JSA #54 (2004)

JSA #54 (January, 2004)
“Virtue, Vice & Pumpkin Pie”
Writer – Geoff Johns
Pencils – Don Kramer
Inks – Keith Champagne
Colors – John Kalisz
Separations – Heroic Age
Letters – Jared K. Fletcher
Associate Editor – Stephen Wacker
Editor – Peter Tomasi
Cover Price: $2.50

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is my absolute favorite day of the year.  Every year I meticulously plan how the day will go… what food I will prepare… how and when I’m going to prepare it… then, the morning of… go into panic mode and just hope to make it out the other end.  Sounds like a horrible time, but damned if I don’t love it!

As such, I’ve always had a soft spot for Thanksgiving themed… anything, really.  Television shows, comics… whatever.  When I think of some of my happiest times reading (and buying) comics, this time of year always plays a role.

I’ve told the story of the odd jobs I took on when I was endeavoring to afford the Death of Superman and X-Cutioner’s Song storylines… which occurred right around Thanksgiving.  A wonderful childhood memory that I (obviously) still think about to this day.

Before I get into today’s spoilery synopsis, I wanted to at least mention another favorite Thanksgiving issue… Uncanny X-Men #308 in which Cyclops and Jean Grey take a stroll around Xavier’s as the X-Men go about their Thanksgiving festivities… there’s a football game that ends in a pile of raked leaves… just so much fun… so much family.  The X-Men had been put through… well, many wringers that year… so this was a great bit of “quiet reflection”.  The issue ends with Scott and Jean finally deciding to tie-the-knot.  It’s an issue that affected me in my youth, and continues to even today.  Maybe one of these days I’ll actually start up that From Claremont to Claremont X-Men blog/cast I’ve been threatening so that I can talk about those stories.

Anyhoo… let’s get down to dinner with the JLA and JSA.  Again, Happy Thanksgiving one and all… and be ready for tomorrow’s three-hundredth daily post!

It’s a wonderful Thanksgiving at the Justice Society’s Manhattan brownstone.  We open with Mr. Terrific welcoming Batman inside and escorting him down a hallway.  On this holiday, the Justice League and Justice Society are dining together… which Batman finds troubling.  He thinks it’s dangerous to have both teams under one roof as it paints a pretty big target on the location.  Terrific all “relaaaaax man” because they’ve got enough heavy-hitters to keep things going smoothly.

In the main meeting hall, members of both teams, past and present have assembled to celebrate the holiday.  We check in on Wonder Woman as she is lecturing some members on the true meaning of Thanksgiving… ya know, like that one member of your family who sits there with a scowl on their face while the rest of the family enjoys each other’s company?  From off-panel, we hear a voice proclaiming her to be “full a’ crap!”

Why it’s Wildcat!  And today he is playing the role of “drunk uncle”.  He meanders over to the ladies and starts reading Diana the riot act… even comparing her to her (post-Crisis) mother, Hippolyta… who was a JSA founder… because post-Crisis Diana would be too young for… ehhh, let’s just roll with it.  Power Girl does not take kindly to Wildcat’s behavior… and so, hurls him out through an open window.

Where as luck would have it, Superman and Captain Marvel happen to be flying by!  Didn’t even have to lose 1 of his 9 lives here!

Inside we see a meeting between Impulse and Jakeem Thunder where the maturely and philosophically discuss the merits of the educational system.  Really quite a cute scene.

Batman and Superman share a special moment in which they discuss the things they are thankful for… or not.

Ya see, Batman is still worried about potential threats… cuz, ya know… he’s Batman.  There are no days off for the caped crusader.  He is informed that Dr. Mid-Nite had volunteered to perform monitor duty… so there’s nothing to worry about.  What’s great is that Dr. Mid-Nite is blind, and yet he is looking into a wall of monitors.  Anyhoo… Black Canary enters the monitor room to chat with Mid-Nite.  Evidently, they had a sorta kinda “thing”… at least Mid-Nite thinks so.  Dinah has a brief moment of profundity… and they decide to keep it “casual”… Friendzone, Population: Dr. Mid-Nite.

In the kitchen, Hourman is dazzling some of the Society wives with his cooking acumen.  In walk Jesse Quick and her mother Liberty Belle… and they are also rather taken with our man Rick.

Outside the kitchen… Hawkman and the Atom decide to team up and take on the hefty threat of sharing a turkey leg.  Well, not if Ollie has anything to say about it.  Before ya know it… we’re back to the classic Green Arrow/Hawkman pull-apart.

Batman attempts to intervene… he’s still on edge about a potential threat.  He urges Hourman to use his prophetic vision to check out the future… but Rick tells him his powers don’t quite work like that.  Before Batman can start crawling the walls, the dinner bell gets rung.

In the dining hall we get a cute scene where Star-Spangled Kid (Stargirl, these days) is upset that she’s been shunted off to the “kid’s table”… I mean, the fact that there even is a kid’s table is beyond great.  She nudges Captain Marvel and tells him he oughta be there too, but gets the ol’ ixnay from Billy.

And so, it’s dinner time.  Jay Garrick does the toast, and the members of both teams raise their glasses.  Gotta assume Superman is drinking a juice of some sort, right?  Before they can take their first bite, however… we get some trouble.

It’s the Warlock of Ys (hey, we know him) and Kulak the Sorcerer… and they’re ready to… uh, well… uh oh.

About a half hour later… all’s well at the Brownstone… well, except for the fact that Thanksgiving dinner has been ruined.  Lucky for the heroes, the local pizza place is both open and willing to deliver.

We wrap up this absolutely amazing issue with the standard DC Comics moral… always listen to Batman.  Wonk wonk wonkkkk…

I’m not sure “love” is a strong enough word for how I feel about this issue.  It’s just a perfect storm of so many things that I dig.  Great characterization, a celebration of continuity and legacy… and Thanksgiving!

Geoff Johns on JSA was pure magic… just candy.  He’s got these characters down so well.  Everything said sounds natural, everything done feels organic.  Even though this was, ostensibly, a gimme issue, ongoing plot lines were still addressed.  One plot line was the, I guess, sorta-kinda “thing” between Black Canary and Dr. Mid-Nite.  This is not something I remember at all from this era.  Either my memory is shot, or this just wasn’t all that big a deal.  I still like that it gets a mention though, making this issue feel truly like “another day” in the lives of the JSA.

We get a ton of cute character moments here… Batman being uncomfortable and paranoid the entire time… Wildcat playing “drunk uncle”… Ollie and Carter being, well, Ollie and Carter… Captain Marvel not being seated at the “kid’s table”… hell, the fact that there was a kid’s table.  Just too much fun!  

We even get a fight scene… well, sorta when dinner gets interrupted by a pair of intergalactic geeks.  Yet another wonderfully fun scene in this amazing issue.  The looks on… well, all of the faces… priceless!

Speaking of how faces looked, Don Kramer’s art here is excellent… everybody and everything looks amazing.  Definitely a “homesick” inducing artist.  Really makes me miss this era in the DC Universe.

This books gets one of my highest recommendations.  An absolute celebration of the post-Crisis DC Universe, that I feel fans of any era would benefit from checking out.  As luck would have it, DC Digital has this one up.

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