JSA All Stars

May 21, 2008

I have always found the JSA more intriguingly lovable than the JLA. So the latter has all the innate mind-exploding superpowers and probably saves the world more often too, but the former feels rawer and more human and has simpler weaknesses and less in-your-face chutzpah.

Wildcat may fight like a boxer, but, in real life, he is a boxer. Dr Mid-Nite’s superpower is to act like your local GP. Hourman is a drug addict. You want to kill Starman? Knock his cosmic rod off in mid-flight. You want to hurt Green Lantern/Sentinel Alan Scott? Throw a chair at him. You’d expect Dr Fate’s helmet to come with a strap for the same reason you’d expect seat-belts in cars. And you can tell how old this superhero team is by watching Jay Garrick run. (Note: no helmet strap there too.)

So I do like this volume for the simple reason that even its “big story” harps back to a wholly uncomplicated era of thinking before colour TV. The villain is very polite and behaves like that good buddy who advises you on a break-up — at least until the last few pages when he jumps up and down shouting “No! No! No!” Ah, I miss that unhindered show of helpless frustration too.

The framing chapters by David Goyer and Geoff Johns aside, the adventure nicely follows the path of each of the new members who have to fill someone else’s shoes (or helmet or track pants). Each focus pairs a main story by Goyer and Johns with a story on one of the hero’s earlier incarnations. It’s not a bad twist to the standard JSA plotline, which does break into personal adventures before re-converging for a grand showdown, since one theme is precisely on relations to a predecessor or predecessors.

As a multi-strand story, this definitely beats reading crossovers like the recent Batman: The Joker’s Last Laugh (don’t go there with me now). As a story about legacies and generations though, it pales in comparison to another title that has pursued this theme before, The Kingdom. Why? Because — unlike even the superior The Justice Society Returns! — the chapters here reach the same sentimental point too many times! By the time you get to the dramatic “surprising” ending, you feel like you have eaten 10 hamburgers just to go big in the loo.

But this all-star volume comes with its own all-star creative line-up: a James Robinson-Tony Harris story (on who else?), a Jeph Loeb-Tim Sale story, a Darwin Cooke story, and even a Brian Azzarello-Eduardo Risso story! For all that, I’d put up with another joke about Mr Terrific’s outfit (like that’s new) and another plot twist with Hourman being hit one second after the hour (like that’s new). I’d even eat 11 hamburgers! It’s the JSA after all, so thinking simple helps!

Gweek gives this book 7 blue M & Ms.

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