JSA #1 (1999)

JSA #1 (August, 1999)
“Justice Be Done”
Writers – James Robinson & David Goyer
Penciller – Stephen Sadowski
Inker – Michael Bain
Letterer – Ken Lopez
Colorist – John Kalisz
Separator – Heroic Age
Assistant Editor – L.A. Williams
Editor – Peter Tomasi
Cover Price: $2.50

Having a lot of fun “launching” new Justice-teams… so, why not another?

We open in a sewer where a young man is being pursued by a man in the shadows.  As he draws nearer, it looks as though he is stepping over the bodies of superheroes, including a Green Lantern… all likely summoned by the boy we’re about to meet.  Now cornered, we learn this boy is… Kid Eternity!  He tries to whip up some assistance, however before he can utter “Eternity”, he is killed.  The shadowy individual walks off.

We shift scenes to a strange landscape where Sandman and Sandy the Golden Boy are fighting Monster Society of Evil member, Ramulus.  Sandy is wrapped up in vines, and can’t help but think something is quite wrong here.  Just then, Sandman… the other one, ya know, him… shows up.  As Sandy attempts to communicate, Wesley turns to literal sand.  At this point Sandy is awoken from this dream by a ringing phone… and he already knows who it is.

It’s Speed Saunders, and he has dire news… Wesley Dodds, the original Sandman, has died.  We move ahead to Wes’s funeral… Sand is preparing to give the eulogy, and Starman (Jack Knight) arrives just in the nick of time.  He has a chat with Wildcat about superhero deaths, and it looks like Ted’s made his peace with the fact that one’a these days, he’ll go down for the final ten-count.  We also learn that this graveyard is referred to as “Valhalla” on a count of all the heroes who were laid to rest here.

We get some expositional introductions for the mourners here too.  Of course there’s Alan and Jay, it’s difficult to consider the Golden Agers getting together without the two of them.  There’s also Johnny Thunder who has been stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Hippolyta, who served in the Justice Society as Wonder Woman under the post-Crisis rules is also present.  Ted comments that she’s immortal, so they don’t have to worry about having to attend her funeral anytime soon.  Try four years, pal.

Also present are Jack’s father, the original Starman (and not the star of Too Close for Comfort) Ted Knight, the new Star-Spangled Kid Courtney Whitmore (who Jack thinks is a pain in the butt), Hourman (the android version), the former Nuklon, and Black Canary.

Jack works his way over to Alan Scott and asks how his kids are doing.  In a neat bit, he actually calls Jade by the wrong name… Alan corrects him.  I nice way to show that while these folks all know each other, they still don’t… ya know, know each other.  Alan says Jade is resting after doing a tour of duty as Green Lantern, while Obsidian is… well, he ain’t sure as they kinda lost touch.  This leads us to shift to a restaurant where Todd (Obsidian) is chatting with someone calling themselves “Ian” about “letting go” of his power.  When a waitress overhears and asks who joined him, we see that he’s alone in the booth… however, one side of it is bathed in shadow.

The eulogy continues, and Jay thinks he’s seen something.  For a brief moment, Kent Nelson, Dr. Fate appears… then vanishes.

Sandy’s speech is interrupted by allegations that Wesley didn’t pass of natural causes… he was murdered!  The heroes turn and see, hanging off the tombstone of Red Bee… Fate!  Yeah Jared Stevens, that really annoying “hip” version of Dr. Fate from the 1990’s who wanted to know what wine went best with Taco Bell.  He claims Sandman was murdered… and they murdered him too!  He slumps over revealing he’d been stabbed in the back by a dagger.  His final words are “Dark Lord”.

The heroes gather around and try to wrap their heads around what they’d just seen.  Alan positively identifies all of the ankh-gear as being legit.  Jay is just about to offer his Fate-al vision from earlier when… the Earth starts to shake, and from it spring an army of mummy warriors!  I thought this cemetery was full of dead heroes… not mummies!

A fight breaks out… no duh.  Alan Scott tells them to go “all out” since these are just mummies.  During the battle, we learn that the former Nuklon ain’t Nuklon no more… instead he is Atom-Smasher in reverence to his grandfather, the original Atom, Al Pratt!  That’d kinda be like Damien Wayne taking the title “Bat-Squisher” to honor Bruce, right?

