Review: JSA: Ghost Stories trade paperback (DC Comics)

JSA: Ghost Stories works as the closing chapter to the uber-successful JSA series. Beginning during a rainy night in Infinite Crisis and continuing One Year Later with undead specters on nearly every page, Ghost Stories actually accomplishes an air of creepiness that makes the story a joy to read. Even better, the trade focuses solely on one plot, giving the book the feel of a graphic novel or an extended Justice Society adventure. The continuity is light enough for the casual reader, but with enough hints of 52 and the missing year to tantalize DCU fans.

Ghost Stories does a good job emphasizing some of the stronger personalities of the JSA. Front and center here are JSA stalwarts Jay (The Flash) Garrick and Alan (Green Lantern) Scott. With the JSA having disbanded during One Year Later, each hero is considering retirement, especially Alan, who lost his daughter Jade in the Crisis. Alan Scott has always been considered the most strict of the older heroes in the JSA, and in this story there's something very engaging about his brooding persona, especially during an extended sequence when he confronts a tragedy from his youth. Jakeem Thunder, Stargirl, and even Ma Hunkel get moments to shine.

At the same time, Ghost Stories risks making the JSA feel a little stodgy. The trade is written by DC publisher Paul Levitz, and the trade reflects somewhat older sensibilities--the disbanded JSA still gets together every week, as it were, in order to play Scrabble. During a later sequence, Alan Scott is injured and spends most of an issue in a hospital bed, looking fairly aged. There's also an extended sequence that seems to have no more point than to point out Stargirl's, shall we say, "innocence" versus Power Girl's "experience," that never really goes anywhere. All of these things reinforce the sense that the JSA are not quite the hipsters that the Titans or the Justice League are, though regular writer Geoff Johns generally makes this feel less the case.

The trade copy emphasizes an appearance by the Golden Age Batman, and delivers, though Batman's role here is not nearly as large as the back of the book suggests. Certainly if one were considering whether the Multiverse exists again or not, this would be your proof. I do tend to wonder, though, whether even when the Multiverse's new role in the DCU is fully explained, if it will make sense why the Golden Age Batman should be stuck in the New Earth's spirit realm fighting beside Jade and the Golden Age Mr. Terrific. The appearance is great, but perhaps shouldn't be studied too closely, but at the same time, I was somewhat disappointed to see Jade here; knowing that the hero "lives on" just beyond the heroes' sight tends to cheapen her death a bit, even with the caveat that the dead are more apparent because of the Gentleman Ghost's machinations.

Levitz' JSA tale is not the greatest the book has ever been, but it is an interesting, fast-paced story, and a worthwhile introduction to the JSA (even as one series ends and another begins). The next time a thunderstorm knocks out your power, JSA: Ghost Stories is a good choice to read curled up with your flashlight.

[Contains full covers.]

Following a bit of continuity now into the first Checkmate trade, and on from there! Want to review a trade for Collected Editions? Send an email to the address at right.


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