Biting the Bullet: Justice Society of America 80 Page Giant

Warning: This is a spoiler filled commentary on the 80 Page Giant.

When I originally read that Geoff Johns was leaving the book, I was really worried. JSA has been, in my eyes, one of the flagship superhero team books since it’s launch with James Robinson as writer. When Goyer and Johns took over, they continued to make this book a must read title. The book was eventually relaunched with Johns once again at the helm of a much larger cast and really was engaging. This book has been essential reading since the launch of both of the most recent series. Needless to say the key writer of the series leaving was not something that made me happy.

I am also a huge Fables fan. When I heard that Willingham and Sturgis were taking over, my worries started to shrink. Here are two authors very familiar with dealing with a large cast and making sure characters have arcs that spotlight them. They are also excellent at creating huge overarching stories that build over time. Once I had their first Justice Society of America issues in hand, I have been thrilled with the results. I am once again JSA happy.

DC has been publishing more of these 80 Page Giants recently. I had a ton of fun with the Justice League of America offering and am pleased to say the JSA one has put a similar smile on my face.

This book is a collection of interlocking short stories, each with their own beginning, middle and ending. Yet they are interconnected to a larger overarching story effecting the Brownstone. The premise is that former Dr. Fate, Hector Hall, was working on a spell to warn and deal with attacks on the headquarters. Because it hasn’t been perfected, when it issues it’s warning, it has unexpected results that take the team through time.

This works out really well. Different creative teams get a chance to do some serious character exploration with the various members of the JSA. It’s also our first chance to see (aside from the preview pages already published) to see Sturgis and Williams II work their magic on the team. They will be working together on the upcoming JSA All Stars and the presentation in the 80 page giant really has me stoked. The creative team really worked extremely well together on Final Crisis Aftermath: Run and it’s fantastic news that we are getting them on a monthly.

“Memory Lane” is the opening arc by James Robinson and it features Cyclone and Mr. America. I loved this story because it deals with the real problem when you adopt a legacy identity, you have to live up to it. Can you fit into the costume? This story is a great balance of humor with Maxine forgetting much of the concrete events of the story due to not always listening 100%. That being said, she always captures the big picture. It is not the clothes that make the hero. She is not afraid to be vulnerable and when she opens up, she shows she is so much more than the scatterbrain that she often appears to be. I love this duality of the character. Mr. America reminds me of a golden age style concept and it’s great to see a man come to terms with adding to that legacy.

The art shifts between the All Stars team and each of the features works really well for this story. It gives you the feeling that illusion and magic are involved and this adds to the story. All of the teams really put together some fantastic material so it’s a wonderful book to admire artistically. It’s a $5.99 book but with 80 pages of content, the story feels very large and gives any JSA fan a ton of value.

“Heart of Steel” reminds us that sometimes having super powers can be terrifying. Imagine if your actions and events around you could make you less human? If you would change at a molecular level? Would you continue to try and be a hero? Would you spend more time trying to find a cure? Citizen Steel has been a great character with a ton of room to explore further.

Members of his family have been victims of a villain attack that turned them into Steel statues. They try to warn him of upcoming dangers, due to a newfound ability to connect with them, due to his own affliction. Somehow it feels all the more heroic that he continues fighting in spite of all this.

“Amazing Grace” shows us Amazing Man, gaining a new ability. He starts off a bit misguided and even seems to lose his powers for a bit but learns that all people are worth saving. He gains some true revelations about what being a true hero is all about.

Each of these arcs seems to build to the coming storm for the JSA. I loved Freddie Williams take on Dr. Fate and the new Wildcat. It’s no secret that I am a fan of his artwork but he’s really stepping up his game with this book. Each of the members of the team look fantastic in this annual.

The remaining arcs focus on Wildcat, Damage, Power Girl, Cyclone and more. There are many young heroes on this team and they have their own emotional and physical difficulties to overcome. There is a ton of variety to this team which offers up some unique storytelling opportunities. If you dismissed this 80-Page monster, do yourself a favor and pick it up. It’s a nice, self contained read that is satisfying but yet still hints at some major turmoil for the team’s future.