Review: JSA All-Stars #1

With the surprise success of the relaunched Justice Society of America, it was perhaps only inevitable that we’d be in for a spin-off.  Headed by Matt Sturges, longtime collaborator of the main book’s Bill Willingham, and Freddie Williams II, JSA All-Stars puts itself in largely the same place about a hundred previous books (almost uniformly terrible) did: a semi-militant team of young heroes with a more proactive mindset.  Sturges brings nothing new to the concept, nor to the great JSA mythos with their ‘Ivy League military school for young superheroes’, instead offering a fairly muddled story that is clearly jumping off from somewhere else with little worthwhile explanation.

JSA All-Stars offers little reason to stick around.  The last page reveal of the issue’s true enemy isn’t particularly engrossing, and while I’m sure that each of these characters HAVE personalities – indeed, I’ve seen evidence of this in other books – here they largely seem to be powersets engaging in a series of beat ’em ups.  There are a few brief moments of potential, but the overall book is a cluster of buff folks fighting straightforward enemies for straightforward reasons, with mundane, static art from Williams II failing to even make the overlong action segments exciting.  Bad characterization and so-so art combine to make this spin-off worse than your average beat ’em up.

Grade: D+

– Cal Cleary

Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! #1

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Final Crisis was an epic series – say what you want about the quality, but the scope was undeniably enormous.  When it was announced that there would be a series of titles spinning out of it, I was reluctantly excited.  Though Escape made no sense and had a minor-league creative team at best, the other three had, I felt, some promise.  

Run!, the first of the four minis, does not live up to any of that promise.  Sturges has done some excellent work, most recently over in Blue Beetle, and his Vertigo titles have generally been fairly high quality, but Run! feels bland through and through, with none of the boundless creativity of Final Crisis, the wit demonstrated in Blue Beetle, or the darkly comic horror seen in House of Mystery… and the book desperately needs to be grounded in one of those.

Instead, it, much like last year’s Salvation Run, is a generic book about a villain in over his head.  It is by no means a bad book – the art by Freddie Williams II is great throughout, aptly illustrating just how much of a slob the Human Flame really is – but there just isn’t anything to get excited about.  It’s too slow for a balls-to-the-wall action book, but with no compelling drama to back it up and a purposely witless narrator telling us the story, the human element doesn’t work either.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! is a book that could’ve gone anywhere, and, faced with so many choices, couldn’t make up its mind.   Sturges is clearly a competent writer, but he just doesn’t seem to have a handle on villains just yet, and while there are a number of genuinely fun moments in the comic backed up by some solid art, there’s little that begs for five more issues.

Grade: C

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