JSA #55 (February, 2004)
“Be Good for Goodness Sake”
Writer – Geoff Johns
Pencils – Leonard Kirk
Inks – Keith Champagne & Wade Von Grawbadger
Colors – Hi-Fi
Letters – Jared K. Fletcher
Associate Editor – Stephen Wacker
Editor – Peter Tomasi
For Jordan Marquis
Cover Price: $2.50
Welcome to the second day of our Twelve Days of Christmas on Infinite Earths special. Today we have a very special issue from a very special series… JSA. Just last month we discussed the issue that proceeded this one. It was our Thanksgiving extravaganza… and it was a wonderful issue. Definitely a high-point in my reviewing “career”. Can the Christmas-flavored follow-up measure up? Let’s find out.
It’s Christmas Eve and the Flash and Wildcat are being led in an emerald construct sleigh by Green Lantern while Hawkman takes up the tail. Even on this peaceful night, Hawkman can’t help but carry his mace. In light of Jay’s non-alcoholic eggnog, Ted declares this to be yet another boring Christmas Eve with the fogies. He then asks Alan if “they’re there yet”… No, Ted… still about twenty minutes.
We shift scenes to an almost idyllic Christmastime scene in Londonderry, New Hampshire. It really looks like something off of a greeting card… makes me feel pretty homesick. Out here in Arizona, we don’t really have seasons… it’s just varying levels of hot… and dry. Anyhoo, a woman and her children are having car trouble… lucky for her, a good Samaritan just happens to be passing by…
Meanwhile at the local department store, the Santa line is growing long and excitable. A hoity-toity manager is annoyed that Santa is late, and threatens to fire him. An assistant reminds him that their Santa was part of the sale agreement for the business… and they’ve used the same Santa for over fifty years! Santa finally arrives… only ten minutes late, but if the manager is to be believed, it was the most important ten minutes in the history of the Earth.
Before Santa can start taking requests a trio of robbers enter the establishment… all wearing cheap-o Santa masks. After the alarm sounds, they threaten to start taking hostages… Uh-uh, not on Santa’s watch.
One baddie draws his firearm… however, before he can do anything with it, the department store fills up with emerald energy reindeer! Santa smirks, as though he had been expecting the cavalry to arrive.
And boy, do they. They make short work of the thugs. One tries to flee the scene… Santa grabs for him, but gets his beard sliced off for his troubles… we finally see who is behind the beard… and, well I’ll be… it’s not a fella at all… it’s the Golden Age Red Tornado, Ma Hunkle! She wallops the baddie, and it’s reunion time.
We advance a bit to Ma’s house. It’s pretty much a Justice Society museum… there are framed photos throughout the home, and perhaps best of all… her old Red Tornado helmet, which is currently serving as a planter for a small Christmas Tree. If you’re not familiar with Ma Hunkle… her helmet was just a soup pot… and it was pretty cool.
As Alan and Jay admire her home, she enters with coffee and cookies. Here we get a proper introduction… so, if you didn’t know her before this… you get to know her now. Ma Hunkle was a concerned mother who was just trying to keep her neighborhood clean… she had no “super” powers… just a lotta guts.
She asks Alan how he’s doing… and he discusses his newfound appreciation for Christmas. He is looking forward to spending the day with his family, where before as a broadcasting executive, the holidays were nothing more than a burden to him.
Next up is Jay. He’s almost a new man himself… having Bart Allen in his life is making him feel young again. He talks about having to search toy stores in both the United States and Japan to find everything on Bart’s wishlist. Ted, quiet philanthropist that he is, is opening up his gym to the public so that he may feed the poor. He seems kind of embarrassed to confirm this… but he does.
|Ted’s face makes this scene!|
Finally, Carter… he’s standing by the window all by his lonesome. Ya see, one of the big subplots during this time was the Hawks (Man and Girl) not really seeing eye to eye on their “shared destiny” thing. Carter is still into the old way of doing things… they live, they love, they die… repeat. The current Hawkgirl Kendra Saunders, however, just ain’t feeling it this time around. She is trying to fight their destiny… and it really is quite a gripping story. Anyhoo, Carter is upset that Kendra is spending Christmas with her family rather than him. Despite their own spiritual beliefs, Christmas is/was still a special day for them to share. Ma suggests he help out Wildcat at the gym… and it looks like she might be on to something.
Next up we get to catch up with Ma. She wound up testifying against the Yellow Mask Mob to keep them off the streets. To avoid retaliation, the government facilitated her “death”. Ever since, she has been in a sort of witness relocation… even kept from her sons. Well, Alan’s got some good news tonight… the last living relative of the Yellow Mask Mob just passed away. Ma is now free to “rejoin the living”… and, even better… rejoin the Justice Society of America. As the museum curator.
We jump ahead a bit and see that Ma has made herself at home at the brownstone. It doesn’t take her long to settle in and make herself an institution. Now she gets to be everybody’s “Ma”. It’s really such a touching scene/issue. I severely doubt my words are doing it any justice. I usually save my “recommendations” for the end… but, spoiler alert… check this book out.
Ya know… my initial “gut” reaction in reading this issue is… anger. Anger that the powers that be at DC Comics saw fit to retire these wonderful characters for some short-term financial gain back in 2011. Thankfully cooler heads seem to have prevailed, and we will (eventually) be seeing them again in our new Rebirth-ed DC Universe.
As for this issue… damn, what an issue. It’s not too often a writer elicits such an emotional reaction from me. I mean, I’ve gushed… I’ve hated… I’ve been indifferent… but today, I actually felt a bit of a tickle in my throat as I made my way through this issue. This was a celebration of the Golden Age… a celebration of family. Just a magical book… I absolutely loved it.
Best of all, I’d forgotten just who was under the Santa beard… I remembered that Ma Hunkle came back around this time, but totally forgotten that it happened here. When that reveal happened, I must have had the dopiest smile on my face. I loved the reunion, and the fact that she was able to rejoin the Society in some capacity. Her old Red Tornado helmet serving as the planter for her Christmas tree was awesome too.
Really enjoyed the chatter among the fellas throughout the issue. I mean, these guys have been pals for over a half century at this point… and it’s just awesome seeing them play off one another. Hawkman having some mixed feelings about the Holiday in light of his would-be soulmate, Hawkgirl being less than receptive to their shared “destiny” was a nice touch. This had been a long-running subplot throughout this era, and was really quite well handled.
Green Lantern and the Flash are just the cornerstones of this entire generation of heroes. They are just unshakable… such a comforting presence in the DC Universe… I hope they will be back soon… the real ones, that is. Ted/Wildcat is definitely the Guy Gardner of this group… irascible and sarcastic with a heart of gold… just such a lovable jerk. Man, this was just such an amazing book.
Overall… I gotta say it… if you’re a DC Comics fan, you really owe it to yourself to check out the Justice Society. Not that New-52 Earth 2 stuff… the real-deal stuff here. If you are one of the fabled “new readers” DC threw the baby out with the bathwater to court, please check these issues out and let me know if these “old timers” would have been too intimidating and would have stopped you from buying DC Comics.