Archive for Justice Society of America

Fractured Society


Justice Society of America #33

The Justice Society is still under attack by a small army of supervillains, and the traitor who almost killed Mr. Terrific has finally been revealed — the guy who was initially accused, the All-American Kid, who’s better known as Kid Karnevil, one of the psychos Bill Willingham introduced in his “Shadowpact” series. The bad guys are putting up a pretty good fight until Dr. Fate casts a spell that makes all the villains blissfully happy. Kid Karnevil hands over Obsidian to some mysterious somebody, but gets taken down by a healed-up Mr. Terrific. And the rest of the Justice Society finally decides on a solution to the ongoing disagreements about whether the JSA should be a school for new superheroes or a military organization — by splitting the group into two new teams.

Verdict: Man, I don’t know. Good action, nice spotlight moments for King Chimera and Dr. Fate, nice to see Kid Karnevil still running around the DCU, but I just can’t buy that they’d split the team just cause Magog’s being a jerk.


JSA All-Stars #1

And this is the first issue spotlighting the Justice Society’s military-themed squad. The new team takes down a bunch of communist robots, then regroups at their temporary headquarters, a ranch in upstate New York. Rex Tyler, the original Hourman, is the team’s technical guru, Stargirl is upset about getting uprooted from the old team, and Power Girl tells her she’s there because all of the younger members of the squad respect her. Magog puts everyone through a bunch of pseudo-military training, Cyclone and King Chimera have a moment, and Sand gets one of his yearly single-page cameos. Later, the team gets attacked by a high-tech strikeforce — there’s a big fight, Stargirl gets kidnapped, and we finally find out who’s been ordering supervillains not to attack her, and why.

Verdict: Again, I’m still not sold on it yet. For one thing, the art is incredibly… eccentric. Chunky and blocky and sometimes downright ugly. And the more I see Magog acting like a military commander, the more it bugs me. In his old life, David Reid was just a lance corporal in the Marines. Does he even have the skillsets to be a decent drill sergeant? Aside from that, though, more excellent action, pretty good dialogue, and it’s nice to see the return of the villain on the last pages.

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All Hell Breaks Loose


The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft #4

Previously in this series, pulp horror writer H.P. Lovecraft had a chance encounter with the blasphemous Necronomicon that causes him to manifest monsters from other dimensions when he goes to sleep. Fearing that this curse could destroy his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, he tries to convince his ex-girlfriend Sylvia St. Claire to leave the city, and he goes to a psychiatrist friend for help. Unfortunately, Lovecraft ended up drugged and locked into a padded room. As this issue begins, Lovecraft’s insane mother, incarcerated at the asylum, gets him out of the hospital and put on a train out of town, but he finally wakes up and takes off back to Providence. Sylvia has returned to the university library with a police escort, but when Lovecraft’s horrors attack the library, she’s taken by the monsters. Can Lovecraft save Sylvia, banish the Elder Gods, and escape the police?

Verdict: Thumbs up. An excellent ending for this story, with lots of action and Cthulhoid horrors all at once. I’ve been very impressed with the characterization in this series — Lovecraft, of course, is our standout here, but Lovecraft’s mother is also a very interesting character, and even minor characters like the mayor and the police chief get some moments to shine. And I’m impressed that the wealthy and shallow Grayson Chesser, Lovecraft’s rival for Sylvia’s love, ends up coming across as a much better person than we’d been lead to believe.


Justice Society of America 80-Page Giant #1

We’ve got a bunch of different and mostly unrelated stories here, with a framing device about some sort of supernatural distubance in the JSA brownstone that’s causing strange warping effects and hallucinations. We get stories about the first meeting of the original Mr. America and Ma Hunkel; Amazing Man fighting a monster without his powers; Wildcat Jr. discovering a strange family secret; Cylcone time-traveling to help Power Girl and Wildcat fight Icicle; and Damage hallucinating a nightmarish surgery session.

Verdict: Generally thumbs up. I liked some of the stories a lot, and I thought it was cool that they gave Cyclone, who’s usually a comic relief character, a rare chance to be a badass. But some parts of this were wildly clumsy. We get treated to yet another embarrassingly defensive made-up excuse for Power Girl’s costume, we get very inconsistent portrayals of Damage, we get an appearance by Amazing Man that just underscores the fact that we’ve barely seen him in this comic in months. But that’s the problem with DC’s “80-Page Giants” — they tend to be a place to dump a lot of filler material. And even if it’s good filler material, it may never be mentioned again.

