Sunday, May 2, 2010

Comic Book Review: Justice Society of America #38

Book Information
Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Jesus Merion & Jesse Delperdang
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Colored by Allen Passalaqua

The Fourth Reich has obtained control of the world, imprisoning our favorite superheroes.  As each hero is made an example of, Mr. Terrific and the rest of the heroes work together to put an end to the Fourth Reich’s tyrannical reign of murder and destruction, but it may come at a very high cost.

My Thoughts
Like most stories set in the future, the world is now a grim and destructive place, only now it’s ruled by an evil Nazi regime.  I can’t really say that there are any uplifting moments within this book, apart from the fact that Willingham provides a hint of hope that the heroes have a plan to get out of this mess and end the Fourth Reich’s rule.  But truly, nothing good comes out of this issue, only misery and despair. 

Writing & Themes
Willingham is doing an excellent job at maintaining the “old school” feel that should always be apart of the Justice Society.  Superman’s fight with Behemoth was a classic rendition of the corny dialogue and narrative prose used in the golden age, almost humorous in its stature. Yet at the same time, the fight gives off a sense of purpose, as if the corniness is needed to establish the heroes’ ability to adapt quickly to any situation.  We already know that the heroes have a plan, while not knowing what it is, but this issue shows us that even without a plan, a crippled superhero is still a threat to an evil doers endeavors.

As a way of presenting this new Nazi driven world to his readers, he creates the disturbingly happy and uplifting “Good Morning Fourth Reich” TV show, with two hosts flashing their Nazi symbols both proudly and naturally.  Willingham shows us a world where tyranny and murder are an acceptable form of entertainment.  In addition, the Nazi’s themselves seem to enjoy watching the heroes suffer as they taunt and humiliate them.  As young people, we are taught to hate the Nazi belief system and what they did so long along, Willingham appeals to this socially constructed fact to write a story that we can all be drawn too despite the fact that nothing good happens.

Within those first 25 pages, Willingham provides the ultimate premise to a story where everything goes to hell.  All the heroes loose their powers, either being severely injured or dying.  With this being the third chapter in a five part story arc, we’ve reached the penultimate point in the story where it really does seem like there’s no hope…which makes it the best chapter in the story!  The shooting of Batman and the joker was not entirely surprising but definitely interesting.  As I knew Blue Beetle was going to attack Mr. Terrific however, (as planned) I did not expect him too be shot in the head by a Nazi soldier.  The questions that hit my mind at that moment were, “Is this story cannon?  How will this story be concluded?  Is there a plan for it to make sense within the DC Universe as this could very well throw everything off course in DC’s mapping of their world?”  This is what makes Willingham such a great writer, always knowing how to raise questions in his reader’s minds about the effect his stories will have on the surrounding societies.
Rating: Writing – 10 / Themes - 10

Merino has a very static approach to his characters, which works perfectly with Willingham’s story telling.  And as he isn’t my favorite artist, this writer/artist team-up is spot-on perfect.  I’m not as familiar with Merino’s artwork so I can’t say if this is typical for him, but the style is incredibly well done for this title and I hope he sticks around on the JSA for a while.
Rating: 10

Overall Rating: 10 out of 10 stars, + 2 incentive points.

Next Issue Coming May 26, 2010
Mr. Terrific gathers the ragged remains of the Justice Society in a last-ditch attack on the Fourth Reich, and their power-negating Darkness Engine. If they fail this time, there's no coming back from the devastation!

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