Review: JSA: Lost trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

JSA: Lost reminded me very much of JSA: Justice Be Done and JSA: Darkness Falls, and not just because of the presence of Extant. In the five stories presented here -- two one-shots, one three-parter, and two two-parters, all tied by common subplots -- we once again see the JSA split off into small teams, following up on multiple facets of a case. And like those first JSA trades, these vignettes are all about the legacy, all about tying up JSA plotlines both recent and old.

After the one-two punch of JSA: Princes of Darkness and JSA: Black Reign, I found JSA: Lost incredibly satisfying. It was during "Wake the Sandman" that I felt JSA: Lost really shined, as half the JSA traveled to the Dreaming while the other journeyed to the center of the Earth. After bringing back Fury in the last trade, JSA continues to integrate Vertigo's Sandman mythos into the DCU with Brute and Glob, among others. There's action, romance, and the art of comics stalwart Jerry Ordway, to boot. JSA: Lost is heavy on good emotion, and I was impressed with how, even as the various stories stood on their own, themes of faith, especially, followed throughout.

This trade is unmistakably Hourman's story, despite the focus on both the Spectre and Sand. Rex Tyler's hesitation to see his wife now that he's been resurrected continues in the first chapter, and the choice that he makes -- prompted both by the hunt for the missing Sand, and Mr. Terrific's coming to terms with his own wife's death -- is only the precurser to the final two-parter, which deals with the time-lost Hourman once and for all. Though I enjoyed the time-travel aspects of "Out of Time" (and the Memento approach to the opening chapter of this book), I found myself less enchanted with both Hourmans junior and senior as the story went on. Rick Tyler, who seemed bold and heroic in his Stealing Thunder debut, appeared all too quick to commit suicide here to save his father, rather than seek out another solution. This, combined with his concerns about falling off the addiction wagon in Black Reign, have made the character more human, but also somewhat whiny. I'll be watching him closely again during Black Vengeance.

Another character I found suprisingly whiny, too, was Hal Jordan. The Spectre returns in the first storyline, which also brings back JSA-villain the Spirit King, and spotlights Mr. Terrific. Longtime Justice Society fans will see where that's going immediately, and I appreciated the nod to JSA lore. But knowing that Hal Jordan would be next to appear in Green Lantern: Rebirth, I was surprised to find him spending much of his time in this story on his knees, whimpering. I'm having a hard time really getting a handle on Jordan's character, and I hope Rebirth shores it up for me. Better in this story was the spotlight on Dr. Mid-Nite's and Mr. Terrific's friendship, Mr. Terrific coming to terms with issues of faith, and lush artwork, including some incredible church scenes.

And let me make special mention of what can only be called an "art cameo" in JSA: Lost -- "art cameos," perhaps, being something indigenous to sequential art that makes this medium so great. In this case, whomever snagged Tom Mandrake to draw selected pages -- whether it was Geoff Johns or the editor -- it was a moment of absolute genius. Again, I won't spoil it, but readers familiar with Mandrake's recent work can probably figure it out. By and large, I couldn't tell most of the artists in this trade apart, which is good; given the large amount of artists, it's nice when their styles mesh, instead of jar. And again, it's always great to see Jerry Ordway.

JSA: Lost is also notable for two text pages that set the scene for Identity Crisis. The Crisis tale in this trade relies heavily on the miniseries itself, with less explanation and less real weight than found in the Flash trade; it's strange for this reason that DC chose to mark the front of the JSA trade as an Identity Crisis tie-in and not the Flash trade. For this reason, the two text pages have to work very hard to balance the very sudden "I know who killed Sue Dibny" that comes at the end of the trade. "The Autopsy" is good, even if it only repeats the "heroes snuggle up to their familes" moral of Identity Crisis. A short two-page scene between Superman and Power Girl stands out now, however, in the wake of Infinite Crisis.

If you were turned off, perhaps, by some of the indomitable blockbuster action of previous JSA trades, I highly recommend giving JSA: Lost a try -- it's the kind of tone I'd like to see for further JSA stories. Me, I'm on to Manhunter, as everyone's been raving about it, and then maybe a little past and future with Legion and Teen Titans. Will you join us?
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