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.


Anonymous said...

Okay. Now I have to pick this up.


-- Jack of Spades

Anonymous said...

"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 much this.

Also, I like the idea that the New 52 Earth-2 is goner than gone.

Also, months ago when the topic of these lost sidekicks came up, you correctly predicted that Johns's goal was to reinforce Golden Age ties, and I think it's fair to say your prophecy came true. Dude is even making Steel fit into a dynasty more appropriate to him, and it's hard to argue against that. It's fine that Steel has history with Superman; a lot of heroes do. But putting Steel into a dynasty that makes sense is a good plan.

I really can't get into Alan Scott having his own Sinestro foil though. Sinestro is boring. The only reason anyone cares about him is because they remember him from "Challenge of the Superfriends".

- HJF1

Scipio said...

"the New 52 Earth-2 is goner than gone."
It is. But it's important to remember that one of the cleverest things about this new multiverse is how it's having its JSA cake and eating it, too. The JSA is and was on Earth-One, just as we see them. BUT THERE IS STILL an Earth-2, where the Classic JSA exist WITHOUT the Justice League.

"correctly predicted" Oh, I get no credit for 'predicting'; that's mere observation. This is what GJ does, as surely as the sun rises in the east.

"Sinestro is boring" Perhaps. But GJ (and many others) LOVES the Evil Counterpart Trope and symmetry & patterns generally. Red Lantern helps him place Alan Scott is a context more similar to the modern Green Lantern (with his alt-colored counterparts) as well as one rooted in the post-WWII Cold War.

Anonymous said...

About the alt-colored counterparts, I know most people love them, but I think they were a mistake. Or at least, they were handled wrong IMHO. If it were up to me I'd do it like so:

1) Each color works differently and in some fashion that is consistent with the type of energy. Green is all about free will and the power is a tool, so it goes on the hand as a ring or other implement. Red ought to be about the fury in one's heart and should manifest as, maybe, angry red fire that comes out of the mouth; no rings involved.

2) Green is the only color that you can build a stable corps out of, exactly because it doesn't push its members in any emotional direction. The other colors can be used, but the results are usually like when college students try to build a meth lab: sooner than later there's a big explosion.

If I were making a new arch nemesis for Alan Scott, and I wanted to make him Soviet, I'd be tempted to give him primal ties to Russia / Siberia. Like, the power of very old and very nasty gods. If someone absolutely forced me to mirror Alan's origin, I'd say that the Tunguska explosion of 1908 was caused by a chunk of evil falling to earth, and it prophesied that it would glow three times (to bring death, to bring more death, and to bring even more death).

- HJF1

Bryan L said...

I'm really looking forward to Michael's backstory, which is a sentence I NEVER thought I'd type. Bees basically only live a month or so, and I'm very curious to see how Johns handles that. Is it a spirit that inhabits a new bee every month? Did Michael get hit with some of the longevity magic that the JSA got? Is Michael a Manhunter robot? (God, not that one, please.)

Still missing the Stargirl TV show. If Johns could somehow blackmail someone into reviving that on MAX or whatever, I would be eternally grateful.

Anonymous said...

“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.”


Maybe Shaq should stay away from the Superman family altogether. I heard he had legal problems after getting too close to Krypto.

- Mike Loughlin

Scipio said...

" the Tunguska explosion of 1908 was caused by a chunk of evil falling to earth, and it prophesied that it would glow three times (to bring death, to bring more death, and to bring even more death)."

That is nothing short of brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Thank you sir! I've actually been toying with the thought of how an Evil Tunguska Guy would work.

So first the chunk of evil crashes to earth, causes death and destruction upon impact. (That's "to bring death".) But then its evil starts corrupting all that grows around it; a tree starts to grow in direct contact with the evil, and the evil gets absorbed into it. Meanwhile, some local tribesmen are drawn into the evil and become a cult that practices human sacrifices. (That's "to bring more death".) And when Soviet researchers eventually encounter this tribe, they of course slaughter the tribesmen, and one of the Soviets with a unique capacity for causing suffering brings the evil back in a totem created by the tribesmen from that tree. So instead of a ring like Alan he'd have that totem, whose power he could direct to bring even more death.

I probably wouldn't have Evil Tunguska Guy use the totem the way Alan's ring works; no flaming constructs, more the power to cause the living to wither and die, or the good to be turned to evil. A lot of attack methods that are difficult for Alan to directly counter, and that feel like very old and very evil magic.

- HJF1

Anonymous said...

I’ve grown ambivalent about Johns over the years. He’s like a great photographer - he can capture a core essence that seems to tell a bigger story. But he’s not a filmmaker - he can’t connect the images into a larger, more powerful narrative. His stories are paper thin. He creates brilliant character portraits but doesn’t do the world building to make them feel like they are alive in a fictional reality. And ironically for the definitive DC writer, his plotting is like a Chris Claremont X-Men comic. In his entire career, Johns has never written a comic where the heroes weren’t at least some part of the villains plot (and usually the entire focus). If the heroes didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be any threat which feels more a Marvel thing than a DC thing.

I do think the Bertinelli Huntress could have had a compelling reason to exist if they had post-crisis made her a Green Arrow character.