Wednesday, June 08, 2005

JSA #74

If I were the sort of sharp-toothed rodent who disqualified books if they were based on premises made impossible by recent canon, this issue wouldn't have gotten very far at all. But I'm not that kind of Shrew, so let's grab a stick and poke at this puppy, shall we?

As I mentioned last time, the Black Vengeance arc is plagued by inconsistencies major and minor as well as the more serious and unforgiveable problem of having the entire JSA as secondary characters to the storyline in their own book. This second issue is more of the same and could have been boiled down to a page or two in an issue of Day of Vengeance.

I liked the Black Reign story arc and thought it ended too abruptly, so this return to Kahndaq should have been welcome, but it's not, for reasons far more pressing than Geoff Johns forgetting that it was during that arc (which he wrote) that Hawkman was booted from the team and hasn't been reinstated yet. Or that Eclipso ended up helping Black Adam for reasons mostly unrelated to Black Adam himself.

The JSA does literally nothing here except snipe, regret, and fret -- and only occasionally at someone outside the team. This could have been the exploration of means versus ends that got lost in Black Reign. How dirty was Black Adam's coup and how much do the people of Kahndaq care? Were the JSA being narrowminded and prissy and holding to an outmoded code of conduct, especially when it was the Kahndaqi citizens who would have died for the JSA's principles, or is what they stand for timeless and worth any amount of sacrifice? Should they have rethought their attitude considering that the citizens of Kahndaq seem happier? What is Black Adam's form of government? Johns has utterly failed to define the country he played with last year -- is it a Latveria-type situation where the people have such a high quality of life that they don't care about the international exploits of their leader? Are they destitute? Are they rebuilding? What has Black Adam been up to, anyway?

None of these questions get any sort of satisfactory answer. Instead, we see Black Adam -- who may be the hero, the antihero, or the villain in disguise -- fighting a two-front war against both the Eclipso-Spectre duo and the JSA, both of whom he sees as invaders, a fact the JSA recognizes, which goes a fair bit toward establishing their own regrets. The JSA is no match for the Spectre and took a completely wrong approach with Black Adam by dismissing his sovereignty and showing up despite a fairly explicit Do Not Enter sign. So they pretty much get what they deserve, which was a beat-down.

The team looks alternately like naive boobs and frustrated do-gooders on the macroscopic as well as the microscopic -- before Carter Hall did his Manly Man thing, there was his lip-quivering about Alex Montez and Soseh Mykros and gratuitous Jean Loring comment (the reason everyone flipped at the end of Identity Crisis was because an insane Jean was just too random; retconning in her instability does not make it better). He should have been lamenting Norda, but that's by the by.

Johns is no better with the real start of the arc. He has been inconsistent about how much sympathy we're supposed to have for Black Adam -- he is supremely pragmatic, willing to go to any length to keep his nation safe and free, and Johns doesn't seem to want to say whether there is a line that shouldn't be crossed to accomplish that. (Gail Simone is a little less Clintonian regarding BA over in Villains United.)

All in all, I finished this issue frustrated and annoyed and feeling quite badly for the people of Kahndaq. This is a weak storyline based upon a nonsensical premise and not only does it not do anything for the furthering of the JSA's storyline (apart from the unasked-for return to the team of Jakeem and inexplicable return of Hawkman), but anyone coming to this book for the tie-in factor would come away unimpressed by the DCU's most longstanding team.


Blogger Scipio said...

While I did not care for Jean as the solution to IC, her mental instability is not a retcon.

She went crazy TWICE before in the pre-Crisis DCU.

Thu Jun 16, 11:07:00 PM EDT  

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