Review: Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come Vol. 2 hardcover/trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

While writers Geoff Johns and Alex Ross, and artist Dale Eaglesham, have created an interesting, visually striking story in their second volume of Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come, it's a seeming departure from the intended point of this series. While Thy Kingdome Come part two sees the culmination of Johns intent to make the former JSA into a real justice "society," the aspect of this meant to be a sequel to Kingdom Come fades away.

A fun pin-up that Eaglesham includes at the end of this book sports twenty-five Justice Society members, and even the first pages of the book involved Jakeem Thunder and Stargirl discussing how crowded the Justice Society brownstone has become. Indeed Johns has suceeded in making the Justice Society a real society of heroes (that "society" didn't mean the same thing back then as now not withstanding).

With so many characters, it's understandable that some of them fall by the wayside -- Thunder, Hourman, and Judomaster, to name a few, while the young Cyclone somehow suddenly manifests a monkey -- but each also has a distinct personality as evinced by Eaglesham's pin-up. One of my favorites without doubt is the new Amazing-Man, tied to a civil rights legacy; he shines in his success talking with a risen god as a man of faith, when Mr. Terrific fails to communicate using secular means.

Indeed, even as the plot of Thy Kingdom Come tends toward the scattered and predictable, what's striking here are the pages upon pages that Johns devotes to discussing the different faiths and philosophies of the characters. Justice Society has mildly dealt with the beliefs of Mr. Terrific and Dr. Mid-Nite before, but here the amount of dialogue was akin to Greg Rucka's Checkmate. There are full-blown action sequences here, but also a lot of talking and comparing among the heroes, and I welcomed it. In three volumes, Thy Kingdom Come is a decompressed story to be sure, but Johns uses the decompression to give a great amount of depth to the heroes.

Thy Kingdom Come didn't work for me in two places. First, Johns replaces the initial villain of the piece with a second villain half-way through, and it has the effect of making many of the events of volume one rather unnecessary. Second, the replacement villain has even fewer ties to the Kingdom Come Superman that appears here than the first one did; for a story that's supposed to be a sequel to Kingdom Come, it begins to seem that the only tie between one story and the next is Superman.

Frankly, the initial story was the more interesting to me. Volume two involves a resurrected god providing wish fulfillment that the reader just knows is going to go wrong. I enjoyed the Multiverse aspects of this, as the god sends Power Girl to a Jerry Ordway-drawn Earth-2 to meet that world's equivalent of Infinity Inc., but ultimately it seems Johns spends too long suspending a hammer over our heroes heads, pretending it won't drop when we all know it will.

Certainly in terms of depth and personality, it's no question why Justice Society of America remains one of the best books on the shelves. I'm just hoping part three of Thy Kingdom Come binds the pieces together better, making the story more than just a frentic superhero romp.

[Contains full covers, Dale Eaglesham Justice society pin-up, "What Came Before" pages, brief character bios.]

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