We now interrupt your regularly scheduled program to bring you this breaking news…….The JSA is BACK, baby, and better than ever! Thanks to the creative trio of Geoff Johns, Dale Eaglesham, and under the advisement of the legendary Alex Ross (who also is providing the stunning covers!), this third volume of the Justice Society of America has arrived and is headed up, up and away! So without further ado, let’s get you caught up with the current roster and what’s been going on.
Kara Zor-L is the first cousin of Earth-2’s Superman as well as the recently elected Chairwoman of the JSA, putting her in a rare position of power and respect. I say rare because, as is sometimes the case with good characters, poor Kara has been the victim of some….questionable…..creative decisions over the years. Some notable ones include her background being retconned (from being a Kryptonian from another reality to being the descendant of an Atlantean sorcerer….since changed back), a mystical pregnancy (she gave birth to a son named Equinox who upon aging rapidly, disappears, never to be heard of again) and being the butt of countless jokes and one-liners concerning her rather…ahem…busty appearance. (Come on people! She’s a freaking Kryptonian, like Superman, enough with the boob jokes!!) Look for upcoming issues to center upon her with the appearance of a certain someone in the end of JSA #9. (Skip ahead to the last page if you want to know who I’m talking about)
HOURMAN & LIBERTY BELLE
He’s Rick Tyler, son of the original Hourman (Rex Tyler), a cocky Bruce Willis/Diehard type. You know who I’m talking about, the gritty leading man with a five o’clock shadow going and a smug cockiness about him. He’s capable of super strength, speed, reflexes and durability….one hour at a time.
She’s Jesse Chambers, formerly known as Jessie Quick, the daughter of Golden-age superhero greats Johnny Quick and the original Liberty Belle. She’s capable of super strength from her mom’s side as well as super speed from her father’s. (The latter thought lost for good in a confrontation with the renegade villain Zoom….only to be fittingly reacquired in yet another confrontation with him in JSA #8)
Aside from being known as Hourman and Liberty Belle, Rick and Jesse go by another title as well…Husband and Wife, having married sometime within the One Year Later jump. Where we have yet to get a good feel of Rick’s role on the team, I get the impression Jesse is going to be like the Sue Richards of the JSA…. the caring motherly type that keeps the team from fraying at the edges. Both she and Rick were responsible for the recruitment of Damage to the team, an act I have the feeling is going to come back to haunt them. (See Damage)
Maxine Hunkel is the granddaughter of the original Red Tornado, Abigail Hunkel, who is an honorary member of the JSA as well as the caretaker of their headquarters. Recruited by Power Girl and Mr. Terrific, this cheerful 19 yr old is potentially one of the more powerful members of the current team. Though not without her own personal demons (she suffers from atypical depression), Maxine brings a vivid freshness that will help keep this book grounded in the everyday world, which is where the JSA is at its best.
With all due respect to Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart and Kyle Rayner, when I think of Green Lantern, I always think of the venerable Alan Scott first. The first to bear the name Green Lantern, Alan has been floating in and out of relevance for the past 60 years. Being from Earth-2, he suffered a similar malady as Power Girl, a constant retooling of his past and powers thanks to the original Crisis on Infinite Earths series…so much so that even I’m not too clear on the actual origin they are going with now. I’d expect that with the return of the multiverse that his original history might prevail as canon. Today, he continues to be the rock of the JSA, though it looks like he’s taking a more backseat/mentor role and letting the younger members take center stage. OBSIDIAN
Todd Rice, son of the original Green Lantern Alan Scott, is a little acknowledged member of the current JSA as he currently acts as a security guard for their New York Headquarters. It should also be noted that Todd is an openly gay superhero who is currently seeing Damon Matthews (the vigilante known as Manhunter….no jokes please). I only note this because I think it adds a more realistic, earthy tone to the JSA as well as emphasizes the core theme throughout this book…that the JSA is the peoples team, a superhero family that has its diversity, quirks, and issues and aren’t afraid to lay them out for the reader to see. It humanizes them and makes them easier to relate to for the reader than say, a good majority of the Justice League. I’m really hoping they bring Todd more into the book at some point.
An original member of the JSA as well as its first chairman, Jay Garrick is the first man to bear the Flash title. Gifted with super speed after an accidental exposure to heavy water vapors (later, it would be retconned that these vapors activated his metagene), he would soon don his signature helmet and lightning bolt shirt and race into the fight against evil. Jay, like Alan Scott (the original Green Lantern), has spent the later part of his career mainly on the outskirts of the DCU…..helping when needed and being supportive when not. As a member of today’s JSA, Jay acts as both a mentor and father figure to the younger members of the team. Nothing against Jay and Alan, but I can easily see them taking more and more of a back seat to the younger generation of JSA members. I think that’s evidenced by the electing of Power Girl as chairwoman. It should also be noted that Jay also recently loss a man he considered a grandson with the death of Bart Allen, the fourth Flash, at the hands of the Rogues.
