Friday, September 08, 2023

Things That Made Me Happy in My Comics This Week: Justice Society of America #6

I read Justice Society #6 this week.  

Apparently in #5, which I read but have already forgotten, the Villain Who Couldn't Be Stopped and Who Kicked All Our Asses Simultaneously was stopped by the Heroes Trying Harder All Together.  But that's how EVERY Geoff John's plot (certainly those with the JSA) ends.  It also ends the other way every (possible) Geoff Johns' story ends:

with Courtney being right.

Because Stargirl shits g-d marble, as we all know. Because it took Stargirl to come up with the radical idea of the JSA taking time-displaced Golden Age side-kicks under their wing. I'm sure that wouldn't have occurred to Mister Terrific, one of the DCU's three smartest humans, without her help.  He was probably on the verge of sending them to Granny Goodness.

But that sort of thing aside, I enjoyed the issue (as follows).

The Stranding of The World's Phinest.

Power Girl's in the mix, too, for different reasons, but I forget whether Johns did that, and, regardless, it didn't happen in the pages of this Justice Society story.

When Geoff Johns wants A Baby, he is (unlike many writers) PERFECTLY capable of throwing out The Bathwater.  And in this case the Baby is Helena Wayne (NOT Bertinelli).  Johns does not shy away from the crux of a character, no matter how stupid or inconvenient it may be, he makes that crux his battle standard.

Geoff Johns knows darned well that the FUNCTION of the Huntress character is to be the daughter of Batman and Catwoman; if she is not THAT, she serves no purpose.  So that's what the Huntress is.  From a future she has now wiped out by her (heroic) actions in the present, and to which, therefore, she cannot return. Fin. 

Sensible Batman.

Johns' Bruce Wayne is sensible, calm, and supportive.  Because of course he is. Batman is a Golden Age hero, after all, although we forget to think of him that way.

He's going to help this Helena lady, who is not his child at all (even though her father WAS Bruce Wayne), because it's the right thing to do.  In a way that doesn't smother her and keeps her out of his hair, but, jeez, one unsolicited offspring whose creation he wasn't involved in is MORE than enough.  Amusingly, Johns' even has Helena mention the current Batman storyline where he's running around like a basketcase fighting his own family, in stark contrast to His Normal Self we see here.  Johns loves to troll that sort of thing.

Flash back.

GJ has just dumped a passel of Golden Age sidekicks into the present. Obviously lots of their stories will have to do with the difficulties of adjusting or making themselves part of current families and dynasties blah blah. 

But Flash hasn't got time for that nonsense.  Judy Garrick returns and when his dad remembers her, everyone else does, because it's Jay Garrick and that's just how it is.


Steel's Ancestry.

You're his great-uncle, numbskull. It's not exactly a "post-War" concept.

This one is interesting to me.  It's unique because it's kind of backwards.  The sidekick isn't getting iconic oomph from a connection to a Golden Age hero; he's GIVING Golden Age oomph to a Modern Hero.  John Henry "Steel" Irons has zero connection to the Golden Age.  His roots go EXACTLY to the Death of Superman story, which Golden Age fan GJ knows is a weak point for any character.  So he's inserting this fellow (he hardly looks as if calling him a "kid" is appropriate) into Steel's PAST as a way of connecting Steel to the Golden Age.  Might as well; no one else has ever been able to figure out what to do with Steel, a literary conundrum that has stumped even the likes of Shaquille O'Neal.

Justifiable Rudeness

There is little I hate more in comics than the Gratuitously Unpleasant Character. Like, well, any character being written by Roy Thomas.  And the last place such a character should be is in the JSA or its derivatives.

One of the many Things Roy Thomas Didn't Understand, since none of his characters can get through two sentences without being ****s.

So obviously "Salem", the stupidly named and snide protégé of the Golden Age Dr. Fate, Kent Nelson, has been my least favorite of the rediscovered sidekicks. At least until GJ explained WHY she is like that.

She's rude in order to keep people at a distance so THEY DON'T DIE BY HER CURSE.  That's some Greek Tragedy stuff, right there.

Simple. Elegant. Rooted in the character's origin.  You don't have to always like WHAT Geoff Johns is doing to appreciate the sheer EFFICIENCY with which he does it.

He COULD have tried to streamline Dr. Fate's history. But he didn't. Because it's messy and that's just now a core part of the character.  

The Red Bee's Legacy

"As insane as it sounds" is Geoff Johns' credo.


M I C H A E L.

