With the departure of Magog from “JSA All-Stars” last month, I found myself secretly hoping that this would be the shift in the series needed to kick it up from good to great. With him gone and Sand finally returning, it seemed like a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, now that the annoyingness of Magog is taken out of the big picture, there’s remarkably little left to latch onto.
Part of the problem certainly feels like this story has already stretched on a bit too long, despite being just part three of “Constellations.” Remarkably little happens in an installment, with this issue almost entirely devoted to a fight scene that doesn’t even come to a conclusion at the end of the issue. It probably doesn’t help that Sturges has turned Johnny Sorrow from a character who was creepy because of his appearance and power, to a character who is creepy because he’s lusting after a teenage girl. Reading “JSA All-Stars” shouldn’t feel like a particularly odd episode of “To Catch a Predator” and in many ways it’s the centerpiece of the issue.
Freddie Williams II is also providing some of the least attractive art of his career; on books like “Robin” and “Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle” I liked his smooth, slick characters and lines. Now the art is hyper-exaggerated and jagged, like a Bart Sears drawing that went through the washing machine. With each issue it has looked less refined and more rushed, and there’s an early page that just comes across looking lazy as Williams copies a panel twice next to the original; would it have really been so hard to just draw three panels of Sand and Power Girl flying instead? It feels sloppy and lazy, although I suppose that’s better than images of characters with blood pouring out of their eyes.
The only enjoyment I ended up getting out of “JSA All-Stars” was the back-up story by Jen Van Meter and Travis Moore, although with just eight pages an issue I feel like I’m starting to lose track of the story at times. Still, Van Meter turns out a fun situation for the characters, and there’s a light-hearted aspect to her script that is notably absent in the main story. It’s a good thing I’ve been enjoying “Justice Society of America” in Bill Willingham’s hands, because “JSA All-Stars” is starting to feel like an unnecessary side trip each month.