Justice Society of America #52 review

The action is on two fronts as Mr Terrific learns who's behind his incredible shrinking intellect, while the rest of the JSA bring in specialists to discover what's beyond the secret door under Monument Point.

The news is bad for Terrific as he learns that the stranger who nobbled his noggin is dead, a suicide. A racist nut named Richard Lusk, he believed that Terrific, as an African-American, had gotten above himself by taking on the legacy of the Caucasian original, Terry Sloane. With all Lusk's records destroyed, Terrific sees no choice but to re-educate himself, starting with a kids' video starring old DC character Captain Carrot.

While the superheroic bunny is just a fun nod to comics past, some beloved DC characters do get a 'real life' role this issue. The Challengers of the Unknown are summoned, and as befits their status as investigators of the weird, they seem to have a notion that they've been in comics limbo for awhile (click to enlarge image).
The Challs lead the JLA into the chamber beyond the door, hoping to learn just what was being locked away by the US government. They're bedevilled by booby traps but survive long enough to eyeball a mysterious city.

And that's that for one of the last JSA comics we can expect for awhile, what with the team being swept off the shelves by DC's post-Flashpoint relaunch. That's a pity as this issue shows that regular writer Marc Guggenheim and new artist Tom Derenick make quite the creative team. They evoke poignancy for Terrific's plight, even if he is being ridiculously proud in not asking his colleagues for help. And in just a handful of pages they remind us of what a cracking collection of characters the Challs are - five adventurers living on borrowed time, meeting every new mystery with 'nice toys' (as Stargirl keeps observing) and, even better, wit. If this issue is some kind of backdoor pilot for a Challs mini by Guggenheim and Derenick, I hope the Gods of DC are paying attention, because it's a delight. Book 'em into DC Universe Presents, sharpish (and have the Doom Patrol retake My Greatest Adventure while you're on).

The JSA take a bit of a back seat, but they aren't sidelined, standing bravely by the Challs' side. I'm looking forward to the continuation of this story hugely. Hopefully we'll also see Mr Terrific in a happier place - the fella has a post-Flashpoint solo book coming, so he needs all his marbles.

Guggenheim's dialogue is as fresh as you'd hope for from a longtime TV writer, with the opening chat between Terrific and scumbag Dr Chaos a fine bit of back and forth. Derenick shows how undervalued he is with such thoughtful compositions as the JSA's downpage descent into the chamber of secrets. And the pages really spring to life when the Challs go into action, with an appropriate injection of Kirby energy. 

Mike Atiyeh's colours, fine throughout, also shine particularly in this scene. And letterer Rob Leigh does a splendid job, with an extra treat being the revival of the logo for old DC mag Weird Mystery Tales; it sits perfectly with this issue's dual riddles. Round that off with a nicely conceived, finely rendered cover by Mario Alberti and you have an above average team book. Come back soon, eh?