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Subj: A Look at Justice Society #54 and Some Thoughts.
Posted: Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 03:28:32 pm EDT (Viewed 589 times)
So here we are with #54 of the Justice Society, and 'The End'. In far more ways than one too.
This volume of the Justice Society started in 2007 and launched in the wake of the uniformly excellent previous 87 issue long series. With Geoff Johns on the writing duties as usual all seemed good with the world but looking back on it all now It's been a volume overall that has clearly failed to live up to the high standard set by the original.
The energy, tight focus and originality that made the team an unexpected success in 1999 was never quite apparent in the current series and I think that's down to some very poor fundamental decisions as to what this new volume would be about, largely the size and make-up of the team. But I'll come back to that problem shortly...
The books current writer is Marc Guggenheim, who started with #44 and immediatly moved the team and it's focus to the city of Monument Point, just outside of Washington DC somewhere. The city is attacked and nearly destroyed by a metahuman terrorist and the blame deflected onto the JSA, and as such the tone of the series simply continues a darker direction for the book that had actually been evident for quite some time. The previous writer (Bill Willingham) had set the precedent by sending the book down some similarly bleak avenues and had the JSA assaulted by forces far beyond their control, again with key members being violently and dispassionatly maimed and assaulted to highlight this move to greater grittiness. Another unfortunate element of this impetus to make the book less 'safe' had Willingham split the team (in #33) along age & world view lines so that the younger members of the team reject the philosophy that had been guiding them and set off to form their own breakaway pro-active team in a brand new book, recently cancelled due to appalling sales.... This left the JSA with only it's original Golden-age members and the older next generation namesakes of the originals, like Doctors Midnite & Fate and Mr Terrific. Obviously this split had an effect on the tone of the book and its make-up from then-on but the further creation of new faces went on, without even properly introducing or even featuring them!
Guggenheims direction has both continued this trend and had the team now responsible for rebuilding Monument point and policing it while members such as Alan Scott, Mr Terrific and newcomer 'Lightning' would find themselves victims of some very harsh treatment thanks to these events. After the resolution of the political conspiracy that led to the near destruction of Monument Point Jay Garrick is elected as Mayor of the city (in a nice direction for the character actually) and is let in on the secret that led to the whole thing - something is buried beneath the city.
So now with #54 we get the reveal to this. Monument Point is built over another, ancient and abandoned, city. There is a gateway within it holding an ancient demon imprisoned, and now that demon has broken free.... it feeds on the energy of metahumans and this links into why the JSA unintentionally became embroiled in the City's fortunes in the first place.
It's servicable as a story, but all very generic stuff, a genuine comics cliche in fact. And the Demon called D'arken is just about as anonymous and forgettable as it's possible to get for such Lovecraft inspired 'Evil-from-the-Dawn-of-time' villains. It walks, it stomps, and it trashes the joint. But it doesn't utter a single word, not even a grunt. Even looking back to just the JSA's history they have fought and dealt with no end of D'arkens - Abraxas from the Inferno Mini-series, the King of Tears, Gog, Surtur, The Master Summoner, even Mordru or Ian Karkull fit the bill but none of these approach the lack of character that D'arken encapsulates. I think a more logical and appropriate choice to use here would have been 'The Stalker' who was the foe who relaunched the book to it's renewed popularity back in 1999. He has the additional benefit to having an actual motive and arguably a three-dimensional character!
This lack of any character for their last great threat is not a reason to trash the story here I must stress, despite the problems that have affected this volume of the JSA Marc Guggenheims work has been reasonably good, this final issue is a solid enough read and not at all dire but neither has it that energy and spark that came to popularise the JSA and set it on a different level to other books out there. Sad Truth is the Title feels very tired at this point.
I won't go into any further detail on what happens to close the book but this final issue does have a theme and clear direction running through it that set it above many of the other 'final issue' books out from DC this month, the team goes out on a bittersweet note as while victorious they lose one of their own (it must be said though that this is one of the easiest members to ressurect at some point) and best of all we get art from old hand Jerry Ordway! Ordway is a favorite of mine and he delivers solid enough pencils here though frankly I know he's capable of much better too, some of his figures are very stiff looking and the lack of any real backgrounds in many panels is glaringly apparent. Compare this issue to his work on the JSA Annual just a couple or so years back and there's a huge difference in quality, maybe the deadlines this time were too tight therefore....
In terms of content it is overall servicable but misses out on further marks as again Guggenheim chooses to focus on the wrong characters, if you asked me who embodies the JSA over the last decade I would not surprisingly go for Mr Terrific and Stargirl at the top of the list and while Terrific takes a big part this issue Stargirl doesn't get so much as a line, which is poor given she is very much representing the teams future and the next generation aspect of it, even complete non-entity member The Red Beetle gets at least one line! But there again is where the book has lost its way, the lack of focus, not since the earliest issues was the generational and 'next generation' aspect really noted and used as the books driving premise and any future writer should think very hard on this problem. The JSA is similar to the X-Men in that sense, a book that has lost focus on what it is and overbloated on introducing too many instantly forgettable non-entity members cluttering up its arteries. Concentrating on creating Volume is not ever a sign of good quality.....
It's over now. Issue 54 is the final issue of the Justice Society, for now at least. Where the team goes from here is a complete unknown, the signs are that DC does not consider it a part of their current chronology but given it's historical importance and success in recent years I do think that is just sleight of hand from the company, as with the New Gods some concepts need a rest occasionally and the resultant anticipation is actually beneficial as a result, so while the future is deeply uncertain for the Justice Society as a book I am not particularly concerned due to these reasons. It will be back soon enough.
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