Justice Society of America (vol.3) #16 (July, 2008)
“One World, Under GOG – Part 1: He Came, and Salvation with Him”
Story – Geoff Johns & Alex Ross
Penciller – Fernando Pasarin
Inker – Rebecca Buchman
Colorist – Hi-Fi
Letterer – Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor – Harvey Richards
Editor – Michael Siglain
Cover Price: $2.99
Whew, almost let a weekend pass without checking in with our pals in the Society. Can’t have that!
Before rejoining the story proper, we get some brief bits about Damage and his father, the Golden-Age Atom. Grant talks about the mask he wears… and how most people assume it’s honoring his pop, but the real reason is that his face had been destroyed. Most people also assume he joined the Society to follow in Al’s footsteps, when he actually only did so as a sort of “Get Out of Jail Free” card. This will be important in a bit. We join the actual story with the giant Gog standing… admiring the world around him.
The Justice Society members… kinda just stand there, trying to wrap their heads around what they’re seeing. Could it be that Gog is an actual God? Well, atheist Mr. Terrific sure doesn’t think so… and attempts to address the purple giant. Gog doesn’t respond. Amazing Man suggests that Gog knows Mr. Terrific doesn’t believe in Gods… and so, he makes an attempt at communication. Annnnd, it works!
The chat doesn’t go too far though… Gog becomes preoccupied by something going on nearby. The giant lumbers through the trees and into a camp full of evacuees from Goma. The people are sick from the poisons that have been pumped into the air by a recent volcano eruption… remember, we’re still in the Congo. His appearance, as you might imagine, scares the bejeezus out of the folks… but Gog’s not bothered. He places his hand to the ground… and heals the place!
Elsewhere, we watch as a pair of… I dunno, amateur archeologists? Maybe just grave-robbers… enter what is believed to be a cursed tomb. On the wall there are are hieroglyphs of Black Adam, Isis, and Osiris… uh-oh. They open the tomb… and whattayaknow… it’s Black Adam! He kinda looks like Namor did when the Fantastic Four discovered him early on. Anyhoo, he says the magic word… and kills the men… and laments the loss of Isis.
Back in the Congo, Jay Garrick arrives to report in. He asks where Gog went… and is shocked to see that the only Gog around is a giant purple man… and not the fella they fought back in New York. Superman-22 asks Gog what happened to William Matthews (the other Gog from earlier) and if this giant-purple Gog hails from Earth-22. Gog replies that he is “from Paradise”. He (thankfully) elaborates to explain that he is from the Third World… but was cast out during a war with the Old Gods. He landed on Earth, where he lay buried in “a tomb of molten rock”. Later, he was discovered by a tribe who worshiped him… and forge his Goggy staff.
Many many years later, after Gog was long forgotten, the tomb was discovered by ol’ William Matthews. He took the Goggy staff, and was endowed with Goggy powers… and Goggy memories. Memories of Earth-22! Memories that (understandably) drove him insane.
Mr. Terrific thinks this is all well and good, but doesn’t justify Gog’s having murdered William Matthews (last issue). Gog disagrees… he claims that the power he’d given him spared Matthews pain… and actually kept him alive much longer than he would’ve otherwise. Damage still thinks this is horsehockey… and isn’t afraid to say so…
As he approaches the giant, Gog appears confused. He is unsure if he’d said or done something to offend this strange masked man. To prove that he is there out of peace… he touches Grant. Damage falls back, and the Society rushes to his side. He sits up, and tugs at his mask…
… removing it to show us his re-prettified mug! Gog asks who’s next… and we are out.
This was a good one. We’re visited by a possible God who promises to make everything “good” and actually takes a few steps in that direction… and yet, we just can’t shake the feeling of dread. There is a sinisterness hanging in the air here… and it’s really quite well done. With each page, you just wait for that other show to drop… or for it to be made apparent that Gog (if that’s even his real name) has any ulterior motives for his benevolence.
That was the crux of this issue… establishing that Gog does have the power to invoke change. We still don’t know if he’s trustworthy… but, so far we don’t have a whole heckuva lot to hold against him. He even has his reasons for taking out William Matthews.
This isn’t anything that hasn’t been explored before… for all the heroes know, they might be walking into a Monkey’s Paw situation here. It’s nothing new, but it’s so well done that it doesn’t much matter.
Let’s kiss up to Mr. Johns a bit… early on, we have a scene between Mr. Terrific and Amazing Man. One a believer, another an atheist… and yet, they are both written in such a way to denote respect for one another’s belief/lack of belief, without resorting to lecturing, condescension, or smugness. That’s a talent (or tact) I wish more contemporary writers had. Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay not to agree… but I do think there is a right way and a wrong way to illustrate that.
Readers don’t want to be lectured… people who don’t agree with a writer’s (often made very plain) stance don’t want to be told they’re wrong, or that the writer thinks less of them… and, I’d like to believe those who do agree wouldn’t want to become an echo chamber, or be the choir being preached to. Hey, lookit me, bein’ all Polyannaish!
My point is, Johns handled this about as well as I’ve seen in quite some time. Two men… different beliefs… managing to respect one another. There’s this Superman poster about diversity popping up a lot on social media a lot these days (you know the one)… that I feel some contemporary writers would do well to take another look at.
Okay, off that soap box.
Overall… another excellent issue of Justice Society. We get fill-in art from Fernando Pasarin which feels right at home this time around. While, I’d probably rather Eaglesham… I think this looked great! My only reservation was that this felt… like a chapter. I have a difficult time recommending single issues sometimes, especially of this era. You’d likely do better to grab the collection.