Justice Society of America #44

Story by
Art by
Scott Kolins
Colors by
Mike Atiyeh
Letters by
Rob Leigh
Cover by
DC Comics

I'm not sure why anyone ever thought that the phrase "grim and gritty Justice Society" was a good idea. It utterly misses the point of the team on some level, especially when there are so many other books out there that can carry that particular flag. But now we've got it courtesy Marc Guggenheim and Scott Kolins, even though I'm not entirely sure why.

There's virtually no plot to the new "Justice Society of America," in which a super-powered terrorist escapes from prison in Afghanistan, starts attacking the city of Monument Point, and the Justice Society tries to stop him. What comes next is a long slug-fest, in which the team gets their collective behinds handed to them. Here's the problem with this, though. It's one of the laziest team take-downs I've read, in which a brand-new character is able to mysteriously overtake an entire team of seasoned veterans without even trying, or showing any personality or particular intelligence in doing so. When we saw the group initially taken out by Mordru about a year ago (and then rallied to stop him in the follow-up), it made sense. We saw just why Mordru was able to eliminate each character, one-by-one, and it was easy to swallow. Here, we're told through Guggenheim's scripts that he's unstoppable, but not why or how. It feels like a pet character being trotted out of someone's imagination and getting shown off as being a bad-ass.

Of course, it doesn't help matters that this is a team that includes characters like Green Lantern, the Flash, and Doctor Fate. It should be awfully hard for a single character to take out all three, and yet it seems to be the easiest thing in the world. Once again, though, no real reason why; it simply happens. It's hard to see this as a story that was built around the Justice Society of America, but instead a story that they've been shoehorned into, no matter how bad the fit really is. It was nice to see Guggenheim actually use Lightning for something (has she ever actually done anything since joining the team?), but otherwise this could have just as easily been any six generic superheroes and nothing would have changed. This almost feels like a DC Comics version of the opening scene with the New Warriors versus Nitro at the beginning of "Civil War," and that's not a comparison anyone should want to have made.

Kolins' art looks much more glossy than I'm used to from his earlier art, but unfortunately I don't mean that in a good way. It's very airbrushed and lacking in detail, and it's hard to say if this is because of how Kolins is drawing it, or Mike Atiyeh coloring it, or a mix between the two. The art in the whole, though, isn't attractive in the slightest. There's a lot of gritting of teeth, strange folds of skin, and even a few strange postures thrown in. Kolins does do a good job of showing the huge amount of destruction and rubble created by the fight (since that's a big plot point of just how much gets wiped out because of their battle), but that's about it.

In a few months, I can't help but think that readers who weren't thrilled with Bill Willingham and Jesus Merino's run on "Justice Society of America" (which I thought was gaining momentum and worth reading) are going to look back fondly on that earlier creative team. I suppose it's apt that the book involves the team creating a disaster, because "disaster" is exactly the word I'd use to describe this issue.

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