at Venice. Hourman wants to spend some romantic time together. However, Liberty Belle reminds Hourman that they are here on business. Liberty Belle says that once they get the book then they can take a personal day here in Venice.
We hop over to the airport in Venice. We see Icicle and Tigress exiting the plane. Tigress says that Blue played Icicle. Tigress says that she saw the book when airport security went through Blue’s bag.
Before Tigress sand Icicle can attack Blue, Liberty Belle appears and distracts them. They start to brawl. Suddenly, the police arrive on the scene and tell Liberty Belle to stop or they will shoot. End of issue.
The Good: JSA All-Stars #3 was another pedestrian read. However, there were some nice bits to this issue. My favorite scene was the one with Hourman and his father, the original Hourman. This was an excellent little father-son moment. Rex offers his son valuable advice concerning both Liberty Belle and the JSA. This was a nice way to emphasis what a wonderful couple Hourman and Liberty Belle are together.
This scene also did a nice job positioning Hourman as one of the main pillars of this new JSA All-Stars team. Hourman is a classic JSA character and is one of the founding members of the JSA. However, for some reason, Hourman often gets overlooked in the JSA mythos. Other founding members of the JSA like Wildcat, Alan Scott, Jay Garrick and Hawkman tend to get all the honor, respect and accolades.
I like that Sturges is making a point to re-establish Hourman as a critical foundation for the JSA. The JSA All-Stars boasts a bunch of legacy heroes while the main JSA team has all of the founding members. It is a smart move by Sturges to identify and grow several characters that can act as the heart, soul and conscience of the JSA All-Stars.
Power Girl is a long-time JSA member and is a logical choice to serve as the leader for the team. However, I do not see her being the proper person to be the conscience of the team. Stargirl loves the spirit of the JSA, but she is simply too young and inexperienced.
Hourman perfectly fills that much needed role as the heart and conscience of the JSA All-Stars. Sturges makes the point even more obvious as Hourman was the only member willing and able to step in between Power Girl and Magog’s fight. Hourman has plenty of untapped potential and I look forward to Sturges using this new team to try and grow Hourman’s character into a more prominent role with this team.
I liked the final scene in this issue. I am a big fan of Sand’s character, so anything connected to him is likely to attract my attention. I am curious to see how Sturges mixes Sand into this story.
The co-feature story did not do much for me. However, as I have already stated, I love Liberty Belle and Hourman so I like that they have a chance to shine in the spotlight in this co-feature.
Jen Van Meter did deliver some nice lines of dialogue in the scenes between Hourman and Liberty Belle. The reader gets a good sense of the relationship between these two characters. I also am enjoying how Van Meter is contrasting our heroic couple with their foils in Tigress and Icicle. These two villains also make for a rather entertaining combination.
I enjoyed Travis Moore and Dan Green’s artwork in the co-feature. I actually think that the art teams on this title should be switched. Freddie Williams with his more cartoonish style of art should be in the co-feature while Moore and Green should be on the main story. Moore’s art is more along the lines of what I expect from a classic super team like the JSA.
The Bad: JSA All-Star #3 was another disappointing read. This was another slow read. The pacing continues to be a real problem with this title. Sturges appears to be in no hurry to do much of anything on this title. Sturges seems to be spinning his wheels as we get little plot progression at all in this issue. All we get in JSA All-Stars is a lot of standing around and re-hashing the same dialogue from the previous two issues.
Sturges offers up to the reader nothing more than the same bickering between Power Girl and Magog in connection with even more training scenes of this new team. I got the point already. Sturges did not need to spend more than an issue or two on these two themes. They are not complex and certainly are not interesting enough to warrant this much attention.
The plotting is average. I am simply not interested in most of the plotlines that Sturges has offered to us at this point. I have absolutely no interest at all in the plotline involving Johnny Sorrow and his obsession with Stargirl. Sorrow is portrayed as a one-dimensional psychopathic lunatic. I am guessing that Atom Smasher’s capture is a part of this “upcoming rite” that Sorrow wants to perform.
