Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Dale Eaglesham

Publisher: DC Comics

Price: 2.99

Release Date: December 20, 2006

The other day, I walked into my comic shop tell him that I have to get caught up on doing some comic book reviews. “You like DC comics?” he asks. “Yeah,” I said. “JSA’s the best comic out,” he tells me. So I go home and end up IM-ing a buddy who forwards me the link to a blog that photoshops comics (we were particularly giggling over the rendition of issue #7 – the conclusion – of Civil War). He then tells me I have to pick up JSA #4 (because, of course, his favorite villain is in it). So I decide that maybe I ought to get caught up on this once again re-launched title.

“The world needs better good guys.”

Steeped in DC continuity, the team itself is a continuation of the very first team of superheroes, which had their first meeting in All-Star Comics #3 (published by then National Publications way back in the winter of 1940/41). The original members were Doctor Fate, Hourman,, the Spectre, Sandman, the Atom, Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman. Basically, these were all of the heroes who not quite popular enough to sustain their own series (though as they did, they were placed on honorary status). The team has seen many incarnation, as Super Squad, the All-Star Squadon, (Infinity Inc, has its roots in the JSA), and continues as a mix of some of the original members as well as some of the children of others.

I’ll spare you any suspense about the tenor of my review: I’m wondering when Geoff Johns will get tired of my love letter reviews about his books. From Green Lantern: Rebirth to Infinite Crisis to his recent run on Action Comics, Johns has been delivering the goods. He has an obvious love for this team and these characters. Mr. Terrific might be the best super-hero character DC has going right now (evidenced by the fact that he’s pulling triple duty right now: JSA, JLA, and Checkmate). The slightly mentally off-balance Starman is in close second.

Johns, like Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid, gets what makes comic book super heroes work. In the case of the JSA, the on-going theme is the idea of legacies and traditions. It is every bit about family carrying on their mission of being symbols and fighting injustice. Though gripping, the opening story line seems awfully dark and violent (the Ennis/Ellis-ation of comic books) as a villain seeks to cut off the branches of the family tree of the original members of the team.

However, the first issue demonstrates the great pacing we’ve come to expect from Johns, introducing the core cast of characters and the story arc (that doesn’t have that “stretched to six issues for eventual trade paperback feel”). It sets up the mystery of the plot while having the story of the recruitment of who will make up the eventual team.

The JSA has a mission of responsibility. They have a long history behind them, most of it good, some of it not so good. But they unite around the ideal of what they could be as a missional community. The simple truth is that heroes haven’t always lived up to their ideal, but despite that fact, they come together to live out what they were called to do. With respect to the past, they acknowledge their mistakes and with their eyes on the future, they set out to train those who will carry on the work in the next generation(s).

Somehow in the re-launch–and the break Johns took from the book, by-passing the opportunity to reach the milestone of issue #100–the book went from being good to being great. The depth of story-telling, excellent detail of the art – it is close to the pinnacle of what super-hero comics should be: plot and character driven, while well-paced, and well-drawn. Plus, the covers are magnificent and I’m waiting for a poster to collect them all.

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