Monday, February 11, 2008

Out Of Time: Part 1 (DC)
JSA #65 When: November 2004
Why: Geoff Johns How: Don Kramer

The Story so far...
During the Golden Age of superheroes in the forties, many of the heaviest hitting heroes united to form a powerful syndicate of heroism called the Justice Society.

While the team recovers from their defeat at the hands of former ally and new ruler of Khandaq, Black Adam; they enter into a battle against time as Rick Tyler lies dying in the Timepoint: A place in space that will exists for only an hour's worth of external reference.

While the android Hourman from the future does his best to aid the original Hourman, Rex Tyler, and Dr. Mid-Nite in saving Rex' son; the rest of the Justice Society must respond to another rampage by the undying creature called Solomon Grundy!

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Steve UyARTWORK: Michael TurnerStrength: Powergirl 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Mr. Terrific 5 (Professor)
Speed: Flash 7 (Lightspeed)
Stamina: Solomon Grundy 6 (Generator)
Agility: Sand 7 (Unlimited)
Fighting Ability: Hawkgirl 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Green Lantern 7 (Cosmic)

- The Justice Society of America are: Green Lantern, Flash, Dr. Mid-Nite, Stargirl, Hawkwoman, Mr. Terrific, Sand, and Powergirl.

During the Golden Age of superheroes in the forties, many of the heaviest hitting heroes united to form a powerful syndicate of heroism called the Justice Society.
Among the well-known founding members were; Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Sandman, the Spectre, Dr. Fate, Hourman, and the Atom.

Despite an ebb and flow through time that has seen the team maintain varying degrees of activity, they have endured to the modern day. Extending the JSA's lifespan is a new "legacy" policy which allows the inclusion of new members related to former members, by blood, or by inheretence of power.

- The true origins of Solomon Grundy are unclear, but it is widely believed he is the spirit of wealthy merchant, Cyrus Gold, who is said to have been murdered in the late 1800's and dumped in Slaughter Swamp. Rising from the marsh, Grundy becomes an undead force that would come to menace Batman, Green Lantern, and both the Justice Society and Justice League.

Grundy possesses superhuman strength and endurance, and a penchant for returning from even the most fatal of scenarios. His personality is seen to shift after many of these lethal experiences, usually with minimal higher brain functions, reducing him to a lumbering and disgruntled monster.

Due to his marshy origins at Slaughter Swamp, Solomon Grundy has been seen to possess the ability to negate the Green Lantern's ring by way of it's weakness for things made of wood. This is presumably due to the bark and debris from the bog that saw his formation.

The Math: Justice Society Ranking: Hawkwoman (#84)

What Went Down...
While Rex Tyler reunites with the android Hourman in order to save his son's life in the Timepoint, a majority of the rest of the team is in Central Park, New York, where Solmon Grundy has returned for another rampage.

Grundy's old foe, the Green Lantern, attempts to talk the rampaging monster down. Grundy responds by wrenching a tree from the ground, using it to capitalize on the Green Lantern ring's only weakness -- wood!

Having already flung the rest of the team around with his brute strength, Grundy grabs Stargirl by the ankle, taking her as a pleasant trinket for future use.
Sand emerges from the battlefield, coming to Stargirl's rescue with a harpoon gun, which he fires with expert marksmanship, shooting it into Grundy's open mouth.

With Grundy anchored, Sand stuffs his sleepgas gun in the monster's mouth, letting the paralyzing gas seep directly into his maw. The notoriously powerful Solomon retaliates quickly with an overhand blow that sends a quake through the earth.

Sand recovers swiftly, turning his own earth-manipulating powers to a similar offensive, sending a focused tremor into Grundy's immediate vicinity. The move is sufficient to level Solomon Grundy, putting an end to his warpath.

ARTWORK: Alex RossThe Hammer...
We come into this fight with the action already underway, so I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt to the rest of the team and assume they were of some assistance, but Sand gets full credit for another Solomon Grundy defeat. One of many that have been sitting in my go-to pile for quite some time.

It's just now dawning on me that this is going to be a very short entry. That's maybe a convenience since I'm trying to maintain daily updates through February, and that can get tiring, but on the other hand, I like to draw some sort of quantity-based distinction between normal entries, and quick fixes.

I'm not sure it really matters. DC coverage has been something that's demanded attention here on the Infinite Wars, and the JSA characters were among the most glaring omissions from the first two years.

Over the past five years I've probably enjoyed DC's creative directions far more than Marvel alternatives, despite some historic sense of loyalty to the House of Ideas [showing up in the Marvel bias on the Infinite Wars].

