I've heard some mutterings about the recent split of "Justice Society of America" into two titles, but for me it's been a long-time coming. With over 20 main characters, "bloated" was probably the best word to describe the main cast, and that was even after several characters were dropped after the end of Geoff Johns' run as writer. So the reality of the split, with "JSA All-Stars" being primarily a training group for its newer members, makes sense.
As for the execution? Even though it's a spin-off of another title, a lot of "JSA All-Stars" #1 is devoted to set-up. Matthew Sturges establishes which characters he's taken with him to the new title, their personalities, their reason for existing, the JSA All-Stars day-to-day activities, plus a headquarters and supporting cast. Oh, and of course, some bad guys. It's a lot to accomplish in a single issue, even with an over-sized first issue to help cram it all in. Still, it's enjoyable enough; while I find myself wishing that Magog as a character would just go away, even Sturges seems to recognize that he's irritating and hopefully we'll see some developments on that front before too long. There were two things that really stood out for me with this issue, though. First, it just felt nice to actually see some of the characters get a little more of a spotlight in this one issue than they've had over the past two years. And second, Sturges hasn't been afraid to lead the reader down one path and then fake us out at the end of the issue on where everything's been leading.
Freddie Williams II provides the art here, and since the last time I saw his work he seems to have tweaked his style a bit. It reminds me of a strange mixture between Doug Mahnke and Geof Darrow, with a huge amount of detail packed into each page, but with everyone having a strange sort of squiggle and swirl in both their outlines as well as the texture on their clothes. It's a little hard to describe, but I found myself fascinated by it. Some pages work better than others, though; one thing that Darrow has always impressed me on is how he's managed to not just pack in a ludicrous amount of detail into a panel, but how everything is still crisp and clear. There are a few moments where I found myself pushing my eyes up to the art to try and figure out exactly what was going on. There's an early panel where Stargirl cries out, "Hey! What's that one doing!" in regard to one of a group of androids. It actually took me a minute to finally figure out she's referring to a hand creeping towards a tiny red button. It's moments like that where Williams could use a bit of work on making the action a bit clearer, but hopefully that will come with time.
"JSA All-Stars" #1 is a perfectly respectable opening issue. Now that the set-up is done, though, hopefully future issues will hit the ground running and move full speed ahead. My biggest complaint was that it didn't feel like much happened (with all of the set-up taking up a lot of space), so here's hoping to a fast-paced #2. Still, for now, I'm on board with "JSA All-Stars." Here's hoping the revamped "Justice Society of America" is equally successful!