Justice Society of America had been so dull for so long that not even writer Bill Willingham’s arrival a while back could persuade me to keep on my pull list a month longer. So faster than you could say, “Screw you, JSA All-Stars!” I ended that marriage of obligation and began confronting people who were still trying to make it work: “Just end it, man. Magog is never going to change.”

Of course, that’s precisely when the flagship book got really good.

I checked out issue #36 based on a friend’s recommendation, and it was such fine work that I didn’t even have my usual “Nazis again?” reaction to the villains. Issue #37 drops today, so here’s my admittedly late assessment of its predecessor (Spoilers ahead):

The story opens 20 years in the future, and it’s a downer. For starters, Mr. Terrific is in prison, where he’s explaining the particulars of Alan Scott’s demise to an eerily detached secretary with a Vidal Sassoon haircut. Aged, weary and thin, Mr. Terrific has been stripped of his powers and fully expects to be executed after his story is recorded.

The action switches to the present, and we begin to see just when — and how everything — ran off the rails. From inside his holding cell at JSA headquarters, evil-ass Kid Karnevil talks major smack about his escape plans, gleefully race-baits Mr. Terrific (“the JSA’s token Negro”) and announces OG Green Lantern’s death while it’s happening. Killing Scott turns out to be a surprisingly simple task, but it’s still a shocking development. Once the Nazis of the Fourth Reich show up, it is officially on.

Willingham’s script steals the show, but I thoroughly enjoyed Jesus Merino’s clean, elegant pencil work. While the story is plenty dark, Merino’s sunny, domestic scenes of Liberty Belle and Hourman stand out, and there’s an especially lovely image of LB in full stride as she (literally) runs to work. This is the first time I’ve taken note of Merino’s illustration, but I hope his JSA partnership with Willingham is a long-term gig.

I also hope that issue #37 includes a lavish splash page of Kid Karnevil receiving the old-school beatdown he so richly deserves.

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