Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Justice Society of America #17 Review

Writers: Geoff Johns and Alex Ross
Penciler: Fernando Pasarin

The current arc in Justice Society of America is a lot of fun. For those of us who were a fan of the Kingdom Come series, it promises to introduce the character of Magog, who was such an important part of those stories. In addition, this new god (or, I guess, old god, since he's from the Third World) adds some opportunities for the book to talk about faith and salvation, and what it might mean in a world that already has superheroes.

For one thing, the current heroes in comic books are basically walking tanks. Sure some of them have pew pew lasers, but at the end of the day, what makes you a hero is your ability to be a weapon. Most of their abilities are about hitting stuff and being resilient when being hit. Sure, they help rebuild cities once and a while, and the Flash especially is very good at rescuing people, but their powers are more about strength than anything.

On the other hand, they are really rather useless when it comes to solving any problems that can't be smashed or lifted. What if someone with real superpowers showed up? Gog spends most of this issue walking across Africa, healing diseases. Moreover, he is able to look deeply into the characters in the JSA and give them what they think they want. Damage's face is healed, Starman's mind is cured and Power Girl, who always feels like an outsider, is sent home, presumably to the new multiverse's equivalent of Earth-2.

This opens up a host of dramatic possibilities, and the book takes advantage of some of them. What if someone showed up who could give you whatever it was your heart desired? Stories like this tend to assume that people would want selfish power, but what if that person were just able to cure a disfiguring ailment or be rid of loneliness? How would people react? That strange feeling of hope, so much a part of religious faith, that in fact we might be healed in so far as we are most damaged, is presented here as the characters fly after Gog, wondering what their lives might be like if they were actually happy, and confronted with the reality that they have been unhappy for so long, they can't really imagine it.

Unfortunately, it looks increasingly like Gog is going to turn into the CAP from the recent Fantastic Four arc, destroying war probably in quite brutal ways. I say it is unfortunate, because it would be nice to see an author take a direction in which hope need not be immediately crushed, and real superpowers, those that heal rather than smash, exist. But for now, it is interesting to see the kind of disorientation that the characters feel in the face of real hope.

This book is very clever and occasionally funny, especially as the heroes fly over Gog, reporting with surprise that he isn't actually smashing anything. It gives Johns the opportunity to tell stories about those who suddenly find hope, and are unsure of how to deal with it. Next month, this will all come crashing down, of course, but this issue is an interesting reflection on how disorienting the possibility of hope can be.


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