Justice Society Trade Post: JSA All-Stars Glory Days & JSoA Supertown

JSA All Stars: Glory Days (DC)
Written by Matthew Sturges, drawn by Freddie Williams II & Howard Porter
Collects JSA All-Stars #7-13

I fully intended to write this post towards the end of last weekend, but lost track of time. In the end, I guess it doens’t really matter. Anyway, like I said in that post (or maybe didn’t, it was so long ago, who can remember?), I read these four JSA trades back to back to back to back in the order they’re presented in these posts. As you’ll remember, JSA All-Stars was a spinoff book that featured the more proactive (and younger) members of the fairly unwieldy group. When I say proactive, I don’t necessarily mean the usual “we’re gonna go after the bad guys instead of wait for them to attack” idea, but a team that is well trained in order to be more active and effective when they fight the bad guys.

The second trade features three stories, the first dealing with SPOILER Atom Smasher’s death during Blackest Night, the JSA fighting a gang of gods running amok and a two-parter answering the question: why are there so many Cyclones running around?

While the actual death of Atom Smasher might have been told in a one-off mini that held almost no baring on the larger Blackest Night story (I’ll get around to reviewing that book eventually), but the issue here was actually pretty heartfelt as it followed Judomaster exploring her feelings towards AS in depth.

I wasn’t as interested in the details of the gods story, but I will say that any script that offers Freddie Williams II the chance to draw monkeys riding tigers in the jungle, some iconic super heroes and building-big gods, I’m happy. There were some revelations and characters moments that were pretty important to the larger story as well, which I also appreciated. The multiple Cyclone story was also pretty cool, kind of along the lines of a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episode over two issues, with an ending that actually had me going, “Whaaaaat?” I’d really like to see how this book wrapped up. I believe there was one more trade’s worth of issues, but don’t know if DC has any intention of collecting them right now. Anyone know?

Justice Society of America: Supertown (DC)
Written by Marc Guggenheim, drawn by Scott Kolins & Mike Norton
Collects Justice Society of America #44-49

Supertown is a little but of an outsider when it comes to this particular quartet of JSA books. The first JSoA volume I read lead right into the two JSA All-Stars books, but the original book has a collection called Axis of Evil that I don’t have and a crossover with JLoA that I’m holding off on until I go through all the post-Infinite Crisis JLA books. So, I don’t have as great of a sense of this team and its motives in the wake of the split, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a more difficult comic to read, I just like having all the pieces of the puzzle, you know?

Anyway, this arc revolves around the battle with a super powered terrorist named Scythe. The JSA takes him on in the first issue and tells young member Lightning to, essentially, go supernova and blast the crap of him, destroying a huge area of the town. Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott gets mortally wounded in the battle and we soon discover that he and Golden Age Flash ran into this thing as a child experiment in WWII.

With the fallout, Flash focuses his efforts on rebuilding the whole city, a job that takes a lot longer than it usually does in comics, taking a more real world approach to that trope. More terrorists show up to give our heroes a hard time, but we also get a brand new design for Alan Scott’s costume, which is pretty clunky, but actually serves a purpose.

I’ve talked before about how I get bored with comics that feel too familiar with other comics I’ve read, especially when said older comics are from the same character or team’s history. This one included a few elements that have been very popular in the last few years for the JSA: a major member gets nearly killed (actually two in this collection) and a villain that comes out of nowhere with seemingly all the answers. However, I thought Guggenheim did a pretty great job of building this story around different character beats and moments. I’m still not sure about the GL costume, but I’d definitely be interested to see how JSA ended just prior to New 52.

Trade Post: JSA Strange Adventuers, Wildstorm After The Fall & Hardware The Man In The Machine

JSA STRANGE ADVENTURES (DC)
Written by Kevin J. Anderson, drawn by Barry Kitson
Collects JSA Strange Adventures #1-6
I’ve been a big fan of the JSA concept for years. I love the idea of legacy characters still kicking around in modern times offering a sense of connection to the past that can only be done in fiction when dealing with magical beings who have various elements keeping them alive for decades after they should be dead (especially when you consider how often they put themselves in danger). While I’ve read every regular issue of JSA since Geoff Johns launched the book back in 1999, but I skipped or missed a lot of the JSA minis that have come out since then. I was pretty excited about Strange Adventures because it presents a JSA story from back when they were first a team as opposed to them being the old soldiers they are today. I was looking forward to seeing the tale told from a different perspective and, while the book does offer another perspective through the eyes of Johnny Thunder, I didn’t really like this book.

