I was a big fan of "JSA," especially under the hands of Geoff Johns. The book felt like a close-knit family of characters that just happened to be superheroes, and watching them interact with one another was half of the fun. "Justice Society of America," with its ludicrously large cast and a far-too-long sequel to "Kingdom Come," seemed to get lost along the way, and I'd given up on that old "JSA" feel coming back. Well, I'm starting to think that Bill Willingham was a fan of "JSA" as well, because "Justice Society of America" #34 feels exactly like that title did.
After last month's split of the characters into two separate teams, Willingham has most of the older characters under his wing (although a few of the less experienced members like Mr. America, Lightning, and the new Dr. Fate are here), and in today's market you might think that would be a disadvantage. If anything, though, it works in Willingham's favor. We're back to a group of characters who genuinely enjoy being around one another, and reading their rapport is fun. Lightning and Mr. America get more dialogue this month than they probably did in the past two years combined, the running joke of Liberty Belle and Hourman being on separate teams is fun, and Mr. Terrific as the world's worst patient fits in perfectly with his character.
I also appreciate that just like "JSA All Stars" has taken its own storylines out of the joint storyline by Willingham and Matthew Sturges, "Justice Society of America" is following up on the ones that "JSA All Stars" left behind. Willingham's also bringing back a "JSA" villain here as well. To make a long story short, this feels like a real extension of what's come before, something that's so rare with a new creative team.
Travis Moore and Dan Green are stepping in to give regular artist Jesus Merino a slight break, and based on this they're welcome back any time they want. I love the way they draw the expressions and body language of the characters. Dr. Fate walks in with a slightly nervous posture, for example; comparing it with how once possessed he strides out of the room with chest puffed out and a smirk on his face is a real treat. It's a care that's applied to the other characters, too. Karnevil has a positively demonic glint to his eyes, for example, and Mr. Terrific deciding to defy Dr. Mid-Nite's orders is accompanied with the perfect "hmph!" smile on his face. Even the dazed look on Lightning's and Mr. America's faces after trying out a new weapon is good for a laugh without being cartoonish. Don't get me wrong, I love Jesus Merino as an artist and look forward to his return, but Moore and Green are good guest artists.
What else can I say? "Justice Society of America" has found its voice once more. I, for one, am delighted. Here's hoping other people notice that the book they once loved has returned in full force. This is seriously good fun.