I very nearly read JSA: Black Reign in one sitting, and only stopped myself one issue from the end in order to make it last a little longer. This is one action-packed trade, kids -- a battle nearly from start to finish, with a fantastic, unexpected cliffhanger nearly around every turn. Overall, the moral debate at the center of this trade -- the question of "first do no harm" super-heroing -- is both timely in the real world and pertinent with the advent of Identity Crisis. I especially liked how Geoff Johns paralleled Dr. Mid-Nite redirecting a young prostitute in the beginning with Black Adam's actions in regards to the country Kahndaq -- the shape and care that Johns used to craft this story definitely shows through.
But I will say, however, that even though Black Reign is good (and it's good), for trade-reading purposes it could probably stand to be just one issue longer. The book does a great job starting right in the middle of the action, and then chapter two pauses to check in with the JSA and catch the reader up on their lives. The problem is, we don't get that same breather issue at the end, so that the book seems to start very fluidly, and end very suddenly. All of this, no doubt, will be easily solved once the next trade, JSA: Lost, is in hand, but until then, get ready for Black Reign to start and send you careening -- careening toward a sudden stop.
Like all good roller coasters, however, the ride's the thing, and this roller coaster has at least two sudden drops in it I never saw coming -- the ends of chapters four and five, specifically. We get a resolution, or at least some heavy movement, to a long-standing JSA plot at the end of chapter four, and the end of chapter five is just weird -- one of those comics geek-out moments you can rely on Geoff Johns for, and I only wish more had been made of it in the resolution. And the identity of Hawkman's insurance is somewhat predictable (the gag's getting old, really), but where the insurance is hiding is a nice touch, hearkening back to JSA as a legacy title once again.
As I'm flipping back through Black Reign again, I keep landing on a couple of different instances of Hawkman and the Flash having very powerful, serious dialogue, and I think Johns handled this really well. It's fun to read JSA because some of these characters, as written, have known each other for fifty years or more, and Johns does a great job letting that show through. And check out Don Kramer drawing the JSA in-costume around their table in chapter three -- hands down, the JSA have cooler costumes than the JLA and the Titans, no question.
See here for Hovy's review of JSA: Black Reign over at Gotham Lounge.
And now I'm off, most likely, to Batman: War Games Act Two, in order to put a little space between my reading it and when Act Three comes out. From there, Superman/Batman: Absolute Power, and then catching up on my Vertigo reading? Who knows?