Pick of the Week

January 2, 2009 – Justice Society of America #22

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Avg Rating: 4.5
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 20.2%
 
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Size: pages
Price: 2.99

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR KINGDOM COME.

With an ending like that, could there be any other choice?

A few weeks ago on the Pick of the Week show, we discussed Marvels: Eye of the Camera, the sequel to Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’ modern day classic mini-series Marvels. I said then that Marvels did not need a sequel, that it was a perfect standalone story. I then said that Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come was the same in that regard. It is a perfect stand alone story that does not warrant a sequel.

Well, a sequel is what we got.

Superman of Earth-22 (aka Kingdom Come) first appeared in Justice Society of America way back in issue nine. If you count the one shot issues, what we have here is the conclusion to a grand 16 part story that started in late 2007. I know that the joke has been that this story has been going on forever, but I had forgotten just how long it really has been happening. Between this, the sprawling Blackest Night tale being spun in Green Lantern, and the epic in the making that is New Krypton in the Superman books, Geoff Johns is playing some serious long game in his books, the kind that is almost unheard of these days in superhero books from DC and Marvel.

This issue deals with the final (is anything ever really final?) battle between Gog and the Justice Society of America. Previous to this issue, Gog appeared and proclaimed himself a god, and then walked the Earth healing the sick and feeding the hungry. He granted the greatest desires to those members of the Justice Society of America who chose to follow him. And then it all went badly, as we knew it must. Gog demanded fealty. Gog demanded unquestioning worship. Gog demanded the loss of free will.

What Gog didn’t realize was that he was dealing with the Justice Society of America.

Even when faced with great personal sacrifice and pain, they’re not going to take that kind of shit from anyone, even a self-proclaimed god with the power to match.

Last month the fight against Gog began, and this month it ended. And even though we got some great character stuff from Steel and Damage and Cyclone in the midst of the fight (and afterwards) this issue is really all about Superman.

Superman was pulled from Kingdom Come at the moment of the nuclear blast at the climax of that story and he has spent his time on Earth-1 working to prevent history from repeating itself. And now that Gog has ascended and Magog has been created, Superman realized that he is at the brink of failure again and that if something isn’t done soon he will have lost two Earths. After Gog is finally defeated and Superman and Starman (also from Earth-22, aka Kingdom Come) finally dispatch him to The Source Wall, that celestial gravesite that never seems to hold anyone for too long, Superman realizes that there is nothing more he can do on Earth-1, and that he must return home. Starman, having the ability to control star gates between the multiverse, sends Superman back to the exact moment that he was first plucked out of his Earth, right as the atomic bomb explodes, wiping out most of the superheroes and villains.

That’s when Alex Ross takes over.

Intercut with the Justice Society of Earth-1 regrouping from the fight with Gog and dealing with the handful of members who have been forever changed, or who have had their greatest wishes granted and then yanked away (with art by series regular Dale Eaglesham), we see the return of Superman to Earth-22 (with art by Alex Ross). And for the first seven pages we are treated to highlights from the end of Kingdom Come. It’s all scenes we’ve seen before but there is a bit of new meaning in Superman’s quiet triumph. Where once he thought that all hope was lost on two worlds he now knows that the opposite is in fact true.

In the final panel set on Earth-1, Stargirl and Steel ask Starman about Superman and Starman says:

Oh, Superman went home. But don’t you worry. I’ve seen his future! And he has quite a life ahead of him.

This leads to the final three pages of the book (after one more page showing a scene we’ve already seen from Kingdom Come) which are entirely painted by Alex Ross and set in Earth-22 as we see Superman’s life play out beyond the end of Kingdom Come (even beyond the end of the post-script that was added to the trade paperback release).

We see Clark, Diana, and Bruce playing with the kids they promised to raise together. We see Bruce’s funeral. We see Clark and Diana’s kids all grown up. We see the ocean finally overtaking New York City. We see Clark plucking corn from a vertical corn field. And finally, 1,000 years after the end of Kingdom Come, we see the Legion of Super-Heroes (in a recreation from a throwaway panel from Kingdom Come) lead by Superboy flying overhead, and in the midst of a crowd of awed on-lookers we see an old man with a wry smile and unmistakable glasses.