He appears quite regularly in our DC representation and it takes but a glance at the top ten creators to recognise that Geoff Johns is one of the most dominant writers to contribute to the big two over the past few years. His work on titles like Hawkman, Flash, and of course, JSA, made up a sizable portion of my conversion to the DC Universe, making good use of a wide variety of historical references in each.

If One More Day is the current measure of the very worst possibility; then Johns' talent for appreciating and utilizing characters that might otherwise be dismissed, succeeds in ever way OMD didn't. Likewise, new characters, particularly extensions to the JSA legacy, are a very positive feature of Johns' crafting of the brand even in current 2008 issues.

It sounds like naive arrogance to say I have an "affinity" for the Golden Age characters, but there are certainly a lot of characters I'm very fond of. Sandy Hawkins, featured here as the uber-Sandman successor, is one of those great I wish we could see more of, because if there's a flaw in the JSA model, it's the sheer number of characters!

I haven't had an opportunity to check out JSA: Classified, but without estimating the quality of the stories, it's a great opportunity to showcase these fantastic characters! I wouldn't want to call them under appreciated, given the success the JSA title attained around this issue, and the core influence the characters have had in the DC Universe. That might have cooled off a little as books like 52 push the successes of more modern characters, but that influence is still there.

I've really enjoy the intergration of these characters into other well associated corners of the DC Universe. Characters have mentored others in combinations both obvious, and inspired. Jay Garrick joins the speesters of the Flash; Alan Scott's association with the Green Lantern has grown, despite being notable for not being part of the Corps; Mr. Terrific succeeded Alan Scott as a leader in Checkmate; and Wildcat has been intergrated into Catwoman's corner.

JSA, even more so now, sort of embodies DC's great strength.
They've killed Superman and they've broken Batman's back, but a few black times aside, DC are the company that don't throw anything away. The company and it's properties seem endear that respect, and even if it's commanded by over zealous editorial edicts known for their interruptions, it's worked in the long run.

This reverence is seen throughout Johns' growing catalogue, and I suppose his relationship with DC is a big part of what's made him an industry powerhouse.
I've just remembered that there was another reason I wanted to talk about this issue, and it actually connects with Johns' current work on Booster Gold.

We've seen in the past that resonance between projects is not only possible, but likely. Johns maintains a consistency throughout his work that contributes a sense of reality to the universe in which he works, and JSA establishes a lot of rules and conceits of the way he treats time travel. That's not to say Booster Gold won't form it's own thesis dependent on the requirements of a story, but here, dealing with the Timepoint created to give Rick Tyler one hour with his father before he dies fighting the villain, Extant.

Though not pertinent to the feature fight, I have to lament on the central story, which sees a concession granted to time travel that references writing in fiction. Because, as Rick and Rex Tyler soon learn, an Hourman dies fighting Extant, but much like a well written retcon, it depends only on dressings and appearances.
Just to spoil the story for you, Rex Tyler returns to active duty with the JSA when he is replaced by an alternate who only appears to be Hourman. Food for thought for those reading Booster Gold, where Booster has been told he cannot save Blue Beetle due to the inevitabilities of time and space.

We talked a lot at the end of 2007 about the importance of reflecting contemporary movements on the Infinite Wars. The tenuous connection this issue has is the current issues of the relaunched Justice Society of America, which currently sees Johns reaching the epitomy of his use of history, drawing upon the alternate Earth from the Kingdom Come universe! Featuring those issues, or reviews of Kingdom Come, would be the obvious thing to do, but as a cash strapped reviewer, that isn't very likely.

Actually, y'know, I don't want to cast aspersions about the status of our humble blogsite, but you know what would be cool? Imagine if DC and Marvel were to get behind the notion of a fighting sports league of their characters and added me to the 'review copylist' to deliberately sponsor their characters. I'M JUST SAYING -- that would be cool. And it's not like I'm not doing my part to sell the stuff... DC, Marvel... Come and find me!...

I had a looong night, readers. This post is hitting turbulence that threatens to throw it completely off the rails, and self-referencial claims to review copies are probably the epitomy of that. I should probably wrap things up before I start weeping about lost loves!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 5

Finding yourself looking for a jumping on point? JSA is available in a wide series of trade paperback collections, and while this might not be the ideal starter, it's going to give you a crash course introduction to the Hourmen! I'd be very surprised if you didn't find yourself attached to them after this story! The trade contains this, and the following story.
Head over to Amazon where you can buy this, and many other trades, all while supporting Secret Wars on Infinite Earths (if you use the provided links to PURCHASE)! Amazon: it's not just for the ladies! Yay!

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