Wednesday, February 16, 2005

JSA #70 - A Review

Written by: Geoff Johns
Penciled by: Don Kramer
Inked by: Keith Champagne
Colored by: John Kalisz
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Publisher: DC Comics

This seems to be a week for classic film references in my reviews. Earlier, I reviewed Batman: The Man Who Laughs, which took its title from a 1928 film, whose tragic hero was part of the inspiration for the appearance of The Joker. Now, I find Michael Holt (a.k.a. Mister Terrific) quoting In The Heat Of The Night as he is faced down by a group of angry Klansmen who demand to know what they call him up North.

“They call me… Mister Terrific,” he says with only a moment’s hesitation as he too gets the joke.

This is why JSA is one of my favorite titles. There’s lots of little “in-jokes” for those who get them. But unlike most comics which attempt such Easter Eggs, you don’t have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of DC Comics history, old movies or the minutia of 17th century Scotland’s economic turmoil to enjoy the basic story of JSA.

The story right now is complex, but capably covered by Johns writing. A time-traveling baddy by the name of Degaton has gone throughout time and killed off most of the modern incarnation of the Justice Society of America. The last surviving members of the modern JSA, all second or third generation heroes, have gone back in time to talk to their mentors and convince them not to break up the team in the wake of being asked to unmask by Congress during the height of McCarthyism. The team’s break-up, all part of Degaton’s plan, will be the cause of a huge disaster which will eventually lead to the destruction of the present day.

Trust me: it reads much better spread over three issues than in a one paragraph summary.

Don Kramer’s artwork is a perfect match for this book. He has to draw a wide variety of characters in a huge variety of settings and manages to make every single one of them look unique. Even the simplest thug will have a distinctive face and personality; something many artists will “cheat” on when doing a book with such a wide and varied cast.

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