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Subj: Justice League of America #10 - Stargirl's Journey.
Posted: Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 11:11:11 am EST (Viewed 589 times)
A Justice League title being discussed on a Justice Society board? It is a questionable thing to be sure, should this board be purely dedicated to the new Earth-2 book and draw a line under what came before, or should there be room for discussion on retooled and migrated ex-JSA cast like Stargirl? It is a tricky area to rule on.
Just this once though I think a look at the latest issue of Justice League of America is well justified as it not only sheds a special spotlight on one of the old JSA's best loved members but does so in a way that... surprises.
Although it is a book I keep a close eye on and have sampled I am far from being a loyal reader of the newly launched Justice League of America, it's one book that while with appealing points about it never quite seemed necessary as a title. It is strange and irrational thing to set out and create a separate and unaffiliated branch of the Justice League that is then put into a very literal and direct competition with the dominant and more recognisable team which boasts Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Perhaps DC comics have realised the poor logic in this, as from what the announcements have told it appears this book is to either end or metamorphose into being a very different title.
For now though this is a book locked firmly into crossover territory and playing affiliate to the seemingly endless 'Forever Evil' event series, for this book that means a focus on the fight for survival of Stargirl and the Martian Manhunter who both managed to escape the trap that caught the combined might of the three Justice League teams. As they travel through the strange prison which the invading Crime Syndicate fashioned for the League's they discover it is in fact the very Matrix force which embodies the power of Justice Leaguer Firestorm, but having finally exited this warped dimension they now face the chaos and villainy unleashed on earth in their absence...
On the face of it this is a routine enough filler instalment of Forever Evil, quite good actually, but nonetheless marking time while the main Forever Evil series progresses, so with such a bruisingly limited remit writer Matt Kindt's decision to focus on character study over action is a shrewd tactic. Kindt is one of DCs newer wave of writers who have roamed the byways of DCs publishing schedule showing great promise but never having the chance to enter into superstar status. Sholly Fisch is another such example. And this repression is a shame as Kindt's writing shows great promise, he understands the need for a strong identifiable figure in the narrative for the reader to empathise with and he can give that character real shade, as with Courtney Whitmore here. Though to be fair all he ends up doing is retelling Stargirl's story largely verbatim from the early Stars and Stripe series that Geoff Johns devised for her debut! Stargirl's origin is almost completely unchanged from that series.
Living with her Mom and sharing an uneasy relationship with her stepdad Courtney finds he has stored away some strange gadgets, relics from a superhero career. As with tradition these are the legacy of Sylvester Pemberton, the original Star Spangled Kid, and for some reason the Cosmic staff is there too. Originally the staff was Jack Knight's, created by his father the original Starman. Having it here seems like an anachronism, it isn't a wise decision to have it here but this is in fact one more symptom of the awkward nature of Stargirl's original role as a legacy character and Justice Society member, and the decision to remove her from any role on Earth-2 and instead have her find a place on Earth-1. Within the context of this book and this team she just about works, once the book is gone however what then for Courtney Whitmore in the DC universe? Is this world her natural home or is she in fact better served with the JSA?
Back in 2008 while promoting the 'Kingdom Come' storyline which saw the JSA clash with Gog and Magog Geoff Johns made comment on the importance of the Justice Society's role in the world of superheroes. The impact of a first generation of veteran heroes who would inspire and influence every hero since - from Superman to the Legion of Super-Heroes. It seems like an obvious detail, but what made that comment stand out is that it was using the values and standing of the Justice Society to directly contrast the violent and chaotic world of Kingdom Come, a world that never had a Justice Society to inspire and serve as role models and teachers. You can look to the current layout of the world of Earth-1 then and appreciate perhaps why it might be this world is now so brittle and fractured but on a more immediate level you see the same chaos and moral darkness with the Forever Evil storyline and the evil-Superman currently inflicting mass carnage on Earth-2.