Say what you will about Alex Ross – I happen to really like his art a lot – and yes, sometimes his characters are stiff and the action can be stiffer, but when he’s on, as he is in these final pages, there is so much warmth and human emotion that comes through his work. That final smile is so utterly contagious that I am smiling now as I think about it.

There have been times in the last 16 chapters that I felt somewhat impatient, ready for the story to get moving, ready for Gog to finish walking (as much fun as that was), but in the end none of that mattered.

Not with a final panel like that.

Conor Kilpatrick
I’ll miss Old Supes
conor@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. I haven’t been reading JSA so I may have to pick this up in trades…

  2. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    As someone who really, really didn’t like KINGDOM COME, this almost makes me want to re-read the thing.  KC Supes is a tremendous character, and seeing him in the context of the regular DCU was a great showcase.  I honestly think it’s the contrast that sells it for me.  The Alex Ross panels really worked here.  Maybe the trick isn’t to restrict him to covers, but to also use him for impact like the montage at the end of this book.  I don’t know if there is any other scenario where his art could be incorporated with someone else’s, but this was a perfect implementation of his style.  Perfect balance.  

    And, man, did I miss crazy Starman.  Glad to see him back!  

  3. Damn fine pick.  This issue was moving. This felt like it added something meaningful to the already excellent ending of Kingdom Come.

    I am sure this was a difficult task.  I can’t remember reading more excellent books in a single week. 

    I gave this book, Wolverine, and Green Lantern five stars.  All three were very, very enjoyable.

  4. I started this week by reading Green Lantern. And after I finished I said to myself "I dont think anything will beat that". Then I read Wolverine. And afterwards I said to myself "Holy crap. Nothing’s gonna beat that." Then I read this, and after said to myself "Nothing can even come close to beating that." And nothing did. But overall, (including other things like Superman and Incognito) I think this may have been the best week for comics in a long long time. Talk about kicking off the new year in style.

  5. @jerichobp I agree with you, this was a damn fine week!

  6. This was an awesome week for comics. I started wiht my most anticipated one (Wolverine, which was fucking amazing holy crap) and then worked my way down. then came Green Lantern (love the blue lanterns), JSA (great starman action and good panels), Kick-Ass (nice team-up but why so long waiting?), Captain America (nice story nice art but kinda repetitive), Incognito (Holy Cow wicked nice love the Noir, Superman (Aluras a real bitch by the way), Guardians of The Galaxy (poor Peter Quill…), Scalped (HOLY CRAP RED CROW!!), Punisher War Journal (great final issue and loved Rhino actually helping Frank), Batman (great Nightwing story), Avengers/Invaders (good storyline but kinda long…), and finished it off with Avengers: The Initiative (which was a great ending but now for A:TI Dissassembled??). My personal pick was Wolverine but JSA was second. Wolverine gets mad props though. JSA was awesome and im glad i started this series AGES ago.

  7. Is the panel of the statue of Liberty a reference to the first page of Kirby´s Kamandi?

    Great Pick…It saddens me to think Johns run it´s coming to an end…

    Also, Flash also ended. Johns soon will be running there.

  8. My LCS didn’t get their books in today and I have to wait until Monday!  Then more new comics again on Wednesday. My wallet will not be happy next week.

  9. I couldn’t have said it better, an amazing book.

  10. @Conor. Wonderful review. This book was truly transcendent.

    What Johns accomplished in a single book – removing the imminent threat of Gog and transitioning Kingdom Come Superman back to Earth 22 – was almost unbelievable. 

  11. I found this issue pretty damn derivitaive and masturbatory. Probably the weakest issue of JSA in my opinion.

    I’ve only read half of my stack at the moment though, so i can’t really say what my pick is

  12. How about that full page of KC Superman picking up Gogs head and saying, "Don’t ever quit"? I was floored by that page. I can’t believe an artist other than Ross captured the essence of what I love about this version of Superman. Great stuff.