At any rate, this odd magical/spiritual plotline involving some unknown ritual that Sorrow wants to conduct is not the type of story that is going to hook my interest. This is the main plotline and it lacks anything unique and different that would manage to get me excited.
I have absolutely no interest at all in this continuing feud between Magog and Power Girl. This plotline dealing with Magog wanting to kill criminals while Power Girl is opposed to it is mind numbingly awful. Did we not just go through this exact story over on Justice Society of America that lead to the eventual split of the team? This story has already been absolutely beaten into the ground already.
What are we going to get now? An off-shoot team split once again into two more teams? Enough is enough. This is well worn territory and it would behoove Sturges to move on to more fertile ground. There is no need to be recycling a story that we just finished with during Johns’ final story arc on Justice Society of America.
Another aspect to JSA All-Stars that does not appeal to me is the overwhelming presence of magic based storylines. It seems that every plotline has some mystical or magical aspect to it. It would be nice to get a little more diversity in the styles of plotlines that Sturges is creating for this title.
The character work on JSA All-Stars continues to be almost completely absent. Outside of the nice scene with Rex and Rick Tyler, there is little character work to be found. The members of the JSA All-Stars either display a completely bland and neutral personality or they act according to a stereotype of how their character should act. Magog should be hostile. Power Girl should have a temper. But, there is no emotion or depth behind these personalities at all.
The dialogue for each character is completely interchangeable. None of the characters have their own unique and well developed voice. The characters are more cardboard cut-outs rather than fully formed personalities. The result is that there is a total lack of chemistry between the members of the JSA All-Stars.
What made Johns’ run on Justice Society of America so enjoyable was that he had such an incredible feel for each character. Each member of the JSA demonstrated their own distinctive personality and voice. Johns also understood that the JSA is a family first and a team second.
Unfortunately, Sturges does not appear to have much of a grasp for the personalities of any of these characters. Nor is Sturges able to generate that family feeling between the members on this team. Sturges simply gives the reader a super team that is rather generic and could be easily confused with any of the other myriad super teams that flood the market each month. Sturges does nothing with the JSA All-Stars to get it to break out from the pack of the other super teams from Marvel and DC.
It is unfortunate, because, excluding Stargirl and Cyclone, I really dig this roster of characters that Sturges gets to play with on this title. Power Girl, Hourman, Citizen Steel, Wildcat v2.0, King Chimera, Sand, Damage and Atom Smasher are all great characters.
I am on the fence with Magog. I think that the character has some potential. I also believe that Sturges is doing him a disservice making him so one-dimensional. Unfortunately, my interest in Magog is rapidly waning doe to the fact that nobody has managed to do much at all with his character.
JSA All-Stars #3 is also lacking in any real action. All the reader gets is some mindless sparring between teammates. That type of action lacks any psychology, suspense or drama. Even the brawl between Power Girl and Magog was uninteresting since the reader has been down this road before.
I am okay with an issue that does not boast any action. However, an issue without any action must bring a complex and intricate plot to the table as well as captivating dialogue and character work. JSA All-Star #3 failed in every possible area.
Freddie Williams, II is a talented artist, but I do not enjoy his artwork on JSA All-Stars. Williams’ style of art does not fit with this title. I prefer a more classic, serious and detailed style of art for a title that deals with the JSA. Williams’ style of art is too cartoonish for this title.
Unfortunately, the co-feature in JSA All-Stars did no do much for me, either. Despite the fact that the co-feature stars Hourman and Liberty Belle, Van Meter failed to do anything at all that hooked my interest. Van Meter delivered a relatively shallow and generic story that lacked anything compelling at all.
Overall: JSA All-Stars #3 is an incredibly generic super hero read. It is not a bad read. It simply is nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing about JSA All-Stars #3 sets itself apart from the tons of other super hero titles on the market. I cannot recommend spending your hard earned money on a completely average title like JSA All-Stars. There are so many better super hero team titles on the market that are more deserving of your money. I would only recommend JSA All-Stars #3 to die-hard JSA fans.