Saturday, August 6, 2011

NEW TO ME: JSA volume 1

Now that I’ve been at the UMaine library for half a year, I am finally availing myself of their services – specifically, utilizing the interlibrary loan functionality in order to get trade collections and graphic novels that I’ve not yet read but have wanted to for some time. The first book I received was volume 1 of Grant Morrison’s much-lauded JLA run. Two posts on that can be found here and here.

The other series I am checking out is the return of the JSA under the guiding hands of David S. Goyer (Blade, Batman Begins) & James Robinson (Starman), which would eventually lead into Geoff Johns’s run on this series from 1999.

I read the first volume – Justice Be Done, collecting issues 1 through 5, plus Secret Files #1 – and it was okay. At least it was better than the initial JLA volume from Morrison, Porter, and Dell.

The story worked well, though it did feel terribly padded. There seemed to be a lot of “talking heads” scenes that were meant to remind readers (or introduce them) to these characters – a mix of the classic JSA heroes such as Alan Scott (the original Green Lantern) and Jay Garrick (the original Flash) and new characters like Sand (once the ward of the golden age Sandman, Wesley Dodds) and Jack Knight, the new Starman from James Robinson’s well-received series of the same name. My thoughts on the first omnibus collection of this series are here.

The main thrust of this first story arc is the pending return of Dr. Fate, and the heroes’ need to find and protect the child who will house the reincarnation of Nabu (the spirit/entity that is Dr. Fate) before Mordru gets to him. For what it was, this was a fairly good story. It set up the new status quo well enough; it brought back a classic version of a classic hero (Dr. Fate), and it came to a climax with a bit of a twist – though a twist I saw coming as soon as Mordru got hold of Nabu’s vestments. But, maybe I’ve read too many superhero comics to be that surprised anymore.

The dialogue – which is something that grates on me in Robinson’s Starman series – was okay, but often fell into “exposition” mode far too much. Again, I get that they were introducing old and underused characters to a “new” audience. But for a writer of Robinson’s acclaim – I found it disappointing.

The art, mainly from penciler Steve Sadowski with inks by Michael Bair, was serviceable. It was, for the most part, solid superhero work with occasional stabs at innovation (a two-page spread with Black Canary comes to mind, but that was ruined by poorly placed word balloons). The storytelling was clear, the characters were recognizable, but it was all pretty “vanilla.” Which isn’t a bad thing – clear storytelling will win over muddled “experimentation” as much as not. But it made little impression on me.

Ultimately, the main thing I took away from this first collection of JSA was that I did not care about these characters. Even Jay Garrick and Alan Scott – characters with which I have a bit of history from my years reading comics – didn’t excite me. And I really wonder if it isn’t a result of James Robinson’s writing. Starman – though I found the initial chapters exciting – is a series I’m unsure I will continue reading past those first sixteen issues of Omnibus #1. The Golden Age did nothing for me. And this is serviceable, at best.

But I will be continuing with JSA because I have enjoyed most of what I’ve read from Geoff Johns, and his work begins in the next trade. I’m anxious to see what he does with the characters and to find out if it’s the characters or the creators that are leaving me cold.


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