Justice Society of America #42 came out last week, the penultimate chapter to 'Dark Things'.
From the outside, I have to say I am impressed that this story came and went so quickly. While officially 5 parts, it has been building for a bit in Justice League. And, more incredibly, all the issues were drawn by Mark Bagley. That's 5 issues in 2+ months by one artist. Compare that to ... oh let's say ... Justice League Cry For Justice which suffered from near endless delays ... from initial announcement to initial release to final issue being put out. And all that without Mauricio Cascioli doing every page and panel. Yes, I know there is a difference between penciling and painting. But there is also a difference between respecting a deadline and fan expectations and laughing at them. The bottom line is I would like to thank Mr. Bagley for not only being a great artist (his work has completely won me over in the last couple of months) but also for being a timely one.
As for the story, James Robinson has written each issue and the plot has been building and building nicely. My concern has always been the payoff. Are things that have happened in this story going to be explained enough to satisfy me? I can't always say that Robinson has met that goal elsewhere. In Superman, for instance, many plots were started ... many things hinted at ... and just left to wither on the vine without explanation.
Will there be an explanation here for why the Starheart chose now to return? Why was Jade inside? Why the Black Lantern symbol when she touched her father's Lantern? Why take over Alan Scott? Why did the Starheart pick Earth to run roughshod on? While the periphery of the story (heroes and villains being overwhelmed with chaos energy for example) I can just roll with, I need more explanations of the roots of this plot ... why the story is happening.
Last issue ended with Kyle Rayner showing up on the moon as an emissary of the Guardians. They want to shut the Starheart down even if that means killing Alan Scott and severing it's link to humanity.
Now Jade has just come back to life, is dealing with some sudden guilt for not having gone to see her father immediately after being resurrected, and has lingering feelings of love and abandonment with Kyle. When you add all that together, Jade becomes pretty confused and upset. So upset, that she decides to join her brother Obsidian in protecting their family (despite Obsidian being obviously controlled by the Starheart).
Now I don't know if she literally wanted to join her brother, but that's what ends up happening. We get a Rebis-like concoction of Jade and Obsidian.
Does this sound like an interesting twist of events? Does it look frightening and strange? Yes and yes. But again, and maybe this is a bias to Robinson I am going to need to work on, I asked myself 'is there going to be an explanation for this?' Why did they merge? Is this part of the Starheart's plans? Or is this just something thrown in?
The Obsidi-Jade amalgam seems quite powerful however, heaving out bolts of black and green energy that fry the heroes.
The League at least gives it the old college try to talk this monster down, pleading with Jade to fight whatever is controlling her and help the JLA free her father.But it doesn't work. It seems Jade's broken heart over Kyle is still raging a bit. Look at how Jade blasts Donna, reminding Donna that at one time she also loved Kyle.
I suppose old emotional wounds never quite heal.
Nice use of coloring in this panel, Donna in green within the blast. And very good art by Bagley. You can 'feel' Donna getting buffeted by the ray.
While that battle goes on, Dr. Midnight has freed Starman from the gigantic Harlequin construct we saw last issue. It is a bit of a let down. Midnight says he simply threw a blackout bomb and the two slipped away unseen. I guess unthinking constructs might allow that to happen.
Somehow Starman is still kicking despite having his chest gem ripped out 2 issues ago. He has been dying on screen for a while. One thing I did like here was the heroism of Dr. Midnight. Nothing is going to stop him from trying to find the gem and resuscitate Starman. Midnight is woefully overmatched here but it doesn't stop him from doing the right thing. That's what heroes should do.
In fact, Midnight walks in on some pretty powerful people talking, including Alan Scott who is playing with Starman's gem.
Faust somehow senses that it isn't really Alan Scott up there, but an upgraded construct that includes skin tones and stubble. A convenient slight of hand? Sure. But even so, why would the construct need Fate to keep the JSA contained when all the other constructs have been doing just fine containing the rest of the JLA/JSA/All-Star teams. And why would Scott make this construct more realistic than the others? Am I asking too many questions here?
Midnight realizes he needs to free his friends to get the gem and so while the construct and the JSA'ers talk, Midnight sneaks behind Fate and removes Fate's helmet.With the helmet of Nabu off, the captured heroes are freed of their bonds and smash the construct to bits. Midnight retrieves the heart and (I assume) runs back to Starman. I suppose it took some intestinal fortitude for Midnight to do that. He is really the hero of this issue.
But if that wasn't Alan Scott, that means Scott is somewhere else.
And it turns out he is on Earth getting a little bit of Blond Justice. Incredibly, he seems to be able to withstand the combined attack of the Supergirl and Power Girl. Power Girl does get in one good shot, a wicked right cross that sends him sprawling.
I just have to take a moment to say how happy I am that Supergirl is on a team. And it is great she is in such a headlining book as Justice League. JLA sells more than twice what Supergirl sells. But maybe this exposure will lead some people to try her solo book. But I always thought that Kara should be in a team book.
To turn things more to his advantage, Scott makes Power Girl get 'chaos-mad' again. While Supergirl tries to keep Power Girl in check, Scott must realize that things on the moon are getting out of hand and so teleports away. With Scott gone, Power Girl reverts to normal.
I post this panel to again applaud Mark Bagley for his craft. Power Girl and Supergirl look like the same person but years apart. Not many people can pull that off ... making them look similar but not the same.
As for the team on the moon, they are having a hard time with Obsidi-Jade and the multiple green energy constructs around the place. I do like that the constructs are a mix of old time JSAers like the Al Pratt Atom as well as JSA villains.
During the battle, Dick finally realizes that he's Batman and that mindless brawling isn't going to work. He needs to use strategy. He is Batman after all. I suppose it makes sense that Dick is going to have some growing pains in the role of the Dark Knight. That said, he led the Titans forever and had no difficulties leading that team into battle formations then. As a result I am a bit torn in my feelings about that moment.
One thing I am not torn about is the continued use of multiple images to show Jesse Quick's speed. That is phenomenal.
Batman does indeed figure out how to defeat the Obsidian/Jade being. After being taken down by Mr. America's whip (really?!) and some bat-bombs to the face, Dr. Fate shows up and blasts her/him.
But before the JLA/JSA can take a breath, Alan Scott shows up saying he wants to play.
So we are a mere 22 pages away from the ending here. I have a lot of questions and hope that most of them will be answered. I suppose the chaotic nature of the Starheart might mean that much of what is happening is random and cannot be explained. That said, I am really hoping that the 'why's' of this story are addressed. I usually expect some underlying answers to a story like this to be answered in the second to last chapter. We still have a climactic battle to come ... so some explanation usually happens before that.
And since there aren't many answers here, most of the issue is just action, punches being thrown and verbal barbs being exchanged. There wasn't much movement forward from part 3 to part 4. It's not to say I haven't been enjoying this story. I have. I just am really hopeful that I get a decent payoff here.