  13. Couldn’t have said it better myself.  I was absolutely floored by the awesomeness that was this week in comics.  GL, JSA, Wolverine, and Incredible Hercules.  Damn good week.

  14. Anything that has original Alex Ross drawings should be a pick of the week for me…..But sadly Green Lantern was all too much awesome for this to be topped.

    This was a fantastic issue though and it was .00001 close to being my pick either way. That last panel with the old Superman looking at us, the reader, just gave me the shivers. Perfect way to end a great arc.

  15. nice review conor, i am tingling  

     

    and spare a thought for the ifanbase in australia, we don’t get own books until tuesday

  16. Wow. This is brilliant.

     The split pannels top and bottom, juxtapositioning the different earths. the art. The subtle hints that tell the readers who have read the other stories what Johns is alluding, to but still lets new readers follow along. Plus, Alex Ross works so well in this context. Funny but 3 issues ago when they let Jergins do some pages it almost felt like a cop out–like they were ripping the reader off. But when Ross comes in it’s like they are giving us a bonus.

  17. with such a big week I had missed this at the shop but after your review had to pick it up.  Great pick!

  18. MY favorite panel was Dr. Mid-nite using the old ‘blind’ excuse to cop a cheap feel off of cyclone.  What a dirty old man.  Seriously, that panel is priceless.

  19. You’re going to enjoy the show this week I think.

  20. I thought this was a most satisfying conclusion to the Gog arc. However I find myself wondering if I am done with this title for the time being. It feels like things have arced enough with the selection of new heroes, their training, and now their first world saving event. I wonder if this is the best point to go out on top. 

  21. @josh When do we get another live recording?

  22. We were shooting for one at the end of last month, but it sort of fell apart.  At this point, I’m not sure.  It’s on our minds, and we’re going to try to do another one, but it hasn’t worked out quite yet.

    When we do, we’ll let you know.  Sorry it’s been so long!

  23. @silentslayer: Do you mean live in person, or live on ustream?

  24. Ohhh.

    Apparently I have a guilty conscience.

  25. @Josh: Excellent.  I’m glad someone else noticed.  I felt a little thats-what-she-said-ish about that last comment, but it was just hanging there….

  26. This was the best week of comics in recent memory.  A great way to start off a new year, full of potential.

    I agree, JSA was so good, it almost brought tears to my eyes (reminiscent of All Star Sup 10 and Y 60.)

    what  a great week, where any of the following would have been a decent pick of the week (GL, Incognito, NOrthlanders, Old man Logan;) all of my books were good (Manifest Destiny, Cap, Supes, Back to Brooklyn, even Kick Ass!)

  27. I was thinking live on ustream.

  28. Oh, we’ll do that again before too long, I’m sure.  We’ll try to let you know.

  29. I dropped this in the middle of the run because it was feeling a little draggy.  When DC collects this whole story into a big HC or trade (in the year 2138), I’ll go ahead and pick it up. 

    On a side note, I just got back from the comic shop after missing for two weeks because of the holidays and my stack of comics is about 7 inches thick, and when added to my stack of trades and HCs, I’m looking at two and a half feet of reading.  Oh boy.

  30. I had a similar experience.

    I now have multiple "stacks" located at different places in the house.

  31. I was laughing for two minutes straight after seeing that Mid-Nite/Cyclone panel. 🙂

    Great storyline and a great ending. 

  32. I’m reading this in trades, but it’s been a good run so far.  I am at the point where I feel like they’ve got too many characters for me to care about, but the addition of KC Superman was a good one.  I’ll be sad to see him go.

     As for the idea of long form story telling, it’s rare partially because creators rarely know how long they have on a book.  I’d say that only Johns, Bendis and Brubaker (on Cap) are doing it at any of the two main companies.  They also seem to be the only ones who get left alone to tell their stories, as opposed to having their books hijacked for Final Invasions or what have you. 

  33. I agree with Connor’s review. This one, even if it took so long to tell, was spectacular!

  34. the ending got me choked up. JSA is awesome, I got a friend who didn’t read comics reading this.

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