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.

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