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JSA #40

Posted: Tuesday, September 24, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell



Writers: David Goyer & Geoff Johns
Artists: Leonard Kirk (p), Keith Champagne (i)

Publisher: DC

Plot:
The book opens with Dr. Mid-Nite surgical skills being pressed into service to save the life of an elderly villain who fought the original Dr. Mid-Nite numerous times in the past, as we see the grandson of this villain has taken a school full of children hostage, and has threaten to kill them all if Dr. Mid-Nite doesn't save his grandfather's life. As Dr. Mid-Nite performs this surgery with his chances of successfully pulling it off quite slim, we see that at the school, we see Captain Marvel & the Star-Spangled Kid are coming up with a plan to remove the hostages from the equation. As the Star-Spangled Kid overloads the school's electrical system we see Captain Marvel speeds in to take out the villain, but he stays his attack when he learns that the villain has telepathically linked himself to a child, and as such any attack directed upon him will also be experienced by the child he's linked himself to. We then see the Dr. Mid-Nite's efforts are for naught, and the villain's grandfather dies, and this prompts the villain to telepathically link himself to every child in that classroom, and threaten to shoot himself in the head. However, this tragic finish is avoided when the children step forward, and guilt the villain into giving up.

Comments:
This issue develops a nice sense of urgency, as we have two linked stories going on simultaneously, with Doctor Mid-Nite working to save the life of a dying man, while Captain Marvel & the Star-Spangled Kid deal with a hostage crisis. Now the latter story suffers from a almost groan worthy finish as we see the hostage taker has himself a change of heart when the children he's taken hostage step forward and start listing off what their future plans are. However, the moments leading up the this scene are nicely done as we see Captain Marvel isn't one to sit on his hands & hope for the best, as while there's still a chance that Doctor Mid-Nite could pull off his miracle, we see Captain Marvel decides to move in. This is a gutsy move, and I hope that future issues play up this side of the character, as the balance between unsure kid, and confident super-hero are nicely crystallized by moments like this. My only quibble with this scene is that I'm a bit surprised that Captain Marvel doesn't know a way to quickly knock a person out without doing any lasting harm, as the tension of the situation stems from the fact that anything he does to the villain will be reflected on the child. The book should've done a better job conveying the idea that the attack needed to knock out the villain would be lethal to a young child.

Doctor Mid-Nite has been one of my favorite members of the Justice Society ever since I first become aware of the group during a crossover with the Justice League of America (all I remember about the story is that the Elongated Man saved the day), and while other members of the group have passed him by, thanks largely to series like Sandman Mystery Theater & Starman, I've always enjoyed the character & the simplicity of his gimmick, and this affection has transferred over to the new guy. Now this issue is Doctor Mid-Nite's first real chance on center stage since the series began, as except for his brief relationship with the Black Canary, the character hasn't really been given much to do. However his fight to save the life of a vicious killer made for a nicely intense situation, and what's more the story doesn't shy away from the idea that Doctor Mid-Nite may not be able to pull this miracle off. In any event the simple fact of the matter is that Geoff Johns & David Goyer made this scenario work, and given I've never found medical dramas the slightest bit interesting, this is quite a feat. There's also some nice little details like our look at how Doctor Mid-Nite sees the world, and the revelation about the terrible blow that this villain took on the original Doctor Mid-Nite.

I must admit that Leonard Kirk has really impressed me as of late, as he's pretty much kept up his work on Supergirl, while he continues to deliver top quality work on this series. This week, we get another double dose of Leonard Kirk, as his final issue on Supergirl also came out this week, and while his work will be greatly missed over on that book, the simple fact of the matter is that the J.S.A. is likely to earn his work the attention its so deserving of. This issue is a great sample of his work, as the art perfectly captures the mounting tension of Doctor Mid-Nite's efforts to save a dying villain, and the Captain Marvel situation is also nicely done, as the villain of the piece has a nice chilling quality about him. From the horrified reactions of the children as the villain tries to play nice, to the glint in the Star-Spangled Kid's eye as she unleashes the power of her cosmic rod, Leonard Kirk's work also does a wonderful job detailing the varied expressions the story calls for. I also love his version of Captain Marvel, as despite in massive physique, the art does seem to be able to capture the idea that the character is really a just a big kid. The last page also delivers a nice surprise finish.

Final Word:
I can't say I cared much for the way this issue ended, as I've never been a fan of the Grinch style endings, where a villain discovers that they have a heart, and that they can't follow through of the evil act that they had planned on committing. Now I realize that the story wanted to focus on the tension of the situation, and it does a very nice job of it in this issue, but I wish that they had come up with an ending that didn't require the villain to back down. Still, I did like the focus on Doctor Mid-Nite & Captain Marvel, as they are two of my favorites in this current lineup, and both characters get a strong showing in this issue. On the other hand the issue could've done a better job of explaining the villain's power, and why Captain Marvel couldn't have pulled his punch, as I seriously doubt Captain Marvel stormed into that classroom intending to use murderous force. I mean sure knocking the villain out would've also have knocked the kid out, but given the guy had threaten to kill everyone in that room, rendering a single child unconscious doesn't seem to be a huge problem.



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