It’s the third issue of Geoff Johns’ return to the golden age, and things are… boy are they! I’ve already spoken a bit about my frustrations with Johns’ work, so I won’t subject you to further rants about how compulsively safe and rooted in the past it is. Instead, I’ll just show you a screenshot of today’s issue in which Geoff Johns references an issue he wrote in 2005, 18 years and 3 continuities ago.
Comics are back, baby.
Self-wankery aside, however…
… the issue here (other than the issue, here) is that the self-reverence doesn’t even pay off for anything. We could be spending this book doing anything, including and ESPECIALLY following a new, original cast like we saw in issue #1. Instead, we just get more of the same, with a couple legacy characters like the new Dr. Fate, Wildcat or Dr. Mid-nite, or maybe a Johns favorite like Stargirl, but for the most part, none of it feels like anything’s changed since 2005. It’s extra ironic, considering how the premise of the book is preventing the dangerous future to preserve the nice and comfy status quo.
Most of the issue is split between a bunch of exposition on Per Degaton’s backstory, wonderfully illustrated by Jerry Ordway and masterfully colored by John Kalisz, and a bunch of nothing starring Helena Wayne, done by the team of Mikel Janin and Jordie Bellaire. Degaton’s sections of the story are at least halfway interesting, with the atmosphere and art style of a gritty war comic, and provide at least a solid origin story for the time-traveling villain. There’s a nice golden-age feel to it, but the ideas still feel modern enough that everything works. Degaton, at least as a concept, is a threatening, interesting villain, and works well to hook the reader in. He has a certain gravitas to him, a feeling that this is the worst that our heroes have ever faced, end very likely ever will. It’s honestly a pretty decent setup for the threat, especially with the little glimpses we’ve gotten so far into his machinations, and I think it’s one of the better aspects of this book.
The rest of it
The modern day stuff, however, doesn’t fare so well. Helena, as we saw last issue, has- been booted to the present (our present, not to be confused with the future, which is her present), and meets the “current” JSA. I will say, it’s a decent lineup, and Janin’s art (with a huge helping hand from Bellaire’s colors!) makes sure that our heroes look GOOD.
Seriously, when Janin gets the right colorist, his art is STUNNING. All of his figures are dynamic and striking, his battle scenes explode right off the page, and those beautiful hues color grade everything beautifully, really solidifying the feeling that you’re watching some of the greatest heroes in their prime.
Unfortunately for the issue, however, this is an instance of the art far outclassing the writing. My main problem with the Helena sections of this book is that everything feels so… passive. Three issues in, and Helena hasn’t really done anything. She’s getting zapped from timeline to timeline, watching things happen in front of her, listening to JSAs old and less old bicker and banter about what to do to help her, but nothing ever gets done. Is this just because we’re on issue 3 of 12? I sure hope so!
The other big problem is that, even ignoring for a moment Helena’s passivity in her own story, nothing’s really moving forward outside of her either. The pacing in this book feels off. We spend half an issue learning the origin of Per Degaton, we see the JSA fight some Bizarros, then everything grinds to a halt while Helena has to convince yet ANOTHER JSA to help her, then said JSA literally sits around talking about the problem until it walks right into them. For the big return debut of the JSA, it sure is taking a long time for anything big to happen. I’m hoping this changes soon, or we’re in for one slog of a mini.
- You liked Geoff Johns’ old JSA run (and have it handy to cross reference, apparently)
- That’s kind of it, tbh
- This issue was just okay
I really hope things can turn around soon. I was actually excited to see the JSA return and interact with the new DC universe in new and exciting ways, but it looks like Johns is gonna Johns, at least for a little bit. Still holding out hope, though!
Score: 5/10, because it really is a pretty book
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.