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JSA All-Stars #5

Posted: Thursday, September 18, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writers: Geoff Johns, David Goyer and Howard Chaykin
Artists: Adam DeKraker and Howard Chaykin (p), Prentis Rollins and Howard Chaykin (i)

Publisher: DC

Plot:
After receiving a future vision of a man that is going to leap off the top of a building to his death in one hour, we see Hourman races to the scene to convince this suicidal man not to throw his life away. In the second story the Golden Age Hourman races across the countryside to prevent a vengeful soldier from killing his commanding officer, who is set to have the man booted out of the army.

Comments:
The opening Hourman story is an utterly conventional bit of drama, as he basically witnesses a man leaping to his death in one of his future visions, and then has to race to the scene in a bid to convince this man not to take his own life. Now anyone who ever witnessed this type of "man on a ledge" style drama is going to be left unmoved by this story, as it moves along a rather predictable course in which the lives of both men are endangered, and this awakens a desire to not only live, but to perform a heroic deed to save the life of our endangered hero. What did leave me a bit curious though is that it took him more than a half hour to make it up forty flights of stairs, but he's somehow able to race up the final 20+ in just over two minutes, which suggests that either the front doorman was misinformed about how tall this building is, or no one told the artist how tall this building was supposed to be. In any event, the simple fact that I can quibble over details like that make it pretty clear this first story didn't grab my interest. As for the secondary story, this is another racing the clock style story, and once again the writer attempts to create drama by having the hour of power run out right when Hourman would need it, and perhaps if the opening story hadn't pulled out this exact same trick I might be more inclined to enjoy this story. As it stands it feels a bit like a repeat performance of a play I didn't find all that enjoyable the first time out.

As for the art the opening story is a pretty solid bit of work, as the material is told in a clear, visually exciting manner, and there's some nice work on the panel designs as well, with the credit page shot of Hourman's future vision being the strongest example. The race up the stairs is also nicely done, as is the sequence where both men are left dangling off the side of the building. However, the real treat in this issue is the secondary story, as Howard Chaykin offers up a wonderfully gritty looking story, that manages to perfectly capture the inner turmoil and hint of madness that I find makes the original Hourman on of the most engaging characters from the DC Golden Age. In fact that panel of Hourman after he saves the day is a near perfect shot of the character.

Final Word:
I think part of the problem that writers run into when dealing with Hourman's hour of power gimmick, is that for the most part one hour should be more than enough time for our hero to resolve the conflict. As such in order to have his power run out at an inopportune moment during the crisis, thus increasing the sense of excitement, the writer is forced to come up with a way of delaying our hero. This time out both writers went to the same well to draw their delaying plot device from, as both the opening and secondary story have Hourman's race to the scene eat up most of his hour of power, and wouldn't you know it both times his power runs out at the worst possible moment. This issue is basically the same, uninspired plot told twice, and neither writing team manages to produce much beyond a mildly entertaining diversion at best. The Hourman fan in me is rather disappointed as I honestly feel the character is deserving and capable of far better entertainment value than this issue offers up.



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