Friday, September 28, 2012

Unearthed: JSA - All-Stars#3

"Star Struck! Constellations, Part Two" by Matthew Sturges & Freddie Williams II.

The cover depicts Power Girl's gloved fist socking Magog in the jaw. It's weird to notice the zipper running up Power Girl's glove; 21st century super hero costumes have so many extraneous zippers, buttons and creases.

At the White Star theater (from issue #1), Johnny Sorrow carves the heart from the chest of his own lackey, Killer Wasp, explaining he needs the heart for a ceremony. This convinces Tigress that her boss has lost his mind; he hears her say this and suggests Killer Wasp's heart is more useful to him outside his chest, and threatens her with "What's inside you that I can use?" During all of this, narration by Power Girl explains Sorrow's origins... at least, relates how he was blasted into a "fractional dimension."

At the JSA Ranch, all ten All-Stars (plus *sigh* Roxanne) hold a meeting about Sorrow and Stargirl desperately wants to understand why Sorrow claims to be in love with her. Magog & Power Girl declare they're going to study all of the Injustice Society members' files and prepare strategy to combat them. It's worth noting Power Girl is suddenly wearing a different costume which covers her chest. Damage thinks this meeting is the appropriate time to bring up fellow JSAer Atom Smasher, who hasn't spoken to them in weeks and isn't working for the D.E.O. any longer. Damage admits he used to have problems with Atom Smasher, but considers him a friend now. Hourman offers to speak with the other JSA team and see what they know. Roxanne offers this useless tidbit: "I'll talk to some machines I know. See if he's still 'on the grid.' Although I should point out that the 'grid' is really a complex distributed network of computing nodes, and not an actual grid per se." Roxanne is like an anti-character; everything she says tells you *less* than you knew before because every statement she's made so far has been followed up with a disclaimer like, "just kidding."

Somewhere else, Atom Smasher is bound in chains by a shadowy, cloaked figure who has the hero surrounded by voodoo doll versions of himself. The shadowy figure declares "The door is opening sooner than I'd thought." Cut to the next day as we see Hourman and his wife Liberty Belle at home in New Rochelle, New York. Liberty Belle has to dash off to work with the other JSA team, while Hourman's father comes over to have breakfast with his son (making his 3rd appearance in a row). Hourman tells his father about how Magog nearly killed someone recently and it reminds him of the problems the JSA had with Black Adam. The original Hourman advises his son to "fight to keep it together."

Later that same morning, Hourman and Citizen Steel spar against each other, each mouthing off ridiculous bombastic dialogue, as though they're enemies. Magog watches, then offers pointers, complaining if they won't kill enemies, they'll need to know the quickest way to incapacitate them instead. He explains nerve jabs, gut punches and kneecapping, summarizing that punching someone in the face is more likely to kill them.

King Chimera and Cyclone also begin a sparring session. Back in issue #1, there were hints of Cyclone being attracted to him, but it doesn't seem to be advanced here. Cyclone does note how condescending Chimera is to them and suggests, "if you tone it down some, you might actually make some friends here." However, Chimera claims, "I have more important things to worry about." Actually, it is kind of impressive to see King Chimera can perform judo moves while wearing a full suit. A regular James Bond, this one. Power Girl & Magog also begin sparring as Power Girl remarks, "I'd appreciate it if you'd stop undermining me every time you open your mouth." Magog retorts he's "telling the truth" and becomes upset with her for fixating on "this arbitrary moral high ground" and sending criminals to jail as though it "actually accomplishes something." Magog suggests the "monsters" they fight will always escape custody and murder again. The obvious question to ask is, "so how do you know which criminals are monsters and which are single-time offenders," but instead Power Girl talks about seeing people like Icicle (the villain Magog tried to kill) as a person, reminding him how Icicle once helped save the world from the Ultra-Humanite (in the JSA story "Stealing Thunder"), but Magog observes once the crisis was past, Icicle went back to being a villain.

The artist decides to cut some corners by repeating the same panel three times, only drawing Hourman in different poses and otherwise just changing which people are on-panel. Taken in succession, these panels are inelegant and hokey. Hourman tries to break up Magog & Power Girl before their fight becomes serious, but it's too late. Magog demands "You take your best shot." and she complies.

Precisely how Power Girl performs this punch is anyone's guess. Magog was looking at her face-to-face. She seems to strike him in the face, based on the trail of blood. However, instead of flying away from Power Girl with his back to the audience, Magog flies away face first. It's as though Power Girl's punch knocked him 180° from front to back, plus 180° head over heels. Power Girl admits hitting Magog felt good; he sulks off, declaring "To Hell with this. I've got places to be." Apparently Magog was all talk when he said he wanted her "best shot." Earlier he criticized the All-Stars for being unable to deal with violence; apparently the right way to react is to take your ball and go home.

The next day, the All-Stars are still unable to find the Injustice Society because, Roxanne notes, "these guys don't seem to use computers much." Curses! If only there were ways of tracking criminals outside of their internet traffic! There's also no sign of Atom Smasher, just in case the readers needed to be reminded what was already established. However, Roxanne discovers Magog has broken into a prison. Power Girl worries Magog might be planning to murder the prisoners, so they set off to confront him.

Elsewhere, Sand has a dream where he meets his deceased mentor, Sandman (for some reason Sand is naked in his dream; I guess it's his version of being naked on the day of the big test?). Sandman informs Sand "The first turn in the cycle is coming." Sand has no idea what it means, but Sandman tells him to contact the JSA. Sand wakes up and phones Power Girl. And here the tale ends.

What have I said about this series so far which couldn't be repeated here? I may as well put this up front: Magog is no longer a member of the cast. Despite being the supposed leader of the team and a motivating factor in why this book exists, Magog has left the team off-panel. We don't see the result of the JSA going to investigate the prison break-in, nor are we told which comic we should read to see what happens. Great work, editors! Magog was an odd choice for this series, an extreme 90s-type hero (modeled after Cable) who believes heroes need to take the fight to their enemies and be prepared to kill... however, he has no charisma with the cast, nor the readers. Again, why is he a member of the JSA, a long-running team with standing traditions, rather than simply starting up a team of his own design, membership and rules (as Cable did with X-Force)? No one follows his orders (and his orders are frequently terrible), whereas Power Girl has charisma and gives good orders. When Magog & Power Girl's debate over killing erupts, it's impossible to take Magog's position seriously because he hasn't been right about anything up until then (he'd also expressed a desire to kill Stargirl last issue). Magog makes Triumph seem likeable. I'm reminded of the Justice League Task Force story where Triumph fought Martian Manhunter; it divided fandom between those who enjoyed seeing Triumph get the snot beaten out of him and those who felt Martian Manhunter was too good a character to be fighting a loser like Triumph. So it is with Magog versus Power Girl.

I also have to repeat my distaste for Roxanne, the waste of space. She has an irritating personality and steals the spotlight from the actual stars of the book. Everything about her inclusion in this comic is ill-judged.

JUDOMASTER DIALOGUE METER: She's had no dialogue for two issues running. She makes Cassandra Cain sound like Kitty Pryde!

Tomorrow: JSA: All-Stars#4

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