A former heavy-weight champion of the world and a member of the original JSA, Ted Grant is the man the JSA turns to when it needs some ring lessons. He’s helped train such notable’s as Black Canary, Catwoman (Selina Kyle) and was even one of the instructors a young Bruce Wayne sought out in his training to become Batman. In JSA #1, it is found out that Ted has a son (His second. He doesn’t speak with his first son, Jake), Tom Bronson, who he fathered on a one night stand. It is soon shown that Tom possesses an active metagene which allows him to transform into a cat-like creature. (See Wildcat II) Unlike Jay (Flash) and Allen (Green Lantern), I can see Ted being a somewhat reluctant prominent figure in these books due to his mentoring and training of his son, Tom. WILDCAT II
Tom Bronson is the product of a one-night stand between his mother and the superhero Wildcat. He was first introduced in JSA #1 when Wildcat showed up at his apartment after being led there by Alan Scott (Green Lantern) and Jay Garrick (Flash). During that meeting, the two were attacked by the villainous Vandall Savage, where it is revealed that Tom is a metahuman with the ability to turn into a were-cat. After defeating Savage, with the help of his father, Tom is invited to join the JSA under the name Wildcat as well. (Because as the elder Wildcat put it “There’s two Flashes and a whole buncha Green Lanterns. There can be two Wildcats.”) Personally, I like Tom. He, like Cyclone, adds a freshness to the book. Plus I’m really enjoying the interaction between him and his father. (Check out JSA #9. The sight of him sulking in a boxing ring with the head gear on makes me chuckle every time I see it! Dale Eaglesham has to be a cat owner because some of the expressions used for Tom are just dead on hilarious.) CITIZEN STEEL
Nathan Heywood is the grandson of Henry Heywood (The original Commander Steel) and cousin of Henry Heywood III (The second Commander Steel). He was first seen at a family reunion in issue #2 where you learn he was a former standout Ohio State football star who had his knee injured and was later forced to have that leg amputated from that knee down. At that reunion, his family was attacked and mostly slaughtered by a team of Neo-Nazis sent there by Vandall Savage in his plot to wipe out the bloodline of the original Golden Age heroes. Nathan managed to subdue the villain Reichsmark but in doing so was splattered with liquid metal blood, which was absorbed into his skin. That absorption later resulted in the re-growing of his lost leg as well as transforming his skin into organic metal, granting him invulnerability and super strength. Unfortunately, the transformation also robbed him of his ability to physically feel, giving him no ability to judge the amount of his strength used at any given moment. With that in mind, Dr. Mid-Nite and Mr. Terrific fashion a process that coats him in a ‘second skin’ of stainless steel alloy that limits his movements and strength by half. Maybe I just got a soft spot for these guys with organic metal (Colossus is my favorite X-man), but I think Citizen Steel (named by Power Girl) is the most interesting of the new members. I can just envision a scenario where a villain beats him so much that he rips that second skin off and he just cuts loose with double his strength! MR. TERRIFIC
Michael Holt is the second person to bear the name Mr. terrific. He is a super-genius (Third smartest person in the world) as well as an Olympic level athlete. He possess’ 14 PH.D’s, is a self-made millionaire and is a master of 6 different types of martial arts. He adopted the guise of Mr. Terrific after the death of his wife and unborn child, when the Spectre intervened on Michael contemplating suicide to tell him the tale of Terry Sloane, the original Mr. Terrific. The chairman of the JSA both pre-One Year Later and when the group was initially reformed, Terry relinquishes this title to Power Girl to help him focus on his leadership responsibilities of Checkmate.
