Review by Frank Plowright
While these collections can’t be faulted for not being complete, their very comprehensiveness undermines the quality. Firstly, for almost all the content over Book One and Book Two Geoff Johns collaborates with David Goyer, which is no bad thing overall, but is here, and secondly as well as including the ongoing JSA series, these collections pull in all kinds of associated projects. Again, that’s no bad thing overall, but is here.
Let’s start with the good. What was first collected in paperback as Fair Play is a delightful selection of shorter stories in which Goyer and Johns deftly provide fascinating interactions between a diverse cast during the course of exciting superhero action including some great art. Regular series artist Stephen Sadowski benefits greatly from the departure of inker Michael Bair, his pencils now flowing rather than stiff (sample art), and Rags Morales and Peter Snejbjerg also impress. The problem is that these stories only make up the final quarter of this thick collection, before which there’s a lot of ordinary material.
The bulk of it is what was previously issued as JSA All-Stars. Under Johns and Goyer Justice Society members individually have to confront the emotional wounds of their past to rectify a current problem, but the revelations are ho-hum, and so is much of the artwork. Far better is looking back into the past and having assorted creators deliver solo adventures for team members set in the 1940s, So, while the present day Dr Fate sits in a bar wringing his hands about viewing the fates of others, Darwyn Cooke mimics the layouts, the terse captions and dialogue of the 1940s, but greatly improves on the art.
Other treats include Eduardo Risso illustrating a noir Brian Azzarello script about Doctor Mid-Nite, playing off his blindness, a manic Hourman from Howard Chaykin, and James Robinson and Tony Harris’ Starman. Less successful is Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s take on the intense Hawkman as a comedy turn, but the absolute highlight is Michaels Chabon and Lark’s look at Mr. Terrific. Lark also elects to remain faithful to the layouts and style of 1940s strips, while Chabon muses over what it must be like to be the brother of the man to whom everything comes easy. Ned Sloane is singularly responsible for his own misfortunes, swilling about town drunk and in debt, but the story also highlights the flaws of his brother. There’s an ingenious use of costumes, and a satisfying conclusion.
A new character acquiring the old name of Nemesis is introduced by Goyer and Uriel Caton with little originality or sparkle. She feeds into a spotlight on the JSA’s female members by Johns explaining some of the more random villains the JSA fought in earlier books. Johns is below his best, while Buzz’s art is generally good, but with the occasional element of exploitation and poor figures, and much better than Javier Saltares on the teaser for what’s to follow in Book Four. That’s a straight run of stories produced for the JSA comic and far better.