Thursday, June 25, 2009

JSA: The Next Age

Y’know, I like the Justice Society of America. At least, I like reading about this latest incarnation of the JSA. Every since the JSA were "reborn" in Justice Be Done in 1999 I've enjoyed their exploits in the various TPBs I’ve picked up. This, I think, is primarily to do with Geoff Johns. For me, he's one of the best writers currently in comics. His writing is very "superheroic" - not subtle, not thought-provoking, not full of crazy, wacky ideas - but full of power, heroism, emotion and a fair number of "F#*k yeah!" moments.

And here Johns does it again with this soft reboot of the JSA. Following the events of DC's Infinite Crisis and the World War III event, this TPB tells the story of the JSA coming back together to help lead new generations of legacy heroes onto the right path. JSA veterans Flash, Green Lantern and Wildcat decide to restart the JSA and recruit new members - such as Cyclone, Damage, and Starman - into the Society. Meanwhile a new group of Nazi villains called the Fourth Reich - led by one of the JSA's arch-villains - is going around killing patriotic legacy heroes and their families, trying to ensure that there will be no future heroes for the JSA to train.

This is a four issue TPB covering #1 to #4 of JSA vol 3, which means that, although there is an extended first issue, it is unfortunately shorter than normal. Still, in this space Johns manages to restart the JSA, introduce a handful of new characters (as well as briefly establish many old faces), and tell an interesting story. It's not quite the "done-in-one" of the Silver Age but it's certainly not as decompressed as many modern day comic books out there.

However, I have two main concerns though with the story. Firstly, Johns' blood-thirsty predilection for gory fights and minor character deaths rears its head again, which is unfortunate for a light, colourful book like this. Secondly, because there are now so many active members in the JSA (there's around 16 of them!) some of the characters are sidelined to make way for the newcomers. In the final battles, you're left wondering what Green Lantern, Power Girl, Mr Terrific and others are doing and why they're not helping out the new recruits in fighting the bad guys.

Dale Eaglesham's art fits the tone of the book well. The action is generally clear and straightforward - though occasionally it is difficult to work out what's going on - and the style is smooth, clear and uncomplicated. Together with the solid, bright colouring it looks suitably superheroic in a sort of four-color way. It's not my favourite art ever but it does look crisp and fits in with previous JSA artists.

As an extra there are also some nice sketches at the back of the book by Eaglesham and Alex Ross, the cover artist and (apparently) creative advisor for this series. I have to say that I often find the raw pencils by many artists look better than the finished, inked pages.

In summary, Johns, Eaglesham and Ross have produced an enjoyable, exciting TPB and a great start to a new(ish) version of the JSA. But then again, I like this Justice Society of America, so maybe I'm biased.

Grade: Fine.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Night Fights: Kung Fu Fighting

I missed last week's Friday Night Fight due to being on holiday but today... I'm baaack. So, without further ado, it's time for Friday Night Fights: G7. And today I'm going for a 70s classic...

Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas

So, of course, it has to be Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu:

(the above image is taken from Master of Kung Fu #22 written by Doug Moench with art by Paul Gulacy)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ashes to Ashes: Season 2 Episode 8

It seems that a few TV shows I watch are coming to the end of their current season this week, Ashes to Ashes being one of them (Smallville and Primeval are the other ones that come to mind). And this final episode of Season 2 goes out with a bang - followed by a fade to white and lots of shouts of "Bolly!".

Season 2 was a better series of 8 episodes than the first season, although still not quite as good as Life on Mars. Maybe this is because AtA is retreading a lot of familiar ground that LoM first explored? Or maybe it's because LoM was set in and around Manchester (my "home city" I guess) rather than AtA's London? Still, it is improving - perhaps due to additional little twists and weird events (such as the inclusion of Martin Summers, who appears to be another coma victim from the future) - which is unusual but very welcome.

In this episode we get Gene hosting Jackanory (hilarious!), Alex trying to stop Summers, Gene losing his trust in Alex, Alex discovering Summers is in the room next to hers in the future, Ray chomping on a phallic-like sausage (tee hee!), and the partial redemption of Chris after it was revealed he was a traitor to the team in last week’s episode.

Highlights were Gene's "You've been Quattroed" and a wedding-dress attired Shaz blasting away saving Chris. Of course, the biggest shock was Alex getting shot by Gene, the gradual fade and then waking up in 2009. But as Gene starts shouting to her from the monitors, we're left wondering is this the real 2009 or just another coma-induced dream? Has Alex gone mad?

Of course, we now know they'll be a third season of AtA, so somehow they'll have to pick this up and (probably) send Alex back to the 1980s. The currently favoured way-ahead is that Alex will "wake up" from the dream-2009 and find herself in a hospital back in the '80s. But who knows? There are dozens of theories out there about where Alex is, what it's all about and what’s going to happen.

And it's all this speculation and theorizing that, for me, is so fascinating. Sure, seeing a pastiche of an 80s cop show and looking at it through Alex's modern-day eyes can be quite entertaining but it can only take us so far (and we've currently had 4 seasons of this between LoM and AtA). It's the uncertainty of what's actually happening to Alex - whether Gene's World is a shared reality for cops in comas, just something made up by Alex's mind or something more - that keeps this interesting. It also helps a lot that the main characters, Gene, Alex, Ray and Chris, are so well realised and engaging.

A great ending to a good season. I can't wait for the third, and final, season next year!