Justice Society of America #51

Story by
Art by
Tom Derenick
Colors by
Mike Atiyeh
Letters by
Rob Leigh
Cover by
DC Comics

One month removed from the super-sized fiftieth issue celebration, this issue gives Marc Guggenheim a chance to wrap up some lose ends from his first arc while setting the city of Monument Point in motion under the administration of Mayor Jay Garrick. The biggest loose end left to wrap up is the disconnect between the body and soul of Jennifer Pierce (Lightning), who was brought to death's door by Scythe.

Luckily the Justice Society can count Ri - a mysterious hero with a healing touch - among their new recruits. Working alongside Doctor Mid-Nite, the duo is healing Jennifer's body while Dr. Fate, Alan Scott, and Blue Devil venture into the spirit realms to reclaim Lightning's soul.

The three scenes swap back and forth through the course of the issue, one giving way to the other, spirit realms and metaphysics being balancing by political posturing and budget concerns. Guggenheim may have inherited a society of heroes in number, but he is crafting a societal environment around them. This issue reminds me a bit of previous attempts to meld heroes, otherworldly beings, and "normal" folks (most specifically among those, "Haven" comes to mind) but it does so without wallowing too long in any one of the worlds. While the soul of Lightning may have gotten a deceptively speedy resolution, Guggenheim balances out the facets of this team nicely.

Tom Derenick's art has always been passable to me. He follows the guidelines of comic book art in using exaggeration as his main tool: the heroes are heroic, the heroines are shapely, but unfortunately most of his characters tend to gravitate towards one of a couple of body types. Blue Devil and Alan Scott have moments where they appear to be cut from the same cloth. Jay Garrick has the same range of expressions as the other men on the Monument Point City Council, but there aren't that many expressions used. Derenick does, however, fill his work with detail, from the reflective sheen on the helm of Fate to architectural detail on the facades of buildings in the Infinite Plain.

Here is where Derenick really shines in this issue: Derenick would be on the short list of artists I'd like to see work on a Dr. Fate story. His Fate carries himself differently than all of the other characters in this book. Fate's poses could be the beginning of mystical or martial attacks, and those poses give the character that much more energy and visual punch.

Guggenheim has done a solid job of setting this book on the track he wants to take and, for the most part, I'd dare say it's there. Now that it is on that track, I'm feeling my enthusiasm for the "Justice Society of America" accumulating once more. If Guggenheim can continue to make each issue feel as full as this one does - while only using seven of the team members - then this series has virtually limitless potential ahead of it. I'll be checking in regularly to see what it does with that potential.

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