JSA: Black Vengeance review

As a Day of Vengeance crossover, JSA: Black Vengeance is not required reading; it's nothing more than a footnote in the plot of Day of Vengeance, and the headache of figuring out where it fits between the pages is hardly worth the price of admission. As the next JSA trade volume, however, JSA: Black Vengeance is fantastic. JSA is always at its finest when it combines wild adventures with the pure "aw shucks"-ness of these Golden Age characters, and the first story here, "JSA/JSA," delivers whole-heartedly. Black Reign and Lost were good, but "JSA/JSA," I think, really captures the JSA spirit of Stealing Thunder.

Rip Hunter has brought the JSA to 1951, where the House Committee on Un-American Activities has forced the Golden Age JSA to disband, and where Per Degaton intends to frame the JSA to destroy the team for good. Stargirl, Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite, Jakeem Thunder, Hourman, Sand, and Atom Smasher must find their respective predecessors and warn them of the plot; Atom Smasher asks to rejoin the JSA. In the present, Eclipso possesses the Spectre and causes him to attack Kahndaq; when the JSA intervene, Jakeem Thunder is trapped within his magic pen, and Atom Smasher is nearly killed, only to be saved by Black Adam.

One thing I liked about the very first JSA story, Justice Be Done, is that it stuck to the original JSA formula: the characters come together in the beginning, split into teams for smaller adventures, and then rejoin in the end. The first story in JSA: Black Vengeance, "JSA/JSA," preserves this to some extent--each of the members are given twelve hours to individually find and convince the original members to wear their costumes again. What happens from here is largely predictable--each of the heroes learns something new about their mentors, and everyone learns a valuable lesson--but each of the adventures is imbued with so much creativity that their hokiness quickly gives way to pure joy. Of special note is the Mr. Terrific plotline, that not only mixes action with social commentary when Terrific fights Klan members, but also wraps up loose ends concerning the original Mr. Terrific's relationship with Roulette. And as all the modern heroes struggle to make the older heroes believe them, Geoff Johns throws in a humorous wrench--Dr. Mid-Nite walks into the original's house, explains himself, and the two walk out together without the slightest shrug.

Though the "Black Vengeance" storyline, on the other hand, has some good moments--Power Girl using her heat vision, for one, and a truly nail-biting ending--it hardly revisits the issues at the core of "Black Reign." Black Adam remains a shade of gray, both a just and blood-thirsty ruler for the people of Kahndaq; Stargirl and Captain Marvel barely talk, furthering their relationship almost not at all; and when Stargirl confronts Atom Smasher with a moral speech about not killing under any circumstances, it's not that it's not valid--it's just not new. New seeds are not planted in "Black Reign"'s soil, so much as it's just the old soil retilled. But redeeming moments there are--while Eclipso's Jean Loring identity is all-but-wasted in Day of Vengeance, here it adds a personal touch, especially in showing more of Hawkman's feelings about the events of Identity Crisis. Alone, this might not be enough, but with "JSA/JSA," it makes JSA: Black Vengeance worth it.

[Contains full covers, bio pages, and a prologue containing missing pages from issues in JSA: Lost.]

All this and a great cameo from another Golden Age super-team resurrected for the modern era--JSA: Black Vengeance ranks up there with the best JSA trades. Me, I should be on to the Rann-Thanagar War or maybe some Bat-family trades, but I've had a hankering for some Y: The Last Man, or maybe the Space Ghost trade lying around; we'll see. Thanks for reading!


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