Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Building Toward Repetition, Justice Society Of America: Thy Kingdom Come Volume 2 Is Still Good!

The Good: Generally good artwork, Interesting story progression, One or two moments of character
The Bad: Tries to service an immense cast . . . unsuccessfully.
The Basics: Pushing forward with the rise of Gog, Justice Society Of America: Thy Kingdom Come Volume 2 puts the Justice Society on the defensive and then in the confusing position of being in the presence of a being that seems to be a god!

On the wake of reading the book my wife gave me as a gift, Justice Society Of America: Thy Kingdom Come Volume 1 (reviewed here!), today I took the time to read its follow-up, Justice Society Of America: Thy Kingdom Come Volume 2. I picked up Volumes 2 and 3 while on our vacation at a comic book shop in Minnesota that had the hardcovers for just a couple of dollars, which was pretty awesome. I was drawn to the story, which I otherwise would not have been because these books tell a story which is supposed to be a sequel to Kingdom Come (reviewed here!). Justice Society Of America: Thy Kingdom Come Volume 2 finally starts to feel like a sequel to Kingdom Come and it does so somewhat at its own peril; key elements in the story run toward repeating the mistakes made by the heroes in Kingdom Come, as opposed to preventing them well.

That said, Justice Society Of America: Thy Kingdom Come Volume 2 is intriguing-enough that it has me hankering for the conclusion; not because I want the story to end, but I am eager to see the direction Geoff Johns and Alex Ross take the story in. Justice Society Of America: Thy Kingdom Come Volume 2 tells the story of how the villainous William Matthews draws the new, huge, Justice Society Of America into a battle which delivers to Earth its potential savior. The interplay between heroes and villains in Justice Society Of America: Thy Kingdom Come Volume 2 works pretty wonderfully and the writers weave a story that feels complex, even if it is moving toward feeling familiar . . . at least for those who have read Kingdom Come.

With Mr. America getting healed at the Justice Society Of America headquarters, the Justice Society gets its first clues about who has been going around slaying godlike beings on Earth. Mr. America tells the Justice Society he was attacked by Gog, a creature who causes the Superman visiting from an alternate Earth to raise an alarm that suggests an apocalypse is in the making. But the Justice Society assets quickly reveal that the warrior calling himself Gog is actually a psychopath named William Matthews, who took up the name Gog and attacked Superman a year prior. The Justice Society makes a game plan to track and defeat Gog when Gog appears in the Justice Society Of America headquarters, blasting through their ranks. In the ensuing battle, the powerful members of the Justice Society leave the headquarters in shambles and take the fight to Gog to the Congo.

In the ensuing fight, William Matthews returns to his power base and the lance he is using to fight off the Justice Society enters a massive head of what appears to be a statue. The statue, though, comes to life and destroys Matthews. The resulting entity is the true Gog, a godlike alien being from the Third World. As the Justice Society and the alternate Superman brace themselves for an impossible battle, Gog revitalizes the Earth around the Congo and saving the locals there. Claiming to be benevolent and being the protectors of the superheroes, Gog starts to restore the wounds the Justice Society members have suffered. Gog restores Dr. Mid-Nite’s sight, heals Damage’s brutalized face and sends Power Girl back to her native universe. But as Gog walks the Earth trying to heal people and eliminate war, his gifts seem to be a mixed blessing; Power Girl’s native universe treats her as an outsider and she falls prey to another Power Girl and Dr. Mid-Nite is unable to see inside the body of a wounded JSA member to save his life.

The problem for Justice Society Of America: Thy Kingdom Come Volume 2 is that the book is very much unresolved. There is no climax and the closest to a climactic event the book has is clearly a set-up for the next act. Justice Society Of America: Thy Kingdom Come Volume 2 is a plot-heavy book and it is tough to get into for those of us who do not give a damn about the Justice Society Of America. The cast is so bloated that it is no one person’s story and there is a troubling trend within the book to pepper-in aspects that have nothing to do with this particular story. The four-page digression featuring Black Adam stands out a pointless and is made even more confusing for anyone who might not have read Countdown To Final Crisis (volume 1 is reviewed here!).

Mixed in, Justice Society Of America: Thy Kingdom Come Volume 2 has only a few moments of decent character development. Power Girl is given a respectable chapter when she is returned to her native universe, a universe where The Huntress seems intent on making the same mistake that Magog did in Kingdom Come. Justice Society Of America: Thy Kingdom Come Volume 2 makes the assumption that readers know of the underlying relationship between Mr. Terrific and Dr. Mid-Nite for their key scenes. Volume 1’s character building for Citizen Steel is justified in Volume 2 when Nate is neglected by Gog’s healing abilities. Nate follows Gog desperate to get healed so he might feel again and that is a compelling motivation.

Justice Society Of America: Thy Kingdom Come Volume 2 has decent artwork. Smartly blending Kingdom Come-style paintings to embody that universe and a somewhat more simplistic artwork for Earth-2, where Power Girl is sent, the book has a strong visual sensibility to it. The colors are vivid and the characters are recognizable in every frame.

Ultimately, Justice Society Of America: Thy Kingdom Come Volume 2 is a strong middle act, but it is low on character development and the characters seem to be consciously aware of their need to police their own (superheroes), even as events conspire to create the elements that led to Kingdom Come. The result is that the book feels quite a bit like Geoff Johns and Alex Ross creating a “do over” for that whole storyline. It’s not bad, but it is simplistic and very plot-heavy instead of a story that is revealing of the human condition.

For other works by Geoff Johns, please check out my reviews of:
The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk
Blackest Night
Teen Titans: Family Lost


For other graphic novel reviews, please check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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