“JSA All-Stars” has been a frustratingly uneven series, but one that over the past six months or so seems to have stabilized. So with the series ending next month, I suppose it’s apt that we’re getting one of the best issues of the series to date. Too little too late, unfortunately.
Matthew Sturges is playing around with the idea of a character being retroactively added into a comic’s history. It’s something we’ve seen play out time and time again (Kid Quantum, anyone?) but here, we get to watch the characters firsthand begin to reel from its potential. The character of the Prince is fun because his story of a world where World War II never happened thanks to the JSA is clearly not the past of DC Comics… but now that the multiverse is back, the question isn’t, “Why is he delusional?” but rather, “Is it delusional?” When you’ve got multiple universes for characters to come from (after all, leader Power Girl is from another universe), the possibilities are endless. Sturges keeps the reader guessing and his characters skeptical, and the resulting match works well.
The dialogue is also snappy in this comic; Power Girl’s comment on the name of Doctor Hate was good for a laugh, and her noting that their universe has Wikipedia is a nice touch. It’s a fast-paced and fun comic, and getting that lighter mood goes a long way toward keeping “JSA All-Stars” a pleasant alternative to the grim and gritty “Justice Society of America” sister title.
Freddie Williams II provides the art again this month, and it’s good but not great. He’s at his best in, strangely enough, the more awkward moments of the comic. The terrified Roxy fleeing TylerCo works because of not only the fear in her eyes, but the way that she moves as she runs, as if she’s still not used to her new body. Likewise, the panic on the face of the Prince as he busts into the base of the All-Stars works because he looks like’s cranked up to eleven in terms of intensity. Even as his story doesn’t match up, there’s such sincerity behind those expressions that you want to somehow believe.
It’s the quieter moments that don’t quite work. When we first see Stargirl and Judomaster, it’s an difficultly staged glimpse through a window, where only the dialogue can tell us that they’re playing a game of go, not meditating or perhaps in a tea ceremony. And the big final splash of the issue reads like it should have its focus on Doctor Hate, but she’s inexplicably in the background (and delivering the dialogue) while the art focuses on Power Girl and the Prince, drawing the attention away from Doctor Hate.
It wasn’t a perfect book, but “JSA All-Stars” still provided fun more often than not, and I’m a little sad to see it go. Right now it’s capturing the ideals of a Justice Society comic more than the main title does, and it feels like the wrong comic is going away. We’ll miss you, “JSA All-Stars.”