Walking Away from the JSA


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The Golden Age characters in the JSA put Geoff Johns on the map. That long term relationship is coming to an end this week. We celebrate their shared history inside.

Geoff Johns is not the writer most known for writing DC’s Golden Age characters in the modern age. That would probably be Roy Thomas. And he wasn’t even the writer who ushered in the latest era of the fabled Justice Society of America. That would be James Robinson and David Goyer.

But the connection between the Justice Society and Geoff Johns cannot be denied. The author has been writing the adventures of the classic heroes for almost 10 years. It is on the JSA that Johns made his name and earned him the title of DC’s go-to guy for big event books. This week brings the last Justice Society story written by Johns for the foreseeable future. And if you’re a Justice Society fan like me, you’re probably pretty sad right now.

Johns joined JSA back in 1999, replacing Robinson as David Goyer’s writing partner with the title’s 5th issue. Hindsight is 20/20, but at the time, this change was troubling. Geoff Johns was a Hollywood insider with extremely limited comic book experience—his only major comic writing was on the critical favorite Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E—and was replacing one of the best writers of the otherwise dismal 1990s in James Robinson.  It would almost be expected that the series would drop in quality.

But it didn’t. If anything, it got better. Johns was a perfect fit. He had an uncanny knowledge about the characters and their continuity. He excelled at writing epic, wide-ranging stories. His success on the title gained him some attention, and the powers that be soon gave him The Flash to write all on his lonesome.

The first pairing of the Johns/Goyer team lasted for 21 issues, during which the pair pitted the team against Extant, Kobra, and a revamped Injustice Society. Goyer left JSA all to Johns with issue 26, but not before bringing back Hawkman into the title’s pages and straightening out the character’s tangled continuity.

Johns flew solo for the next six issues before Goyer returned for the “Stealing Thunder” arc. Johns finally got the book all to himself with issue 56 and has been associated with the team ever since. For the last 5 years, Johns has held the greatest hand in shaping the team’s destiny.

His almost encyclopedic knowledge of comic history and his skill as a modern style storyteller has made the title into a creative success. Many other interpretations of the JSA would be anachronistic or out of tune with the times. Johns’ take is current and vibrant yet in touch with the legacy of the characters.

Through Johns’ writing, the team felt right at home fighting members of their old rogues gallery such as Per Degaton, Vandal Savage and the Ultra-Humanite and some of DC’s more modern villains like Kobra, Eclipso and Extant. Each arc felt like a sweeping epic and the series excited both old-time fans and new recruits.

The mix of Johns and the JSA was absolutely perfect. This makes it completely unfair for the next guy coming in. And the next guy in this case is actually “next guys”—Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges. The team is an interesting choice, and both are great writers in their own right, but they still have big shoes to fill.

An era is ending tomorrow, and anytime a perfect marriage of a writer and a title comes to an end, it is natural to feel sad. But let’s remember the greatness Geoff Johns brought to DC’s Golden Age characters and rest assured that his talent insures they will carry on for years to come.

Also out this week

Dark Reign: The Cabal

The shadowy Illuminati of the Marvel Universe are basically composed of a bunch of altruistic folks who pretty much respect each other, if not outright like each other. They have come together to keep the world safe and protect it from threats both internal and external.

Their opposite, the Cabal, is composed of members who range from simply self-serving to downright evil. Not only do they not trust each other, they might actually hate each other. Each member has their own individual goals, many of which involve establishing themselves as the lone dictator of the world.

So why would these self-centered baddies want to join a cabal when they usually just want to look out for themselves? That is what this one-shot will answer. We’ll get each member’s motivation, what they expect to get out of the partnership, and how they will get rid of the others if the need arises.

Various (W), Various (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. One-Shot.

Mr. Universe

We like to put faith in our heroes. We like to trust that they will always be there to protect us and they will always put our interest above theirs. That is the kind of faith people put in Mr. Universe, a resolute protector who is always working to keep the people safe. Or so they think. But the reality is much different, and might not be to everyone’s liking.

Mr. Universe has many superpowers, one apparently was the ability to transcend time and space. This one-shot was originally solicited last year. Having to wait so many months for a one-shot could mean that this will be the most finely crafted comic book in the world, or that the creators were woefully unprepared to meet the original solicitation date.

Vassilis Gogtzilas & K.I. Zachopoulos (W), Vassilis Gogtzilas (A), Image Comics, $3.50. One-Shot.

Amazing Spider-Man Family #5

Those of you who thought that the cancellation of Amazing Spider-Girl was the end of May Parker’s story, you were sadly mistaken. History has proven that she is a hard woman to put down. Her own title might have been cancelled, but she lives on in a segment of this anthology.

Of course, anthologies are notoriously short-lived in today’s market. Granted, Spider-Girl will also play a major part in Marvel’s Digital comic output. But the uncertain stability of anthology books and creator Tom DeFalco’s recent statements expressing his dissatisfaction with Marvel, might mean the resilient Spider-Girl might actually be reaching the finish line. 

Various (W), Various (A), Marvel Comics, $4.99. Ongoing Series.

Garth Ennis' Battlefields: Tankies #1

When it comes to the military, unity is very important. Breaking ranks can be fatal to any war effort and division amongst the troops can give the enemy an unfair advantage. However, in the chaos that is armed combat, things happen that are not planned. One tank crew can get separated from their squadron and soldiers can be placed under commanders they can’t stand and vice versa.

Both things are the reality for the British tank crew in this story. They have become separated from the rest of the troops in the hostile, German-occupied World War II French countryside. Their only hope is that their leader, Corporal Stiles, can lead them to safety. But the volatility of their situation is only matched by the rancor in which commander and crew treat each other with. Will they kill each other first before the Germans get the chance to do them in?

Garth Ennis (W), Carlos Ezquerra (A), Dynamite Entertainment, $3.50. Ongoing Series.

The Literals #1

Two weeks ago we let you in on “The Great Fables Crossover,” where the Fables had just discovered that there is a power out there that could end their existence with a stroke of a pen. That above referenced power are The Literals, and this week they begin their own three issue miniseries tying in to the crossover.

The Fables have declared an all-out attack on the Literals, which would be akin to, say, declaring war on God. The Literals created the Fables and the world that they live in. Of course, it’s much easier to destroy something than it is to create something. Have the Fables picked a fight they have no chance of winning? And how will the Literals respond to the Fables’ aggression?

Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges (W), Mark Buckingham (A), DC/Vertigo Comics, $2.99. Three-Issue Miniseries.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine #1

I don’t think the Wolverine month-long extravaganza ending with a one-shot titled the same as the blockbuster movie set to be released at the end of the week is a coincidence. While this issue is not an adaptation of the film (movie studios get testy when a full plot synopsis about an upcoming release is leaked before the movie hits theaters), it does provide something for non-comic fans that have caught Wolvie fever.

This is part of the line of releases detailing the, well, origins of popular X-characters. Newbies picking this issue up will be given a Cliff’s Notes version of Wolverine’s backstory, which would make it easier to jump on any of the 500,000 other Wolverine titles Marvel publishes.

Christopher Yost (W), Mark Texeira (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. One-Shot.

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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  • Eric Lindberg

    Eric Lindberg May 5, 2009 at 2:59am

    Very sad about Geoff Johns' departure from JSA. He turned this into one of DC's best series and kindled my love of the Golden Age. I'm unsure about Willingham and Sturges taking over. They're brilliant on the Fables books but Willingham's DCU work has mostly left me cold. We'll see, I guess.

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