21 August 2011

Faster than a DC Bullet: The Sandman Spin-Offs, Part XIII: JSA: Justice Be Done

Comic trade paperback, 138 pages
Published 2000 (contents: 1999)

Borrowed from the library
Read August 2011
JSA: Justice Be Done

Writers: James Robinson, David S. Goyer
Pencillers: Scott Benefield, Stephen Sadowski, Derec Aucoin
Inkers: Mark Propst, Michael Bair
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Ken Lopez

There's a tiny cameo by the Daniel Hall Dream (man he's been popping up a lot of late), and Hector Hall, who was the third Sandman (after Garrett Sandford) finally returns from the Dreaming in this story, but the main Sandman element in Justice Be Done, the first volume of the 1990s JSA series, is the legacy of Wesley Dodds, the original 1930s Sandman. Justice Be Done merges two previously distinct versions of the character: the Wesley Dodds here is characterized the way Matt Wagner wrote him in Sandman Mystery Theatre, especially as regards his romance with Dian Belmont, but he still participated in the more fanciful adventures of the Golden Age version of the character. His sidekick Sanderson Hawkins even has a big role in this story, even though Sandman Mystery Theatre took some pains to established that "Sandy" didn't exist.

Wesley's brief appearance here culminates in his death, but he goes out like a hero, and it works. Having him battling cosmic forces in the mountains of Tibet jars with the SMT Wesley's encounters with powerless psychopaths in New York sewers, but the SMT was written as so smart and well-intentioned that you've no doubt he could have handled such situations had he been pushed into him. The building of the JSA memorial is a little harder to buy, and the oft-referenced fact that Wesley once built a "silicoid gun" that turned Sandy into a sand monster doesn't really fit at all, but then again, Justice Be Done isn't a Sandman Mystery Theatre story, but a no-holds-barred nostalgic Justice Society one, uniting a hodgepodge of characters with ties to the organization, from founding members, to the children of other founding members, from an android reincarnation of Hourman (who actually appeared in Sandman Mystery Theatre), to Wonder Woman's mom.

Even if you take Justice Be Done on its own terms, Sandy, who declares himself "Sand" here with some ferociously bad dialogue, is one of the less convincing elements of the story. The writers seem desperate to give him relevant powers: he starts out with Wesley Dodds's legendary gas gun, and he picks up Wesley's bad dreams as well, but he soon also acquires the power to turn into sand at will, not to mention "hyper-sensitized to seismic activity." For some reason. It's a disjointed powerset that reeks of an attempt to make something of this character, as does the hackneyed combination of man-out-of-time and trying-to-live-up-to-a-legacy characterizations, which try really hard to make him more than the most generic of sidekicks that he began as.

On a side note, I was amused by an introductory illustration of the new Justice Society, which labels illustrations of the characters to help the newbies. In this we see WILDCAT, STAR-SPANGLED KID, STARMAN, OBSIDIAN, BLACK CANARY, HOURMAN, and... AL ROTHSTEIN. Nice codename, dude.

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