Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Classics: Last Days of the Justice Society Special #1

Boy, did I hate this comic when it was published in 1986.

As a big fan of the Justice Society, I picked up almost any comics featuring the team. And writer Roy Thomas had done great work with the team and associated titles (including All-Star Squadron and Infinity, Inc.).

But in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the JSA was a problem. DC didn't want a bunch of "old" heroes hanging around, and the Crisis had eliminated all the alternate Earths - so what to do with these geezers?

It seems that DC asked Thomas to find a way to write the team out of continuity - and he did so, but he had to bend the team and the plot into all kinds of contortions to make it work.

The upshot - as near as I can tell - is that, at the end of World War II, with defeat imminent, Adolf Hitler used the mystic artifact, the Spear of Destiny, to cause Ragnarok (the Twilight of the Gods).

In attempting to stop the destruction of the Earth, most of the JSA is brutally killed, only to be brought back and merged with the Norse Gods to stop Ragnarok from destroying the world. This way they can keep dying over and over again.

Through a variety of contortions, a handful of the JSA team members escape back to the modern world - Power Girl, Dr. Fate, the Spectre and the Star-Spangled Kid are spared, but the rest of the team is trapped in another dimension, fighting (and dying) and repeating the process on a loop forever.

It solved the problem by removing the bulk of the team from continuity, but it doomed them to a terrible fate - hardly the best way to wrap up such legendary careers.

Even the art seems rushed and shaky - not David Ross' best work at all.

Thankfully, it wasn't the last word on the team. Several years later, the JSA was rescued from its terrible fate - but for a long time, they were written out of continuity - and DC (and comics in general) was the poorer for it.

Some things never change, and today those "senior Citizen" heroes have again been written out of continuity. This time around they've been replaced by younger, updated versions living and working on a revived Earth-2.

So I suppose that's a bit of an improvement over Last Days of the Justice Society - but not by much.

Grade: D+



Glen Davis said...

DC's attitude toward the JSA has always struck me as strange. The property has a huge fan base, but DC seems embarrassed by them for no discernible reason.

Chuck said...

That's what I find surprising - when the characters are written well, they're wonderful. Look at Geoff Johns' run, for example. But DC doesn't seem to see the value in the JSA. Go figure.

Kyle said...

I agree completely... My favorite modern incarnation was the Strazewski and Parobeck series. From what I hear (it was on the internet so it must be true) they cancelled that without even giving it a chance... It is a shame DC can't find room for these characters...

Chuck said...

Kyle, that's what I heard - that DC cancelled it despite strong sales because they didn't like the idea of "old" heroes. I loved Parobeck's art!