This is not a huge entry in the series, covering just an inconsequential event tie-in and a fairly slight two part story. Those two issues, while not particularly important in themselves, do set into motion some much larger events to come. The standard in comics, really.
JSA: Our Worlds at War 1
Johns, Saltares and Kryssing
Our Worlds at War was a crossover primarily centered on Superman and his ancillary characters. Villain Imperiex is trying to destroy the universe and trigger a new big bang to fix imperfections in the universe. He intends for Earth to be the epicenter of his recreation of the universe. President Lex Luthor (strange times) rallies the heroes of Earth to fight him, and Brainiac, off and save Earth and the universe.
This issue is far from essential to the run. It does have some interesting things going on, but it is really just fluff. It takes the legacy approach of the title and mixes it with the society. Basically every old or named for an old hero that is not on another team is called into action with the JSA. People like Iron Monroe and the Freedom Fighters. It also has the first JSA appearance of Power Girl. She immediately adds some pep to the team, another character that is just abrasive enough to cause some waves.
The JSA and about three or four more teams worth of characters are given the mission of going into space and stopping Imperiex’s Jupiter sized ship. When the get there, they find that the ship is powered by the planet Daxam, whose inhabitants have Superman like powers. So they split into several teams. The most powerful members cause a distraction while the unpowered characters go to shut down the ship and the Freedom Fighters attempt to free Daxam. Lastly, the magical characters try to find a way to send Daxam back where it belongs.
There really isn’t much more to say than they succeed. It does play up some ongoing character stuff. Atom Smasher doesn’t like having a former villain in Black Adam on the team. Hawkman is chasing after Hawkgirl like she was in heat. Dr. Mid-Nite and Black Canary are dating. There is another appearance by Nemesis. It is a fine tie in issue, but that is all it really is. The art is no great shakes either, but the sheer number of characters around in most issues makes it hard to judge the artist too harshly for it. This could not have been an easy book to draw. It does reinforce that the JSA are the keepers of superhero legacy. The opening pages are all the heroes introducing themselves and saying who they are carrying on for, or maybe just who they stole their name from.
JSA 26 Who Do You Trust
Johns, Morales and Bair
This issue, another sort of breather that is credited to Johns only, starts with Atom Smasher challenging Black Adam to an arm wrestling match. Smasher doesn’t like having Black Adam on the team, despite his approval from the senior members of the team. He doesn’t think villains are capable of reforming. Black Adam doesn’t consider himself a villain and doesn’t think he needs reformation. Atom Smasher is still a little lost from way back in issue #15 when he killed Extant. There to cheer Atom Smasher on is Star Spangled Kid. Those two are in some ways the heart of the book, Star being the good student and Atom the wayward one.
Elsewhere, Sand is showing the new curator, Alex Montez, around the museum area of the Brownstone. He is the brother of Yolanda Montez, who for a time was the second Wildcat, though she was unfortunately killed. Still, there is no piece of history from these characters that Johns won’t incorporate into the title. Alex is something of a legacy to. A crash in the conference room sends them running to find that Atom and Adam have smashed the table. After Sand gives them a dressing down, Star goes to show Hawkgirl the pictures of her new baby sister while Sand and Alex continue with the tour.
They find Wildcat and Hawkman retrieve Hawkman’s mace and chatting about Hawkgirl. Wildcat rushed to catch up with Alex. Sand pulls Hawkman aside and offers him the chairmanship of the JSA. Hawkman declines, telling Sand he’s doing a great job before flying away.
In the infirmary, Dr. Fate is again trying to rouse his comatose wife. When he fails, he retreats to his Tower to research a method of freeing her from Mordu’s curse. After he leaves, Dr. Mid-Nite has a talk with Sentinel about his recent physical. He is in suspiciously perfect health and Terrific and Mid-Nite think that his body is now composed entirely of the Green Flame that gives him his powers.
Star is with Hawkgirl, showing her the pictures of her new baby sister, when Hawkman flies up to the window with flowers for Hawkgirl. He won’t stop pushing her about beginning or continuing their relationship. Really, Hawkman comes off as a huge dick. Which makes sense for Hawkman. Meanwhile, Black Adam and Atom Smasher have finished cleaning up the table when Adam makes a comment about it being a poor use of their powers. They start to argue again, only for it to be broken up this time by the big red cheese himself, Captain Marvel.
