JSA #56 Review

Reviewer: John Babos
Story Title: Black Reign

Written by: Geoff Johns
Pencils by: Don Kramer
Inks by: Keith Champagne
Colors by: John Kalisz
Separations by: Hi-Fi
Letters by: Bill Oakley
Associate Editor: Stephen Wacker
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Publisher: DC Comics

One of my favorite issues of 2003 was Flash #197. That issue was the first part of the Blitz storyline and spotlighted Flash villain Zoom, the Reverse-Flash. It was a great issue that allowed readers to get into the head of the antagonist. It was so well done, the absence of the Flash himself in the issue was an afterthought — I read the issue, loved it, and then realized, “oh, there was no Flash. Oh well. I’ll see him next month.” The story pulled me in, and I loved it.

The JSA’s Black Reign multi-part weekly crossover with Hawkman begins with JSA #56 and takes a page from the Flash — incidentally, also written by Geoff Johns. This issue focuses on Black Adam‘s band of anti-heroes. Many Infinity Inc. alumni are here: Brainwave, Atom Smasher, and a very Kingdom Come-inspired Northwind. The “new” Eclipso and Nemesis round out the team.

The issue shows this Authority-like team continuing there proactive assault on tyranny. They’ve already destroyed the international criminal organization called the Council (of Manhunter fame) and killed super-terrorist Kobra and wiped out his organization. The next target? The team violently takes over Black Adam’s homeland Kahndaq. It’s regime-change in the DCU!

This is a great issue that (re)introduces readers to Black Adam’s team, their motivations, and marks the best artistic collaboration of relatively new penciler Don Kramer and long-time inker Keith Champagne — although, they still have some meshing to do, but they are improving as a team.

Writer Geoff Johns delivers a very engaging story. At times, I wasn’t sure if this doctrine of preemption of Black Adam’s team was a not-so-subtle shot at the Bush administration’s Middle East foreign policies, but unlike writers Joe Kelly and Greg Rucka, I’ll give Johns’ the benefit of the doubt — Rucka and Kelly, in particular, have peppered some of their recent work with their politics in a more blatant fashion. Kelly’s JLA and Rucka’s Wonder Woman should not be used as political pulpits, and I hope Black Reign doesn’t bring more leftist propaganda into the DCU, namely onto the pages of the JSA and Hawkman titles.

I look forward to this week’s Hawkman #23 for part 2 of Black Reign. This arc has been a long time coming and has started out with a bang!