Elsewhere, Ted Knight has pulled Courtney out of harms way… or so he thought.  A mummy creature lurks in the trees nearby, and so the Star-Spangled Kid fries it with a star blast.  She says Ted can buy her a Backstreet Boys CD to call it even.  I’m not sure if I should go with a “What’s a Backstreet Boy?” joke or a “What’s a CD” joke… so, I’ll just leave it here.  Pretend that the one that made you roll your eyes and groan less was the one I went with, okay?

As the battle winds down, Green Lantern has pinned one of the warriors down.  He attempts to communicate, however, the mummy breaks free and makes a bee-line toward Jared Fate, exclaiming that he must get “the artifact”.  Alan turns him to dust before he can!

When the (literal) dust settles, the crew notices that Jared Fate’s artifacts have vanished.  Alan identifies the mummy army as serving the Sons of Anubis… however, before he can expand too much, he’s interrupted by… Scarab, who tells them that this is a job for the JSA!

While perhaps not as heartfelt as the opening chapter for Justice Society of America (vol.3), this issue still served as a wonderful introduction to the characters (and in part, the concept) that will be hanging around for the opening arcs.

This series is what I point to as my true introduction to the Golden Age characters.  Sure, I knew them… hell, knew about some of them too, but it wasn’t until JSA that I actually came to care about them.  This volume made it so the Golden Agers would always be on my pull-list… so long as DC Comics actually decides they a) exist and b) warrant a series.

It’s also why I always point to this series as the perfect “gateway” into Golden Age fandom. (at least in terms of the characters).  By blending the older heroes with some new ones (as well as newer “takes” on the classics) this series is more grounded in turn of the century storytelling methods, sensibilities and style.  It’s not trying to ape comics from the 1940’s/1950’s… it’s still very much a book of “today”, well, when today was today that is.

In familiarizing myself with the characters here, I have been better able to appreciate things like the All-Star Squadron and Infinity Inc.  Now, I can’t speaks for anyone but me, but I doubt I would have gotten into them (or at least found this level of appreciation) otherwise.  While the post-Infinite Crisis series (initially) feels sort of like a love letter to the characters, this feels like a foundational effort to bring them back to relevancy, for seasoned and new fans alike.  I’d posit that without this series setting the stage, the subsequent one wouldn’t have had nearly the amount of impact.

Now, the issue itself… It’s framed by a funeral, which is as good a place as any.  We need to concoct an organic reason why all of these folks would be in the same place at the same time… so this works.  Killing Wesley Dodds is a pretty natural choice.  He was pretty much off the table as a hero, suffering attacks and ailments that would render him more a liability on the field of battle than anything else… plus, we have a contemporary replacement in the former Sandy the Golden Boy.  That works fine.  Gotta say, it was weird seeing Morpheus pop up though.

I mentioned it during the synopsis, but the throwaway bit where Jack refers to Jade by the wrong name really resonated with me.  It’s the perfect way to illustrate that some of these folks only passingly know each other.  Having Jack, who is kind of our POV character for the funeral be the one to err, is also appreciated.  I think a lot of readers can identify with Jack… or at least would like to.  He’s got that cool factor so many of us lack, and appears to be something of an outsider when surrounded by the legendary Golden Age giants.

The threat we received is… I dunno, not one that really excites me… however, serves as decent enough background noise while we (re-)familiarize ourselves with the cast and establish the new-look Society.  Dr. Fate has never been a character I’ve been able to follow for all that long.  Characters that powerful, with a basis in magic don’t really do it for me.  I was pleased to see Jared Fate meet his, er… fate, though.  I know he’s sorta “low-hanging fruit” but, I mean… just look at him.  Yeesh.

The art here was very nice, and the cover by Alan Davis is immediately recognizable and turn-of-the-century iconic.  I really have no complaints as far as the art goes… I will say, however, that I was so happy that this was done on that grittier flat paper stock rather than that horrid saturated gloss that makes it look like every page has blisters from a second-degree sunburn.

Overall, JSA is one I’m always going to recommend… it’s definitely worth your time.  If you’re on the fence (but curious) about the Golden Age characters, I would suggest that this is the place to start.  This issue is available digitally for a buck!  Warning: this series might lead to addiction.  Consult with your wallets and significant others before indulging.

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One thought on “JSA #1 (1999)

  • All Star Squadron was the first comic my brother and I collected. It will always have a place in our hearts. My brother would buy Infinity Inc and I'd read his copies. Over the years, between the two of us we've bought most iterations of the Justice Society and solo comics that DC has released. Not the Fate series though, if he's not wearing the helmet, I'm not buying it.

    I might have to pull this run out and revisit it. Great write up.


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