JSA by Geoff Johns Book Four (2020)
Reprints JSA #32-45
Written by Geoff Johns & David Goyer
Art by Peter Snejbjerg, Leonard Kirk, Keith Champagne, Steve Sadowski, and Patrick Gleason
There is something deeply satisfying about reading Geoff Johns’s JSA run. When I was a kid with a limited amount of money to spend while perusing the comic rack on the wall at Kroger, I always leaned towards the team books because it was more economical in my line of thinking. I wanted to expand my knowledge of obscure characters, and team books always gave you the most characters for your buck. So, as an adult, when I stumbled across this run by Johns, it was like my childhood dream come true. He always found creative ways to weave together disparate strands of the DC Universe by using those commonalities.
Our book opens with Jakeem Thunder meeting his long lost relative, Johnny Thunder, the Golden Age Justice Society’s former mascot. This opening chapter is also an excellent overview of where things were at with the team at this moment. Black Canary says her goodbyes and talks to Power Girl on the way out, talking about her feelings about each member.
We have a small moment between Sand Hawkins and Hawkman, who have romantic ties to Hawkgirl. Stargirl stumbles across a clandestine conversation between Black Adam & Atom-Smasher, seeds for a later storyline. It all comes tumbling down when longtime nemesis Ultra-Humanite reveals himself.
The first full arc encompasses the fight against a world that Ultra-Humanite has conquered, taking control of the minds of almost everyone. Jakeem Thunder finds allies in Power Girl, Captain Marvel, Sand, the new Crimson Avenger, and Hourman. A lot of the story spotlights Hourman, aka Rick Tyler, the son of the original hero.
Johns delivers a wonderful moment by revealing that the Hourman of the future created 60 minutes where Rick can visit his dad, Rex, before his death. Both men know every visit takes minutes off the clock and start out by using it strategically when Rick is in a difficult moment. Eventually, Rick says he wants to spend time with his dad that isn’t all about superheroics. Johns writes these characters and moments like these with them so well.
There are parallel relationships told in this arc as well. Starting with Jakeem and Johnny Thunder, we explore how important it is to pass the torch, to know when it’s time to step away and allow a younger generation to take center stage. Johnny finds a way to remain, but he knows this Jakeem’ ‘s show now. Alternately, we have Cameron Mahkent, the villainous Icicle, son of the original Icicle. Cameron is very conflicted over the legacy he’s carrying on but just can’t step away from being murderous, almost admitting he’s living up to the standard set by his father and just can’t do better.
There are a couple of one-offs featuring a convict who has a toxic crush for Power Girl. The next is a story about Doctor Mid-Nite facing down the grandson of a nemesis of the good doctor’s namesake. These are fun stories that are centered firmly around the themes Johns has woven through the series. They don’t really add to the larger arcs but provide a nice breather between the epic events. Nowadays, Johns is the guy they bring to write event comics rather than long slow burn runs. I think something has happened to his workflow because his titles are becoming regularly delayed. His recent Shazam series was canceled after multiple delays even before coronavirus.
The next big event has some members of the team (Hawkgirl, Mr. Terrific, and Captain Marvel) pulled back to the 1940s, where they meet Terry Sloane, the original Mr. Terrific. A time-traveling villain crosses generations and is soundly defeated but not before sending the trio of modern-day heroes even further back to ancient Egypt. There they encounter Vandal Savage, an immortal caveman and a constant hindrance to the JSA.
We also get to spend time with Prince Khufu, the original incarnation of Hawkman, Black Adam before he became a villain, and Ahk-Ton, a man in possession of the Orb of Ra, which would eventually create Metamorpho centuries later. If you are a DC fan, this story is a great crossing of storylines and characters that makes the universe feel more cohesive in the way Marvel often does.
The final issue sets up one of the most significant storylines in the series by first placing our characters at cult leader & terrorist Kobra’s trial. Atom-Smasher wants to strike back over the death of his mother. Hector Hall, aka Doctor Fate, makes a shocking discovery about his comatose wife, Lyta. Alex Montez decides to go down a dark medical path to save his sister Yolanda. Black Adam finally reveals his angle and reasons behind his secrecy. It’s a perfect cliffhanger to leave readers salivating for the next books, which can’t come fast enough.