Review: Justice Society of America: The Next Age collected hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

In a spirit similar to Green Lantern: Rebirth, Geoff Johns reinvents the JSA--again--in Justice Society of America: The Next Age. Coming as this does just on the heels of the new Justice League of America, Johns offers a story that feels both more cohesive and better characterized than Brad Meltzer's first Justice League arc, even as Johns works with far fewer issues that Meltzer does.

Perhaps on purpose, Meltzer and Johns each have the core heroes of their respective teams start with photographs, like trading cards, that they use to pick the new team members. But whereas Meltzer's heroes learn you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friends, Johns' do indeed succeed in filling their roster with new recruits. It's a difference that feels backward: the JLA should be the hand-picked strike force and the JSA should be the super-buddies, not vice versa, but there you go.

At the same time, it's a stretch to say that the Justice Society "team" really appears here. There's not a mission per se--in as much as the team has a corpse land in the center of their first meeting, and from there must protect their families from attack--and so it's hard to know what Johns, through the new team, really intends to do. Not that it matters, necessarily--Johns' story is a suspenseful, action-packed super-heroic joy, in which the Justice Society gets to trade blows with super-powered Nazis. Johns introduces a bunch of new characters very quickly, but does a great job making us sympathetic to all of them.

Overall, I like the new make-up of the team. JSA stalwarts Mr. Terrific and Dr. Mid-Nite return; the bombastic Hourman and Liberty Belle take a parental role with the even more bombastic Damage, echoing Black Canary and Green Lantern's mentoring of Red Arrow in the Justice League. I'm curious what plans Johns has for Cyclone, the grand-daughter of the original Red Tornado; I'm not convinced the Justice Society needs another enthusiastic teenager a la present-member Stargirl, but I'm willing to be convinced.

My only concern was in the drastic changes in others of the characters; aside from Hourman's new reckless personality, we have an inexplicably ghoulish Sand, Obsidian as the headquarters' security system, and Jakeem Thunder nowhere to be found. These "missing moments" weren't handled in 52, and came across as a bit jarring. I did like the choice of Power Girl as the new Justice Society chairwoman, as deserved as Black Canary taking the same role in Justice League.

Dale Eaglesham provides interesting, nuanced art throughout the book. I've so recently associated Eaglesham will Villains United and drawing "creepy" characters that I wasn't sure he was quite right for the hero-oriented Justice Society. This is a concern not completely laid to rest, but his scenes with the irrepressible Cyclone suggest Eaglesham can do "happy," too. The book is a beauty to look at, with colors and papers befitting a hardcover.

In terms of premieres, I have to say I favored the first Justice Society trade over the first Justice League. While the Justice League story was confusing and the team-creation suspect, Justice Society delivers both a straightforward story and a well-characterized group of heroes about which I'm eager to read more. The two teams meet in the next trade, so we'll see how the two authors read working together.

[Contains full covers, mini-profiles, introduction by Peter Tomasi, sketchbook section by Alex Ross and Dale Eaglesham]

Been a very long time since we read any Catwoman, so we might dip there next. And then ... you'll have to tune in and find out! See you.
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4 comments:

  1. I'm guessing it's either Supergirl or Wonder Woman next.

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  2. Actually, you might be right, but what made you guess that?

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  3. Well, you've been doing a run of female group trades lately!

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  4. Hmm ... well, I appreciate your attention to detail, though I'm not sure you're right. We read Birds of Prey lately as a run-up to Justice League, but before that was Checkmate and Green Lantern Corps and Robin.

    Do Birds of Prey, Catwoman, and Supergirl (separated by Justice League) constitute a "run"? Not sure I agree, but thanks for chiming in.

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