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Busting Stuff Up


Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes #17

Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor are called out to the scene of a disaster in a small town — the entire population seemingly went insane and began trying to kill each other. One of the survivors that they find is none other than Susan Storm, the Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four — and she immediately begins attacking everyone! After she’s finally subdued, she reverts back to normal and is able to shed some light on the situation. She’d been in town on Fantastic Four business when some sort of creature appeared and somehow drove everyone into a violent rage. Suspecting that the creature was some sort of artificial construct or android, they calkl in the most advanced android they know, the Vision, who scans the available evidence and discovers that an immortal alchemist supervillain named Diablo was also in the town at the time of the attack. What’s his connection to all this, and can the team stop another disaster in time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Interesting choice of team members — Cap, Iron Man, Thor, and the Vision weren’t unexpected for something that resembled an Avengers story, but Sue Storm, without the rest of the FF, was an unusual choice. Still, it worked out well, with a nice, bizarre mystery and a stronger air of menace than you might expect from an all-ages comic.


Justice Society of America #32

Mr. Terrific has died on the operating table, but Alan Scott is using his Green Lantern ring to stop time for him so Dr. Fate will have a chance of using magic to revive him. The investigation into who stabbed him is still inconclusive — they’ve finally realized that the All-American Kid was being mind-controlled, but they suspect Kid Chimera, whose specialty is illusions, not telepathy. Meanwhile, the gang of supervillains who attacked the JSA before is back for more mayhem.

Verdict: Thumbs down. This is just not fun, and it’s being drawn out much, much too long.

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The Justice Stooges


Justice Society of America #31

Holy bananas, how far this comic has slumped.

Wildcat and Magog get into a completely pointless fight that should’ve ended with Magog getting kicked off the team, but for some stupid reason, they let him stick around. Dr. Fate breaks it up by reminding everyone that Mr. Fantastic Terrific is at death’s door, and that everyone is required to line up to give blood — he’ll use his magic to make sure that it’s changed into the right blood type. The mansion security tapes finally reveal that Mr. Fantastic Terrific was stabbed by one of the new recruits, the All-American Kid, who still insists he didn’t do anything. The villains who attacked the JSA try to regroup, the other new recruit, King Chimera, acts like a jerk, and Magog acts like an even bigger jerk.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I’m pretty much stacking the blame for this one on Bill Willingham. He does outstanding work on “Fables,” but almost everything else he’s written lately has been a big fat bag of fail. Let Matt Sturges take over the writing full-time — he’s shown he has what it takes to handle high-profile writing assignments without embarrassing himself or screwing up the characters he works on. But this series, which used to be one of DC’s best, is in dire need of rescue, fast.


Justice League of America 80-Page Giant #1

The Lord of Time has attacked the Justice League and has dispersed them throughout time. We follow Hal Jordan and Red Arrow to the Wild West (teaming up with Wild West gunslinger Cinnamon), Vixen and John Stewart (and the Shining Knight) to Camelot, Black Canary and Zatanna teaming up with the Crimson Avenger in the late 1930s, Firestorm and Green Arrow meeting up with the Bride in WWII’s Pacific Theater, Steel and Wonder Woman fighting Starro in the pirate-filled high seas, and Superman and Dr. Light running around 13th-century Japan.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A lightweight but cute story. Some of these stories are better than others — the best ones were Zatanna and Black Canary running around during the Golden Age, Wonder Woman masquerading as a pirate captain, and the WWII story, just because the Bride is such a wonderful character. Take it for what it is — a bit of time-travel fun — and you’ll get the most enjoyment out of it.

(Thanks, WizarDru, for corrections of my very, very silly mistakes)

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The Bad Guys Bounce Back


Batman and Robin #4

We briefly meet a villain called the Lightning Bug, just before he gets cornered and killed by Gotham’s newest vigilantes, the Red Hood and Scarlet. Scarlet used to be the innocent kidnap victim disfigured by Professor Pyg’s doll mask, but she’s now joined the Red Hood to treat criminals a whole heck of a lot more lethally than they’ve usually been treated in the past. We get scenes of Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne investigating stuff at yet another GCPD charity event and meeting a mysterious masked guy named Oberon Sexton, the Gravedigger; we see Sasha worrying about whether the doll mask will ever come off; and the Penguin attends a meeting of criminal kingpins, as a masked villain named Santo warns that an assassin named, believe it or not, the Flamingo is coming to get rid of Batman for them. Of course, the Red Hood and Scarlet show up to kill some more crooks — when Batman and Robin arrive to stop them, the next stage of the confrontation is set up.

