Tuesday, April 19, 2005

JSA #72

... Well that was a tempest in a teapot.

My reaction to reading the end of the JSA/JSA arc was a resounding "that's it?" You have a killer lineup, some chances to do some really amazing character work with the DCU's longest-surviving characters and to have some knock-down, drag-out fights with the real chance of character death (hey, the timeline's getting re-set after it's over)... and all you get is Per Degaton with a bloody nose. Talk about a let-down.

I've griped for months and months about Geoff Johns and his inability to flesh out characters and disregard for continuity. Here... he could have done so much and did nothing with the sumptuous banquet he laid out except drop some annoyingly unnecessary heavy hints about upcoming books. And that's what's even more frustrating than the fact that the way to defeat the seemingly unstoppable Degaton was to give Atom Smasher the ability to knock the tiny terror around long enough for rescue to show up. This was billed as a Battle Royale and all it turned out to be was an ad for JSA Classified and Infinite Crisis.

For this arc, Johns intentionally chose JSA members with ties to no-longer-living former JSA members -- Sand and Wes Dodds, Stargirl and Ted Knight, Atom Smasher and Al Pratt, Jakeem and Johnny Thunder, and Dr. Mid-Nite and Charles McNider. The relationships ranged from the professional (Pieter Cross interned under McNider) to the intensely personal (Sand Hawkins was raised by Wes Dodds) and Johns went nowhere with any of them. There was some vague recognition that things were emotionally complicated, but... nothing. We didn't see how the older generation felt about seeing their successors (in some case their ersatz children), we didn't get much from the younger side about working with their would-be mentors and namesakes, and, apart from Courtney's "ooh, Jay has brown hair!" moment, nothing about seeing their contemporary teammates -- Alan, Jay, Carter (and Shiera, one could add) -- in their prime. Has Alan Scott ever had less to do in a Golden Age JSA story?

The story itself would have been a lot of fun if it had gone on for a couple more issues and involved a longer and broader focus on keeping Truman safe and bringing down a villain who has already seen their every move. The resolution was laughably abrupt and needlessly chaotic for how easily it was achieved. It also fails miserably in the most obvious comparison point -- The JSA Returns. This could have been a rich and varied fight -- the combined JSA versus the Red Morgue controlled by Degaton and armed with technology beyond what anyone can comprehend -- and it was not even mildly tense, let alone exciting.

Back when Johns left Hawkman, he said it was because he had no more stories to tell. I think it's time he admitted that the same holds true with JSA. Johns has had an admirable run on the book -- nearly the entire series, without so much as a single guest-written issue (as far as I can recall) -- and it's time to hand off the baton. Johns himself has plenty to do -- too much to do, if some of those summer solicits are any indication -- and JSA is suffering for being the old toy in a playpen full of bright, shiny new ones. He was never quite right for this title, but now he's becoming actively wrong.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't Robinson and Goyer start JSA? Johns was on very early, issue 6 or 7 maybe, but Robinson and Goyer were writing Starman at the time and launched the new JSA series.

Tue Apr 19, 01:24:00 PM EDT  
Blogger The Comics Shrew said...

.... right. *goes to change*

Tue Apr 19, 02:21:00 PM EDT  

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