Justice Society of America #4 review

Per Degaton is trying to destroy the Justice Society, as per usual. He’s travelling down the timeline destroying the jSA of each generation. ‘Why’ is the question that’s haunted Huntress Helena Wayne since a mysterious snowglobe began plonking her in the Golden Age villain’s footsteps.

While Helena, who’s from 2049, tries to warn the JSA of today, Justice League Dark’s Detective Chimp and Deadman ask fellow member Madame Xanadu if she can unlock the snowglobe’s secrets.

Yes, it’s all a tad convoluted but this series is a lot of fun. Look, for example, what happens when the siren seer checks out the glass globe.

And see how Helena handles Degaton when he starts strafing the JSA with time bolts.

And look, a subplot!

Now that’s interesting. Dr Mid-Nite II and Wildcat II, we were told recently, had come back to life after a long-ago battle with Eclipso via the Lazarus Pit. I was perfectly happy to accept that and move along, but writer Geoff Johns seems to have plans. I’m good with that because it means he has his eye on things beyond the current storyline, which had seemed to be all set-up for the latest incarnation of the original super-team. The word was that Justice Society of America was a limited series but now I hear it’s an ongoing. And that’s great because I’m really enjoying both the overall storyline and the pieces of characterisation around it. This issue, for example, as well as the Wildcat and Dr Mid-Nite moment we have the beginnings of a friendship between Power Girl and the latest Huntress and a moment of realisation for newish Dr Fate Khalid.

One thing I would change about this book is Justice League Dark – I’d lose them. Yes, Madame Xanadu works out what Degaton is doing, but someone else could serve that function, it’s not like the JSA doesn’t have magical folk. And Deadman and Bobo don’t do anything. I’d rather the panel space went to members of the title team.

The best reason for their being in here is that Mikel Janín makes them look amazing. Heck, he even makes Madame Xanadu’s Doorway to Nightmare a thing of beauty. The compositions serve the story, but Janín isn’t the only master storyteller here – Jerry Ordway contributes a couple of significant pages.

All the action sequences, though, go to Janín and they’re fantastic, with real heft and motion.

Ordway worked extensively with Roy Thomas when he was DC’s keeper of the keys to the JSA legend, and Johns nods to the master here by adding a quotation from a historical figure to the credits page; he then twists the trope. It’s great stuff.

Another terrific touch from Johns is this insight into our new Huntress.

And that explosion of possible future plot points recalls Rip Hunter’s whiteboards of Johns-written comics of 15 years ago.

The colouring assignment is shared between Jordie Bellaire and John Kalisz – I think the former is working with Janin and the latter, Ordway. Not that it matters to my eyes, as both are talented veterans and the work throughout is excellent. I especially like this panel by Janín and Bellaire.

Have we seen Stargirl travel in space previously? I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, the Starmen could do it and her staff uses the same technology.

Letterer Rob Leigh is an asset to any comic and here he’s doing masterful work adding character and drama to scenes with his design nous.

Janín’s cover is pleasingly dramatic in a ‘this doesn’t happen inside’ way, but as with two of the previous three issues, the background colour is bathroom drab.

What the heck, Janín and Ordway are drawing great guns, Johns is on fire… the whole creative team is doing a bang-up job with the latest Justice Society revival. Now, if only they could get this book out monthly.

14 thoughts on “Justice Society of America #4 review

  1. I’ll be picking this up tomorrow, but I couldn’t resist reading your review. Well, skimming — I tried not to spoil myself too much.

    But one thing I noticed in the panels you selected is that the Ordway panels — which take place in the past, correct? — have a different word balloon style than the Janin panels. A bumpier shape, more reminiscent of the Golden Age. So kudos to Rob Leigh for evoking those great 40s comics of yesteryear! I bet the voices would sound like we were hearing them through old-timey microphones.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, so you did! You’ve always had a sharp eye for that sort of thing!

        I just read it, and really enjoyed it. I feel like Johns is back to form with his DC books again, which is a relief. His time on the optimistic Stargirl TV show served him well.

        I’m looking forward to seeing how the Eclipso subplot grows and blossoms. And I wonder what, if anything, Helena told PG about her future? I liked that she said “Tell me something good.” That’d be nice to hear.


