Justice Society of America #1 review

Geoff Johns and Mikel Janín have joined forces to create a new 12-issue JSA series. It’s something a lot of readers have been looking forward to, seeing as the JSA hasn’t gotten a lot of panel time in recent years. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing this creative team try something new with the book, but will the book also be good? Let’s have a look.

I think it’s a fine first issue as it does exactly what a first issue is supposed to do. It introduces a compelling protagonist (Huntress); it sets up the adventure that is to come and doesn’t waste any time doing so; it presents an interesting mystery that will (hopefully) have readers coming back for the next issue; and it has incredible artwork by Mikel Janín and Jordie Bellaire. But it’s not a flawless issue.

For one thing, Johns throws a bunch of exposition dumps at us. They are entirely functional and bring us up to speed, but I also find that the way they are written is a bit dull. It reads like a cold, factual summary of events that have transpired before the start of the issue, and I just don’t find it very entertaining to read for that reason. You could argue that it’s because Helena is the narrator, but even then I stand by my critique. Even if the main character is more to the point and serious, the narration still needs to be compelling in some way or another.

In that same vein, I’m not too happy with some of the dialogue, either. Most of it is concise and pushes the plot forward, but I can’t help but feel that it also sounds rather wooden. For example, there is a scene in the book where each of the new JSA members are being introduced. Every character drops a mandatory one-liner that is supposed to reveal something about their personality, but the lines they say all feel very uninspired. They read more like placeholders than actual sentences that you can expect to see in a final draft.

Speaking of these new JSA members, this team-up seems pretty random to me. I’m not sure why Helena would select these particular individuals to join her team, and it certainly doesn’t help that the book isn’t giving us any good reasons as to why these characters are here. It makes the book seem less focused than it probably should be.

All of that being said, it’s still a very fun comic. While the dialogue and narration isn’t fantastic, Johns does structure the issue incredibly well. From the first page, there’s a buildup to a plot twist that occurs toward the end, which is also the inciting incident that sends Helena on a time traveling quest for justice. The plot twist occurs at exactly the right moment for maximum impact, and I was genuinely surprised when it happened, so in my opinion it works, and it’s why this comic is worth reading. Of course it remains to be seen how the series will hold up as it goes on, but I think it’s off to a pretty good start, despite the aforementioned flaws.

As for the art, Janín and Bellaire are killing it, as always. I love how they render all the various JSA members: they all look so vastly different and yet they look great together on the page. I’d say that it’s mainly Bellaire’s excellent coloring that creates a cohesive aesthetic on each and every page. The action is also incredible: the different angles and panel shapes and sizes, as well as the various perspectives, really create a kinetic, fast-moving action comic that I’m sure most comic fans will love to see. The only thing that doesn’t work for me is the fact that different guest artists come in to each draw a page that’s a flashback to the classic JSA in the past. Don’t get me wrong, the likes of Ordway, Kolins, Lieber and Peterson are all fine cartoonists, but their styles are so different from Janín’s that, aesthetically, these pages feel more like interruptions than interesting callbacks to me. I’d rather have Janín draw the entire book—he can easily handle those callbacks himself.

Recommended if…

  • You’re open to a different take on the JSA.
  • Huntress is your favorite character.
  • Janín and Bellaire—nuff said.

Overall: It’s a solid book, but it could’ve been better. The dialogue and narration doesn’t always flow well and the team roster seems very random. That said, the pacing, plot structure and cliffhanger at the end are pretty well executed, and the art throughout is amazing. All in all it’s still a good read!

Score: 7/10

Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.