Justice Be The Greatest

November 27, 2004

JSA: Justice be Done TPB
Writers: James Robinson, David S. Goyer (with credit to Geoff Johns on one story)
Artists: Stephen Sadowski, Derec Aucoin

By Avi Green

The Justice Society of America, which first appeared in All-Star Comics #3, was comicdom’s very first super-team, assembled by the legendary Gardner Fox, and while he didn’t create all the characters there, he most certainly did give them some of the most entertaining adventures of the Golden Age. There were the Flash, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Green Lantern, Spectre, Mr. Terrific, Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Sandman, Dr. Mid-Nite, and plenty of other great folks to go around. And together, they fought some of most exciting battles against evil in the early days of comic book adventures, making the world safe for us citizens. And later on, of course, Fox would write the adventures of their, successors, the Justice League of America.

During the late 1970’s, DC revived All-Star Comics with some newer characters such as Power Girl, cousin of the Earth-2 Superman, and the pre-Crisis Huntress making their debuts there. This revival, unfortunately, got cut short by what was known as the “DC Implosion” in 1978, when they made cutbacks on some of their titles that may not have sold well enough, but in 1981, it was revived more successfully by Roy Thomas, when he wrote the All-Star Squadron (later Young All-Stars) and its spinoff, Infinity Inc, which starred some of the children and such of the senior members. In the early 1990’s, DC tried to revive the series again with Justice Society of America, starring some of the older members, and also some newer ones as well, including the adorable Jessie Chambers/Quick, the daughter of Johnny Chambers/Quick and Libby “Liberty Belle” Lawrence, who tried out the same speed formula as her father, and became what I call the Fastest Femme Alive. It only ran for about a year at the time, but it did manage to set the groundswork for the grand revival that would be this great series here, JSA.

Of the members appearing here, we have good ol’ stalwarts Jay Garrick and Alan Scott, Flash and Green Lantern of the Golden Age (though the latter today calls himself Sentinel), and also Ted Grant/Wildcat, still kickin’ at his old age (though he may have been semi-deaged in recent years, to say the least), Hyppolyta, the first Wonder Woman, Sandy Hawkins, who’d been the sidekick of the Sandman back in the day (and went by the name of Sandy the Golden Boy), and had later been through cryogenics, but is now back in the saddle again, Al Rothstein, the former Nuklon of Infinity Inc, who now calls himself Atom Smasher and wears a much better costume than before, the first Wonder Woman, Hyppolyta, who still fights crime on occasion, the new Starman, Jack Knight, who arms himself with an anti-gravity rod, but doesn’t actually wear a costume like his predecessor did, Black Canary/Dinah Laurel Lance, the daughter of the original, Dinah Drake Lance, who’s since taken up her mother’s mantle, Courtney Whitmore, the new Star-Spangled Girl, Rex Tyler, the new android version of the original Hourman, Rick Tyler, and, most importantly of all, the new Hawkgirl, Kendra Saunders, the grandniece of the original Hawkgirl, Sheira Saunders, and also the granddaughter of the veteran adventurer Speed Saunders, who’d made his debut historically in Detective Comics #1 back in 1937. Kendra, who’d led a troubled life as she grew older, had been encouraged by her grandpa to take up the role of the female Winged Warrior as she reached the age of 19, and now that she’s been getting more used to the role, she’s getting more and more excited about the prospect of being a crimefighter and adventurer.

The team members have not only gathered to attend the funeral of the late Sandman, Wesley Dodds, but also to investigate the cause of his death – was it suicide, or, was it because he was murdered, as an heir to the role of Dr. Fate tries to tell them upon reaching the cemetary where he’s to be buried? And no sooner does this happen, than an army of living-dead soldiers from ancient Egypt arrives to attack, and attempt to steal the dagger with which this late Fate was put to death with. And after besting this bunch of “Dawn of the Dead rejects”, as Black Canary cleverly puts it, along comes a character by the name of Scarab, who’d met with the Justice Society back in the Golden Age, to give them some information on an evil plot being hatched by a sorceror named Mordru, to slay an infant who will inherit the role of the new Dr. Fate to come…and to become the most powerful mage in the DCU in its stead!