Verdict: Thumbs up, but it’s not as good as it could’ve been. Everything seems a bit muddy and unclear, including a odd couple of pages of Batman and Robin on a stakeout. I am enjoying the characterization of Sasha and the clues being dropped about the identity of the Red Hood. I’m not sure that Grant Morrison will go with the seemingly obvious choice for Red Hood’s secret identity, but if it’s not the original Red Hood, I suspect a lot of people will be disappointed…


JSA vs. Kobra #4

Finally, some other characters besides Mr. Terrific, Power Girl, Flash, and Green Lantern get some time in the spotlight! Kobra is continuing their seemingly random worldwide attacks, but Mr. Terrific thinks he has them figured out. He gets Jakeem Thunder and the Thunderbolt to teach him everything they can about magic, and they track Kobra to the Rock of Eternity, where he chips a stone off the statue of Hatred from the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man. A JSA squad attacks, but Kobra is able to use the powerful magical energy of the Rock of Eternity strike against the Thunderbolt, and he’s able to escape. Still, it’s not a total loss — the JSA have captured his most trusted confidant.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s finally starting to get a bit better. There’s still a ton of emphasis on Mr. Terrific, but it’s great that the much-neglected Jakeem gets a few moments to shine, and Stargirl gets to take on the roll of Team Badass, which we don’t get to see her do very often. Still, the plot is far from perfect — I’m hoping it all comes together in the last two issues.


Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #3

Sir Edward is able to scare off the demon, but at the cost of one of the Captain’s assistants. Miss Wolf, the medium, has learned the location of the monster’s bones from her spirit guide — a quick diving expedition in the Thames locates the bones, but to use them to dispel the beast, they’ll have to track it down first. Miss Wolf leads Grey and the others to a storefront church, where they find a whole congregation of corpses — the monster disguised itself as an angel and fed off of their blood. The church’s minister is able to recount the monster’s origin, but while their attending to him in the back room, they accidentally leave the case with the bones in the main sanctuary… and of course, that’s when the monster picks its moment to attack.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nicely chilling and creepy, with outstanding suspense and beautifully crafted artwork.

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Zombies, Zombies, Zombies


Green Lantern #45

Most of this issue is devoted to the ongoing “War of the Light” — as Carol Ferris and the Star Sapphires fight Sinestro and the Sinestro Corps, as the Green Lanterns fight the Red Lanterns, as Agent Orange’s orange constructs attack the tiny Blue Lantern Corps. And in the middle of all the fighting, the Black Lanterns make their appearances. Among the newly risen are the entire destroyed planet Xanshi, former GL and Red Lantern Lara, former Yellow Lantern Amon Sur, and the Weaponers of Qward. The best moment, however, was Larfleeze’s somewhat panicked discovery that his own hideout, already littered with hordes of dead aliens he’d killed, was now a breeding ground for zombie enemies — and all of his energy constructs are far, far away…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nothing real spectacular going on here, but the storytelling is solid, the dialogue is good, and the artwork is fun. Larfleeze’s “Yuh-oh” gets some extra prizes all its own.


Justice Society of America #30

Flash and Stargirl are the only Society members still standing against the army of supervillains. Since the bad guys are all refusing to attack Stargirl, Flash takes off to get help while Courtney lays some smackdown on some of the villains. Flash soon returns with the new Dr. Fate, and all three keep the bad guys busy ’til the rest of the JSA can recover. After that, the villains get their butts stomped good. Unfortunately, Mr. Terrific has been stabbed back at the brownstone and is near death, and the two new recruits, King Chimera and the All-American Kid, have conflicting reports of what’s been going on (actually, they have the only real clue about what’s been going on, if anyone would listen to them). And the stresses of the evening have Wildcat and Magog at each other’s throats.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Still not a great story, but it’s acceptable. It’s a bit frustrating that when the team’s looking for someone who tried to kill one of their members, everyone would just ignore the only people who were in the building at the same time. That’s a pretty obvious clue to overlook…

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Spooks, Spectres, Science, and Snakes


The Brave and the Bold #26

Another team-up between an established DC character and one of the characters from Milestone Media — this time, it’s the Spectre joining up with Xombi, a man named David Kim who’s been injected with nanites that make him immortal, but with the danger that anyone touching him when he gets injured may get scavenged by the nanites for biological material to rebuild David. The original Milestone “Xombi” series was marked by an almost Grant-Morrisonesque level of weirdness, including a couple of Catholic superheroes called Catholic Girl and Nun of the Above, villains called the Sheer Shears that had scissors in place of their heads and couldn’t be harmed by anything that was derived from written knowledge, and evil homunculi formed from the carcasses of insects that had died trapped between windows.

