Justice Society of America: The Next Age

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Was there a single DC title Geoff Johns didn’t have a hand in writing during this era?? It certainly doesn’t seem like it.  His name crops up on “the shelf” more frequently than just about any other writer. Not that I’m complaining; he writes some damn fine comics, so if he’s going to keep it up, who am I to complain?

Much like the recent Justice League trade, this comic serves as a reintroduction of the Justice Society.  There are many familiar faces here, but I want to instead focus on a few of the new heroes, because they’re the ones I found to be the most interesting.

First up are Hour Man and Liberty Belle. Technically, neither are completely new characters, but I’m seeing them in new roles.  I’m used to knowing Jesse Chambers as Jesse Quick, so seeing her adopt a completely new identity threw me for a loop.  What’s even more interesting is the fact that she and Hour Man are in a relationship, a factor that doesn’t actually play into the comic all that much.  It’s merely a fact about the characters that’s mentioned briefly and then brushed aside for more important storylines.

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I must say, I kind of liked that. So many stories focus on romantic entanglements (which don’t get me wrong, I enjoy immensely) but there’s just so much going on in this comic that I was glad any sort of romantic drama didn’t play into it.  These characters are connected, but it’s not the sole focus of the story. It makes for a more believable world than a comic in which the fate of the entire story hangs on a single relationship.

There are plenty of introductions in this comic, but many of them are slow builds. Take, for example, Nathan Heywood, the grandson of Commander Steel and, little does he know, the next member of his family to inherit the “Steel” legacy.

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Nathan doesn’t play much part in the storyline yet; instead, his origin story plays out alongside the more immediate action.  It’s a great method of introducing a new character while still propelling the main story; simply build your plot around his origin, so that it fits neatly into the story you’ve created.  I can’t say I have any feelings, positive or negative, towards Nathan yet; after all, he’s been comatose for most of the trade.  Still, I appreciate the way Johns introduces him, so at least the character’s got that going for him.

One of the more surprising twists in the story is the revelation that Wildcat, notorious ladies man and loner, has a son.  Not only that, but this son has some pretty unique powers.

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Whereas Wildcat only dresses up in a cat costume, his son Tom has the ability to transform into a cat-creature.  While Ted is certainly a reluctant father, he seems to want to do what’s right, and will no doubt be single-handedly responsible for training his son to fight.  Given Tom’s rather extensive powers, I have a feeling he’ll be able to hold his own against his old man.

And, of course, I have to mention my favorite new character in the trade: Maxine Hunkel.  Gifted with wind powers, she’s approached to join the JSA and has quite possibly the cutest (and most realistic) response ever.

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She jabbers on and on and on, to the point that Power Girl has to threaten to revoke her membership if she doesn’t shut up.

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Something about this scene just instantly endeared the character to me. Perhaps its the inevitable fangirl freakout that we would all have if one of our heroes asked us to join a super important club; I know I’d certainly be unable to contain my enthusiasm.  Or, maybe it’s just that Maxine seems so genuinely excited about the prospect. That last panel, where she’s crying from sheer happiness, feels so realistic, and conveys the exact emotion we would all expect her to show.  Adopting the name of Cyclone, Maxine in clearly still new to the scene and hasn’t quite found her footing, but she brings an aura of brightness and innocence to the group.  Stargirl, though roughly the same age, has been in the superhero game longer and seen a lot more, and so has lost a bit of that vivacious excitement that standing shoulder to shoulder with your heroes would inevitably bring about.

Plus, you know, she’s Ma Hunkel’s granddaughter, and I love a good obscure reference to the Golden Age.

Like the recent Justice League trade, this comic helps revitalize the Society by uniting old and new members.  Some are mainstays, while others are entirely new to the scene.  Usually I’m in favor of keeping the classics, but lately I’ve been more willing to open up to these newer characters, and am excited to see what they can bring to the table.  Given the strength of these opening issues, I think it’s safe to say it’ll be plenty.

-Jess

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