It’s understandable if the idea of writing “Justice Society of America” is a little daunting. After all, Geoff Johns came on board (initially as co-writer, then as the full writer) nine years ago and has up until recently guided the comic’s path, first in “JSA” form and now “Justice Society of America.” That said, though, it feels like Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges haven’t quite found their own stamp on the book just yet. Instead, unfortunately, it’s coming across as a book that’s playing it a little too safe.
Most of the characters in “Justice Society of America” (and this team has quite a few characters!) are given just one or two lines, almost little more than a nod to the reader that they’re still around even if they don’t have much to do. While I do agree with the idea that focusing on just a few characters is a smart way to come back onto the book, even those few characters aren’t getting much in the way of panel time. Stargirl and Flash get the most attention here, but they barely have a chance to shine, and the rest even more so.
It doesn’t help that Willingham and Sturges have now added three new characters to the team, tipping the already bloated roster to two dozsn now. While I appreciate that they’re taking the time to give these new additions their own time, the balance isn’t quite right. It’s hard to care about All-American Kid or Kid Chimera with what we’ve seen. When you compare them to the introductions and instant strong impressions of Stargirl, Mister Terrific, or Cyclone, they just come across as brand-new second stringers. On the bright side, the introduction of Doctor Fate to the book comes across much smoother than last month’s additions, and in fact it’s Fate’s moments that stick out above the rest.
Jesus Merino’s art looks great on “Justice Society of America,” though. You can see the texture and shape that he helped bring to Carlos Pacheco’s pencils over the years, but at the same time Merino’s own art has its own distinct look and feel. It’s the little details that strike me as I re-read the book, from the wrinkles on Kid Chimera’s shirt and the flecks of dirt on Power Girl’s face, to the folds of Doctor Fate’s cape as he swoops in for a landing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Pacheco and Merino collaborations that we’ve had over the years, but Merino on his own is looking awfully nice, too. It’s nice to see him get to jump into the limelight.
I’m hoping that when “Justice Society of America” is split into two books this fall, it helps out with the over-crowded, no-one-does-anything nature of the book at the moment. Until then, though, it’s feeling a bit too sluggish for my taste. Hopefully things can pick up a bit sooner. “JSA” was one of my favorite books, but “Justice Society of America” has been struggling for a while now.