We actually start out with that level of weirdness — the Spectre tracks down a sadistic serial killer named Ray Walker and kills him, but Walker becomes a ghost who specializes in killing other ghosts. Heaven won’t allow the Spectre to take care of Walker’s ghost, because he’s only allowed to punish the guilty if they’re still alive. David Kim is alerted to the problem by a psychic investigator and takes part in a seance where the medium’s ectoplasmic spirit guide is eaten by Walker, killing her and several other attendees of the ritual. David and the investigator escape and summon the Spectre to ask for his help — when he refuses, David appeals to the Spectre’s human host, Crispus Allen, hoping that as a former cop, Allen won’t be willing to let a perp get away. But if the Spectre still refuses, can the Xombi take down the murderous ghost by himself?

Verdict: Thumbs down. It starts with a great hook, with the serial killing ghost who preys on other ghosts, but it never develops into anything more interesting. David Kim is portrayed well, but the Spectre is, as usual, wasted. And the art is just plain spectacularly awful.


JSA vs. Kobra #3

Kobra has been three steps in front of the Justice Society the entire time — every time the heroes go to stop one crisis, they end up failing to prevent a bigger tragedy, or being misdirected away from the Kobra cult’s true target. After their latest failure to prevent a massacre, they return home to find that Kobra has hacked into their computers. The team finds evidence that suggests that the cultists are going to attack Opal City, former home of several different the Golden Age Starman, Ted Knight, and his son, Jack, a more modern version. While the rest of the Justice Society is occupied with a pointless battle against Kobra’s expendable cultists, Mr. Terrific realizes that Kobra’s new leader is going to raid the Starman Museum — and he still gets outmaneuvered, as Kobra ends up with Ted Knight’s scientific notes and his advanced technological inventions.

Verdict: I think I’ll give this one a thumbs down, too. For the most part, this series has been focusing solely on Mr. Terrific and Power Girl — the rest of the Justice Society are there as backup players. Heck, most of them don’t even have lines. They may as well be scenery. The Justice Society has some of the DC Universe’s most interesting characters — I don’t know why no one seems to want to use more of them.

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What's Hatching?


Justice Society of America #29

It’s the first issue written by “Fables” writer Bill Willingham. The JSA has a new mystery on its hands when an oversized black egg appears and turns out to be Obsidian, the HQ’s caretaker. There are a couple of new underaged members of the team — the naive All-American Kid and the arrogant King Chimera. And the entire team gets ambushed and beat down by a mega-team of bad guys pulled from all over the DC Universe, including Eclipso, Dr. Polaris, Mammoth, Major Force, and Blackbriar Thorn. But why are all of the villains refusing to attack Stargirl?

Verdict: Ehh, not sure. On one hand, I wanna give Bill Willingham a chance to get his sea-legs on this book. But something about it just rubs me the wrong way. And dangit, this has been a problem for Willingham in a lot of his non-“Fables” comics — “Shadowpact” started off pretty strong, then took a nosedive, and “DCU Decisions” was off-kilter from the start, which I initially chalked up to co-writer Judd Winick’s involvement. I hope this series isn’t going to bite as hard as those others, ’cause this comic has developed into one of DC’s flagship titles…


Wildstorm Universe #0

This one was free. Yay! Basically, after several reboots in the last few years, Wildstorm is going to reboot their primary superhero universe again. That’s about all there is for this one — a few pictures, a few text descriptions.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Too many reboots, guys. And after their last reboot — blowing up a large chunk of the planet and setting all their superhero hijinx in the post-apocalyptic remnants — that’s not really something that the planet is just gonna recover from, which appears to be what they’re planning to do here. And a somewhat unrelated point — why are the Gen-13 kids running around in black domino masks? That’s a look that just doesn’t work for that team.

