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Mild Mannered Reviews - JSA Comics

Justice Society of America #22 Justice Society of America #22

Justice Society of America #22

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 31, 2008

Cover date: February 2009

"One World, Under Gog" - Part Seven: "Thy Will Be Done"

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Dale Eaglesham & Alex Ross (painted pages)
Inker: Nathan Massengill

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Kingdom Come Superman (referred to for the rest of this review as Superman, to avoid world confusion - Neal) realizes that he doesn't belong on this world as Gog offers Magog one last chance to worship him before taking away his gifts.

The JSA chide Gog for offering gifts only for the promise of worship, and attack him.

Damage feels his face, returned to deformity, and flees as Gog causes the ground to erupt in his anger. In response, Damage goes nuclear on Gog, who scoffs at Damage, despite his body showing signs of cracks.

Citizen Steel removes his suit and punches Gog in the leg, sending Gog to the ground. Cyclone holds him down, and Starman uses gravity to do the same.

Magog uses his staff to cut off Gog's head. Superman grabs the head, telling Cyclone to never stop, never quit, and goes with Starman to install Gog in the Source Wall with the rest of the Third World gods.

Gog argues with Superman, indicating that Superman left his world to be destroyed because it refused to worship him, calling him a hypocrite. As Gog fades, he blasts Superman in the back, leaving him charred.

Superman asks Starman to send him home, and Starman sends him. Superman leaves, admonishing them to tell Magog to follow the Justice Society's lead. When he gets back, he finds himself in the remains of the gulag from the Kingdom Come series.

Seeing all of the dead, he flies away in rage.

All of the gifts Gog bestowed save Magog's resurrection and powers disappear.

On Earth-22 (the Kingdom Come Earth) Superman welds the UN doors shut and runs amuck, disgusted that the government left the heroes to die. He is only stopped by Norman McKay, who pleads with him to relent.

On New Earth, Judomaster kisses Damage despite his disfiguration.

We watch as, on Earth-22, Superman ages, bringing hope to future generations, having children, watching loved ones die, and ultimately seeing a futuristic age of heroes 2,000 years from the events of Kingdom Come.

5Story - 5: As ever, this story critically examines through metaphor and consequence the principles of relating to an anthropomorphic deity. In this issue, we see what is essentially the finale, when, inevitably, the heroes step forth and battle with the "villain," in this case Gog. It's obvious that he can't stay, because he violates the human need and capacity for free will, but at the same time, the battle begs the question of whether or not free will would be abandoned for utopia.

I mean, the deeper meaning you can pull from one simple concept, a white Anglo-Saxon force as strong as an army taking the god of the third world (the world that Gog notably walks, where they lack running water and the luxuries we as Americans have) and exiling it to where they don't have to look at it and deal with it is enough to write a term paper. I'm reading enough layers here to feel like I'm looking at Denny O'Neil's The Question, and god, do I need that in comics right now.

I found myself sitting there, saying to myself in the hypothetical, imagine that a being existed, and all you had to do was worship that being, and you would have peace, harmony, and all of your ills would be cured. This is, to wit, the central tenet of the thesis of belief in the Christian god, as I understand it, and the reason we don't have that hypothetical paradise is only because people deny God, or opt not to follow god.

Being an atheist, I feel it's more complex than that. Firstly, I don't think everyone can get with a plan of morality save being absent free will, it's just not in our wiring, but more importantly, given the nature and interpretation of what god means to so many people and its many and varied connotations and understandings, finding an objective moral truth to follow in the name of a god, any god, third world, first world, Talmud or catechism, is well nigh impossible without direct communication.

So Gog stands there, willing to offer clarification. Take the metaphor out to a broader perspective. Here humanity is confronted with that absent thing that makes doubters out of men like me: actual physical interaction and a clarification of goals and duties in order to be a correct follower.

The response is that Gog's head is torn off and he's banished to the end of the universe, and even speaking as an atheist, my response is to wonder if that was the right response.

Ultimately, my brain tells me it was heroic, and why? Because in my opinion free will is more important than paradise, and always will be, even if an invisible god-figure will damn me to hell for it. Freedom is my most cherished reason for existing. If a god offered, in the form of trade, a happy existence on my knees, I would choose a miserable one on my feet. It's the same reason, the same principle why we don't need fascist dictators, in the end. And don't write letters, I'm not equivocating the Judeo-Christian god with a fascist. I'm just saying that it's my understanding that God, as most read him, agrees with my perspective and believes we should have the freedom to make our own choices, right or wrong, even if it means banishing god. Great, now I'll get more letters for saying God is on the side of the JSA, but at any rate... here's the bottom line:

ANY comic that can draw that much thematic subtext is a comic that makes me proud to be a reader, and is worthy of accolade. Point of fact, this is among the absolute best comics, if not the best, in terms of deeper subject matter, that I've read in my life. And the weird thing is that I know it's going to be diminished over time by people who, even now, are grousing on the internet that it's just a ripoff of Kingdom Come without reading the piece.

To me, this is SUPERIOR to Kingdom Come. Kingdom Come is an incredible story. Both are incredible stories that allows the reader an insight into the consequences of relating to an anthropomorphic representation of a deity, but this story presents the "god" as a good and a bad force, and examines both sides, whereas in Kingdom Come it's obvious from the start that Superman has good intentions and is the hero.

With Gog, in the end, even now, we're not sure. And that is epic.

This is my last review of JSA, not because I dislike the book, but because Superman has left it, and this is a Superman website. I'm actually sad. People write me and say I must take such joy in hating a book and writing bad reviews, when quite the opposite is true. I love a good book, and I love writing a glowing review. The problem being, 99 percent of what's out there is crap. Somehow I still manage about a 50/50 positive/negative review base, but people only remember the grousing.

To that end, I'll miss this book as a reviewer. Rucka's Adventures. 52. Johns' JSA. I can't think of any other series, over all these eight years, that has offered me the chance to consistently enjoy something I'm reviewing and shut my critical eye.

For this series, I could sit back and enjoy, and for that, Mr. Johns, you have my thanks.

5Art - 5: With the exception of one panel where it wasn't clear that Gog was knocked down by Citizen's punch (or was it Starman?), the art popped from top to bottom, as it has from the beginning.

I just read an interview from Dan DiDio suggesting that Dale was going to another company. My business will follow him. Eaglesham has won a true fan here.

4Cover Art- 4: The center of the piece is great, and symbolic of the story, with Superman disappearing into Starman. That part of the image is great.

The surrounding border suffers from that odd light source thing, but the characters are still strongly depicted, so it's mostly forgivable.

5Cover Art (Alternate) - 5: Now THAT is a cover and a half. It reminds me very much of the best image of the new Indiana Jones movie, Indiana standing against the wash of an atomic blast. Haunting, and yet symbolic of a whole era and struggle. Amazing.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

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