Friday, April 04, 2008

Waking the Sandman Part Two: Night Terrors (DC)
JSA #64 When: October 2004
Why: Geoff Johns How: Jerry Ordway

The Story So Far...
In the 1940s Sanderson Hawkins was adopted by wealthy socialite Wesley Dodds; also known to citizens of New York City as the crime-fighting mystery man, the Sandman! Hawkins would soon find himself involved in Dodds' clandestine operation, eventually leading to accident that would turn him into a horrible silicon monster! Dodds placed his ward in suspended animation in an effort to protect both Sandy and the world from his mistake.

Resurrected in the modern era, Hawkins is cured, and inherits the JSA Brownstone and leadership of the team in a new age. Alas, Hawkins' time for this world was brief, and when the forces of Mordru, Obisidian and Eclipso unite their powers, Sand perishes in a heroic sacrifice to protect the Earth from multiple earthquakes -- or so it seemed! Forces far beyond this dimension had other ideas, and so, Sandy Hawkins enters a state of suspend animation once more, waiting to be woken from his nightmarish dreamstate...

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Brute 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Dr. Fate 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Flash 7 (Lightspeed)
Stamina: Sand 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Sand 7 (Unlimited)
Fighting Ability: Hawkgirl 6 (Warrior)
Energy Power: Dr. Fate 7 (Cosmic Power)

- The Justice Society of America are: Dr. Fate, Lyta, Flash, Stargirl, Hawkgirl, and Brainwave.

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.

- In the 1940s Sanderson Hawkins finds himself orphaned, his only living relative, a well-to-do woman about town, Dian Belmont. Eventually Hawkins finds himself adopted by Belmont's boyfriend, Wesley Dodds, a wealthy sociallite who secret prowls the streets as the clandestine mystery man - the Sandman!

Sandy joins Dodds in his war against crime as "the golden boy," but in an accident involving one of Dodds' experimental weapons, Sandy finds himself transformed into a horrible silicon beast after being bombarded with radioactive silica particles. Hawkins lay in stasis for decades until, in the modern era, his humanity was restored by his ward, but not without a strange twist. As a result of his ordeal Hawkins could now manipulate silicon matter, and transform his physical form into sand particles. He adds these fantastic new powers to the arsenal left to him by his mentor, adopting the crime-fighting handle: Sand!

The Math: Sand (Avg) Justice Society (Ttl) Ranking: Hawkgirl (#86)

What Went Down...
While one-half of the Justice Society makes the arduous trek deep into the Earth to find the lost body of Sand; the other half of the team, by means provided by Dr. Fate, travel into Sand's psyche, where they find themselves trapped in the plane of the Dream Dimension!

Sand attacks the Society with no apparent recollection of their identity, using his influence over the Dimension to divide the team through savage sandstorms!
Dr. Fate and Lyta find themselves unable to help their fellows as the all-too-familiar reveals the machinations at work.

The Flash finds himself separated with Brainwave, who had recently recovered from possession at the hands of Mr. Mind. The pair find themselves the first target in Sandman's strategic assault, but Brainwave is able to use his mentallist abilities to freeze the confused hero in his tracks.

Believing the JSA to be another of a series of absurd obstacle thrown against him in the Dreaming; Sand exerts his will over the dimension to overpower Brainwave's commands, summoning enough will to reach for a tiny whistle...

The whistle beckons the true architects of the Dream Dimension - Brute and Grom! The pair of creatures, known well to Dr. Fate and Lyta, have been responsible before for the imprisonment of Sandmen, all a part of their scheme to control their own piece of the Dreaming as a means of creating their own Dream King! They gladly lend their assistance to the beseiged Hawkins, who remains thoroughly under their spell.

His hand forced, the Flash is the first to retaliate, but his super-speeding efforts are for naught as the Sandman shifts his body to a particle array. He reforms, unleashing a devestating attack on the elder statesman, who he instead beleives to be little more than a villain-of-the-week!

Grom launches his disgusting body at a slightly bewildered Hector Hall, confused by the familiarity expressed by the creature. His partner, Lyta, however, remembers their ordeal in the Dream Realm quite well, as she finds herself beseiged by Brute, who also remembers. Lyta exerts her strength on the aptly named creature, while Hall blasts his opponent with magical energy, and begins to slowly recall the memories of another life.

Stargirl and Hawkgirl double team Sand with a diving assault, giving Brainwave another opportunity to sift through the fog of Hawkins' manipulated mind. While they hold him down, Hawkgirl removes her cowl in a bid to appeal to romantic feelings Sand developed during his tenure as JSA chairman. The gambit pays off.

Meanwhile, Glob recalls the tortures of the last time they programmed a hero as their own personal Sandman. Hector Hall's inherited cycle of reincarnation proved to be their undoing, earning the attention of cosmic entities like Death!
The nightmare creature enforces it's sorrow with suffocating results, as Fate succumbs to Glob's aptly oozing body.

A surprise ambush from Lyta sees Glob torn asunder!
She then turns her Amazonian fury to Brute, whose strength proves futile beneath the heel of the powerful Fury. Freed, Dr. Fate is finally able to stamp his will on the battle, condemning the two imps to a lifetime of torture in a prison of children's dreams. In doing so; Sand is freed!

