Sometimes you just have to completely bottom out in order to improve or even stand a chance to rebound slightly higher than average. That’s less the case for the story in this issue of “Justice Society of America” than it is for the title itself. I’m not the only reader who has been unimpressed with the execution of a storyline that was filled with potential, but I keep hanging on, expecting an upturn.
The biggest problem I have with the story is there is a great deal of telling, retelling, and flipping the story from another angle. It feels as though the title’s wheels are spinning, giving us nothing to really latch onto. Scythe, as a foe, seems like a cookie-cutter Doomsday-inspired terror simply for the sake of being a terror. At first glance (and even four issues later) he’s a threat that certainly wouldn’t be a threat if this team were half as good as their reputation or half as societal as their moniker. Instead, Guggenheim lets Scythe roll these characters around like cardboard cutouts for no other reason than to make Scythe look tough. Likewise with Dr. Chaos, who bears as uninspired a name as any in comics of late. Chaos puts both Wildcat and Mid-Nite on the ropes – both of them! – with minimal effort.
I can appreciate tough foes. Heck, books like this need tough foes, but the foes have to be developed to be tough, not just labeled as such in a hollow display of thin interaction. I realize you can only go to the Vandal Savage well so many times and that neo-Nazis against the JSA have been done ad nauseum. Create some new characters then, but create them with purpose and depth. Don’t just throw them at the reader, have the characters kill innocents for no good reason and then expect the reader to view this character as a threat. Obsidian felt like more of a threat in this issue than Scythe or Dr. Chaos.
Let’s face facts, fans of the JSA are, by and large, subscribed to this book largely due to nostalgia. Passion for the characters and their legacies is what drives most readers back to this book. Guggenheim really hasn’t done a very good job of preserving that legacy.
There is a glimmer of hope at the end of this issue as Kolins is presented with – and does a good job celebrating – the opportunity to draw up a stunning two-page spread. Sure, it has a couple, “Huh?” and “Waitaminnit!” inducing items, but it is easily the most impressive pair of pages in this issue. The best part of the final page, however, was the “To be Concluded!” box at the bottom. Maybe once this story wraps up, Guggenheim will be done showing just how bad-ass the JSA can be and focus on celebrating their legacy, which is the true role this team serves in the DC Universe today.