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I bought this for a dollar: Justice Society America (vol. 3) #3

by  in Comic News Comment
I bought this for a dollar: Justice Society America (vol. 3) #3

I’ll be honest; I bought this for a dollar not expecting it to be worth said dollar.Given that “Fuck Geoff Johns” seems to be the mantra of certain critics around the blogosphere (and was also the editorial policy around here for awhile, too), I’ve never been too keen to check out his work. I remember Bill even posting a short critique of the relaunch of this particular volume (they’re only on volume 3 for the first superhero team ever?) that included this issue, which I think boiled down to “it sucks.” So I was kind of expecting to savage this.

Thing is, I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it, mind you; I’m not reading any more of this series for more than a buck, nor am I endorsing you do so, either. That said, I found some things to like, and it’s certainly an interesting snap shot of modern day DC Comics, no matter what you happen to think of them.

One of the big criticisms I see of Geoff Johns is that his comics are way too violent for the iconic characters they feature. ADD goes as far as calling it one note sadism. Just from one of the issues of 52 I’ve read, I thought the super disemboweling in a Suicide Squad/Black Marvel Family fight was a little much, and I have similar misgivings about this comic. 

I can see how super terrorist Nazis would probably slaughter people for kicks, but do we have to see it in such detail? Sure, it gives Hawkman a chance to act all hard and bad ass when he makes his appearence, but isn’t there something to be said for leaving some of the superspeed mutilation and what not to the readers’ imagination?

That said, I’m pretty desensitized to violence on an aesthetic level, and I doubt there are a bunch of kids who want to read about Jay Garrick and Alan Scott, so the “won’t someone please think of the children!” argument doesn’t hold much water for me. I object to it more on a “less is more” level, although that being said, there are no bowels flopping around and the mutilation is done in shadow, so this geriatric superteam comic is more kid friendly in that regard.

There are two things that strike me as interesting about this book. The first is that the small moments are the best parts of the book. Whether it’s the opening scence with Stargirl and Red Tornado’s grandchild (who gets on my good side immediately by being a befreckled redhead) trying to come up with a superhero name for the latter or Vandal Savage’s funny line upon his entrance (it’s been a few months, so I feel okay in spoiling the reveal there), Johns can write an amusing scene.

I was also struck by how, despite all its attempts at falling in step behind Identity Crisis (dead family members? Check! Overdramatic inner monologues? Check! And then there’s the violence I mentioned), at it’s heart, this is a really old school team book. From the team splitting up to handle different threats to all of the subplots (of which there seem to be 6,000, and that’s for someone who doesn’t know enough JSA/DCU continuity to know if there’s more to it than what’s on the page) dovetailing, to the roster of about 1,000 characters, Johns just can’t hide the fact that deep down, he’s Roy Thomas for the new millenium; not that he’s trying hard, mind you. He is writing the damn JSA, after all, Rascally Roy’s pet characters. Sure, the book mixes some newer tropes, like legacy heroes, but the heart of this thing could have easily been published in the ’70s, and some of the dumber stuff (like Wildcat’s illegitimate son literally being a humanoid cat) probably is better suited to that era.

Dale Eaglesham provides the pencils, with Roy Jose on inks. He’s good. He handles the fights and talking heads portions with equal aplomb. He’s not a virtuoso, but I think he’s better than the rank and file superhero penciller. All the art is perfectly good assembly line stuff. Nobody sticks out where they shouldn’t, so I think they’re doing their jobs well.

This book goes a long way to confirming the hunch I’ve had about Johns for awhile now; both his rabid fans and virulent detractors are expending way too much energy for a writer so totally mediocre. Now, I don’t want to totally brand the dude with an M on his forehead or anything; maybe there’s something in his mountain of comics work I’d really like. But what little I’ve read says to me that the guys neither good enough nor bad enough to deserve all of the attention he gets from the opposite poles of the Wizard Top Ten List and ADD’s House of Chest Thumping Comics Advocacy. Did the nascent comics literati go after Roy the Boy like this when in the ’70s, when the Comics Journal was just getting off the ground and Steves Engleheart and Gerber were the mainstream equivalent of Grant Morrison? Maybe an old person like Mr. Hatcher or rick D. (does he still come here?) can tell me. Inquiring minds want to know, but are too lazy to find out for themselves. Anyway, this comic, worth a dollar, but not more than that.

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