Most of the JSA All-Stars team is off in space this month, and with Cyclone no longer on the team we're getting a focus on this underused character who was created four years ago and has barely had a storyline since then. That's been a real shame, too; even despite being barely touched on after her initial introduction, she stood out as a fun, energetic character. Happily, Matthew Sturges is now taking some time out to visit Cyclone, and it's one of the better issues of the series to date.
Sturges follows a fairly classic formula with this issue; introduce both Maxine and her fellow Harvard student Tim, and spend the first half showing us what every day life is for both of them. Then, with that established, the second half shows everything crumbling as things start getting crazy. When Cyclone's mystery visitor appears in her room, watching the two of them try to figure things out is done in a both logical and excited manner from the pair, and it helps that Sturges has picked the perfect character to tell this story about. Putting Judomaster or Power Girl or Atom Smasher in this position just wouldn't have been as entertaining, and it's nice to see Sturges paying attention to his cast members. The pacing works well, too, letting it build as additional craziness shows up at the end of the issue, and the level of trouble rises.
Howard Porter and Art Thibert are on board for this two-issue story, and I found myself surprised at how well Porter has shifted his style to look similar to the art by regular artist Freddie Williams II. Porter still brings that angular look to the title that we're used to, and while there are some slight quirks in the art overall (why are Maxine's eyes so far apart?) It's a good choice for a fill-in art team, and while I'd have liked to see him tackle the main team a bit more, having them here for a two-part focus on a single character feels like a smart decision, editorially.
"JSA All-Stars" goes up and down in quality like a bobbing balloon these days, but this is absolutely one of the highs rather than the lows. And with "Justice Society of America" going for a grim and gritty new direction, it's nice to see one of the books maintaining the upbeat nature that made "JSA" such a hit years ago. This is definitely a keeper.