The Hammer...
Brainwave is able to untangle Sandy Hawkins' mind from the web of deceit spun by Glob and Brute, putting the finishing touches on a nice Justice Society victory! For you fantasy leaguers, make a note: Flash, mostly ineffective, only picks up the assist. Awww.

Backstory: Last month we had a poll to let you choose between movies and teams. You chose movies, and we took a look at some of the characters who'll be hitting screens in feature films. With that out of the way, we're jumping into team talk! We already talked a bit about the Invaders in a sorry excuse to talk about one of my favourite books of the past few years [New Invaders #1]; and now, to balance the books, the JSA!

You might be wondering what possessed me to pick this issue as our JSA spotlight. Honestly, I was asking myself the same question when it dawned on me just how much baggage comes along with this story. See, if you somehow missed it, this isn't the first time Glob and Brute have pulled a stunt like this.
Before his most recent resurrection, Hector Hall was the manipulated guest in the Dream World, where the nightmare creatures hoped to foster their own Dream King. All of this stuff, which happened in Infinity Inc, but ties directly into Neil Gaiman's work with Morpheus, and other characters in that tangentially related mythos of the other Sandman. The goth one. Yeah...

Frankly, it's all a bit too garbled for my liking, but I foolishly thought I could combine this fight with the battle to rescue Sand's physical form, to make for a rankings super-spectacular. A double feature, however, was not to be, and you'll have to wait a while to see what happened to Powergirl, Green Lantern, and the rest of the gang.

I started by complaining about the history associated with this otherwise simple issue. I mean, really, it's a two-parter about Kirby-inspired camp in a pocket dimension. It might be a mouthful to describe, but it's a pretty simple scenario of biff, pow, and thwarting evil! Of course, here in lies the brilliance of Geoff Johns and the inherent charm of the Justice Society's far reaching history in the DC Universe.

One can almost imagine Johns holding his breath as he maticulously performs micro-surgery on the convolutions of the DC characters. He makes it look easy, as he deftly streamlines Hawkman's many histories, passes this definition on to the mortally damned Hector Hall, and skims across the surface to finish it off with a seemingly throwaway allusion to Hall's fatal past. All in a day's work, and satisfying sequential story, for Geoff Johns, master of all he surveys!

For those of you who keep tabs on the site, you'll already know he's been on top of the creator top ten for quite some time. It's a position that will only further with this review as his unassuming dominance of the site, and comics, continues.

Johns' legacy is seemingly already secured. With defining runs with Flash, JSA, Hawkman, and in particular, Green Lantern; his mark on history is secured.
Just as he has provided [re]defining moments in the lives of characters, so too has Johns had an influence over the DC Universe as a whole, putting his best foot foward with intense involvement in projects like; Infinite Crisis and 52.

This was supposed to be a discussion about the Justice Society, but with Johns, it's just so hard not to spiral off into so much more. It's this penchant for association and unfolding story that makes Johns, and DC comics right now, so very involving. As much as Countdown to Final Crisis has earnt it's share of detractors; I think we will one day look back on this era of the weekly series and regard DC's display of editorial cohesion with awe. Johns has been key to that, being perhaps the most immediately influential member of the 52-four [w/ Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid].

As a guy who's been around reading comics for a fair while, one of the most fascinating elements of this evolution has been the reversal of roles.
While writers like Johns have spent the last decade and a half crafting a more engaging sense of the DC Universe, the folks across the street, who were once far better known for the Stan Lee model of asterix marketing [why was it always Thor flying overhead?..], seemed to crumble to the demands of individualized stories.

By now the horse has to be well and truly dead, but the message I constantly find myself coming back to is what I regard as perhaps the single most valuable asset of comics as a medium: the implications of longevity -- continuity!

JSA provides not only contemporary reference for the work of writers like Geoff Johns; but the very spirit of what it means to have history in the fictional realm. So few other mediums can claim to have the depth of fiction that comics do, with some of these characters' histories spanning the full sixty years!
I can understand and empathise with the negative association some have come to have about so-called "continuity," but all too often this replaces the cold indifference of fact. Absurdist theories, particularly those surrounding DC comics for some reason, have a way of permeating through the fanboy culture, and yet, even the most chic of geek finds himself ultimately counter intuitively going down a path to loving their own piece of history.

I can't pretend I'm making any kind of profound statement here, or even something you haven't heard time and time before. I just hope that this, the 400th official post on the Infinite Wars, can be one staunchly advocating the value of persistence and history.

When I started reading comics, I was looking back as much as I was looking forward. Maybe societal changes have made us lazy, but there's no reason to see the back issues as a chore. Why, a back issue is just a comic you didn't buy!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 4.5

Boy! If that last paragraph wasn't fifties enough for you, how about a little product placement? Yes, you too can check-out the "Waking the Sandman" two-parter, as well as a whole lot more the "Lost" TPB collection. By starting your back issue journey on Amazon with the purchase links provided, you help sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars! Which is good, because then you can sign-up to the Fantasy League, browse through the Secret Archives, and maybe make some more purchases from the Amazonian Gift Shop! Secret Wars on Infinite Earths: Cures tired blood!

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