My comrade, ,Greg McElhatton leveled a half-star review at this title with the first issue of the “bold new direction” for the Justice Society of America. Greg had difficulties comprehending that this story was built around the JSA. I’ve got to agree with him. The plot struck me as a good concept, but the execution in this issue is poor. This book feels less like a society and more like a collection of cameos featuring members of the JSA. Sadly enough, it doesn’t even really feature JSA members other than Jay Garrick.
There’s a very boring conversation between Pieter Cross and Alan Scott that focuses on Alan getting down on himself, Dr. Fate shows up for a few panels, and Wildcat has a pair of lines, but this issue is Jay Garrick and friends. That makes the shoe-horned appearance by Blue Devil all the more disruptive. Why discard a dozen characters then bring one in that only tangentially has any ties to the JSA? Don’t misread that, I like Blue Devil, but this book – I thought – was “Justice Society of America.” I understand there are two JSA books, so the roster might be a little thinner, but the roster here is thin in a most unhealthy way.
I know Guggenheim planned on dealing with “the JSA on its own terms rather than rely[ing] on its history,” but if there’s one team in the DC Universe that should rely on its history, it is the Justice Society of America!
I expected to get Scott Kolins’ art in this issue but instead found myself soaking in a Mike Norton moment. Norton’s art is what kept me going through this issue. I’m not a fan of the regular artist being replaced two issues into a story arc, but when the “fill-in artist” is Mike Norton, I’m onboard. Norton’s art in this story at once calls forth imagery of Joe Staton drawing the JSA back in the 1970s, but with a modern twist. Norton’s mastery of this medium, his ability to craft something as playfully energetic as “Billy Batson and the Magic of SHAZAM!” then turn around and deliver a story that calls for art with a dark edge to it is applaudable and very appreciated. If this book can’t feature the JSA, at least it looks like it stars the JSA from an art perspective. I would love to see Norton hold onto this post, or even take up the reins for JLA.
Atiyeh’s unorthodox coloring nicely compliments Norton’s art. The colors have an almost crayon-like appearance to them, which feeds right into the glum story written for this issue. Even the black of Obsidian’s mask has visible coloring lines. It’s an uncommon finish for a book of this profile, but it works. Now if the story would just figure itself out.