Comics From Last Wednesday
by Kevin Paul Shaw Broden
I don’t always get my weekly comics fix on a Wednesday, just whenever I can make it to the comic shop. Either at Cornerstore Comics in Anaheim, or House of Secrets in Burbank. Depending on where I’m at.
This past week I picked up just a few books, among them were:
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #50 and ACTION COMICS #900
Anniversary Issues can be great. You’re promised something special in them, more pages, more art, and more story. Sometimes this really pays off great, other times it just feels like they’re just filling pages, some only with reprints.
Many times the Anniversary issue is the big climax and ending of a story that’s been going on for many months. If they’ve planned it out, the conclusion will be perfect in the big issue, but sometimes a story ends up being cut short or stretched too long so they can end on the Anniversary issue.
What follows are my thoughts more then reviews of these two Big Anniversary Issues. You don’t have to agree with any of it, but please read along.
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #50
Let me start with saying I love the Justice Society and have ever since the very first comic I read and became enthralled with all the citizens of Earth 2.
I really got into them with the All Star Squadron and then continued to read about the characters and collected earlier books as well. Infinity Inc. would follow, but I was more interested in the Golden Age characters.
Then came CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. The epic event crossover all others hope to be and fail.
The Crisis merged all the universes together into one “consistent” DC Universe. Supposedly it was done because the multi-earths were confusing readers.
It never confused my 12 year old mind.
Afterwards things really became confusing.
For one important point, Superman was no longer the first of the super heroes that would inspire all the rest. There had always been something in the older books that the heroes looked up to him. That wasn’t so any more.
On a personal note, several of my favorite characters ceased to exist, or their origins were thrown into chaos. The chaos struck the worst for Power Girl who was no longer the cousin of Superman. They tried to make her a descendent of ARION OF ATLANTIS. It didn’t work.
As for the missing characters, The Huntress, Helena Wayne, daughter of Batman and Catwoman.
What became a real problem to me was the modern age of characters sometimes acted as if they didn’t even know the earlier ones existed. Some stories were written about villains who hypnotized the entire world to forget the heroes. Just as they had forgotten the city of Keystone City was right next door to Central City (in this new world).
That never really worked for me.
Recently, Len Wein wrote the wonderful series called LEGACIES, which provides a great overview of the history of the DC super heroes. Though it also required time to be ‘squashed’ so that though World War II happened 70 years ago, the golden age of heroes didn’t seem to be that long ago. I can live with it so the great history of the JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA still exists.
With all that behind us, I bring you to Issue 50 of their current series, written by Marc Guggenheim. The first eleven pages, drawn by George Perez, makes the purchase of the entire book worth the cover price to anyone who loves the DC Universe, and even more so to someone like me with such love for the Justice Society.
From his first appearance it was known that Barry Allen had been inspired by a comic book of the original FLASH. The same type of inspiration is the theme of this first story about the JSA and their Golden Age contemporaries, and is told from the point of view of all the Silver Age and modern heroes that are inspired by them. It is a beautiful and simple example how important those original characters still are.
(SIDE NOTE: The concept of the SILVER AGE doesn’t really exist any more as most characters seem to only have appeared in the last ten years. The exception being Martian Manhunter.)
We begin to get a glimpse of the ‘main story’ of this book as we get different shots of the villain Per Degaton as he has fought different incarnation of the JSA/ALL-STAR SQUADRON. But what’s important and fun to see is the first of these pages where we find ourselves on EARTH 2 or rather the NEW EARTH 2 that was created during the events of INFINITY CRISIS.
This Earth 2 was last scene a couple of years back in a JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA Annual where they meet their counterparts of the JUSTICE SOCIETY OF INFINITY. It’s a name that shows us just what’s different in the world that is extremely close to the original Earth 2. Here its obvious that Star Spangle Kid was not only able to have his Super Squad (from when ALL STAR COMICS was revived in the 70s) and that the children of the Society actually became members instead of forming INFINITY INC.
