JSA # 72 Review

Reviewer: Kevin S. Mahoney
Story Title: JSA/JSA

Written by: Geoff Johns
Penciled by: Don Kramer
Inked by: Keith Champagne
Colored by: John Kalisz
Lettered by: Pat Brosseau
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Publisher: DC Comics

Time travel stories are tricky, and in more ways than one. On the one hand, there are all sorts of causational gymnastics to worry about: Back to the Future, Logan’s Run, Star Trek IV, Star Trek: First Contact“¦ pick your own example. The notion of a theoretically self-consistent story isn’t a new one (it’s the technical backbone of all good science fiction stories) but in the case of time travel, it’s harder to deliver than in other cases. There are paradoxes, and whether they might destroy the universe is one thing, but more importantly they can confuse the audience no end if not handled carefully. While treating the distant “traveled to” eras with some sort of respect isn’t always necessary to craft a good story, it certainly helps. And even with those added frills, a time travel tale is just an action story unless the journey teaches a character something he or she needed to learn; the best time travel stories even shuffle the respective revelation past the character and readers in novel ways.

This JSA/JSA team-up has, in my ways, been the archetypal arc of this title. Fans of the series know Geoff Johns’ passion for the heroic legacy of this super team. What could be more natural than a yarn that paired the modern JSA with its counterpart from 1951, fighting the time-altering menace of Per Degaton? It’s the best way to play with all the toys in the JSA sandbox; those veterans departed from their mortal coils (Sandman, Atom, Terry Sloane) are rediscovered in the salad days of their careers while their more modern counterparts got to serve shoulder to shoulder with their inspirations. If there is a more dramatic way to combine bang-up action with great individual moments of characterization, it hasn’t been invented yet. There were all kinds of cool moments throughout this story (and even this issue) where characters coped with the altered setting, their counterparts, or their current method of thinking/acting. The highlights included Michael Holt’s reaction to segregation, Al Rothstein’s awe and shame in meeting Al Pratt, and Courtney “Stargirl” Whitmore’s reaction to the extra help the two teams got this issue. The shining moments afforded each character certainly compensated for the rather truncated defeat of the story’s villain, who probably had to live through the experience just to terrorize the two teams in their respective futures (his past).

The art in this story was peerlessly dynamic. Coordinating two separate teams, a realistic looking past for them to play within, and the endless battles inherent in this five-part story was a mammoth undertaking. The art team met and exceeded the challenge, with an attention to detail and a verve for the human element that is sorely lacking in most mainstream superhero tales, especially team series. Excellent facial expressions, anatomically accurate postures, and a common sense layout made this story a joy to behold as well as read. A special award ought to be given to letterer Pat Brosseau, if only for the excellent thought captions and other specialized fonts used to great effect in this tale. One might almost forget that Alex Ross painted the cover for this issue!

This story also lays down a few choice future plots/sub-plots. Atom Smasher seemed to be slowly setting off towards his redemption. Powergirl appeared to be getting closer and closer to a modern origin (as we readers get closer and closer to the new series JSA Classified). There was also the obligatory reference to the upcoming and über-hyped Infinite Crisis which seemed much more direct and sensible than the allusions made in almost every recent issue of DC Comics. JSA has certainly been a meaty read lately.