These events lead to the newly assembled JSA going globetrotting to search for the infant described by Scarab, and to stop the sinister Mordru from achieving his evil aspirations. And it’s all a very exciting trip, with everybody being confronted along the way by villains similar to those they’d met at the cemetary, also trying to capture the infant for themselves, though alas, when they find it, Mordru succeeds in abducting it from both the JSA and Kendra, who’d been attempting to rescue it herself, and vanishes into another dimension, to reach the tower of one of the previous Dr. Fates, Kent Nelson, which now exists partly in a time-null zone, and usurp the mantle of the ultimate sorceror for himself. But luckily, who should come, and ultimately be the one to save the day, than Star-Spangled Girl herself, who thought to enter the same portal to Dr. Fate’s tower when seeing Scarab doing so, and talking with what appears to be the ghost of Kent Nelson as well before doing so. Scarab isn’t so fortunate, as Mordru paralyzes his powers, and he’s got to watch helplessly from a form of limbo what goes on from there. But luckily, Courtney is able to save the child, and receives helpful tips from the ghost of Nelson when accidentally entering the magic amulet of Fate, where she meets both him and his also late wife, Inza. And following that, and an ensuing battle between the JSA and Mordru, the child who destined to become Fate comes out the victor in the race. And lo and behold, who should it be, other than Hector Hall, the son of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, who was the child, and now, with the power his, becomes his adult self again, and is ready to continue his way in the world once again.

Readers familiar with Infinity Inc. will surely know that Hector was born saddled with a curse that had been places upon his parents by their archenemy, Hath-Set, when he slew them in ancient Egypt centuries before. This ultimately took effect upon him later in his earlier career as the Silver Scarab, when Hath-Set tried to take control of him and assault the team with Hector under his control. They were able to defeat the evil priest, but at the cost of Hector’s life, and he was lucky to have ended up in the dimension of the Dreaming, which led to his getting another chance at life, or, to cheat death and regain what he’d lost. And it was in this fine adventure here…that he got that second chance at life again.

This is a marvelous beginning to the revival of what has since become an excellently “old school” adventure series in the DCU, reviving the JSA with some new members joining the old, and even some new protagonists replacing the older ones, and that includes, towards the end of the book, the new Mr. Terrific, Michael Holt, and features a new power manifesting itself for Sandy Hawkins, who becomes the main leader of the new team. And in a way, this is also a special showcase for Courtney Whitmore, who at one point takes up the kind of role that Rick Jones had in the Avengers during the Silver/Bronze Age (as seen in the Kree-Skrull War, reviewed over here), encountering awesome and marvelous scenes, in this case being where Kent and Inza Nelson reside now. And the artwork by Sadowski is simply wonderful and colorful, plus some of the humor (though there is one in questionable taste involving the adventure that Starman, Black Canary and Jay Garrick have in Italy), with the banter between Black Canary and Starman at the beginning being a real charmer.

There’s also a small appearance by Johnny Thunder, the guy who had a genie to help him out on many of his cases, who also made his debut in Flash Comics #1, just like Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and who’s now an old man who’d sadly suffered altzheimer’s later on in life. His employment of the genie has since been handed over to a new teen protagonist named Jakeem J. Thunder, who first appeared in JLA in the late 1990’s.

This is a fine first collection of the new JSA, which is great for getting to know all about the members who take part in it, old and new, and to get a breath of fresh air and adventure. I highly recommend this for anyone who loves exciting adventure.

Update: as sad as it is to say, I no longer stand by this review. Robinson is as pretentious a writer as Johns is, and come to think of it, so is Goyer. I've written this story off as way overrated.

Copyright 2004 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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