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

The Story: The JSA fight back, getting a little extra help from a new member, before returning to the Brownstone to discover the wounded Mr. Terrific.  Meanwhile, cracks are beginning to develop in the team that may reach their boiling point sooner rather than later.

What’s Good: I certainly felt that this issue got better as it went along. The last scene, an argument possibly turning into a brawl between Magog and Wildcat, was miles above the rest of the book. The dialogue was solid and Willingham and Sturges had a good grip on the voices of both these characters. This scene is by far the best written in the entire book, as entertaining infighting over age and tactics reaches its boiling point.

Also, as you can probably tell by the issue’s cover, this month sees the entry of Dr. Fate into the JSA. The central issue here is that this is a new and significantly less powerful/experienced version of the hero, and it really is handled very, very well. At first I felt that Fate’s menacing dialogue felt a little stilted, but apparently this was cleverly intentional, as the new Dr. Fate was essentially putting on an act and bluffing to seem more powerful than he was. Already, this younger Fate is a worried but likable character, and it’s rather fun seeing a hero like Dr. Fate suddenly being taken under the wing of the JSA as a student of sorts.

The action scenes are also fun and explosive in the way you’d expect from a JSA comic. Plus there’s a lot of Stargirl love going on here.  The issue of the bad guys refusing to target her, even at their own expense, is certainly intriguing.

Jesus Merino meanwhile continues to do an admirable job.  Continuing to make order from chaos with an old school vibe, Merino also draws a nice Power Girl and Dr. Fate. There’s also one particularly outstanding splash of the Flash.

What’s Not So Good: Willingham and Sturges are still finding their feet and so some of the dialogue feels a little awkward.  Magog in particular is cringe-inducingly bad, with the forced pseudo-military language feeling ridiculous to the point of self-satire. Interestingly, Magog is written perfectly in the final scene with Wildcat, yet in everything prior, he’s terribly written. It’s as though the writing team was learning on the job.

Also, there are some rather sloppy bits of storytelling here. As an example, all of the downed JSA members, save two, suddenly and inexplicably recovering at the same time, with perfect timing, was just ludicrous. We literally go from the heroes lying on the ground, to an image of all them posing and looking perfectly healthy  in the space of one page.

Also, one can’t help but criticize the lack of imagination behind this whole “every member of the enemy team is designed to counter a specific JSA member” schtick.  It’s been done a million times, and sure enough, we get the no-brainer solution, which is for the heroes to switch enemies.  It’s just way too obvious as it’s been done many times enough for you to know.

Conclusion: Not a bad issue, but there’s still some growing pains and lazy storytelling.

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans