Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Review: "Justice Society Vol. 1"

The Justice Society of America, in DC Comics' "JSA" title, is enjoying a very long and successful run. But it wasn't always that way.

Before "JSA" there had been numerous attempts to bring back the JSA, which debuted in the Golden Age of the 1940s and then vanished in the early 1950s when superheroes fell out of favor. The "Justice League of America" (the JLA was itself and updated version of the JSA) reintroduced the Golden Age characters in annual crossovers starting in 1963. But, outside of those appearances, the team never really caught on with readers in their own adventures.

This new trade paperback collects the first 10 issues of a failed 1976 attempt to revive the JSA, plus a 1977 issue of "DC Special" featuring the team.

The scripts for these stories, by Gerry Conway and Paul Levitz, are pretty much by-the-numbers superteam stuff, not much different from anything you'd find in Justice League stories from the same period. A crisis brings the heroes together, they split up to tackle individual aspects of the problem, then they come together to put the big kibosh on things. Gardner Fox should've put a patent on it.

And, because this was the mid 70s and because this was DC, none of the characters really has much of an individual personality. Not that Conway or Levitz had much to work with. Back in the 1940s, when the JSA was introduced, superheroes didn't have personalities, not other than being heroic and super and occasionally quippy. Superheroes with varying moods and personal crises were introduced by Marvel Comics in the early 60s.

Levitz and Conway do the best they can, giving the Golden Age Green Lantern a financial crisis to cope with and turning Power Girl (first introduced in this series) into sort of a "Maude"-style feminist. With a huge in her costume to display her cleavage. None of it is really enough to make the stories compelling in the same way as, for example, an issue of the "Fantastic Four" or "Avengers" from the same time might've been.

What makes the reprint worthwhile, however, is the art. Much of the work is by a young Keith Giffen and the wonderful Joe Staton (these days working on "Scooby Doo" comics, but a great superhero artist with a real flair for character and action scenes). But the big draw (no pun intended. Really!) is Wally Wood, featured in seven of the issues, sometimes on his own, others assisted by Giffen. Those issues are beautiful to look at, with nice examples of Wood's sci-fi machinary backgrounds and figure work. If it's just to see Wood drawing Superman (not Superduperman, like he did for "Mad" back in the 1950s) the book is worth picking up. And, no doubt, some folks will pick it up because it's Wood drawing Powergirl, who seems to become more buxom with every issue he turned in.

The reproduction of said art is great. The color reconstruction by Drew R. Moore is nice and bright and loyal to the originals.

The only thing that's a problem is that, for some lamebrained reason, all the credits from each issue's splash page has digitally disappeared. So, while we get lump artist, writer, inker credits (letterers don't count, I guess) at the front of the book, we can't easily determine who wrote and drew each individual issue. Since the stories, I'd guess, are being republished mainly out of historical interest, this maneuver was just plain dumb. Plus, it's an offense to the original creators. I'm morbidly curious about what sort of inexcusable reason the editors would give for doing this. Oh well.

The back cover of the collection says this is the first of two "JSA" collections, so I guess we'll see the remaining five issues of the run and perhaps some other 70s JSA appearance in a second book soon.

Disappearing credits. Now you see 'em:


Now you don't:


1 comment:

Greg Morrow said...

It seems certain that the other stories in volume 2 will be the Levitz/Staton continuation of the JSA series that ran in Adventure Comics 461-466.

This includes the story that tells how McCarthyism shut the JSA down, a story that Levitz revisited in his recent run on the JSA book, as well as the death of the Earth-2 Batman.