GJ knows that Michael, THE ABSURDITY of Michael, is at the crux of the Red Bee. Johns doesn't shy away from that as a stupid embarrassment, he embraces it with the fervor of a post-War lover returning to his beloved.

So Michael, who apparently is not only hyperintelligent BUT AGELESS, is there to greet his sidekick in our time.  Because all you need for the Red Bee is Superior City, a hero in a ridiculous costume (which this girl CERTAINLY qualifies as), and... Michael.

I like to imagine that Michael occasionally does lunch with Detective Chimp and Rex the Wonder Dog.  Very quiet lunches. Until Robbie the Robot Dog shows up.

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Things That Made Me Happy in My Comics This Week: Blue Beetle

I read Blue Beetle #1 and it pleased me.

Paco and Brenda are back.  

I, for one, am happy Paco is still "disgusting".

You can do a lot of things with Blue Beetle.  But if you are going to use Jaime Reyes, you need Paco and Brenda.  They are to Jaime as Lois & Jimmy are Clark (although, of course, they are nothing like Lois & Jimmy): essential supporting characters.  They barely appear in the issue, but the brief appearance is so on the spot, it's as if they'd never been gone.

Ted Kord as Jaime's Mentor.  

Ted is not focused on his ship; he's focused on Jaime.

The series begins with Ted Kord serving as Jaime Reyes's mentor. I don't think that has any historical precedent (that I have personally read, anyway).  Jaime was created precisely because Ted Kord was off the table (with an acute case of Being Dead).  But Jaime and Ted are a very natural pairing; Jaime's (and the series) respect for Ted Kord are off the charts, not only as he appears and acts in the present, but how he serves his role in the Blue Beetle lineage.  

This is, shall we say, called into question by a unknown interloper who encounters Ted and, um... leaves him a bit worse for wear.  NOT dead (yet), as I have seen reported in the media, because dead people aren't still talking.  I hope Ted gets better soon, because in just ONE ISSUE, the creative team re-established him beautifully and I would hate to see that go to waste.  Jaime deserves Ted and, frankly, so do we.

Jaime as a leader.

If that doesn't warm your heart, why read comics?

Jaime, whether he wants to be or, now has to be a leader. Not just of his soon-to-be-discussed sidekicks, but to the community of Reach-related extraterrestrials who (for some reason) are now living somewhere in intermittent seclusion in Palmera City.  That's too much responsible for a college freshman to have to deal with (in addition to have superpowers)... and that is exactly the kind of problem Jaime deserves as part of his stories.

Respect for Legacy

That sort of thing (using Classic foes and acknowledge past iterations of the heroic identity) is easy to take for granted now in DC Comics. DON'T.  Recognize, appreciate, and reward it, because it didn't used to be a given at.  Some of us still remember Jared Stevens and even if you don't, it wasn't that long ago that DC was run by someone eager to obliterate as much of DC's history as necessary to install his 5G creations (and their ilk) in those characters's place.  Never take respect for history for granted.


I love it when people speak in LOGOES.

"Colleagues" or "lieutenants" might be technically more accurate descriptions of Dynastes & Nitida, but... it's comics. They're sidekicks.  I have little idea who they are (surely introduced in Jaime's graduation one-shot), but I get everything I need about them from this appearance.  They have powers that are similar, but lesser and not identical to Jaime's, they are less expert and prudent in using them, so Jaime is their leader.  They work well as complements to Jaime, in how the look, what they do, and what their personalities are like.  It's almost as if the creative team knew the wisdom of positioning your main hero as the centerpiece of a dynasty of characters!


Mistakes are made by the characters in this issue.  Jaime has insufficient control over his lieutenants; they have insufficient control over their powers; Ted Kord gets in WAY over his head against a foe, despite all his gadgetry.  Too many creators are terrified to let their characters be anything less than Perfect Combatants and Strategists.  But superheroes are characters with a LOT of power; if they are too perfect there is no suspense.  The only character who gets to be perfect is, well, Batman, a benefit HE gets because he's otherwise powerless.

The art.

That art is nearly Golden Age in its solidity and simplicity.

I was worried after glancing at the Blue Beetle graduation one-shot that Blue Beetle as a property had fallen irretrievably into the uncanny valley of anime-style, with the big jagged mouths and single pop-eyes, like someone just couldn't shake the effects of loving Invader Zim.  And while there is SOME of that herein, it's a spice not a main dish (as the above snips make clear).  I'm especially pleased by how Ted Kord, with his simpler more abstract costume design, is allowed to seem exactly like what he is: a simpler character from a different time (but still appropriate to this one).