Sand finishes with Alex, only to find Hawkgirl crying in her room. He tries to council her. Hawkgirl is in the strange position of being both the continuation of a legacy and the originator of it. She is both Kendra Saunders, Hawkgirl’s cousin and Hawkgirl reborn. All she really wants is for Hawkman to leave her alone and let her sort out her feelings. Outside, Hawkman is flying around trying to figure out how to make her comfortable when he flies to her window again (flying in her window whenever feels like is probably a bad way to go about that) only to see her kissing Sand.
That is where the issue ends, with Hawkman staring in shock at Hawkgirl and Sand kissing. While this story plays out pretty quickly, it never really feels right. Hawkman is consistently a jerk, but here he is just an ass, jumping to conclusions and getting jealous for no damn reason. He is the only one that comes out looking bad in this and the only one that does suffer some adverse consequences from it. The bigger story in this issue is the Atom vs Adam stuff. Johns lays it on thick, but these two have a very good reason to be fighting. Letting Black Adam, who shows no remorse for his misdeeds because he doesn’t consider them his, on to the team does not gel with Atom Smasher increasingly hardline take dealing with villains. He saw first-hand what happens when villains are allowed to go free.
JSA 27 Thunderstruck
Johns, Morales, and Bair
This issue starts right off the last one, with Hawkman seeing Sand and Hawkgirl kissing. It then shows the reactions inside, where Sand pushes Hawkgirl away. She was kissing Sand because she was looking to be in a relationship with anybody but Hawkman, who is pressuring her to get together again. Sand comforts her and agrees to tell Hawkman to back off.
After a quick interlude with Captain Marvel and Black Adam, where Atom Smasher punches Black Adam through the roof, Mr. Terrific and Dr. Mid-Nite prove their hypothesis about Sentinel just as the alarm, trigger by Black Adam’s forcible ejection, goes off. They rush to confront the problem. The all get to the Aviary to find Atom Smasher blaming himself, rightly, for causing trouble with Black Adam as the former villain and Captain Marvel, who is trying to calm him down, fight in the sky. Atom Smasher knows he messed up, that is what he does. He is possible the most earnest member of the team, he is a superhero because he wants nothing more than to help people. Not that the others don’t, but he is the one who grew up specifically wanting to be a superhero. After what he did to Extant, he’s forced to actually examine what it means to him to be a hero. He overreacts to Black Adam’s comment about getting glory for doing good mostly because he doesn’t want to think about whether there is any truth to it. He doesn’t want to accept that someone like Black Adam could reform because he didn’t give Extant the chance to do so. Maybe causing his death was not the right move, maybe Atom Smasher messed up and that is the last thing he wants to do as a superhero.
They all fight with Black Adam for a few pages before Hawkman shows back, drops his mace in the middle of the scrum and declares the fight over. Completely ignore Sand, the team leader recall, Hawkman takes control of the situation and takes Captain Marvel and Black Adam into the meeting room. It turns out that Captain Marvel was actually there to vouch for Black Adam and declare him worthy of receiving a second chance. After he leaves, Sand storms into the room. He confronts Hawkman about whether he wants to lead the team or not, but the rest of the team bursts in and demands they take a vote on the matter. After the votes a quickly tallied, the new chairman is neither Sand nor Hawkman, but Mr. Terrific.
Really, this is mostly a blow to Sand. Hawkman is not a huge player in this book, he was generally busy in his own Johns written book at the time, but until now Sand had been one of the biggest players in this title. A lot of that was due to him being the leader of the team; he was the team’s center. He fit in between the old hands, like Sentinel and Flash, and with the new guns like Star Spangled Kid and Hawkgirl. Now, he is just another cog in the machine. He is not going to leave the team, at least not for a good long time, but he is no longer as front and center as he has been. Mr. Terrific, though, now gets pushed up to the top rung. He is the team’s center.
So Star and Wildcat run out to get some pizza for the team and the others all congratulate Mr. Terrific, one of his T-Sphere’s flies in erratically. But It is not one of his, and it teleports all the team members present (Terrific, Mid-Nite, Sand, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Atom Smasher and Black Adam) away. The sphere flies away to a woman, Roulette, in an elegant dress and a massive tattoo up her side, who says it is time to place bets. Her limo is licensed in Nevada and it is clear that they are to be used in some sort of gambling scheme.
This issue is rather slight. Much of its real estate is taken up with a pointless fight with Black Adam. Still, some momentous things do happen, from Black Adam’s acceptance on the team to Mr. Terrific becoming team leader. It isn’t bad, but it really feels like more could have been done with the 22 pages of this issue. The fight with Black Adam is neither visually interesting nor is it narratively important. We already know that he is tough and that he has a temper, the big brawl is unnecessary. Still, it works as a slow paced stop after the epic heights of The Return of Hawkman.
Next time: Roulette.