Justice League of America: 10 issues from 2010
Writer: James Robinson
And… right on cue, we’re back to “basically kinda sucks” Robinson. Bye, “surprisingly solid” Robinson, see you in another nine runs or so.
Mostly just out-of-character antics, dwelling on Cry for Justice as if it was a good idea, and very awkward dialogue (shoutout to Robinson’s trademark insistence on having everyone say “at this moment in time” when “right now” would do). But also, Plastic Man was apparently alive in the ‘40s now? That’s new.
Also, this is just a Titans run with some serial numbers filed off.
Snark aside, I do really like the idea of picking Jesse Quick and Jade as the Flash and Green Lantern for this lineup. I wish it were in a context that could make more actual use of them, but they’re both underrated and underutilized, and have similar enough backstories to make an obvious pair. Jesse even got to have two entire conversations that weren’t about Rick.
Shoutout to this over-the-top but not strictly uninteresting “Bogeyman” guy for being a Donna Troy plot that’s not about her origin. He never appears again, though, so it’s just kind of an out-of-place filler scene. Most likely because of Flashpoint. Wasn’t Flashpoint grand?
Shoutout to the scene of the Crime Syndicate in the last issue of this year where Owlman and Superwoman have sex on top of literal bags of money down to the cartoonish dollar sign marked on them, in the middle of a bank that Ultraman is robbing, which is on fire… and then Owlman subsequently remarks that they’re “keeping a low profile.”
And since there was a crossover, I also read:
Justice Society of America: 12 issues from 2010
Writers: Bill Willingham (6 issues, co-writer on 1 issue), Lillah Sturges (co-writer on 1 issue), James Robinson (3 issues), Marc Guggenheim (1 issue)
First of all, Kid Karnevil is not as clever or interesting of a villain as Willingham thinks he is. “But no, see: He kills people! And he… he talks about how much he likes killing people!” It’s like Zsasz.
This split of the team into a regular group and an EDGY, MILITARIZED group is just… so… early ‘90s. I half-expect everybody to start sprouting mullets. This is literally how Extreme Justice happened, and at least the early parts of that title were… basically what you’d expect of a book that unironically calls itself “Extreme Justice.”
Mister America carries a bullwhip, which is an inefficient and dangerous weapon. Mister Terrific decides to “help” by making it cause explosions when it hits things.
Also, I recognize that this is a silly criticism in some ways, but I do feel obligated to snark the tone-deafness of multiple scenes about a black guy making a white guy’s whip more powerful. Like, the whip in the first place is a gimmick dating to the original version of the character from the ‘40s, and Michael is the team’s gadget guy, so the idea would be entirely logical from an in-universe perspective (if we pretend the exploding whip isn’t stupid on its face for practical reasons), and I doubt they mean anything by it. But… still.
Anyway, hey, gratuitous anachronistic Nazis. Willingham should consider writing a bad Captain America run. And, like, really it’s just yet another generic dystopian future, but with more swastikas. But basically a disturbingly large number of comic writers seem to really, really wish World War II had never ended.
And perverse nostalgia for World War II is weird enough, but it’s common enough in comics that you have just sort of live with it. But in this case, the structure of the story is like four issues of this… misery porn of old superheroes dying one-by-one in a concentration camp (with lots of over-the-top detail on the Future!Nazis’ little-kids-changing-the-rules-of-the-game-tier “planning” and inexplicably extensive resources (their only ace in the hole is shutting off superpowers, where did they get all these robots)), and one of things actually getting properly resolved. Who the ■■■■ wants to read that?
Regarding the aforementioned JLA/JSA crossover, it’s basically just an extremely long slugfest. It’s very fuzzy what the actual threat is, since it’s kind of an “everything goes crazy” grab bag. The Starheart, which is apparently intelligent now, doesn’t seem to have any real goals other than causing fight scenes. It completely drowns out what should be an emotional reunion between Jennie and her family.
Superman: 4 issues from 1940
Writer: Jerry Siegel
Obviously pretty much the same as the Superman stories in Action.
And unfortunately, up until maybe the last issue from this year, which has some more variety, that means Superman is pretty much still invincible. Which, like, I don’t want to be that guy complaining that Superman is overpowered, but, like, the reason that’s silly is because you can still do good conflict with a really powerful protagonist. But a lot of these stories don’t really make the effort. He just wins.
Shoutout to Clark bemoaning that there’s no news in September 1940. Can’t imagine what might’ve been going on at that time for a newspaper to report on.
Flash Comics #1 from 1940
Writer: Gardner Fox
One digitized story from one digitized issue, but it’s here.
Shoutout to Jay getting his powers from “hard water.” Like, not heavy water; it’s that stuff that builds up on your sink if you don’t have a water softener.
And, being a speedster, the first thing he does with his powers is run in a circle. I wish as many real problems could be solved by running in a circle fast as there are in Flash stories.
His first priority, then, is to impress Joan, who is apparently a big football fan and won’t give him the time of day unless he uses his powers to cheat.
Batman: 3 issues from 1940
Writer: Bill Finger
I’m impressed by how many core elements of the franchise have shown up in fairly recognizable form this quickly, honestly. Like… I don’t really mean to keep criticizing Superman, but it’s just the best example here: most plots there are about one-off characters who never come up again, and the supporting cast hasn’t really expanded beyond Lois and George/Perry (he just got renamed in the last issue from this year). But Batman seems to be introducing things that’ll actually stick in more stories than not. It does get a little silly when, like, the Joker manages to show up three times in two issues. But by that same token, he’s engaging and pretty recognizable compared to modern Joker, while Luthor still has hair and no first name.
Also, Robin is a tank in these early stories. Like, at a certain point the joke became that he gets kidnapped all the time or whatever, and there’s some of that, but in straight-up brawls, I feel like he’s winding up with a better track record than Batman. You can’t say the kid doesn’t pull his weight. There’s a hilariously bizarre scene in an otherwise normal story where Batman suddenly breaks the fourth wall and says he’s going to prove that criminals are cowards without their guns. So, he sets some guys he just captured loose to fistfight Robin, who just beats the ■■■■ out of them until they beg for mercy. Robin’s not there to help Batman; Batman’s there to hold Robin back.
Adventures with Understaffed ‘40s Police Departments: Not only does the police commissioner personally investigate murders, he actively invites Bruce Wayne along to murder investigations. Not Batman, Bruce. I mean, he’s been doing this since the first story, I’m just shouting that out because it happens again here. Twice, I think.
I’ve also just realized that I may have stumbled across the earliest comic book shipping war. Gardner Fox wrote a couple early issues, and he was the one who introduced Julie Madison. Bill Finger seems to go out of his way to ignore or sideline Julie other than token references like having Bruce sometimes remember “Oh, right, I’m already engaged, whoops” while in the middle of flirting with the presently-unnamed “Cat.”
(And lest I get too complimentary, shoutout to the story about “the ugliest man in the world” and his “ugly horde” out for revenge against all things beautiful.)