JSA All-Stars #14

"Hey, guys! You know how we're supposed to be all proactive?"

There's nothing like a character having to remind everyone else what the purpose of a comic is, right? The "let's be proactive instead of reactive" superhero team is an idea that never seems to quite work out for any extended period of time, with that driving force quietly abandoned after a year or so. Having forgotten it myself, "JSA All-Stars" valiantly tries to dredge that idea back up in the latest issue. Except, of course, it doesn't really need to.

The thing is, take that idea away and it's not a bad comic, although like so many team books it feels like half the characters are still consigned to background-images-only limbo. Still, it's nice to see Matthew Sturges do things with Citizen Steel (who since his introduction a few years ago has done precious little), as well as relatively new characters Anna Fortune and Kid Chimera. But I'll admit that it's getting to the point where it's hard to remember who's even on the team these days; juggling a large cast isn't an easy feat and it's not quite here yet.

The plot itself about Arthur Pemberton hunting down a series of artifacts that will eventually form something larger is all right; it lets the group go all over the planet (although if all you see are museums, it doesn't matter much that the locations this month are in Tunisia and Austria) and it sets up a chase-and-escape pattern for part of this three-issue story. I like Sturges using mysticism here (and seeing Anna Fortune get to do something as a result), if only because it throws everything up into the air and makes it more uncertain.

Freddie Williams II continues the evolution of his style, a strange love child of Bart Sears and Geof Darrow. Smooth one page and knobby the next, it's always interesting even though the effectiveness varies throughout the issue. I think the problem with Williams' current style is that it's good for close-ups, but long shots with a lot of characters make them all look slightly lost and hard to tell apart if they aren't wearing costumes. Williams has been tweaking his art since the series began, though, so hopefully it's a problem that will get fixed before much longer.

With "Justice Society of America" no longer recognizable as a JSA title, it falls to "JSA All-Stars" to try and hold that torch. It's ultimately just all right, but I wish it was a little stronger. Passable is better than failing, but I want to be wowed.

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