Overview

JSA #76

Review

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JSA #76

Credits

  • Words: Geoff Johns
  • Art: David Lopez
  • Inks: Fernando Blanco
  • Colors: John Kalisz
  • Story Title: In Search Of...
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $2.50
  • Release Date: Aug 3, 2005

As the dust settles in the wake of “Black Vengeance,” the JSA regroup and take stock of recent shocking events. But with Infinite Crisis around the corner, the real shock has only begun.

After another stand-off between the JSA and Black Adam, Al Rothstein stands trial for his crimes during the invasion of Kahndaq. To protect The JSA, he pleads guilty. There on the scene of the trial and the media frenzy that surrounds it, Green Lantern, Wildcat, The Flash, Mr. Terrific, and Hawkman try to come to terms with Atom Smasher’s actions and motivations. And watching the trial, Lex Luther’s cadre of villains learn about something far worse than what was done to Dr. Light, perhaps the same development (in The OMAC Project and the current JLA arc) that’s convinced Hawkman that The JSA can do what The League can’t. Meanwhile, Power Girl learns of the death of Blue Beetle, and Hourman wonders about the fate of Jakeem and The Thunderbolt, as well as the recent disappearance of the sorcerers affiliated with The JSA. All of this sets the stage for an attack by an OMAC being. It makes short work of several JSA members, until Al Rothstein literally puts his foot down. Taken into custody, Rothstein’s incarceration seems like a dead end, but may yet turn into a new opportunity. 

“Black Vengeance” is the follow-up to the brilliant “Black Reign,” and is also a Day Of Vengeance tie-in that’s actually better than the main title. Geoff Johns keeps the reader locked in, balancing multiple storylines and subplots with poise and agility, and crafting action sequences in which we feel the pain and struggle as much as the rush of conflict.
But where he really shines is in his complex characterizations. The inner struggles; the secret, unspoken longings; the plethora of chips balanced so delicately on shoulders already weighed down by legacy and responsibility; the dark pasts and interpersonal static that stress team dynamics as much as they strengthen them—these are the aspects that puts JSA on a par with what J. M. Strazcynski and Mark Waid are doing in Supreme Power and The Legion of Super-Heroes, respectively, as well as with what’s been happening to The JLA across a number of titles over the past year. Johns knows, and therefore makes things as tough as possible for his characters. The result is real drama—personal issues drive and deepen the story, and actions have real and lasting consequences.

Consequences are what JSA #76 is all about. Wrap-up issues are tricky things, though, and “In Search Of. . .,” which brings “Black Vengeance” to a close while also tying-in to The Omac Project, walks a fine line between denouement and setting up events that may play out in other titles as Infinite Crisis gets closer. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a letdown. Johns’ character work remains superb—every character is aware that their “victory” in Kahndaq is as much a success as a failure. Likewise, a few new plot developments are hinted at with a subtlety that has me wondering what role the JSA will play in the Crisis to come. But the attack of the OMAC being, while entertaining, also seemed forced and out of nowhere. With more set-up it would be better suited for its own issue; and consequently, “In Search Of . . .” would’ve been a stronger story if the aftermath and repercussions of “Black Vengeance” had been more deeply explored. 

The pencils and ink team of Lopez and Blanco deserve nothing but accolades for their Fallen Angel run. Unfortunately, their strengths on that title are a weakness on JSA. Lopez and Blanco work best with the slower, more deliberate rhythms and plot beats found in mysteries and supernatural stories like those in Fallen Angel, but not as well with pacing and action as ramped up as in the superhero genre. The prevalence of close and medium shots, and therefore fewer panels, also played to their strengths previously; but in JSA, where large and small panels are more rapidly mixed in, their artwork is uneven, particularly in long shots where the images seem unfocused and stilted. Their clean, cool lines and shadings, producing in Fallen Angel the sort of surfaces that hint at much more going on beneath are also out of step in JSA, where greater detail and dynamism are a better fit. Finally, what makes Power Girl one of the most compelling heroines in the DCU—her mind may not be all there, but her formidable physique certainly is—is lost in JSA #76. That she seems like just another chick in tights reminds us what a work of art she is in the hands of an artist like Rags Morales.

Still, “In Search Of. . .,” though flawed, has strengths that make it worth reading. It doesn’t detract at all from the great title that JSA is.

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