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Armor Wars


The Brave and the Bold #25

DC’s strategy for re-introducing Milestone’s old characters back into continuity seems to involve giving them guest-star appearances in “The Brave and the Bold” — so be it, as y’all are well aware by now, I’m a sucker for the characters from the ’90s classic Milestone Media. In this issue, we’ve got Milestone’s Hardware — basically, he’s Iron Man with a rotten attitude — teaming up very reluctantly with Jaime “Blue Beetle” Reyes to take down an advanced high-tech SYSTEMatic — a powered armor drone working for an international criminal conspiriacy called SYSTEM. Unfortunately, Hardware really prefers to work alone, so even though he’s getting clobbered by the SYSTEMatic, he’s refusing all assistance from Blue Beetle. After Hardware gets his power drained by the SYSTEMatic, Beetle is able to give him a jump-start with his own armor. But will the villain still be too tough for both of them working together? And who’s behind the new redesign of the SYSTEMatics?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good characterization for both characters. I’ve got quibbles about the SYSTEMatic’s power levels and the guy pulling the strings back at SYSTEM, but as long as this issue includes both a Milestone character AND the Blue Beetle, there’s not much doubt that I’d love it.


JSA vs. Kobra #2

The international religious/terrorist organization is back and stronger than ever, as the JSA learns when it becomes clear that the bad guys have successfully infiltrated both Checkmate and S.T.A.R. Labs. And again, Kobra uses misdirection perfectly — while the Justice Society fights off a horde of cultists, a single Kobra operative manages to sneak into a big corporate office and get information about a project that could help Kobra destroy the world.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A bit odd that we see so few members of the JSA — it’s primarily just Mr. Terrific, Power Girl, and Green Lantern — but I do like the idea of a Kobra organization that’s both perfectly competent and screamingly scary.


Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #1

Meet Sir Edward Grey, dashing nobleman, detective, and occult investigator. Called in to investigate a series of mysterious murders, he interrogates a man who participated in an expedition with all the victims. The found the shattered skeleton of some sort of animal-human hybrid, and ever since then, they’ve been getting killed off in surprising ways. When a monster attacks and kills the final victim, Grey attempts in vain to apprehend a creature that can be solid one moment and mist the next. Can Grey follow the clues to track his adversary, or is it already too late?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Mike Mignola doesn’t often leave the pulp horror genre, so this foray into Victorian detective mystery/ghost story is notable and interesting for that alone. Sir Edward makes an excellent stoic hero, and the murders and setting here are excellently eerie.

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The Best and the Not-So-Good


Young Allies 70th Anniversary Special #1

Just about all of Marvel’s special issues paying tribute to their WWII Golden Age characters and the company’s 70th birthday have been outstanding, but this one is probably the best yet. The main story, by writer Roger Stern and artist Paolo Rivera, focuses on Bucky Barnes, Captain America’s former sidekick and the new Captain Marvel, as he discovers that some of his friends from World War II are still alive. The Young Allies were a bunch of normal kids — a stereotypical Brooklyn tough kid, a smart, bespectacled kid, a chubby kid, and a black kid — who occasionally teamed up with Bucky and Toro, the Human Torch’s sidekick, to fight the Nazis. Anyway, Bucky finds the two surviving Young Allies — Pat “Knuckles” O’Toole, the tough kid, and Wash Jones, the black kid — in a veterans hospital. Knuckles is on his deathbed, and Wash is paying him a last visit. They’re both overjoyed to see Bucky again, still young after all those decades. There’s some reminiscing over their WWII adventures and about their post-war lives. And in the end, Knuckles dies, and a few months later, Wash follows him. They close out the last few pages of the comic with reprints of ads, text stories, and comic about “Terry Vance, the School Boy Sleuth.”

Verdict: Thumbs up. Numerous thumbs up, along with several pinkies and even a couple of big toes. This has got to be the best done-in-one comic I’ve seen in months. The action sequences are fine, but where this story really shines is the small, personal moments, with a trio of old vets sitting around a hospital talking about how their lives turned out, and seeing one of their number through to his final curtain. It’s a beautiful, emotional story, and I hope like heck it wins some awards.


Justice Society of America #28

The Spectre takes Power Girl, Atom Smasher, Damage, and Judomaster back into the past to save Green Lantern, Flash, Wildcat, Hourman, and Liberty Belle from the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Kung, a former Japanese assassin who died in the bomb blast, hopes to sacrifice the American heroes to return himself to life, but can anyone stop him and his army of Japanese spirits?

Verdict: I’m gonna thumbs-down it. The action sequences are fine, but this just felt too needlessly complicated, on several different levels.

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