JSA All-Stars #2 review

Liberty Belle and Hourman take on Icicle and Tigress in Turkey as they search for antiques and a killer. That’s the bare bones but writer Jen Van Meter gives us far more as the JSA’s husband and wife team get their own strip. We gain an insight into Jesse Chambers’ childhood and learn that Rick Tyler is less opposed to being a parent than he thought. We’re told an ancient Greek tale and see that Tigress would make a decent detective. We find Icicle has a nice line in logic and . . . well, you get the idea – ten pages, lots going on, and that’s without the odd bit of pleasurable punching and whizzing around.

It’s heartening to see that despite being reconnected with the Speed Force and donning a costume homaging her pa, Johnny Quick, over in Flash: Rebirth, Jesse prefers her Mom’s look for JSA work. Quite right too, it’s a classic and Travis Moore and Dan Green draw it well – though I wish the tight trews were jodhpurs, as in mom Libby Lawrence’s day, for uniqueness’ sake. The storytelling is sharp, with layouts composed to match the script’s pace. The combination of story and art makes for a refreshing short, and I’m keen to see more. I was dubious about Rick and Jesse getting a spotlight as their ‘so in love’ attitude in JSA stories has seemed creepy at times. Here, though, they’re well matched. As well as JSA legacy heroes I’d suggest they’re heirs to Ralph and Sue Dibny, the much missed Elongated Man and wife, travelling around Europe (next issue it’s Venice) and loving a mystery. I do hope they come to see me here in Edinburgh.

This issue also features Hourman’s team, the All-Stars, in a story that’s twice as long and half as entertaining as the so-called Second Feature. The team bids to free Stargirl, kidnapped by lovestruck loon Johnny Sorrow, but the sharp cookie rescues herself as her mates stumble upon a scrap between the Injustice Society and the Strike Force. It’s all biff bash bosh and how’s your father, then the Naughtiness Society teleports away as they have a last-page cliffhanger to sort out.

I didn’t much care about any of this as it was mostly the sort of mass fight scene we’ve had in every JSA title for the last several months. Because they aren’t properly introduced the bad guys are interchangeable tools, while the good guys are overshadowed by the obnoxious Magog, whose presence on the team makes no sense – he’s not a legacy character, he doesn’t agree with their methods, he’s only a team player if said team follows him . . . I see how he showed up when co-creator Alex Ross was helping to write the regular JSA book, but Ross is long gone, so why is his pet still here under Matt Sturges? Does anyone like Magog?

Certainly Power Girl likes him less this month as he barks orders and tries to kill enemies. Arse. Poor Peege has enough to put up with trying not to let those ever more unfeasible tits take over the room. Honestly, why move into a ranch when the team could headquarter in one of her bras?

There are some good-looking panels in this book but quite a few that, to me, look awkward and overcooked, with odd proportions. Take Hourman, Judomaster, Power Girl and Steel on the cover, for example. I was a big Freddie Williams II fan when he was drawing the Robin book but something’s changed. Perhaps that was before he went over fully to the digital dark side (he’s even written a book, The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics, available from all good etc) or maybe his art is simply developing and this particular stage isn’t for me. Whatever the case, I can’t deny the energy and effort Freddie’s putting in.

The best thing about this story was the introduction of the new ‘member’. The quotes are due to Roxy being an artificial life form invented by Rex Tyler (the madly-chinned guy whose clothes shrank in the wash) and she has a delightful sense of humour and disdain.

That apart, this issue was disappointing; I need the All-Stars strip to calm down – it feels like I’m being yelled at. I’d also prefer the strained difference in philosophy between the All-Stars and the rest of the JSA to go away – no one but Magog believes heroes need to be military types, and I can’t credit the likes of Green Lantern, Flash and Wildcat, who have fought in several wars, with wanting the youngest heroes Hoovering up Magog’s angry attitudes. Can’t we just say there are a pair of JSA teams because the Society has grown and there are enough nasty sods around for two units?

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