My main problem is that the book didn’t feel very original. The overarching plot involves a super powered genius coming to the world and telling them he’ll fix all these problems if Green Lantern and Starman give up their power sources. When the heroes don’t, the guy turns bad and starts wreaking havoc, but only after regular people get upset with GL and Starman. There’s nothing very original there, that’s the plot of several pieces of science fiction from Twilight Zone episodes to movies. It’s boring and it was so obvious, I thought that Anderson might be messing with the constraints of that kind of story, but that didn’t happen. The only part of the story that I found really interesting was Johnny Thunder’s interactions with a pulp writer and his desire to become a writer himself. I can obviously relate to that and I love fiction that involves writing and creating in one way or another, but even that part of the story didn’t feel entirely original as Johnny Thunder has been portrayed as the newbie who wishes he could really do something before. All in all, Strange Adventures wasn’t a bad comic to read, it just wasn’t a particularly original one. Kitson’s art sure was pretty though.

WILDSTORM: AFTER THE FALL (WildStorm)
Written by Christos Gage and Russell Uttley, drawn by Trevor Hairsine, Brandon Badeaux, Ivan Reis, Mike McKone, Pete Woods, Phil Noto, Ben Oliver, Chris Sprouse, Wes Craig, Shawn Moll and John Paul Leon
Collects several WildStorm back-up stories
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of the WildStorm universe. I think it was pretty ballsy when they decided to basically destroy their Earth with the Number of the Beast miniseries and continue on with a post apocalyptic setting that has lead to a huge battle with some alien badasses, the combination of nearly ever super powered being still kicking around into one big team and then, more recently, splitting that group up into a space-faring one and one still left on Earth (Authority and WildCats respectively). Right after the big WorldStorm event that relaunched several books to varying degrees of success. In addition to kicking off new books, WildStorm also included back-up stories involving the company’s rich history of characters. All of those short stories have been collected in this After The Fall trade.

I’ve kept up on WildStorm comics for a while now, but when this happened, I wasn’t reading the back-up stories because I didn’t think I could keep up with all of them, so I’m glad they collected them all in one place. The overarching story here involves John Lynch getting the members of Team 7 back together to kill Sleeper and WildCat villain TAO. The whole thing’s very inside baseball and probably not very accessible to new readers, but I had a great time reading about characters like Deathblow, Christie Blaze and Cybernary. My only problem withe the book is that the whole thing builds up to something that doesn’t happen in this book. The TAO fight takes place eventually in, I believe, WildCats, but that means After The Fall kind of feels like the second Pirates Of The Caribbean movie in that, it’s fun in and of itself, but it’s basically a stepping stone for something else. The amazing stable of artists certainly helps the book and it’s awesome to see guys like Noto and Leon work on these characters I love.

HARDWARE: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE (Milestone/DC)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie, drawn by Denys Cowan and JJ Birch
Collects Hardware #1-8
Back in 1993 I was 10 and Milestone launched, a comic company that seemed focused on bringing more comics starring non-white heroes to the racks. I couldn’t afford to buy a bunch of extra books, but I was really intrigued by books like Hardware, Static and Icon and, by the time the inevitable World’s Collide crossover between the Milestone Universe and the DCU came the next year, I bought as many of the issues as I could. There was always something about the look of the books that I found very intriguing. At the time I didn’t really follow artists or even really realize they used different styles, but the kind of muted presentation of the books, especially hardware which looked painted to me, drew my interest. Jump ahead 17 years later and here I sit with a collection of the first 8 issues of Hardware. The collection really captures the art the way I remember it and the stories kept me entertained throughout the whole thing.

For those of you who might not know, the idea behind Hardware is that this super smart kid named Curtis got a benefactor in the form of a rich dude who put him through college, gave him unlimited resources in his lab, but considered the kid, now an adult, to be little more than property with a clause in his contract saying that if he quit, he couldn’t work for anyone else. After doing some digging Curtis discovers that his benefactor is actually a pretty bad dude, so he builds a high tech suit with plenty of add-on weapons (kind of like Centurions) that he uses to quash the bad guy’s criminal enterprises. It’s a fairly basic superhero concept, but I was surprised to find that Hardware actually kills some of the bad guy’s peons, something that he actually comes to question towards the end of the trade.

Overall, I really liked this book. Cowan’s art is fantastic especially when he gets to draw some of the crazier weapons and whatnot. McDuffie’s writing was pretty fun, but there were definitely some moments where I was completely confused, like in #3 when the book opens with Hardware killing the bad guy, then appearing in his girl’s place. I had no idea what that was about. For the most part, I liked the whole presentation and how they started to slowly build a big superhero universe. I hope DC continues to put out these Milestone books (I’ve got the Static one in my to-read party), especially the World’s Collide story. There’s a lot of goodness here.