Many readers find themselves challenged by the lack of gray areas and soaring cheerfulness of a Geoff Johns comic. And by this I mean that, in a given script, characters will bond in a family setting, we'll find them genuinely interesting and life-like, and then one or more of them will be viciously murdered.
Good is (some would say) lollipop good and bad is, like, WICKED bad. I not only have no problem with this, I prefer it. I still have a kid in me. I read comics, among other reasons, to transport myself back to when my only concerns were to secure pizza and that copy of Blaster Master from the video store.
Comics are indeed art at the high end of the spectrum. But I don't' care how "weird" high school was, how traumatic courting that goth chick was, comics are not, I repeat NOT, literature. And yes, I love Watchmen, but its particular grandeur cannot be replicated no matter what kind of misogynist Mr. Fantastic becomes. In great novels or series of them, characters are built up by a single writer who's invested everything in them. The writer is invisible because his is the only voice with which these characters have ever spoken. You never pause to think, "Huh- Elric sure is COKED OUT OF HIS GOURD today!" Comics being a stranger, more rarefied animal, they're preyed upon by parasites of the worst kind: stunt writers.
These are youngsters brimming with great dialogue, cutting-edge ideas and the eagerness to ride iconic characters to the top. By the end of the ride, however (or sometimes seconds into it), said icons are unrecognizable.
I belabour this point only to outline what Geoff Johns isn't. When he signs on to write a book (Flash, Hawkman, Green Lantern) he's there for the characters' benefit, not his own. If, after fifty+ issues he hasn't made all the hero's major rogues menacing again, given the hero a supporting cast whose lives intertwine organically with his, and kept the whole thing exciting- then he's failed. Meanwhile, at the end of a Brian Bendis run, if he hasn't cornholed all of the characters into talking like Al Pacino, he's failed. If Mark Millar hasn't shown us Sue Richards sodomized by a zombie Human Torch and (ULP!) liking it, then he's failed.
But all of this isn't to blacken the word stunt- because the current JSA story, a sequel the monstrously enjoyable Kingdom Come (1997) is just that. The upside is, after having nurtured these characters himself for eight years, Geoff Johns cares if it works.
The fact that this supposed sequel has risen from and now flows alongside the growth of the newly gathered Justice Society tells me yes- loudly. Development on several fronts, such as bringing in old members and attracting new, all the while helping an aged, stranded Superman cope, are entertaining enough. Mysteries abounding in the background, however, show just how stratospherically more dexterous is Johns' pen compared with the rest of the industry.
Someone is murdering those who claim to be gods (metahumans, rekanize). The new Mr. America (his predecessor fell dead through the JSA's skylight- this one uses the front door) contacts the team, explaining that his investigation has turned up the word "GOG" at one of the crime scenes. What we've sussed out, thanks to bath-robe wearing, crumb-cake eating Superman, is that Gog was the inspiration for Magog, the man who ruined Earth 22 (where Kingdom Come was set). It would therefore behoove the JSA to make this douche their problem now, mitigating later catastrophe. As they engage in a multi generational squabble as to who is suited to fight this slayer of gods, the villain simply teleports into their headquarters. Then begins a mouth-watering Sistine Chapel of street fights, choreographed with all twenty-four heroes by the inimitable Dale Eaglesham.
By the end, they've teleported after the intruder into the jungles of the Congo (where we've been teased repeatedly by a giant stone face). I'll only say that I'm reminded, gleefully, of Angel season 4, in which an Oprah-esque deity brings unsolicited peace to the world. Also, at issue's very end, we get a "things-to-come" page, promising the return of Black Adam and Power Girl's creepy Earth 2 playmates- WAAhoo!