Generally speaking, stories that are interrupted for a sequence of one-shots about related characters end up being little more than a stalling tactic. That’s not always true, of course; sometimes you get a nice surprise, a group of one-shots that actually enrich and expand the main story in such a way that you end up with a stronger final creation. With “Justice Society of America” currently having such a large cast of characters to juggle (with 24 members on the team right now), I had high hopes that these specials would help flesh out little details that had gotten lost along the way.
Peter J. Tomasi ended up with the task of fleshing out the character of Magog, and I think it’s safe to say that he had a rather blank canvas to work with. Before transforming into Magog, the character of Lance was little more than a name and a power. We’d never gotten any real sign of any sort of rich characterization lurking around the corner; having fallen victim to such a large cast all getting juggled about, this newcomer felt from the beginning like little more than a plot point. And at the end of the issue? Well, I still don’t feel like we know Magog any more than before. He’s a soldier that was part of an elite black ops team, and now we’ve seen what happened to the rest of the team. But Magog himself feels like little more than a killing machine, rescuing through his friends and marching through the script. There’s almost no nuance here, no sign of the person underneath the horned helmet.
In the end, it’s a perfectly average and slightly forgettable story; Tomasi’s script is by no means bad, but it doesn’t stand out in the slightest. Fernando Pasarin and Mick Gray’s art, likewise, is perfectly serviceable but at no point did I feel like I desperately wanted to read more comics by these creators. With all of that in mind, I was about ready to close the comic and call it a day…
…until I flipped the page and started “The Secret Origin of Starman” by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins. Honestly, I felt like I got my money’s worth in just these six pages. Johns takes pieces of information and ideas from all over the board here; his original history is preserved, with new pieces of information that tie into his appearances within “Justice Society of America” added to the mix. Readers of “Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds” will be excited to find a one-page scene in the middle of the mentioned-but-never-seen earlier meeting of all three Legions, as well as a tie-in to “The Lightning Saga” and a nod to “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes” from “Action Comics” earlier this year. For what is essentially an origin and series of flashbacks, it was remarkably enjoyable from start to finish (and makes me hope that much more that Johns is writing “Adventure Comics” next year).
So, in the end, the “JSA Kingdom Come Special: Magog” misses out in its main story in what is almost certainly a missed opportunity to make readers care about Magog, but succeeds wonderfully with its back-up. That’s not how I’d have expected the balance between main story and back-up story to work, but at least one out of two ended up being fun. That’s much better than none.