Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Isn't it old news?

I was thinking, I keep reading a lot of complaints that Geoff Johns has suddenly become very violent as a writer. Mostly because of Infinite Crisis and the new JSA. And I have to admit to being a bit nonplussed by the accusation.

I won't say that Geoff Johns doesn't have a knack for random gratuitous violence, but crossover events are known for that sort of thing. Crisis of Infinite Earths and Zero Hour both featured a lot of deaths. Infinite Crisis perhaps lingered a bit more on the gory death scenes, but I'm not sure that's not a product of the time.

The part about JSA baffles me. I can definitely understand why the murder of the new Commander Steel's family is too much for some people but honestly, when I read the issue, it hadn't really occurred to me to be surprised by the violence at all.

I mean, this is JSA. The series that actually began with a teenaged hero getting hunted down like a dog, an octogenarian taking a nosedive off a mountain and a poor schmo keeling over, his own weapons in his back like in one of those old murder mysteries. (The lights go out! Suddenly the butler's on the ground, stabbed)

My perspective might be different because I'd actually read most of the Robinson-Goyer-Johns JSA stories all at once, sequentially. But honestly, nearly every story featured gratuitous death as far as I could see. The aforementioned deaths in the first issue, (coupled with Mordru out to slaughter an infant), the way Obsidian murdered his abusive father while torturing many of his teammates in the next story...

Atom-Smasher's mother and Courtney's family were both killed pretty gratuitously, even if they were restored at the end of their respective storylines. Johnny Sorrow's introduction came rife with a bunch of dead Golden Age heroes bleeding from still-open eyes. The Geomancer ended dead via a passing reference in Stealing Thunder. And poor poor Alex Montez's death was pretty damned shocking to me.

Now admittedly, most of the aforementioned deaths are costumed types rather than innocents (much in the same vein as Infinite Crisis), but the death of innocents did seem to happen a lot in JSA as well. Especially in the set-up issues of the storylines. Honestly, maybe I am jaded, but the deaths in the current arc really didn't seem to be that much more over the top than what came before.

I can definitely understand why the violence in the new JSA is getting to some readers. It's definitely a bit on the gratuitous side. I can also understand why a lot of readers find Geoff Johns's particular tendancy toward violence alarming. But when people start acting like it's something brand new, I can't help wonder what comic they'd been reading all along.


  • At February 22, 2007 10:00 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Yeah, I'm enjoying JSA darn it! Better than the new Justice League to be frank. As for the violence, as much as I enjoy the old JLI's where the entire action consisted of getting mauled by Power Girl's cat, most comic book stories do require some sort of more visceral action.

  • At February 22, 2007 11:49 AM, Blogger Jason said…

    I don't mind violence, and I'm one of the few that really loved Infinite Crisis, but the violence in JSA has really turned me off. Especially the violence against children, in three issues we've had two differnet scenes of children being violently, bloodily murdered. Ever since becoming a father, I've become really sensitive to this, so it might just be my hang-up.

    It all just doesn't seem to add anything to the story. The comparison to the first arc of the last JSA series doesn't really seem apt, as all of the deaths were to people in the "hero game", so they all know what the risks are, not innocent bystanders (the same in IC).

    On another note, was I the only one creeped out by the Ross painting of Cyclone on issue three? She's not wearing any underwear. Odd choice for a teen-age superhero.

  • At February 22, 2007 2:26 PM, Blogger Zaratustra said…

    I think the problem is that a lot of people were turned off from Meltzer's JLA and came to JSA expecting something different, and it's still the same grim stuff.

  • At February 22, 2007 6:17 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    sally: Me too.

    jason: JSA has had arcs with dead children/innocents before as well, though.

    I can totally understand dropping it for that reason, it's just not really a new thing, in my opinion, your mileage may vary.

    The Cyclone picture doesn't bother me actually. She's in college after all, so she's presumably 18-ish. I wish Ross hadn't drawn it so...showy, but at least she is of age. I guess.

