When crimes are committed against metahumans, ordinary police are no use. Highly skilled investigators known as the Justice Society of America represent the people in the never-ending quest for truth, justice and a reasonably priced taco plate.
It’s not Dick Wolf. It’s “JSA” No. 31, cover date February 2002. The villain Shakedown is dead, his 700-pound body splayed in an alley. The geomorph metahuman was capable of triggering earthquake-style vibrations and was practically invulnerable. Who could have possibly killed this giant?
The Justice Society of America – including chairman Mr. Terrific, Sand, Dr. Midnite, Green Lantern, Wildcat and Black Canary – is on the case.
Dr. Midnite determines Shakedown drowned – but there isn’t a drop of water in his lungs.
As the JSA ponders that mystery, Mr. Terrific’s T-Spheres pick up a presence lurking in the shadows –
And so begins one of the most unusual and most awaited team-ups in the Modern Age of the JSA.
Since the team was revived a few years before, the heroes have been keeping the world safe with monthly regularity but haven’t had much interaction with the larger DC universe. The annual team-ups with the Justice League had died with the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
“Making Waves,” written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by guest artist Peter Snejbjerg, finds the revamped JSA clashing with DC’s greatest heavy hitter, the Dark Knight, in a Manhattan murder mystery.
And what would Batman make of his JSA counterpart, the new Mr. Terrific?
Michael Holt, an Olympic decathlete, martial arts expert and techno genius, is arguably every bit the hero Bruce Wayne is and maybe even a little better.
While both suffered grievous losses, Mr. Terrific is not chained to his grief, nor fueled by it.
Mr. Fair Play immediately offers his hand to Batman, who just lets it hang in the air, because Batman is a dick.
The caped crusader is searching for a toddler kidnapped by Shakedown and his partner New Wave – a water-based metahuman, hmm – and doesn’t have any time to babysit the JSA.
Wildcat growls, “We’re the JSA. We’ve been doin’ this since you were in Bat-diapers.”
The matter is settled when Dr. Midnite and Mr. Terrific analyze some dirt under the victim’s fingernails and triangulate a position on a sewage plant. So they’ll let Batman tag along with them. Because the JSA is classy like that.
New Wave turns out almost as insane as the Joker. She drowns the toddler. Sand shatters her aquatic form – as much as you can break a female-shaped waterspout – and steals away the child.
Batman wants to lead the charge in capturing the killer, but Dr. Midnite demands his help in reviving the tot. So Bats has to learn to give up some control and trust the new/old kids.
Mr. Terrific’s T-Spheres short-circuit New Wave and Black Canary’s sonic cry puts her down for the count.
As he slips into the shadows, Batman acknowledges, to himself, that the new JSA is just as impressive as the Golden Age one.
But he can’t escape those pesky T-Spheres – and the JSA chairman, who’d still like that handshake.
“My wife used to tell me that it takes more effort to be rude than to be polite,” Mr. Terrific smiles benevolently at Batman. And maybe Michael Holt does have a power: Super-Passive-Aggressive-Bitchiness.
Even though “Making Waves” is little more than a decade old, it might as well be a Silver Age story. Its style of storytelling, with its tightly constructed plot and rich character beats, is out of fashion in this era of Secret Convergence Multi-War Monthly Reboots in the All-New, All-Different 52. Artist Peter Snejbjerg excels here, and he would have been welcome on future issues.
Read it again on the DC Comics app or in the trade paperback “JSA: Fair Play.” I so need a T-shirt with Rag Morales’ striking cover. That just might be my favorite JSA cover in the entire run of the comic.
This stand-alone story is not to be dismissed. It ends with a significant membership change. Black Canary severs her relationship with Dr. Midnite and resigns. It’s not explained here, but Green Arrow had finally returned from the dead – chee, about time! – and girl needed to book.
Her replacement? To Wildcat’s horror – and, OK, maybe mine – it’s Power Girl.
The JSA would never be the same.