Tuesday, March 22, 2016


AMERICA VS. THE JUSTICE SOCIETY was originally published by DC Comics as a four-issue mini-series in 1985. It was published shortly before the universe upsetting maxi-series CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. I bought and read the series at the time and recall that I enjoyed it. I recently purchased the trade paperback collection of the series and read it again for the first time in 30 years this weekend. Boy, have times in comic book land changed.

Let me go on the record here and now (if I haven't already done so) and state that Roy Thomas, who penned AVJSA, is my all time favorite comic book writer (sorry Stan!). I've loved everything Thomas has written over the years for both Marvel and DC. Two of my favorite Thomas comic book series are Marvel's mid-'70s THE INVADERS (which features Timely Comics big three Captain America, Sub-Mariner and Human Torch in WWII) and  DC's early '80s ALL-STAR SQUADRON (which did the same thing for DC (and other publishers) superheroes in WWII). I love the combination of super-heroes and World War II, which is one of the reasons why CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER, is my favorite of all of the recent Marvel Comics movies. I also adored the run on AVENGERS in the mid-'60s by Thomas, John Buscema and Tom Palmer, his work on X-MEN with Neal Adams and Palmer and of course, his brilliant run on CONAN THE BARBARIAN with first, Barry Smith and later John Buscema and others.

One of the things I admire about Thomas is his unabashed love for the DC golden age heroes, especially those who appeared as members of the Justice Society of America in the pages of ALL-STAR COMICS. That love informs every page of AVJSA as Thomas tells a tale that is part congressional hearing, part history of the mighty, legendary Justice Society. A diary written by the late Batman (Bruce Wayne), makes the claim that the JSA committed acts of treason during WWII. Of course they didn't but the diary is authentic so what's really going on here? It will take a lengthy hearing to get to the bottom of this mystery that spans decades. Acting as counsel for the JSA is Helena (The Huntress) Wayne, daughter of the late Bruce Wayne while serving in the same capacity for the government is none other than Richard (Robin) Grayson, long time partner to the caped crusader.

The story features appearances by everyone who was ever a member of the JSA and a fairly detailed history of their exploits. Guest villains The Wizard and Per Degaton show up and the mystery of Batman's accusatory diary is finally solved by, appropriately, Dick Grayson. It's a fun romp with nice artwork by Rafael Kayanan (and others) and lush inking by Alfredo Alcala.

I enjoyed the hell of this one but while reading it I was struck by a couple of thoughts. One, DC comics would never publish a story like this in 2016. Why? Well, for one thing, there's very little action to speak of. There is a ton of dialog and wordy captions that actually inform the reader while advancing the narrative, something you don't see much of these days. But mainly, it's the fact that Roy Thomas genuinely loves and respects these characters and took a great deal of time and effort to recount their history shortly before CRISIS hit the first of way too many reset buttons. Can you imagine a history of the JSA being published today? Which iteration (there have been dozens), would the story focus on? Which version of the team is considered the "real"version? There have been some good Justice Society comics published over the years but I doubt any current writer wants to try to make a coherent story out of the convoluted history of the team as it stands. There's no Roy Thomas out there to set the record straight and I guarantee you the DC top brass has no interest in tackling such a project. After all, any version of JSA that's out there now will only get blown up when the next company wide restart is mandated.

And you wonder why I gave up on contemporary comics?

AMERICA VS THE JUSTICE SOCIETY is for old-timers like me who enjoy a well scripted trip down memory lane with some of the greatest super-heroes of all time. If you care about DC comics history, if you like the work of Roy Thomas, if you love the original incarnation of the Justice Society of America, check it out. You won't be disappointed.

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