If pressed, I would have to say that “Justice Society of America” is probably the DC title most significantly beholden to the continuity of its universe and its multitude of back issues. It has a truly vast roster of heroes that can and do show up in any given issue. It has almost no “high profile” characters that might necessarily serve as the de facto “leader” of the team to the curious neophyte reader. Even the incarnations of popular franchises like Flash and Green Lantern are the oldest ones possibly available.
And so it really is a testament to the keen eye that Geoff Johns has for pacing and character that this book is consistently an engaging and surprising read, even if it might not be the most accessible. After all, not satisfied to rest on the laurels of an already sizable cast, Johns introduced (I think?) five or six new heroes just in the past few issues. And not just satisfied with bringing all of that continuity to the table, Johns has recently started systematically integrating the mythology built by Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ “Kingdom Come” into the DC Universe proper.
So, in short, there’s a lot to keep track of.
It’s difficult for me to necessarily review this book objectively with a completely new reader in mind, and I think, to be perfectly honest, it’s a little unfair to. From “lost” to “The Venture Brothers,” modern pop culture is rife with artifacts that simply place the burden on the audience to keep up. And there’s really no other way a book like this with twenty-plus characters, could ever work. You just have to hope that everyone is caught up, otherwise you’d be taking up twenty pages just explaining who everyone is.
And one way Johns so effectively makes a book with such a large cast so easy to follow is by subtly shifting the focus to individual members, having characters organically move back and forth between prominence and a supporting role. In this issue, the spotlight is on Damage and Amazing-Man. Again, the big developments in this issue (and they’re pretty big in many ways) might not land with a new reader (although Johns does tell you everything you need to know for them to resonate), but a long time fan will be greatly rewarded by the final page.
Johns also hearkens back, briefly, to a thread from “52” for a short interlude, and the less spoiled about that, the better. But it is very well handled, very well executed, and a very welcome development.
Dale Eaglesham has, in recent years, become quite a favorite of mine. His work in “Justice Society” has really hit a fine stride in recent months so, I have to admit, I was just a little bit disappointed to see Fernando Pasarin’s last name on the cover. But I was very wrong to have any trepidation. This issue marks the start of a new storyline in the ongoing saga that started pretty much at the beginning of Johns’ relaunch of the title (if not before then), so the shift in art style (and be assured, Pasarin’s style is very different from Eaglesham’s) isn’t as jarring as it could have been had it come abruptly in the middle of storyline. In many ways, Pasarin, whose line is as rigid and unwavering as Eaglesham’s is lithe and unpredictable, is almost better suited to these latest developments.
See, this Gog has just emerged as a full fledged god, towering over the understandably skeptical Justice Society. The art here, which has to depict the sheer weight and significance of even the most benign of Gog’s movements, perfectly conveys just how much air and land and earth he is displacing with every step.
Also, that interlude I mentioned before packs one heck of a fantastic splash page.
So, like with any great “Lost” or “Venture Brothers” episode, the person reading over your shoulder might not quite get why you’re so enthusiastically pumping your fist or why you just put the book down for a second, kind of just taken aback. But it’s cool. There’s a reason you’ve been keeping up with this book for so long anyway.