Thursday, October 8, 2015

America vs. the Justice Society TPB

Have you ever read something in your younger days, thoroughly enjoyed it, thinking it was one of the best stories ever - - then, you re-read it again as an adult and think to yourself, "This isn't nearly as great as I thought it was..."

Those very thoughts occurred to me as I read the trade paperback collection of America vs. the Justice Society.  This trade collects the four-issue mini-series that was published by DC Comics back in 1985, just before the Justice Society was written out of comics via DC's big crisis that year.  I have always been a huge fan of the Justice Society, and seeing them in their very own mini-series at that time was a huge deal for me (they were already appearing in the on-going series All-Star Squadron, set in World War II, as well as showing up once in a while in Infinity, Inc. and their once-a-year team-up with the JLA in the Justice League title).  I could not get enough of the JSA.

Re-reading this four issue mini-series now, however, I discovered a number of things about the story.  First, and foremost, is the fact that the actual story of the Batman's supposed diary accusing the JSA of being Nazis is not in the forefront of the tale.  Neither is the main villain of the story, who isn't revealed fully until the end of issue three.  No, what seems to be the main focus of this story (and perhaps the real purpose behind writing and publishing the tale) is the full history of the JSA.

Don't get me wrong - I love the JSA, and for me, Roy Thomas is probably one of the greatest chroniclers of their stories.  But in re-reading this tale, I pretty much skimmed over a great deal of it, as it has the various members of the JSA - in defending themselves against the Congressional committee investigating the claims of Batman's diary - re-telling every single adventure and story the JSA has ever had - from their formation all the way through their recent fight with the stream of ruthlessness in the Infinity, Inc. title.  If you took out all of the pages re-telling their history, the story would probably be less pages than it would take to fill one standard-sized comic.

Leaving me to wonder - DC knew at this time that they would be sending the JSA off into the netherverse, supposedly to no longer be an active part of the DC Universe, so was this DC's way of giving the JSA a nice send-off, recapping their 40-year history?  Was Roy Thomas asked to write a story that could integrate a re-telling of their history as a way of honoring the first super-group?  I don't know.  What I do know is that it was definitely a thrill for me to see all of the members of the Justice Society in a big tale like this, even if it was their last hurrah.

And I suppose I should be happy this was published back in 1985.  Looking at how much story was packed into those four issues, in today's comic world, where there is a stronger emphasis on splash pages and big flashy art, and less emphasis on telling a compact story, this same tale would probably be spread out over a 12-issue series, if not longer.

The one thing this trade did make me feel was nostalgic - VERY nostalgic.  I totally miss this version of the Justice Society and Earth-2.  The Earth-2 that exists in DC comics today, and the heroes (if you can call them that) who exist on that world are a far cry from this vintage characters.  Long live the JSA!!!!!

RATING:  7 golden-age heroes out of 10 just because it's the Justice Society of America!

1 comment:

  1. Au contraire, mon frere!!! Like you, I am a huge JSA fan. Unlike you, though, I believe I enjoyed re-reading this story now than when it was originally released. If I remember correctly, several other stories were supposed to launch as a result, including a long-promised Spectre miniseries -- first mentioned in JLA #219 or #220. That's not to say that it was a perfect miniseries, however.

    It is true that Crisis on Infinite Earths was just around the corner. There are so many stories floating around about Crisis that the one I remember best -- which is NOT mentioned in the Absolute Crisis Compendium -- is that Crisis on Infinite Earths was originally going to end with two earths surviving -- Earth-One and Earth-Two. I wish I still had my copies of Comics Buyer's Guide from 1984 because that's where I read the statement that two earths were going to survive.

    You are correct that the story comes across as more of a JSA Who's Who in Adventuring than trying to solve the mystery of the Batman diary. The JSA boasts two of the best detectives -- Robin and the Huntress -- and neither is shown trying to solve the mystery of the diary after Superman verifies that it was in the left-handed writing Batman used. Writer/editor Roy Thomas's story provides enough clues to determine who is behind everything, but there are some pretty big holes in the plot. (Bruce Wayne had cancer and only told one of his kids? Even with his erratic Psycho Pirate-induced behavior in the 1970s All-Star Comics run, he wasn't that cruel.) Had this truly been a mystery, Thomas would have been smart to get Mike W. Barr -- the best writer of mysteries DC had at that time -- to write the story.

    When I read this miniseries back in 1984-85, what I disliked most was that it had so many different artists. Now, however, I see that the inking of Alfredo Alcala, whose art I enjoyed in DC's mystery titles and as inker on several Batman stories, actually makes the art look uniform throughout the story.

    I guess, for me, it was a nice walk in a once-familiar park. The path you loved is no longer there except in memory. It's a shame that DC continues to deny fans of the JSA with a series they really want, and it's a bigger shame that DC didn't do more to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the JSA.