The newest team in comics meets the oldest as writers Bill Willingham, Matt Sturges and artist Jesus Merino take over the JSA’s creative reins. There’s no huge tonal shift, this is the same team Geoff Johns has been writing for the last decade or so (right down to no one remembering that Power Girl is the leader, and a gruesome assault). And that’s a smart move, what with Johns’ legion of fans poised to point out that the new guys aren’t as good as the old. Slow and steady wins the race.
Which isn’t to say that there’s not lots going on this issue. For starters, there’s a huge battle with a new society of villains featuring everyone from old stager Dr Polaris to, er, those dog-themed idiots from a recent Blue Beetle. There’s also a mystery involving a strange black egg. Best of all, we have a couple of new members, the snarkily entertaining king Chimera and Mr America’s instant sidekick, the All-American Kid. This last chap, I don’t trust so far as I can throw him. It’s too convenient that he shows up out of nowhere with a story about how he’s the descendant of a sidekick no one’s heard of. You know who I have heard of? Karnevil, an anti-boy wonder type from Willingham and Sturges’ wonderful, and cancelled, Shadowpact series. I tell you, the kid’s an infiltrator, the Bad Seed of this arc’s title.
One thing I really liked about this issue was that we were given a focus on Mr America for the first time since he joined the JSA, ages ago. And that without any page hogging of the Mr Terrific/Dr Midnite type – there was plenty of room for other characters to have their moment, whether in the Brownstone or during the conflict on the streets of New York.
And everything was beautifully illustrated by Merino, finally getting a high-profile assignment at DC after years of stalwart service – often as an inker. His JSA characters look heroic without hitting self-parody, there’s a good variety of faces and his fight sequences are outstanding. I’m not usually a fan of big spreads in 22pp books but the crowd scenes here are just wonderful, easily earning their keep.
Merino is well served by colourist Allen Passalaqua, who never stints on the hues – no great swathes of monotone here – every figure, every background has had thought and craft put into it. I particularly like the way he’s set up King Chimera’s power aura, and hope his successors follow suit.
All in all, I’d rate this an outstanding start. JSA feels fresh without any superbabies being thrown out with the bathwater.