Pieter Cross, the third Dr. Mid-Nite (are you getting a big legacy theme in the JSA), is one of the most prominent physicians in the DCU. He, along with Mr. Terrific serve as ‘go-to’ guys for any medical or scientific work concerning meta-humans. He mainly considers himself a physician first and superhero second, keeping in the background for the most part. In theory, Dr. Mid-Nite may seem like a boon for any super team (and he is, in a realist sense) but with so many characters in this current rendition of the JSA, I’d like to see his panels go to a few of the other, more interesting characters. Nothing personal doc! STARMAN
Thom Kallor was born in the 31st century and was a member of the Legion of Super Heroes, going by the name of Star Boy. Post-Zero Hour, he discovered that his destiny was to travel back to the 21st century and assume the mantle of Starman where he would eventually lose his life. In his travels from the 31st century to the present, Thom was temporarily placed upon Earth-22 for a short while, which is the future Earth represented in the Kingdom Come limited series. Soon after arriving to the 21st century, Thom began to hear voices, which are a result of a side effect of his powers (He’s borderline schizophrenic) He was recently involved in a Legion plan to resurrect a fallen hero needed in the future. The conclusion of that Lightning Saga would have you believe that the end result of the Legions plan was to bring back Wally West (the third Flash) but I get the feeling that the true goal was Barry Allen (The second Flash), and that their goal was successful. When not with the JSA, Thom can be found at the Sunshine Sanitarium where he voluntarily stays and takes medication for his condition.
My second favorite member of the new JSA, Grant Emerson is probably the most troubled of the team. He was abused by his foster father as a youth and after discovering his powers during high school (after using them to help jump-start the universe during Zero Hour), was responsible for accidently destroying half of Atlanta. (This would later be touched upon in JSA #8) He was afterwards remanded into the Teen Titans for a brief time and eventually ended up with the Freedom Fighters. Grant was a member of the Freedom Fighters when they were ambushed by the Society in the Infinite Crisis limited series, where several of the members were killed and his face was disfigured by a brutal attack from the Flash villain, Zoom. The Grant Emerson of present is much gruffer and more cynical as a result of his disfigurement. He was recruited for the JSA by Liberty Belle and Hourman in the first issue and after reading the first nine issues, you really get the feeling that Grant is going to develop a fixation with Liberty Belle, whose unwavering, unflinching kindness may be misinterpreted.
Courtney Whitmore, originally known as the Star-Spangled Kid, was given the cosmic staff/rod of Jack Knight (son of the original Starman) when he decided to retire, prompting her to change her name to Stargirl. She has been associated with the JSA for a few years, briefly having a relationship with Captain Marvel and was shown to eventually be the wife of The Atom Smasher in a previous glimpse into the future. Stargirl is another JSA member I can’t quite get into. Maybe it’s that this is my first real experience with Courtney and that they really haven’t touched upon her character much in the new series but I have a real ‘eh *shrugs*’ feeling about her. SANDMAN
Sanderson Hawkins, a former chairman of the JSA, is another of the little used characters of the new JSA. It is believed that his role within the team will be as ‘recon man’, doing the leg work and playing the role of detective. His is a strange combination of abilities as he is a being of living silicon…..so in a sense, think of Marvel’s version of Sandman….as well as having prophetic visions that come in the form of nightmares. I look forward to seeing more of him in issues to come. (Maybe some of Stargirl’s and Dr. Mid-Nite’s pages can go to him!) HAWKMAN
When speaking of confusing histories, you have to bring Carter Hall into the conversation. Between reincarnations and mergers with Hawkgirl into a ‘Hawk God’ (during Zero Hour), it’s really hard to keep up with Carter. All you need to know for now is that he is an active member of the JSA, seen in the opening story arc trying to save Citizen Steel’s family from being slaughtered by Neo-Nazi’s and was one of the people responsible for the choosing of Power Girl as the current Chairwoman. Other than that, he’s been pretty much a no show in the series as of now .
Yes, I just included Superman into the JSA. I can’t state anything for certain other than he appears at the end of the current issue (JSA #9) but solicitations for JSA #10 in October reveals that the alternate Superman from the Kingdom Come limited series is joining the team. As revealed in the mentioned JSA #9, Power Girl has yet to come to terms with the loss of Earth-2’s Superman (He dies in the Infinite Crisis limited series) who she saw as the father she never had, so the appearance of this older version of Supes should shake things up considerably! I’m really psyched about the prospect of this somewhat grittier, seasoned Man of Steel being an active part of this book! I only wish DC would drop the restraining order so I could stop by the offices and get the scoop on how long he’s gonna be around! (Kidding, I don’t think they still have that order?? *wink*)
And there you have it, the current Justice Society of America in a nutshell. To be honest, I picked up my first issue of this series on the draw (pun intended) of Ross’s cover art and Eaglesham’s interior work and was hooked from page one! I’m serious when I say this is my favorite book out there and coming from a Marvel guy like myself, that’s saying a lot! So get off the computer for a second and at the very least, flip through an issue or two at your local comic dive, you may find yourself as hooked as I am…in fact, I’m almost sure you would be. (Then you can come back and tell me how right I am!)