JSA #60 Review

Reviewer: Chris Delloiacono
Story Title: Redemption Lost: Part 1

Written by: Geoff Johns
Penciled by: Don Kramer and Tom Mandrake
Inked by: Keith Champagne and Tom Mandrake
Colored by: Hi-Fi
Lettered by: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Stephen Wacker
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Publisher: DC Comics

JSA is the best team book on the shelves, and it has been for years. Thanks to the fine work of James Robinson, David Goyer, and of course Geoff Johns, there’s simply no better group title available to comic fans. Some titles may come close for a period of time, but nothing out there offers such a group of characters coupled with amazing stories nearly every single month. These aren’t just stories that unfold with the characters involved; these are stories that feature lasting repercussions for our cast and beautiful moments of characterization every issue.

I don’t think there’s a better writer today than Geoff Johns at filling his stories with wonderful characterization, while still telling an epic story. This month, Johns’ begins the next opus for the JSA team with “Redemption Lost,” which will center on a major crisis involving the Spectre. The tale begins with a three-page sequence, circa 1953, that features the previous incarnation of the character (Jim Corrigan). The premier modern day Spectre artist, Tom Mandrake, is given the task of bringing this teaser to life. The sequence is a perfect prologue! It establishes the grim mission of the Spectre as well as the apparent featured foe of this arc, The Spirit King.

In the remaining 18 pages, Geoff Johns, somehow, has more than enough time to develop the ongoing stories of Hourman, Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite, not to mention the current Spectre (Hal Jordan) in great detail. I don’t know how Geoff always meets the perfect balance with his storytelling! It almost seems impossible to feature four characters to such a degree, while including a teaser, as well as a cliffhanger ending. As always, Geoff Johns pulls off the impossible.

Geoff hits on a nice overall theme with the story. Each of the featured players has past moments, and decisions that torment them to their very soul. My favorite moments feature Rex Tyler (Hourman), who has returned from the dead again, this time at the cost of his dying son being trapped in pocket dimension. Rex doesn’t want to find his wife or do anything other than what he does best—be a superhero. While it would seem a strange decision, Geoff nails Rex Tyler and the reasons he’s doing what he’s doing.

The scenes with Dr. Mid-Nite highlight his failure to save his mother and show a hint of his drive as a medical practitioner. Mr. Terrific has never been the same since the death of his wife. A death he still blames himself for. He cannot get past the last time he saw her staring back at him from death. Nothing he does can catapult him past this. The previous incarnation of the Spectre is responsible for the birth of Mr. Terrific, so these themes particularly play out in a meaningful way for character. Geoff also has the time to show us Hal Jordan’s predicament as the Spectre. The attempt he’s making for redemption after slaughtering the Green Lantern Corp. and the Guardians. These are meaty themes, but they work so well within the storyline.

Save for Mandrake’s three-page cameo, the balance of the pencils are that of series regular, Don Kramer. Kramer’s been the man on this title for a while now, and I’m enjoying his work. Stylistically he’s in line with the many top talents that have been on the title since it launched, and he’s getting more and more adept at rendering the vast array of characters each month. His Power Girl is still a little manly looking, but his work with Mr. Terrific, Flash, Stargirl, Hourman, and the rest of the gang is top notch. He’s really got a great handle on the more reflective moments. Case in point, the sequence in the church featuring Terrific and Mid-Nite’s discussion is amazing.

Geoff Johns builds up the cast of characters and establishes the plotline beautifully, and Don Kramer and Keith Champagne continue to give us strong visuals. Now we’ve got to wait another month to see the continuation of the story. As is usually the case, the wait for the next issue will be interminable. Of course, when the issue comes, I’m quite certain that it will meet all expectations.