Today, Mark and Spencer are discussing Convergence: Justice Society of America 2, originally released May 27th, 2015. This issue is part of Convergence. For our conversations about the rest of Convergence last week, click here.
Mark: “With great power comes great responsibility” is one of the most iconic phrases in comic book pop culture. Most often associated with Spider-Man, it also seems to be a guiding storytelling principle for a lot of modern comics and (most pointedly) DC’s Batman and Superman films as of late. The idea that being a superhero is a huge burden is an easy storytelling device. It quickly humanizes and “grounds” an otherwise fantastical character. It’s also a plot machination that can drive me crazy. Part of my intolerance is absolutely a sense of envy. How can a character be dissatisfied with life when they have super powers? Super powers!
That’s why Convergence: Justice Society of America 2 is hands down my favorite issue to come out of the Convergence event. Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, Carter Hall, and Kent Nelson are once again called up to save their world, and they couldn’t be happier to be out of retirement. There’s not a lot of plot — almost the entire issue consists of the JSA’s battle with the Weaponers of Qward -— but page after page is filled with our heroes performing heroic acts and delighting in it. Being a super hero is awesome, and they’re happy to be able to experience it one last time.
The movie Man of Steel is a pretty dire portrayal of Superman, and one of the most maligned moments is the sheer amount of destruction Superman and Zod wreck on Metropolis during their climactic battle. It’s a symptom of a larger problem with that movie in that they just don’t get Superman as a character. He’s not super because he can punch Zod up the side of a skyscraper, he’s special because he cares about people. It seems trite, but what that movie needed was a lot less punching and a lot more of Superman helping civilians.
Writer Dan Abnett and artist Tom Derenick get that. Basically this entire issue is a refutation of the Man of Steel mindset. Yes, there is plenty of the JSA in combat, but the vast majority of the panels are dedicated to the JSA being heroes to the people of Metropolis. That’s what makes them so great.
Honestly I could fill the rest of my space with a list of favorite moments. Just about every page is a microcosm of what I love about the issue. Comic book art doesn’t need to be flashy to be memorable and Tom Derenick’s work here is extremely effective. It’s a clean, simple style that allows him to stage panel after panel of iconic poses and moments.
After the battle, Jay, Alan, Carter, and Kent lose their youth and their superpowers. They’re old men at the end of their lives, but they’re content. They got to experience what comic book fans have always wanted, to be a super hero, and they’re grateful for it. Again, being a super hero is awesome, and they know it’s awesome.
There is a lot to appreciate in comics today. The medium allows for creators to tell a vast array of stories, and I wouldn’t want every book to be like this one. But I feel like there’s also room for stories like this, for throwbacks to the Golden Age of comics. I think we’re reaching a saturation point on troubled anti-heroes. Yes, with great power comes great responsibility, but that doesn’t mean the responsibility has to be an unbearable burden. Paraphrasing Alan Scott in the issue, it’s an honor to bear those incredible gifts, and it’s fun to read heroes treating it as such.
I’m honestly gushing Spencer, so I’m interested to hear what you think. Are you as enamored with this issue as I am?
Spencer: Absolutely, Mark, and I think you summed things up well by mentioning how the responsibility of being a superhero is an “honor” for these four seasoned heroes. I love how there is absolutely zero angst from the members of the Justice Society — even Doctor Fate’s musing on how he was nearly dead for a year quickly fades away into happiness about being back in action. And it’s refreshing to see how easily Doctor Fate, the Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkman work together.
“Teamwork.” “Of course.” I love, love, love it. Our New 52 Justice League have racked up 40 issues and over five in-universe years as a team yet are still often at each others’ throats — seeing the JSA not only know each others’ strengths and weaknesses, but play to them so effortlessly is just a breath of fresh air. The members of the Justice Society are seasoned pros through and through — they’re the heroes who inspire other heroes, the bedrock on which an entire heroic legacy is built upon, and it’s hard to think of anything much grander than watching them fight in their prime one last time.
All this praise even extends to the issue’s end, when the JSA has lost their powers — and their youth — for good. It would be easy for them to be bitter, but there’s not a trace of it to be found — these four are just proud to have had the privilege of being superheroes for as long as they did. They’re ready to move on, to pass their baton to the next generation of heroes, but they’ll never forget everything they accomplished or how much fun it all was.
I’ve got a feeling that these aren’t just the feelings of Jay, Alan, Carter, and Kent, but of Abnett and many of the other creators involved in Convergence as well. Convergence features characters we haven’t seen in a few years (or in some cases, decades) now, giving audiences a chance to revisit old favorites and perhaps get some closure with them, but it also features some creators who hadn’t worked at DC in quite a while. I can certainly see the JSA’s sentiments being shared by them — now’s the time to pass the torch on, but they’ll never forget how magnificent it was to bring these iconic characters to life. We all want to be superheroes, but we all also want to be the ones who get to tell their tale and be a part of their world, and I can’t see that being a privilege that many would ever forget. I only hope that the heroes of the New 52 — and the next generation of creators ushering in their stories — can incorporate some of the sheer joy and optimism of Convergence: Justice Society of America 2 into their stories. It’d be a wonderful lesson to take from this revisiting of the Golden Age.
As Mark mentioned, Derenick is a fantastic choice to illustrate the JSA’s grand final stand. No matter how many times I flip through this book, I can’t help but to marvel at just how big everything looks. Derenick and Abnett leave plenty of space to craft iconic image after iconic image — these pages aren’t just big in scale (though we’ve got that too — just check out the opening splash), but big in content. There’s no way to have Doctor Fate, Hawkman, the Flash, and Green Lantern on the page together and not have it look important, and Derenick absolutely takes advantage of that. There’s probably a dozen shots of them charging into battle, but each one is invigorating, larger-than-life, and a sheer spectacle to behold.
Interestingly enough, despite its size, Qward’s weapon is pretty much a complete contrast not only to the bombastic imagery of the JSA, but to the entire inspirational tone of the issue. While the JSA is always front and center in each image, the weapon is often hiding in the back of panels, obscured by energy attacks or characters smashing it, and while it’s certainly a formidable opponent, the design isn’t exactly the most eye-catching, is it? Then there’s its “personality”:
The JSA spent a year in the dome but, when they regained their powers, just re-embraced the joy that they always brought them. For them the pains of the past year were instantly put aside, but the same can’t be said for the Weaponers of Qward, who crafted a machine that can is essentially animated by the rage they feel because of their imprisonment. It’s hatred, frustration, and, in a way, cynicism incarnate, and a clear contrast to the kind of joy and selfless heroism the JSA represents throughout the entire issue. This is the kind of straightforward conflict comic books once dealt with almost singularly, and while I’m grateful that there’s so much variety in what comics can present nowadays, I still feel like we could use more stories like this one.
Of course, if I really wanted to, I could nitpick at this issue quite a bit. The four members of the JSA all have similar personalities and dialogue, and when they’re aged at the end of the issue, I can’t even begin to tell them apart until they start calling each other by name. Despite his nearly limitless power, Doctor Fate just throws around yellow beams throughout the entire battle, and there are a few points (especially when evacuating citizens) where I can’t tell what exactly his beams are supposed to be doing. While the original JSA never had much diversity (it was created in the 1940s, remember), it would’ve been nice to see one of its few female members show up, or perhaps just more members in general. But as I said, this is ultimately nitpicking — this issue is practically perfect just the way it is, and whatever few minor flaws it may have do nothing to mar its beauty. Thank you, Dan Abnett, Tom Derenick, and Convergence: Justice Society of America for reminding me why I fell in love with superheroes in the first place. Any comic that can capture that kind of emotion is a winner in my book.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?