When the DC Comics reboot was announced there was one high profile team that seemed to be missing. The beloved Justice Society Of America was nowhere to be found in the new youthful DC Universe. Of course the Internet was awash with questions regarding their absence. But after a few months of fear from the JSA’s legion of fans DC announced Earth 2. Be it motivated by the overall imagined plan for the New 52 or DC succumbing to fan pressure, we now have in our hands a JSA book. However in exchange for these heroes we must suffer the necessary evil of DC’s reboot mandate of younger is better.
The book as a whole isn’t a problem. It sets up the alternative Earth the JSA will inhabit and gives new readers an easy jumping on point with simple ideas. It is just that the fundamental appeal of the JSA has been removed and what is left is a somewhat indistinguishable origin story. Granted the assumed main characters of the book don’t turn up until the final third of the book, but their appearance does not bode well for long-term fans of the franchise. The whole idea of the reboot is to tailor to new readers, whilst keeping the whole satisfied. But this is a radical approach to the characters. A youthful Jay Garrick who is a bit of a nobody graduate and Alan Scott the media mogul are introduced here and quite frankly it all feels a bit tired already. Jay Garrick especially, as he gets given the tried and tested “down on his luck teen who becomes a hero” narrative. As soon as you see the character there is no doubt in your mind where he is heading in the grand scheme of the plot. However this could be on purpose as the JSA have always been somewhat of a classical interpretation of the superhero mythos, the original super-team. So perhaps James Robinson has decided to go for the classical approach to revitalizing the characters. But that is merely conjecture and what is presented is far to familiar for anyone who has watched/read any superhero narrative.
But Robinson’s script does its job in the last third. Both Garrick and Scott are defined and their respective journeys signposted in the script. But the majority of the issue is set in the past. Clearly an alternative version of the opening story arc from the relaunched Justice League , we meet a desperate Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman (even in this alternative universe he can’t wear pants on the outside) in the thick of it. The armies of Apokolips have over run this Earth and the heroes attempt a final gambit that ends in tragedy. Robinson’s use of this flashback allows him to truly separate Earth 2 from the main universe and that is a good thing. At least without the big three, the book can move away from their crushing legacies and become its own beast. The book works well from a marketing perspective to new readers as having the most recognizable DC characters on the front cover will bring in the new readers. And the subsequent fates of these three heroes will at least have some people intrigued about a world without Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.
But deciding to set the book mostly in the past does defeat the object of introducing a new cast of characters to a new audience. Especially when this protracted fight scene could have been delivered in a few pages. There are interesting moments and a highlighted link to World’s Finest , but it feels like a little too much. Robinson goes to great lengths to get the reader inside the heads of big three as they battle. He throws in a lot of emotion in this opening scene, but this is ultimately a pointless endeavor. Just as the audience becomes invested in these characters they are taken away from us and replaced by a less interesting cast.
However, one thing that Robinson has on his side to sell this issue is Nicola Scott’s art. She gives the final battle between the trinity and Apokolips army the grandeur it deserves and really delivers some great stand out images. Be it Wonder Woman gazing up at the horde swarming above or Superman tearing through their ranks. She does manage to convey a sense overwhelming odds and that’s not just in the number of parademons. She manages to draw out the desperation in her depiction of the characters and this adds to the overall tension of the narrative. But by the issues end she delivers some great establishing character work which is refreshing after the destruction that dominates the majority of the book. There is a classic look to the art, which will serve the book well once the Justice Society begins to appear.
Although the whole issue is a fun ride as it depicts the final moments of the big three, it leaves little room for the actual main characters of the book. Perhaps Robinson (and DC) is more concerned with delivering as many wow moments here as possible, so the book seems bold and exciting. Attempting to give the book an “anything can happen” angle, which ultimately fails, as the introduction of Alan Scott and Jay Garrick is anything but unpredictable. Having said that it at least gets everyone up to speed on the history of Earth 2, but it is definitely a problem with the issue. It is a somewhat of a bold opening gambit on the surface but it may end up being a crutch as the series progresses. Only time will tell if this new interpretation of the Justice Society works in the long run.