Justice Society of America #26 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Dale Eaglesham & Nathan Massengill
Writer Geoff Johns and penciller Dale Eaglesham bring their tenures on this title to a close with a surprisingly character-driven (though certainly not quiet) story. Johns’s association with the Justice Society goes back 10 years to his debut as co-writer on the sixth issue of this title’s predecessor, JSA. Given that his take on the Justice Society has been linked to the themes of tradition and family, this self-contained issue — devoid of super-hero action and intrigue — is a fitting note on which the writer should take his leave. The script doesn’t even dwell that much on the events of the past two Justice Society series. Instead, it focuses on how several characters have grown. It’s ironic, I suppose, that Johns’s final issue of the series is actually a decent primer on the cast and themes at its heart. The one aspect of the script that didn’t quite sit well with me was the notion that Starman’s mental illness is played up for laughs.
Eaglesham (who’s working for Marvel Comics now) once again does an exemplary job of juggling the multitude of characters populating this title, and there’s even more than usual in this issue. The circumstances of the story bring a lot of kids into the mix, and the artist does a great job of distinguishing among the various ages of the characters. He also conveys the cramped and oddly chaotic nature of a big gathering of family members and friends in a space that wasn’t designed to accommodate so many people. I love the Alex Ross cover image featuring the entirely of the title team’s expansive lineup, though I am disappointed that DC opted to release it as three separate covers. A gatefold cover or one printed on a landscape orientation would have been appropriate. That the publisher tries to force fans of the title to shell out for the comic three times is transparent and a bit shameless. 7/10
Mr. Stuffins #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Andrew Cosby, Johanna Stokes & Axel Medellin Machain
The title alone should be enough to pique the interest of most comics readers, but while this comic book is everything is appears to be, it’s also unlike what one might expect. The concept is something we’ve seen in the movies in one form or another over the past couple of decades — a tactical disc of great value is hidden inside a toy, transforming it into something quite different than what its makers had in mind — and it’s easy to accept the ludicrous concept. The problem is that the creators here take the concept a bit too seriously for my taste. The discord between the parents of Mr. Stuffins’s new owner is far too harsh; it really interferes and distracts from the main plot. The inherent cute and comedic potential in the premise isn’t really tapped. By playing things to straight, the writers fail to meet the expectations of the audience. Sure, I think it’s good that the writers don’t play everything by the numbers, but the main plot remains formulaic without availing itself of the more entertaining aspects of the silly concept.
The strongest visual element associated with this comic book is to be found on the cover, or at least on one of the covers. Mouse Guard creator David Petersen contributes an all-too-rare piece of art outside of his own corner of the industry. The interior artwork by Axel Medellin Machain tells the story clearly, but that’s all it does. It comes off as merely serviceable. I also found his figures (other than the title character) to be a bit elongated across the board, and it was a bit distracting. 5/10
Nova #24 (Marvel Comics)
by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Andrea DiVito
As the extra branding on the cover indicates, this issue ties into the War of Kings event. Fortunately, writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning maintain the same plot direction that’s been driving this series for the past few issues, using the event to further that story rather than this series and its characters to further the event. One needn’t have read any of the War of Kings comics to follow the action here, and the text on the first page will bring new readers up to speed even if they’re opted to delve into the middle of this somewhat convoluted story arc. The writers deserve a lot of credit for achieving that balance; since they’re penning War of Kings as well, it could have been easy for them to fall into the trap of seeing this as another chapter of the event story rather than another chapter of Nova. Now the military approach to the science-fiction cops is a solid one, though the tone of the banter is a little familiar and predictable. Nevertheless, it’s effective as well.
Andrea DiVito recently joined the creative team on this title as the regular artist, and he’s a perfect fit. He boasts a clean, slick but conventional super-hero style that suits the cosmic nature of the action and characters. Still, there’s a slightly realistic bent to his work that brings out the characters’ humanity. That’s important, as it brings this extreme story of super-powers and space wars down to earth, if only just a little. 7/10