  2. Let’s start out with I don’t like my JSA stories dark and the decade of no JSA has hurt my suspension of disbelief for Jay Garrick still being active and alive. Alan I can accept and some others though.

    That said, I feel like this story is finally gelling. It helps that it’s all in one timeline. Remembering Khalid is empowered by Bast (I am remembering right?) not Nabu the murderer of Kent Nelson’s father makes this Fate formidable but takes away the old Doctor Fate’s powers of handwavium. Karen approaching Helena like an old friend she’s just met is a nice touch, as is Helena doing what even a coldly logical and pragmatic daughter would do.

    Didn’t Janin keep a monthly schedule with I, Vampire? Maybe if Johns makes writing a priority we could have up to ten issues of this book a year! My biggest fear is a situation like 3 Legions or that awful Shazam! book that wasn’t worth waiting for

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re right about Bast…it’s deffo some female god. As for Jay’s age, I somehow just accept the JSA-era being around, whether it be due to magical powers, super science, Ian Karkull… I just accept it.


    2. For me, the Ian Karkull explanation of the continued longevity of the JSA and their friends and family still works. There’s no reason for Jay not to be still around, and going by the recent Stargirl series, it’s possible Rex Tyler is, too. Which I love.


      1. Totally agree. The JSA — any of them we need around — can still be fairly active and vital due to exposure to strange energies during their adventures. And the energy had a half-life that also affected their nearest and dearest. The Karkull story is the roadmap for that, but I think the details of it don’t have to be adhered to so much as the spirit of it. (And, of course, if you want a character to be dealing with the effects of old age for your story, they could have encountered some force that counteracted the energy’s effects. It’s all ridiculous comic-book science, anyway.)


  3. Hey Martin, where did you hear this was an ongoing? I’ve really been enjoying the book, and can tolerate the delays at this point, but what’s really maddening is the lack of clarity on whether this is a mini-series or not. It was never marketed initially as such when first announced, and then it suddenly became a 12 issue mini. But Johns is kind of writing it like it’s a ongoing, too. There have been fan press interviews with him, but I don’t think any of the reporters have tried to clarify this situation. Will the book continue? Will it end with #12 and then there will be a new ongoing by Johns or a different writer? I can’t imagine that, after all of the effort put into this “New Golden Age,” DC would reintroduce the JSA only to then stop publishing the team again. Also Johns clearly loves the characters. Why would he step away after 12 issues if the book is successful and DC is willing to let him continue indefinately?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Drat Brian, I can’t remember where I saw that reference. I definitely did, but who knows, they may have been wrong. The comic has never had ‘of 12’ on the cover, as do other minis. Time will tell but I want to know now!


  4. Mechanique! Who other than Johns would have thought she was working back? Well, aside from Roy Thomas himself I suppose!
    Janin’s art is great as usual and it’s always nice to see Jerry Ordway turn up.
    I’m not sure about Johns having this somewhat annoying original (Earth-2) Huntress knock-off so rapidly becoming friends with Power Girl though. I guess Geoff showing Kara with Helena Wayne II as well as Wildcat II with Dr Mid-Nite II (I can rarely punctuate that name properly) is his trying to “pass” the Bechdel Test – not that that “test” is scientific or should be taken super-seriously – which is mildly interesting.
    One other thing, as much as I like Janin he does draw Beth Chapel to look a little too childlike; take a look at how she was originally drawn, she looked like a grown rather talk (willowy) woman whereas here she isn’t. I may be being picky but it is curious. *winks*
    Madame Xanadu and Deadman? C’mon Martin, you know you love them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do love them, but not in a team book. I can see Madame Xanadu and Deadman being pals, but can’t see why she would hang out with a superhero team… am I misremembering that originally she wouldn’t cross the doors of her shop?

      Beth does look a little young here, maybe Janín is influenced by the telly show?


  5. Also Martin, on your quibble with including JLDark, remember that Johns has introduced a Golden Age JLDark in this storyline/New Golden Age initiative. So as the writer he probably figures he needs to have the modern-day team around for readers who are maybe not familiar with the concept and also to emphasize the legacy aspect of what he’s doing. Make sense?

    Liked by 1 person

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