Writer: Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham
Art: Jesus Merino
Colours: Allen Passalaqua
So… imagine you’re a comic book publisher. Superheroes inspired by the Golden Age are the trend of the moment, so you take a series renowned for its old school crime-fighters and you let Geoff Johns go mad with it, cramming as many modern iterations of old and currently disused characters into its pages as he possibly can. And as this team of traditional vigilantes burgeons to preposterous levels, you realise that to once again tell reasonable tales with this series, the central team has to be culled. Drastically.
Or in the case of the JSA, split into two titles. Essentially, what DC have done with Justice Society of America: The Bad Seed is hire Matthew Sturges and Bill Willingham to write a JSA arc so totally, utterly terrible that it serves only to reinforce the decision to scrap the book in its existing format. Those expecting anything of par with Willingham’s other series, Fables, is going to be disappointed; this is as mediocre and uninspired a superhero book as you’ll ever find.
The Jay Garrick-narrated tale begins with one of the most bizarre plot elements I’ve read in some time – Alan Scott’s son Obsdian, whose presence had until recently inhabited the Brownstone, has transformed into an egg. The JSA haven’t the time to ponder why before crap villain Tapeworm is live on air, holding hostages and threatening to kill them if Wildcat does not face him alone. As the entire team alight to tackle him, it appears they have wandered into an elaborate trap that not only leaves Mr Terrific mortally wounded but looks to tear the team apart from within.
By “elaborate trap” I imply a ruse so obvious from the offset that the kids from Scooby Doo wouldn’t have wasted their time on it. Sturges and Willingham have tried to give the twenty-plus members of the JSA a fair battle by throwing a similar quantity of lesser villains, including Eclipso, Dr Polaris and Icicle, and the result is one large mess of a story cluttered with characters that barely get room for more than a bubble of dialogue each.
Jesus Merino’s illustrations, however, are bold and consistent, and aided by Allen Passalaqua’s solid colours his detailed double-spreads remind us that the JSA consists of some of the most underutilised heroes in the DC Universe, including Hourman, Mister Terrific, Doctor Midnight and many more. Hopefully, when the team does split into two these guys will once again get the attention and character development they sorely deserve.