One bath towel.
That’s all that’s standing in the way of the all-new, all-deadly Injustice Society of America.
Welcome to “Die Hard” in the JSA brownstone.
In “JSA” No. 10, “Wild Hunt,” cover date May 2000, written by David Goyer and Geoff Johns and illustrated by Stephen Sadowski and Michael Bair, one lone member of the Justice Society of America – Wildcat – must take on the combined might of the re-formed Injustice Society of America.
What follows is not only a lightning-fast adventure reminiscent of a big-screen action blockbuster, but a story strewn with Easter eggs of all sorts for readers new and veteran alike.
In addition to being nearly naked when the super-thugs break into the mansion during his bath time, prizefighter Ted Grant also has a broken arm.
Obviously, this fight is going to be a massacre.
These villains don’t stand a chance.
Wildcat narrates the action, a savvy choice on the part of the creators, as we get the full brunt of his determination and bravado facing these super-powered thugs. You can almost imagine his part was written for Bruce Willis.
“Back in ’45, I managed to pick up nine extra lives,” he thinks to himself as the story opens. “I’ve used exactly two of them so far. Something tells me I’m about to go for the hat trick.”
File that thought away: Wildcat’s own metahuman background won’t be explored until “JSA” Nos. 52-53, cover date Nov-Dec. 2003
He uses his knowledge of the JSA mansion, his cunning and his fighting prowess to take out Count Vertigo, Golden Wasp, Tigress, Blackbriar Thorn, Geomancer and Icicle.
He retrieves his costume, roars out of the shadows on a motorcycle and clobbers Vertigo.
He sends Geomancer tumbling down a floor, smack into the “Living Bee Hive” commemorating the Red Bee.
I just have to stop here and marvel: The JSA chose to honor the memory of a minor All-Star Squadron hero who fought crime with a couple of trained bees with an exhibit of live bees. This is cool and crazy, and you know you just want to explore the JSA mansion all day.
We’re in luck, because Wildcat is tearing up the place.
He corners Icicle in the hospital ICU and dropkicks him onto an operating table for a little “noninvasive automated laser surgery.” OK, this isn’t “American Horror Story,” so let’s keep this moving.
While struggling against the vines of Blackbriar Thorn in a JSA conference room, Wildcat recalls the monster’s origin and thinks to himself, “I’ve heard wilder stories, like Mr. Terrific’s brawl with Black Barax.”
That’s no throwaway line. In “JSA” No. 42, cover date January 2003, Michael Holt/Mr. Terrific and Hawkgirl make a pitstop in the 1940s and meet the original “man of 1,000 talents,” Terry Sloane, who has a creative way of defeating Black Barax.
Speaking of the new Mr. Terrific (who makes his first “JSA” appearance in the very next issue), Wildcat races to one of his creations for the JSA – “dive tubes” – “an interfloor elevator without the elevator.” They use magnetic waves to transport members up and down floors. (Stairs are so Justice League.)
And what happens if someone sneaky turns off the controls? Blackbriar Thorn plummets and becomes a pile of twigs.
Tigress still thinks she has a chance. That’s cute. Wildcat sends a statue of the original Red Tornado, smashing her way. The statue is destroyed, but be heartened: Somebody up there remembers Ma Hunkel.
Tricking the Golden Wasp into using his electric stings against Tigress, Wildcat challenges his foe.
“You wouldn’t last five minutes in a good old-fashioned knuckle duster,” he says.
Wildcat knocks him out with a solid right hook.
Johnny Sorrow appears for one last taunt, as super-villains love to do, and teleports his unconscious minions away.
Well, almost all of them.
This issue marked a critical creative turning point.
As a lifelong fan, I was wary about this reboot of the JSA.
The comic was closing in on its first year anniversary and hadn’t done much to distinguish itself from the other team books on the market.
While the opening arc with Mordru was strong, the following arc “Darkness Falls,” with Obsidian raging out of control, played like a lost episode from “Infinity Inc.”
Here, the creative team finds its stride.
Goyer and Johns took one of the lesser members of the team and spun him into a powerhouse in a story that just never lets up. They planted seeds for future stories in ways readers didn’t even notice. Sadowski’s art heightens the adrenaline rush. (In case you are wondering, the Injustice Society return in “JSA” No. 16, cover date November 2000, for the brilliant “Injustice Be Done” five-parter.)
“JSA” No. 10 just gets better with age. And how many comic books can you say that about? (Read it yourself on the DC Comics app or in the trade paperback “JSA: Darkness Falls.”)
One thing was certain from this issue: The Golden Age of the Justice Society was beginning.
Fasten your seatbelts.