America vs. the Justice Society

America vs. the Justice Society is an oft-overlooked mid-80s miniseries that’s out in a new collected edition for the first time.

Image provided by Amazon/DC Comics

This was the last significant “classic” JSA story that appeared before Crisis on Infinite Earths erased the concept of Earth-2 and vastly changed the JSA. It was a celebration of more than 40 years of stories featuring the original super-team and the golden age versions of characters more familiar to many readers for their more modern counterparts.

America vs. the Justice Society opened with the JSA accused of having been Nazi collaborators during World War II and of having been engaged in an elaborate cover-up ever since. The charges were all the more damning for having appeared in a secret diary written by Batman before his death that had just come to light. In short order, the JSA found itself the subject of a joint Congressional hearing that amounted to little more than a public show trial.

Batman’s children wound up on opposite sides of the case. Daughter Helena Wayne, also the JSA heroine known as the Huntress, served as defense counsel for the accused heroes. Meanwhile Dick Grayson, Batman’s foster son and long-time partner Robin, served as special counsel to the Congressional committee, struggling with doubting the words of his late mentor. A newspaper publisher with an ax to grind, an ambitious Senator and a couple of the JSA’s old foes all figured into the mix.

America vs. the Justice Society wasn’t an action-intensive story. Rather, it used the framework of the JSA’s public testimony to recount decades of the team’s colorful exploits. The true purpose for Batman’s diary and accusations become clear by the end, as Dick managed to both clear the JSA and validate his mentor’s memory.

Image provided by Amazon/DC Comics

Roy Thomas, the maestro of DC’s Earth-2 stories in the early ‘80s, wrote America vs. the Justice Society as a love letter to the team’s long history. The concept of taking well-known moments from the JSA’s past and giving them a sinister interpretation that forced the team to defend itself was rather clever. The “Batman Diary” ploy was a nice spin on the various real world hoax diaries from famous historical figures that had popped up over the years. Ultimately making the entire episode one final Batman mystery was a fitting tribute to the Golden Age version of the Dark Knight.

Thomas clearly loved these characters. He wrote them rather well and managed to give everyone at least a moment in the spotlight. Virtually every past and present member of the JSA to that point figured in the story somehow (even deceased members like the original Black Canary and Mister Terrific). The copious flashbacks and dramatic stakes of the trial made up for the relative lack of present day action. It was an effective use of the team’s history in a contemporary drama.

A team of artists contributed to America vs. the Justice Society, including Jerry Ordway, Rich Buckler, Rafael Kayanan, Howard Bender and Mike Hernandez, with Alfredo Alcala as primary inker. All worked in a similar “Classic DC” style that was clean and bright, without being overly fussy. Still, many of the sequences used clever layouts and page designs to dramatize the flashbacks to the JSA’s colorful exploits. It may not have been electrifying work, but it held together fairly well and fit the tone of the story.

America vs. the Justice Society will be of most interest to fans of the Golden Age characters. With Convergence having put this particular world back into play, this history is more relevant than it’s been in years. And maybe, since DC’s gotten the Earth-2 ball rolling, we might finally see color re-prints of the excellent All-Star Squadron series.

Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on August 11, 2015.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting

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