Stargirl was intended as exemplifying a prime example of the Justice Society's role in shepherding and shaping the next generation of heroes, fearlessly honest and brave she quickly rose to become an important member as she was the finest example of that promise to help guide and create the next generation - she had the best examples to learn from after all! And yet here in the new DC universe things are of course quite different to that safe world of heroism and old fashioned values, Stargirl is inducted into a manufactured superhero team which is run by a shady government branch and includes amongst its line-up a notorious thief, a suspected terrorist, and a dangerously unstable beserker from Thanagar. Not exactly an arrangement that inspires faith and trust. What role for Stargirl then...? Surprisingly, quite a good one as it turns out!
Justice League of America #10 is Stargirl reflecting on her relationship with stepdad Pat and how and why she took up the role as local superhero - mostly to rebel against the stepfather she had decided to instantly dislike and as a means to get under his skin. What she would eventually learn is that apart from being a good man Pat initially objects to this new career path as he saw firsthand how dangerous it was and it cost the life of the man who originally inspired the Stargirl role. Courtney is rebellious then, but not selfish. She grows into the role and becomes an unexpected internet sensation, but the heroism and compassion are all innate and the moral of 'Stargirl' is that a family and its support, even indirect support, can power the hero to become the very best. As the family is what the hero is actually fighting for.
Into this comes the Martian Manhunter, the mysterious alien who's real agenda is cause for some suspicion, but forced into a team of highly disparate individuals and now lucky to have escaped a trap that has caught the rest of the world's greatest heroes these two are forced not only to cooperate to survive but also as a result Jon Jonnz ends up showing the real person beneath the surface. Not some potential villain in the making, rather he is a shy soul who's emotional honesty is every bit as acute as Courtney Whitmore's. The two come to bond in a way that reminds and parallels her occasionally fractious relationship with Pat, to her an overbearing stepfather, but a resentment not in the end meant with true with enmity, just the need for independence and self-assertion for herself. Writer Matt Kindt makes use of this paternal parallel by using flashbacks with Pat and Courtney to establish the presentday and Manhunter's similar paternal role in the guiding of Stargirl. This is a role Jonn Jonnz is well suited for as of course it was he who historically shepherded the Detriot based all-new Justice League in the mid 1980s, a group consisting of a number of young heroes just like Stargirl. Something about that era must have resonated with subsequent writers as Jonn went on to often be used in such a role, perhaps his aloof nature aided in the perception of him as wise owl.
As a story this is a good fill-in issue for the crossover nature of Forever Evil, with strong art from the combined pencilling of Eddy Barrows and Tom DeRenick the mood is semi-apocalyptic. Ultraman's moving of the Moon means earth is in perpetual darkness and combined with the rise to power of every super-villain and miscreant the worst of human nature is running riot on the streets. Stargirl's main objective is to get home to check on her family's welfare, Jonn's is more considered and looking at the bigger picture - how to free the League's and defeat the Crime Syndicate. The unintended result is that It almost feels like an old school JSA issue.
When James Robinson and David Goyer relaunched the Justice Society back in 1999 it became an unexpected, and major, hit for DC comics. A part of the success was in making sure the original 1940's survivors were supported by newer generation heroes, younger blood like Stargirl. In this new continuity there never was a Justice Society however, superheroes appear only five years ago with the arrival of Superman and Batman. If then in 1999 the Justice Society never reformed Stargirl's destiny might just have been, ironically, to end up in a Justice League book, thanks largely to the influence of her creator and guardian Geoff Johns. If Justice League of America #10 should then have any lasting message it is to make people think on this implication, and that the removal of the JSA to its own earth and corner of the DC Universe has been done in favour of a more raw and aggressive world of heroes.
Stargirl as a result is an example of an era of youthful optimism and old fashioned super-hero values which are now largely gone from the earth of Superman and the Justice League... at least in this pure a form. It remains to be seen where she will (and can) come to rest once this volume of the JLA is concluded, is there a longterm place for her in this new rarified DC universe... Or is it best to let her be, safely in he sunny past along with her original JSA family?
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