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JSA #67
writer: Geoff Johns
artists: Dave Gibbons and James Hodgkins

"I know who killed Sue Dibny."

So says Dr. Mid-Nite in the pages of this book, and if you've read Identity Crisis #6, you know, too. But writer Geoff Johns won't tell you, nor should he. In this crossover and interlude, Johns shows far more interest in the process of the autopsy, and giving more depth to the grieving of the superhero community. At least, those superheroes that he has some control over.

Not every writer could do this, and one great thing about this year's "event" is how much restraint DC has shown with its tie-ins. Identity Crisis sparked a few plot ideas for Johns and a couple of other writers (though does using a slightly retooled Shadow Thief as your villain really count?), and they're running with it. Those outside stories, however, are unnecessary to understand the main plot.

If you skip JSA #67, however, you will miss nuance, shading, development and growing horror. You don't need it, necessarily, but you will not regret reading it.

Recently, Jason Schachat complained that Johns doesn't seem to like Batman very much, and this issue adds weight to that idea. Rather, it's that Johns likes Mr. Terrific more. As Terrific and Mid-Nite perform the autopsy, it's clear that the members of the JSA think their brooding leader simply outclasses the Dark Knight in brains and effectiveness.

However, it's also clear that such rankings don't matter. There's a mutual respect running through the team, allowing for them each to understand and allow their individual grief. Johns throws a little survivor's guilt on Power Girl, an odd choice on first reading.

Then you realize that of course even these "minor characters" don't really exist in a vacuum. One of Johns' strengths as a writer is to really make you believe these characters have lives that go on off panel, and for Power Girl, losing Sue at the same time that Superman found his actual cousin is a mighty double blow, even though she had little to do with either storyline.

JSA always has decent art, but having Dave Gibbons step in for this special issue (with an effective cover by J.H. Williams III) really pushes the book up a level. Somehow, Gibbons' art makes superheroes seem very, very human. Where Alex Ross may paint them to look like gods striding the earth, Gibbons shows us they know they're only men without having them lose any of their nobility. The slight exception comes with Superman, who always looks like he is absolutely the apex of superhumanity.

And still the creative team finds time to move the JSA's own story forward. If you're not reading the book regularly, maybe you'll be hooked. If not, you'll still have taken a little detour from Identity Crisis that almost (almost) makes you wish there were more.

Derek McCaw

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