In that earlier story not only do we deal with the chaos of Power Girl’s life, especially now that she knows she is the cousin of Superman but of an alternate earth and died in the latest Crisis. On top of that I finally got to see Helena Wayne as the Huntress as she was meant to be and drawn by Jerry Ordway, one of the artists who worked on Infinity Inc and her own series in the back of Wonder Woman back then.
It’s great to know that version of the team exists, (that’s the team I really want to write for.)
The next story in this anniversary book is actually a tale that’s been told several times before. About when the Justice Society faced off with the House Un-American Activities Committee. Originally to explain why they had been missing for so many decades. This time it takes a personal look at the team members as they have to make the decision of turning their back on a government that has turned its back on them. I’m not a major Howard Chaykin fan, but his artwork really works for this sequence, and it’s an excellent telling.
With that the book brings us to present day and we discover what Per Degaton has been up to.
Truthfully, this part of the book, though tied to the others, it is the least appealing to me. And that maybe my own fault, as I have missed several months of both JSA books so somethings are not quite so clear to me. I certainly don’t like the new ALAN SCOTT/GREEN LANTERN costume, but as I said that’s me.
Even with that, if you have any interest in the JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA and the DC Universe, this book is worth having.
ACTION COMICS #900
Over the last week this issue has gotten a lot of news coverage. You know about that, I’ll mention it briefly later, but let’s not dwell on it.
A special anniversary issue of a comic book should still be an issue of the series, and that is what we have here.
Here is the conclusion Paul Cornell’s great story focusing on Lex Luthor and his robot Lois Lane. It had been a great ride as Lex ran up against some of the greatest super villains of the DC Universe and now achieving his ultimate of goals and finally destroy Superman.
Yet as with all great egos, Lex brings about his own undoing, but not in any expected way. Even the reappearance of Neil Gaiman’s Death is welcome, and experiences the events of the story only in the way she could.
I have one complaint about this story, and only one, but it could appear to be major. I was looking forward to a conclusion to a great story, but was disappointed to find that we were being thrust right into the REIGN OF DOOMSDAY. I’ve never been into any of the Doomsday stories, he was one of those characters that served it’s purpose and should have been left to die, but came back time and again.
Even with that complain, I am very please to see Paul Cornell will remain at the helm as writer and I know will not be disappointed.
The next story in this anniversary book, entitled “Life Support” by Damon Lindelof, is a short quiet moment from a doomed world. Too bad one of the other stories in the book got all the news coverage, because this little tale speaks volumes far beyond any controversy. Forget the other story, pull out your copy of Action Comics #900 and read this story and I dare you note to shed a tear when its over.
“Autobiography” by writer Paul Dini is about Superman’s experience with alien worlds, and how someone like him will eventually be seen by other worlds. Not really a story, but just a conversation between being mightier than mortal men.
Geoff John’s story is surprisingly disappointing. A cute glimpse into Lois wanting to know Clark’s friends from the future, but it just doesn’t work for me.
Now comes “The Incident” by David S. Goyer. I don’t want to get involved in this non-controversy. It’s a very good story. Superman would do what he did in this story, because he helps people, any people that need help. As to the American issue, I’ll only say this: Over half of the original Justice League of America were not Americans, they were either foreigners or aliens, and two worked for intergalactic police forces who thought their jurisdiction superseded the local constabulary. (I’ll let you figure that all out for yourself.) My only question is where is this going to lead? Is there a story line planned out? Hasn’t Superman appeared to be an enemy of the state already, a threat to national security? Ask Lois’ dad. I hope we can get away from such stories. It’s rather tiring.
The Richard Donner script that follows is good, and though I’m a scriptwriter myself I found it hard to read in this format. sorry.
I really like the Brian Stelfreeze two page spread in the back of the book. Many years ago, Mr. Stelfreeze spent half an hour on the phone with me talking about working in comic and what I should do. I feel bad never staying in touch with him. He’s a great guy and a great artist.
So here we are, two very enjoyable anniversary comics out the same week. One gets more attention than it deserves, and the other should be read by many many more.
I don’t know if these are well written reviews of these comics or not, but I hope you enjoy them, and go buy the books and enjoy them for what they are. Good story telling.