    Zaratustra: I definitely feel sorry for those sorts. Poor people. JSA has always been grimmer than JLA. :-(

    Still it doesn't seem beyond the pre-OYL series to me...

  • At February 22, 2007 6:36 PM, Blogger Fortress Keeper said…

    Actually, I was turned off JSA when Courtney's baby sister (?) was murdered.

    Violence against children (which also occurred in Chuck Austen's Action run and Greg Rucka's Wonder Woman) hits a strong note for me because I'm a father as well.

    But to be honest with you, the amount of on- and off-screen gore throughout the DC Universe has gotten ridiculous.

    Partially eaten bodies in 52, casual references to dismemberment (poor General Glory), people getting impaled by crystal thingies in Supergirl (that was just weird) - maybe I'm just old-fashioned but a lot of titles are starting to resemble a game of Mortal Combat.

  • At February 22, 2007 6:39 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    keeper: Yeah, her baby half sister Patricia. She did end up alive by the end of the arc though. :-)

    I suppose I'd probably feel differently if I were a parent, but so far I'm pretty unbothered. :-)

  • At February 22, 2007 6:52 PM, Blogger Tom Foss said…

    Yeah, I haven't really been bothered by it. In fact, I'm super-enjoying JSA, and it seems like Johns is finally getting a groove back that he lost sometime before IC.

    Besides, the picnic was broken up by superpowered Nazis. What do you expect? Heated debate?

  • At February 22, 2007 11:44 PM, Anonymous Loren said…

    I don't understand the hulabaloo myself...Dan DiDio did say that, as a result of Infinite Crisis, we would see heroes shining in a darker and more dangerous world. Now, I don't know if the shining is everything they promised, but I wasn't shocked by the violence because that's the way they sounded like they're going. I could except the argument that this is another example of the Marvelization of the DC Universe, but the violence didn't really bother me. Like Tom said, these are super Nazis bent on killing the relatives of the JSA. I think it would be more contrived to have witty repartee and that's all.

  • At February 23, 2007 3:57 AM, Anonymous kate said…

    Yep. It's not new.

    The bit with Black Adam poking Psycho-Pirate's eyes out in Infinite Crisis was what finally made me realize I don't want to read this kind of stuff anymore.

    So I'm not.

    No big deal, though I do kind of miss JSA. (Or more specifically, the characters.) But not enough to keep reading it. I also bailed on 52 when that guy got ripped in half.

    (I wrote DC editorial in general a letter about it, since the do claim to care about people's opinions.)

  • At February 23, 2007 6:32 AM, Blogger Denyer said…

    "She's not wearing any underwear."

    Is she not? I was assuming the white is a high-legged full body thing. Seriously, who's going to go commando in a floaty green smock with wind powers? Underwear/swimwear just tends not to be as broad as in Monroe's day.

  • At February 23, 2007 7:11 AM, Blogger Toriach said…


    You raise some excellent points. I have to admit that I'm very much of two minds as to some of the onscreen violence in Geoff Johns writing. On the one hand I'll admit that Infinite Crisis reached a point where I did indeed feel that the violence was gratioutos. However given my understanding of what DC is doing with Black Adam in 52 I can see his brutal manner of dispatching first Psycho Pirate in IC and then Terra Man in 52 as being valid to show where he is starting from, so as to better appreciate the difficulty of his journey. As to the violence in JSA though, I have to admit that I really have not found it to be all that bad personally. Thinking about JSA and JLA (And I'll be honest I more or less am enjoying them equally) I wonder if the more graphically violent tone in JSA is meant to evoke the Golden Age especially pre-code, where casual scenes of violence were much more common (even, perhaps especially by superheroes). By contrast JLA is meant to be more in line with Silver Age sensibilities. There is some violence and fighting but death is rarer and less gruesome.

