The All-Stars respond to the news that one of their members, Magog, has organised a prison break. Of course, he hasn't, but he's such an obnoxious, irritating, hotheaded pultroon that he's soon fighting his colleagues rather than bad guys.
Did he think to tell his team-mates in advance? Does he take 30 seconds to explain when Power Girl asks what's up? Does he request a hand, and say he'll explain as they go? Does he wear something more sensible than a metal billy goat outfit? Nah, he orders everyone to bugger off and leave him to it, putting Peege's back up no end. Then some bad guys do appear, along with the Justice Society, and there's soon loads of fisticuffs and blasting.
It's great fun, all the more so because it's obvious that by the end of the issue Magog will be off the team. The worry is that as this has happened a mere three months since one team became two, it's unlikely he'll be gone for long.
Never mind, there are plenty of other things to enjoy in this giant-sized issue, written by Magog writer Keith Giffen and All-Stars guy Matthew Sturges - Lightning getting stuck into the fray and growing some personality; Mr America getting down and dirty; promising new villain Mind Czar ... Power Girl shows that she's very different from co-leader Magog as she solicits opinions on their rogue member. Cyclone demonstrates that she may seem fragile but she's a formidable weather witch, while the Golden Agers - Flash, Green Lantern and Wildcat - prove that they don't just keep up, they lead from the front.
And then there's the art. Tom Derenick pencils, Rodney Ramos inks and your reviewer smiles. This is a lovely looking book. There are around 20 lead characters but the choreography ensures no one gets squeezed off the page. Heroes move in their trademark ways - Jay Garrick has his long strides, Wildcat Jr is a coiled spring, Cyclone gawkily graceful and so on. Plus, it being an annual, there's plenty of room for bombastic splash pages and the art team - finished off by colourist Allen Passalaqua and letterer Kenny Lopez - makes the most of them.
JSA All-Stars artist Freddie Williams II contributes an ambitious cover including pretty much every member of the JSA teams, summing up the book nicely.
This book isn't claiming to change the medium forever, it's not trying to remake the universe with subtextual spells, or teach us lessons about life - it's content to be a big loud comic. Big and loud, but never dumb. Questions are raised about leadership, authority and responsibility. Characters interact in entertaining ways. Twenty minutes pass by in a flash and I feel my three quid was well spent.
Kudos to the whole creative team for giving us a fine, old-fashioned annual that brings a storyline to a climax while pointing towards the future.