JSA: Princes of Darkness

JSA: Princess of Darkness 

By Geoff Johns, David Goyer, Leonard Kirk, Don Kramer & Sal Velluto (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-84576-035-2

As a kid I used to love any appearance of the Justice Society of America, DC’s most popular crime-busting characters from the 1940s. They seemed full of a power that was equal parts Mystery and History. They belonged to that mythical land “Before I Was Born” and their rare guest-shots always filled me with joy.

A few years ago they were permanently revived and I found very little to complain of. As superheroes go the stories and art were entertaining enough, though not outstanding, and certainly not exceptional. With this latest compilation (collecting issues #46 – 55), I finally find myself agreeing with those wise editorial heads of the 1960s who felt that less was more and that over-exposure was a real danger.

In a tired old plot where Darkness-wielding villains black out the Earth and let evil reign free, I finally thought to myself, “Seen It, Done It, Don’t Care No Mo’”.

These are characters that everybody in the industry seems to venerate. Surely if all we’re going to have is the same old tosh that the lesser heroes have to deal with on a monthly basis, we’d be better off stopping now and saving them for genuinely special occasions. I certainly saw nothing here to differentiate between this and a hundred other titles.

© 2003, 2004 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

JSA: Savage Times

JSA: Savage Times 

By Geoff Johns, David Goyer, Leonard Kirk & Keith Champagne (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-84023-984-0

When they’re producing what their dedicated readers want, today’s publishers seem to be on comfortably solid ground, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so harsh in my judgements. The tale collected as Savage Times is standard comic book fare, well crafted and revolving around a time-bending villain who attacks the venerable super-heroes of the Justice Society of America by travelling into their collective past.

No problem with that. I just question the long-term sense of slavish regurgitation. How many times can even the most dedicated collector swallow the same old things? And how many formats should they be expected to purchase it in? Stuff like this won’t expand the reader base, and shouldn’t be looking for growth not treading water?

© 2002, 2003 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume 3

Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume 3 

By Various (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-84023-946-8

I’m going to “cop a plea” on this book. Like any other comic book geek who grew up in the 1960’s and early 1970’s I was captivated by gaudy costumes and the outrageous battles to save the city, the country, the world, the universe, the multiverse, et al, ad nauseam. I loved all this stuff. I loved the funny animals, the comedies, suspense and horror stories, the Sci-Fi. Newspaper strips, Annuals, Albums, American, British, whatever. I even liked the romance stories which usually demanded a much higher standard of drawing than all other types of comic strip.

In regard to comic material from this period I cannot declare myself an impartial critic. That counts doubly so for the Julie Schwartz edited Justice League of America and its annual summer tradition of teaming up with its progenitor organisation, the Justice Society of America. If that sounds a tad confusing there are many places to look for clarifying details. If you’re interested in superheroes and their histories you’ll even enjoy the search. But this is not the place for that.

This volume reprints get-togethers from 1971 through 1974, tightly plotted tales comfortably rendered by the tragically under-rated Dick Dillin, although perhaps sometimes uncomfortably scripted in the vernacular of the day (“Right on brother,” says one white superhero to another white superhero!). There are adventures featuring inter-dimensional alien symbiotes and swamp monster Solomon Grundy (JLA #91-92), evil geniuses and the time-marooned team of 1940’s superheroes called the Seven Soldiers of Victory (JLA #100-102), an accidental detour to a parallel Earth where the Nazis won the second World War and the meeting with yet another team of 1940’s characters, the Freedom Fighters (JLA#107-108), and a genuinely poignant tale of good intentions gone awry featuring the Golden Age Sandman (JLA# 114).

In terms of “super” genre the writing consists of two bunches of heroes who get together to deal with extra-extraordinary problems. In hindsight, it’s obviously also about sales and the attempted revival of more super characters during a period of intense sales rivalry between DC Comics and Marvel. But for those who love costume heroes, who crave these carefully constructed modern mythologies and care, it is simply a grand parade of simple action, great causes and momentous victories.

I love ‘em, not because they’re the best of their kind, but because I did then and they haven’t changed even if I have. Do you fancy trying to find your Inner Kid again?

© 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 2004 DC Comics. All rights reserved.