    On another issue I am curious Kalinara if you would expand on your opinion for me. You said, "I wish Ross hadn't drawn it so...showy", in regards to the cover for JSA #3. I have to be honest that I really can't see what is showy about it. From my perspective she is completely covered. The red part of her costume under the green over tunic I percieve to be a one piece swimsuit which I think given the way she is standing and the positioning of the green over tunic could allow as much of her upper thigh to be revealed as there is, and yet if one were to lift the bottom part of the tunic up, they would discover that she is not nearly as exposed as they thought. Further in a seemingly increasing rarity not only is there no cleavage but the bust line is rather de-emphasized by the flowing nature of the over tunic. I will admit that a hint of innocent sexuality could be inferred given the similarities between Cyclone's pose and the well known scene of Marilyn Monroes skirt being blown up when she stands over a subway grating in The Seven Year Itch. Any way that's my perspective. I'd love to hear more about yours or anyone elses.



  • At February 23, 2007 7:20 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Honestly, by showy, I mean that I wish he hadn't drawn the picture in a way that allowed the question about whether Maxine was wearing undergarments or not. :-)

    It's a pretty image otherwise, I like Alex Ross covers in general, and Seven Year Itch homages in particular. :-)

  • At February 23, 2007 7:56 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Somehow my replies to everyone before Toriach went the way of the dodo! Not fair!

    Tom: :-) I agree. I think JSA's Johns's best work in a while personally. And I'm not just saying that because my favorite character got a cool entrance after a year of nothing. :-)

    Loren: I think a lot of people misread Didio's words and thought that the DCU in general was supposed to be lighter and that may be where the problem is. (I'd read it, personally, the same way you did.) This is a plot that's going to be pretty violent though. I guess it was necessary though, so now Damage and the new guy can have huge "who's angstier" arguments...

    "My face is scarred in some unrevealed way and I'm all gloomy!"

    "I got vomited on by an evil nazi and that's how I got my powers!"

    (I'm a sick person because honestly, that's the best stupid origin ever!)

    Kate: Fair enough. The violence doesn't bother me, but it can be a bit extreme...

    Denyer: I'd agree. Especially with Eaglesham's art. Ross's cover though does lead to a bit of a question. :-)

  • At February 23, 2007 8:46 AM, Blogger Denyer said…

    "does lead to a bit of a question."

    Should be swept aside as soon as people get to the interior art. :-)

    The thing that struck me was Ross gives no indication of the stripes, or they weren't part of the costume at that stage. Bit of a Mildred Hubble feel to those, particularly the way Geoff Johns emphasises the "theatre student goes nuts in costume department" characterisation.

    Seems a good place to hop on-board with the book, too. Mix of new and old, and certainly more interest for me than the JLA relaunch. Enjoying it so far (beginnings being when the ideas in a book are percolating, usually.)

    How long do story arcs tend to run with JSA?

  • At February 23, 2007 8:50 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    JSA plot arcs tend to be fairly long, I think. A lot of them are 4-6 issues. There are shorter arcs, but they're fewer and farther between.

  • At February 23, 2007 10:24 AM, Blogger Denyer said…

    Ah, that sounds okay -- the last long (anything over six, IMO) plot arc I picked up was Brubaker's Authority, which was a twelve and probably would have read better if I'd had it all together to start with. Ta for the info. :-)

  • At February 24, 2007 1:40 PM, Blogger Jon said…

    I don't mind the use of violence per se, but, honestly, you don't need to show me a woman getting vaporized into a bloody mist while looking for her child for me to get that Nazis are bad.

    The real thing that's been turning me off JSA is that Johns is still pounding that damned "legacy" tack. We get it; we got it like five issues into the original run, we got it harder when you did a twelve-issue mini with a villain actually named "Legacy" as if the concept was too heady for us to grasp.

    That and the fact that the man-crush on Kingdom Come really needs to stop. Jesus, that book's turned into JSA's Days of Future Past.


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