Saturday, December 09, 2006

Stream-of-Consciousness Reveiw: Justice Society of America #1

Cover: This issue shipped with two covers, as the law apparently decrees all #1 issues from New York City-based comic book publisherst must. The standard one was a gorgeous team portrait painted by Alex Ross, featuring 17 heroes seated around a marble round table in a pose evoking the original, Golden Age images of the JSA, but with an incredible amount of photorealism in the image. Just take a gander at the expressions on the faces of the Flash and Cyclone; they look like real people posing for a family photo, not superheroes posing for a comic book cover. Why on Earth would anyone want the Dale Eaglesham variant? (That's it above). It’s a nice drawing and all, but come on, the Ross piece is a work of freaking art! Plus, it's worth noting the Ross version is an iconic or symbolic image, while the Eaglesham one is a "story-telling" cover, but the story it's telling is inaccurate—those characters don't pore over candiates in this issue. Page 1: Here we have a splash of the “One Year Later” Society (the one featured in the Paul Levitz arc that closed out JSA), rushing through a city in flames, with the caption reading simply “World War III.” Looks like Black Adam’s coalition building early on in 52 ended up having some serious impact on global politics after all… Page 2: The caption reads “Three months later,” so if you’re making a timeline, this would be about three months after “One Year Later.” The “Trinity” of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman approach Wildcat, Green Lantern Alan Scott and Flash Jay Garrick with a pitch, “The world needs better good guys. So what can the League do to help?” In just five panels, Geoff Johns manages to delineate the differences between the League and the Society and give the latter a bold new mission statement. Page 3: Someone in a cape is narrating the hell out of a crime scene. He seems to think it’s still 1989, based on his Rorschach-esque, Dark Knight-ish narration and penchant for violence. Page 4: Well, didn’t see that coming! Ladies and gentleman, Mr. America, wearing a pencil thin moustache that looks even more dated than his costume! Who the hell is Mr. America, you ask? Go read James Robinson’s excellent Elseworlds story The Golden Age. Yeah, it’s out of continuity, but it’s the best—and maybe only—Mr. America story you’re going to find these days. Actually, judging from his name, “Trey Thompson,” this is the original Mr. America’s son or grandson, since the original was “Tex Thompson.” Hmm, wonder what “Tex” is short for? Page 6-7: A double page spread of Alan Scott pinning glossies of members of the new JSA on a bulletin board. Note the ring on his finger; penciller Dale Eaglesham manages to draw it in the correct shape, something Paul Gulacy never did in the Vandal Savage/Green Lantern arc of JSA: Classified. Eaglesham draws the hell out of the team here, packing an awful lot of individual personality into pretty standard superheroes. The text boxes, presumably provided from an omniscient narrator rather than Mr. America or Wildcat, who have been switching narration back and forth, identifies each of the six heroes shown here, and their powers. The intros are rather cheesy, like “Mr. Terriffic—Michael Holt. The third smartest man in the world.” Really? Third? That’s pretty specific. Page 8: Alan, Jay and Wildcat sit around a nice marble table with nice, new patriotic chairs, looking at a bunch of photos. Yes! Photo time! There’s nothing more thrilling about the foundation of a new DC super-team than the time spent looking at photos! In Brad Meltzer’s Justice League of America, the Trinity have been looking at headshots of superheroes for four whole issues. In Johns’ Teen Titans, we got a tantalizing two-page spread of a bunch of Titans from the “missing year.” Even in Birds of Prey, Oracle pored over photos when considering how to replace Black Canary. Now, let’s flip this book over, break out the magnifying glass, and see who they’re considering. Some are hard to make out, but at the very least, we definitely have Catman, the Manhattan Guardian, Hawkman, Black Canary, Sand, Mr. America, S.T.R.I.P.E., Green Arrow Oliver Queen, Obsidian, Damage, Jakeem and the Thunderbolt, Captain Marvel, Obsidian in Shadow Form (I’m not even gonna ask how you photograph something made out of shadow), Zauriel, Skyrocket, Firestorm II, Blue Beetle III, Ragman and Nightwing. Some of these will make the team, based on the cover, and some of them would definitely fit in, since they have Golden Age legacies, and some of them are just plain way out of left field, like Catman, Zauriel and Green Arrow. I assume Johns just asked Eaglesham to draw whoever he felt like. Page 9: Four horizontal panels, each focusing on a moment of JSA history. First, we have the original line up seated around a table. Then we have a scene from—Hey, what the hell? That’s Dick Grayson, Robin from Earth-2 standing between Star Spangled Kid and Power Girl! What the hell?! The grown-up Robin was erased from continuity in Crisis on Infinite Earths! The recent Infinite Crisis brought Earth-2 back, sort of, but only in the memories of Power Girl, Kal-L and Earth-2 Lois Lane. In Infinite Crisis #7, Wildcat mentions memories of Earth-2 returning to him, but DC changed that when they published IC as a hardcover collection. What gives?! Anyway, below that we have the cover of JSA #1, and then the foundation of this team, with Wildcat pouting about having to pick a lineup and read files. Page 10: Okay, there’s only four panels on this page, but a lot to talk abut. Let’s look at the first panel first. Check out Wildcat’s back. Holy crap, right? That’s one powerful looking back. Now, note Alan Scott’s right hand…it’s entirely composed of cocktail wieners. While we’re on Alan, check out his eyes in the first two panels. He lost an eye in 52, and it was established that when he’s in his civilian identity, he wore a patch over his left eye, but when he was suited up as Green Lantern, the missing eye glowed green, the emerald flame apparently filling the socket. In the first panel, one socket is full of a glowing green eye, and the other is empty. In the second panel, he has both eyes back. Come on Eaglesham, you were doing so well! Oh no, and now look what you’ve done in panel 2—Alan’s ring reverted to a Green Lantern Corps ring, rather than the lantern-shaped one you correctly drew earlier. Tch tch tch. As the elder statesmen chat, it comes out that the JLA spent weeks gathering all of this intel for them to pore over, so presumably those glossies are on loan from Batman’s private stash of superhero headshots (last seen in JLoA #0-#3). Finally, in the fourth panel, we get a close up of Wildcat’s face. His costume looks hilariously dirty and amateurishly stitched together here. I really like the implication that this eightysomething former boxer not only made his own cat suit, but does all his own sewing, even though he’s not terribly good at it. Page 11: Do you know the sound of one super-powered guy knocking a brick wall down with another super-powered guy’s face? No? It’s “CHOOOOOMM.” Someone wearing stars and stripes with a do-rag over his masked and hooded head and a tank top over his costume pushes New Look Damage through a wall. Page 12-13: The super guy who’s not Damage is apparently named “Rebel” and based on his comment that “I rule these streets…and I’ll wash them clean of the color that’s destroyed them,” I guess we’re supposed to assume he’s wearing a full body suit shaped like the old Confederate flag. Which raises some questions. Like, why would someone proud enough of the stars and bars to wear them then completely cover them up in shorts, a tank top and bandanna? That’s like wearing a disguise over your costume. And what the hell he’s doing in Philadelphia? That’s hardly the place for a racist “The South will rise again!” style vigilante. Rebel breaks Damage’s right arm—I think; it goes “KRAKK”—and then whispers in his ear that he heard that upon being beaten into a bloody mess and having his face destroyed, Damage “cried like a bitch.” Hoo boy. Okay, first of all, in Damage’s defense, if there’s ever a time when a man can cry, certainly it’s after his face has been destroyed and he’s been beaten into a bloody mess, no? Second, in this last panel, being called a “bitch” doesn’t sit well with Damage, as you can tell from the determined look on his face and the fact that his eyes start glowing. Then, on page 13, it’s apparently enough to rally Damage, as he blows up Rebel’s knee and teeth. So, while we can forgive Johns for