Let’s pause for a minute to reflect on the Mary Marvel situation: for the past several years she’s been corrupted into Dark Mary, wearing black and (in “Final Crisis”) sporting some Oubliette-style fetish gear. Any narrative impact that would have resulted from her “darkening” and possession by Desaad was lessened by her weeks of flying around as a bad girl in the abysmal “Countdown” series. And then immediately following the events of “Final Crisis,” she’s back to Dark Mary again.
And lets not even mention the “Trials of Shazam” series, which had a few nice moments but ended with Billy Batson becoming the new Shazam and Freddy Freeman becoming the new Captain Marvel, for no real benefit to the DCU.
If anything, this “Justice Society of America” arc seems like an attempt to bring the Marvel Family back together, to undo some of the damage that has been done to the characters from years of underwhelming stories and nonsensical behavior.
But it’s also about the love song of Albert J. Rothstein (aka Atom Smasher), who mopes and laments as he narrates this story of the rise and fall of the Black Adam Family and thinks about he’s just not good enough for Stargirl. It’s a whole lot of post-pubescent angst wrapped around an epic tale of gods at war. It’s “My So-Called Life” meets “The Ring of the Nibelung,” but with the Justice Society.
And it’s fine.
It’s a bit wordy and provides too-sudden resolutions to plot threads that Geoff Johns started weaving half-a-decade ago in the previous “JSA” series. The Atom Smasher’s fall from grace, for example, was well-crafted by Johns back in that book, but apparently his penance has lasted long enough for he rejoins the team here without much in the way of reparations. It’s as if Johns is saying, “yeah, let me wrap up this Atom Smasher/Khandaq situation before I leave this version of the Justice Society, and, oh yeah, let me clear up the Marvel Family problem too since I’m on the way out.”
It’s probably a bit too much, too quickly, but it’s fine. It clears the table for the eventual arrival of Bill Willingham and Matt Sturges, and it finally gets rid of any need for Black Mary Marvel again. (One hopes.)
And what makes it more than just merely fine. What makes it fine in a way that implies yeah-it-was-a-compressed-resolution-of-a-lot-of-stuff is that Jerry Ordway provides the art. Who better than Ordway — the Platonic ideal of the “All-Star Squadron”/”Infinity Inc.” approach to comic book nostalgia — to work on Geoff Johns’s “Justice Society of America”? He’s really the perfect artist for the kind of story being told here, a classic artist for a story drenched in old-school storytelling tropes.
Yes, Shazam pops in to do the dance of the deus ex machina, but that’s just part of the overall speed-resolution vibe of the whole comic. And he certainly looks nice in every panel, thanks to Ordway.
Johns was never able to develop this series in a way that reached the heights of his achievement on the more tightly-focused (and shorter-titled) “JSA” series, but if you’re looking for good, old-fashioned comic book superheroics with more characters than you can shake your crotchety old stick at, you could do a lot worse that “Justice Society of America” #25.