When "Justice Society of America Annual" #1 shipped last week, I felt a little lost. The story had jumped right into the JSA chasing down their member Magog, who was reported as helping prisoners escape a jail. At the time, I figured it was only led up to in the "Magog" monthly series, but wondered why there wasn't at least some sort of editorial footnote explaining what had happened for people who only read the main "Justice Society" titles. As it turns out? There was a lead-in to the Annual, namely "JSA All-Stars" #3. And in a fit of brilliance it was solicited to ship the week after the Annual.
The end result? Well, for starters, we're seeing the first part of a story that's already ended. So when Magog stomps around complaining about not being allowed to use lethal force, it's even more tiresome than normal. (Then again, knowing that the story will end in Magog at least temporarily leaving the team? A relief.) I'm not sure why someone in editorial thought these stories showing up in the wrong order would be a good idea; at least if "JSA All-Stars" had merely run late, it would've been an accident.
On the bright side, Magog leaving the title is bound to be an improvement down the line. "JSA All-Stars" turning into more of a training camp for younger members seems like an idea better in line with the Justice Society titles in general, and I suspect other readers would agree. The fact is that the subplots with Sandman, Atom Smasher, and even Johnny Sorrow look more appealing, and the Johnny Sorrow storyline is already seeming a bit violent-for-violence's-sake. With Magog gone, it will be interesting to see if that tones down a bit.
Freddie Williams II continues his new artistic style as a strange synthesis of Doug Mahnke, Bart Sears, and Geof Darrow. Some pages and characters look especially good this way. Seeing the back of Johnny Sorrow's mask as it floats above his neck looks creepy, to say nothing of the wrinkles of red and black on his jacket. He's also good with some of the quieter moments, like the Tylers sitting together and eating doughnuts. On the other hand, Wildcat looks strangely scrawny and muscular at the same time (a strange feat), and Citizen Steel manages to look like he's been on the make-your-torso-jiggly diet instead of being strong and solid. I think he's getting better with each issue drawn in his new style, though, and those closing pages with Sandman in the Dream World are fantastic.
Jen Van Meter, Travis Moore, and Dan Green continue a second feature starring Liberty Belle and Hourman, and while the actual plot isn't wowing me, I love how Van Meter writes a happily married super-powered couple. Watching the two of them interact as they chase down the Icicle and Tigress is fun, and Moore and Green continue to turn out solid art. With such a large cast between the two books, using "JSA All-Stars" to house second features starring some of the characters is a smart move.
Here's hoping scheduling gets fixed for "JSA All-Stars" in the future; having part of your story spoiled by a comic that comes out the previous week seems to becoming the norm these days. At least most of the time it was due to a late-shipping title, though. Why sabotage your own books on purpose? I just don't get it.