using the word “bitch,” and in so derisive a fashion, because it’s not Johns who said it, it was the bad guy, we can’t so easily forgive him for depicting it having such an effect on Damage. Clearly, being called a “bitch” is just too much for Damage who, readers of The Titans know, was once sexually abused. Sigh. (On a more lighthearted note, check out the 52 joke in the background). Page 14: But wait, what’s this? The misogynistic use of a sexist swear word in this all-ages DCU title isn’t over yet! As his fallen foe cries in pain, Damage leans into his ear and tells him, “Now who’s crying like a bitch?” And the soul of the comic book industry dies a little more. Page 15-16: Liberty Belle and Hourman appear to recruit Damage, who’s doing the same sulky, angsty teenager routine he used to pull in his own long-cancelled monthly title and in Titans, but now it’s been amped up to 11. Page 16, which shows why Damage decides to join up, is pretty funny, and well handled by Eaglesham. This guy can sure draw. Page 20: And speaking of drawing. In one four-panel page, Eaglesham introduces us to Maxine Hunkel and completely defines her personality. The following four pages only build on it, but Eaglesham has done more in those first four panels than all the dialogue on these pages does. Make sure you read the text-filled panel…it actually makes sense and is worth the read. Page 25-30: Presenting Starman VIII, or whatever he is—I honestly lost count. James Robinson so perfectly told the tale of the Starmen in his since concluded Starman monthly that there seemed to be little point in introducing a new Starman, this one wearing the costume design of the one in Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come miniseries, but I gotta hand it to Johns and Eaglesham. I did not see this take on the character coming. Some of his speech seems way too Hollywood, but what the hell, it’s a fun and funny depiction. I love how he dances into his sanitarium home, and the little details Eaglesham packs these scenes with (Check out the birthday celebration in the background). Page 31: We get a good look at the new JSA building, and it’s pretty sweet… I dig the stone eagles instead of lions at the front porch. Ma Hunkle, who seems to have lost weight, namedrops two Green Lanterns, and we get a glimpse of Obsidian. Page 32-33: And look at that, there’s the whole lineup assembled, minus the three originals JSAers. And it only took 32 pages. Brian Michael Bendis and Brad Meltzer could learn a thing or two about super-team assemblage from Johns. Page 34-37: Annnd, Johns drops not one but two bombs on us, as a beaten and bloody Mr. America crashes onto the team’s meeting table, and Jay and Alan point Wildcat to a young dark-haired boy about to light up a cigarette and tell him, “His name is Tom. He’s your son.” (Please don’t name him Tomcat, please don’t name him Tomcat, please don’t name him Tomcat…) Page 38: A full-page next issue box, completely with four panels under the words, “Coming this year in Justice Society of America.” In panel one, we have Batman, Sandman and Starman and a fourth, unidentified hero standing infront of Arkham Asylum. The unidentified guy says, “I’ll notify the League,” but who the hell is he? I don’t know, but he has one of those weird masks that cover the whole head except for the hair, like Gambit and Cyclops wear in the next universe over. In the DCU, that can only be, let’s see, Geo-Force, Animal Man, Gunfire, Kid Flash, a couple of the Manhunters. Based on the hair color, costume color and lack of a jacket or shoulder pads, though, it can only be Geo-Force. The second panel has the right arm of Dawnstar from a previous iteration of the Legion, saying “I hvae to go track down Starman.” Panel three, the hand of Kal-L, Earth-2’s Superman, breaking out of his grave in front of a stunned Power Girl. And, in panel four, an Alex Ross painting of someone who looks like Kal-L saying “It never ends—for people like us.” But check out the color of the field behind his “S;” it’s black, meaning that’s the Kingdom Come Superman. Hmm…

1 comment:

Anthony Strand said...

I know this post is like a year old, but I'm just reading it for the first time (good blog!), and I have to point this out.

Eaglesham's cover for JSoA #1 is an homage to the cover of All Star Squadron #1 -