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Justice Society of America Annual #1

Posted: Friday, August 1, 2008
By: Ray Tate

Geoff Johns
Jerry Ordway (p), Bob Wiacek (i), Hi-Fi (colors)
DC Comics
"Earth-2"

I've never made it a secret that I find Geoff Johns' writing distasteful. The irony is that I used to exalt it. I championed early issues of the JSA and Stars and STRIPE. Now, it hurts my head when I read his work. As an experiment, I recently read those old issues again. I still found them to be excellent examples of fun comic book writing. Simply put, Geoff Johns once was a good writer. He is in my opinion no longer a good writer. His penchant lies in Byzantine plotting that leads to nowhere sensible, treating female characters as idiots unfamiliar with even the basics of science and torturing if not killing characters, usually women, especially Power Girl.

When I first saw the Justice Society of America Annual in Previews, I didn't leap for joy. I felt deep suspicion. With the advent of the Big Stupid Event, I've held very little excitement or ebullience toward DC comics. Anything wanted that was given has been purely accidental, and I expect The Powers That Be at DC will correct such "mistakes." One of my fondest desires appears to be in Justice Society of America Annual. Since Barbara isn't walking, it must be the return of the Huntress. Hussah.

It has been my contention that THE multiverse is dead, and that after Infinite Crisis and 52, a new inferior multiverse was installed. This issue of Justice Society of America Annual proves me right again. This isn't arrogance. I hate being right because I think the worst when it comes to DC, I would just love to be wrong. In short, The Powers That Be at DC are playing with the heads of the few hardcore fans who haven't jumped ship. They're using nostalgic echoes as a means to satisfy their greed.

Despite the asset of having Jerry Ordway once again drawing the Huntress, I fully intended not to pick up this book if there was a lousy catch at the end. So, before I decided to buy Justice Society of America Annual, I did something that would normally be unthinkable. I looked at the ending first. I don't do this. The Powers That Be at DC Comics have decimated my optimism and lost my trust. I was driven not to waste my money on another empty promise. I needed to know. Was this an evil version of Earth-Two? Was Power Girl somewhere in an alley coughing up blood after being speared between the breasts by Deathstroke and hallucinating the whole affair? I'll reveal this. No.

A character from Kingdom Come sends Power Girl to Earth-Two. The difference is that this is not THE Earth-Two. THE Earth-Two was erased from history. I would say timeline, but DC hasn't got a timeline; it's more of a timesnarl.

I'll give Johns this much. I didn't think he was smart enough to realize the implications of what he created with 52. I truly believed that he believed that the new Earth-Two was THE Earth-Two, but I admit. I underestimated him. He either was already cognizant or came to the same conclusion I did before it was too late to recant.

Johns must get credit for doing something I didn't think he was capable of doing. He made this issue a stand-alone story. Oh, sure. There are some threads left unsewn, but Justice Society of America Annual has a beginning, middle and end. The story also benefits from a simple, comprehensible plot.

Johns does not embarrass the many female characters in the book too much, and a lot of the women who are dead on Earth-Whatever are alive and intact on the second Earth-Two. I'm not going to quibble over a female doctor who uses a stethoscope on Power Girl's forearm. She should be listening to Power Girl's chest or using her bare fingers to check Power Girl's wrist or neck for a pulse. At least a female character is attempting to practice science in a Geoff Johns book. That stuns the hell out of me.

Despite being shocked by how Johns closely patterns this Earth-Two Huntress on THE Earth-Two Huntress, I really cannot be overly enthusiastic. The story's mood is, to be kind, morose. Everything Huntress had has been taken away, or her new bitter outlook pushes everything like Justice Society Infinity aside. The tiny shred of hope that might have warmed her heart gets quickly chilled, and her last best chance for happiness--according to Johns--has been tragically curtailed by guilt. Hussah.

The story hammers along at a good pace, but everything that Johns builds he ruins through a horrendous lapse in logic. Power Girl isn't Huntress' Power Girl, but Huntress benefits from Power Girls' actions. She should know very well what kind of person she is. The set up for what looks to be a nauseating storyarc in Justice Society of America where Power Girl will be attempting to escape the second Earth-Two does not work. It just feels tacked on. Johns could have had Power Girl and Huntress reaching the same conclusion regarding their universes and parting company as new friends. He could have had both characters gain something from the experience. Instead, he as usual avoids a happy ending and character growth as if it were plague. I see no need for this. The story starts out under an atmosphere of angst, that's given substance only through the art, but it ends under a tone of anger and stupidity.

If not for the presence of Jerry Ordway, I wouldn't have even bothered to consider picking up Justice Society of America Annual. Jerry Ordway was an architect of THE Earth-Two. His time with Roy Thomas on All-Star Squadron carved the foundation of a comic book era that will likely never be repeated. However, Ordway was not really that connected to the Huntress. Joe Staton, her co-creator, was the artist that drew her the most. She wasn't in Thomas' and Ordway's Infinity Inc. for very long. Ordway's association with the Huntress in fact lies mostly with her last appearances in Crisis of Infinite Earths. Never the less, I knew that Ordway's Huntress wouldn't disappoint.

If I hadn't read Justice Society of America Annual, I would have been witnessing an adventure of THE Huntress on THE Earth-Two. Ordway does her justice with strong body language and a powerful musculature. He equips her with her traditional Batman-styled mask--long ears, included thank you--and a Batman cape. Everything about her screams legacy, and that's what a reader should feel. You look at this woman and you immediately feel confidence. You can place your life in her hands. She is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman, and without the words, she's alive. I have no doubt that this Earth-Two and especially this Huntress are slated for the chop, but for an iota of time, Huntress lived again.

Bob Wiacek, another classic artist, gives Ordway's shadows weight. He imbues texture to hair and cloth, and enhances the effect of Huntress' costume. Ordway is known for his crosshatching. So is Wiacek, and the two artists merge their talent seamlessly for a flawless artistic representation of these old friends.

Hi-Fi's colors fluctuate from the dark brownstones of Gotham City to the science fiction vibrance of dimensional transference. The Justice Society are a rainbow of hope that contrast Helena's darker vigilante garb. Numerous lighting effects embellish the various settings--from bright meeting rooms to a moonlit rendezvous on the rooftops.

I've drawn the high score mainly from the art, but there are a few elements to Geoff Johns' story that stand out. I would have given the art alone five bullets. The story would have gotten two bullets. That's seven bullets total. Divide by two, and the book averages out to three and one half bullets. I don't like the half bullet grade. So, the art bumps the book's worth more toward the four range. Justice Society of America Annual is a must for fans of Jerry Ordway and the one true Huntress.



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