by Bill Willingham & Matthew Sturges (writers), Jesus Merino (art), Allen Passalaqua (colors), and Rob Leigh (letters)

The Story: The Flash finds a mysterious black egg and it’s up to Mr. Terrific to figure out what it is.  Meanwhile, two new members are introduced to the team, and  a massive battle erupts, and there’s a betrayal in the brownstone.

What’s Good: Willingham and Sturges obviously have something of a handle on the retro-quirkness of the JSA, and they seem to be having the time of their lives writing this book.  From Cyclone embarrassing herself, to mysterious mind control, to a super brawl involving thirty odd characters, this book is a blast.

That brawl is the centre of the book, and it seems that rather than being overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters in the JSA, Willingham and Sturges add even more characters, embracing the mayhem that results.  It’s total chaos, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t fun.

That said, the use of the Flash as as narrator speaking in the past tense is a smart move, as it does create some sense of order or control over the book, tying things together and providing something of a framing structure.  It also serves to further deepen the mystery.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the cliffhanger ending as well.  It’s a solid and effective twist due to Willingham and Sturges pulling the trigger on a betrayal far quicker than might be expected.  The “mind controlled” betrayer also gives off a really neat oldschool/pulp vibe in truly cheesy fashion.

Jesus Merino serves to be a great fit on art and turns in a workmanlike effort.  He furthers the retro feel of the JSA, but I pity him for the sheer number of characters he’s being forced to draw on every page.  Somehow, Merino’s drawings maintain the same high level of quality throughout the book, never cutting corners ( I especially like how he emphasized all the characters’ different body types).

What’s Not So Good: Willingham and Sturges realize that there are far too many characters in the JSA and rather than try to negotiate this, they gleefully divine in and make it even more chaotic.  As a result, if you’re looking for deep, individual character moments, you’re not going to get that.  Furthermore, there’s a good chance that your favourite character doesn’t get off more than a single line of dialogue.

I suppose that making “pure fun” the sole goal of a comic book is something of a double edged sword; while JSA #29 is certainly entertaining and action-packed, it’s also not even remotely close to being deep or complex stuff, content to please on a totally superficial level.  The plot is similarly simple stuff (all of the JSA’s villains team up in a well-planned ambush) that I can only hope will show more nuance than this issue suggests.  It’s just a bit hard to believe that the team can be in any true danger from what seems like a” by the numbers” badguy team-up.

The biggest difficulty though is that Willingham and Sturges aren’t yet fully comfortable with the characters.  Some of the voices sound a bit off and it’s strange that the leaders of the team don’t actually seem to be leading when the JSA heads into battle, with Power Girl and Magog being afterthoughts.

Conclusion: Despite it’s simplicity and some minor growing pains, it’s a fun book.  Geoff Johns fans need not panic.

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans

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