While the senior members of the team search for their comrades, the junior heroes – Star-Spangled Kid and Jakeem Thunder – are left alone in the mansion on Halloween night.
What could go wrong?
For starters, there’s the head from the Statue of Liberty – which lands like an atom bomb outside their front door.
Welcome to “Kids,” a spirited Halloween tale in “JSA” No. 29, cover date December 2001, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Peter Snejbjerg, with a creepy cover by Tim Sale.
This issue serves a lot of purposes: It’s a tie-in to the DC company-wide “event” Joker: Last Laugh, in which the Joker created an army of insane Joker-ized villains; it’s a holiday tale; and it’s a nifty standalone that delivers some compelling insights into our adolescent champions.
The villain this night:
A Joker-ized Solomon Grundy.
And only two bickering teenagers stand in his way.
Oh, that’s right. Courtney and Jakeem can’t stand each other.
Grundy immediately snatches Jakeem’s pen that houses the Thunderbolt. Courtney hesitates to tackle Grundy, remembering how he killed the first Star-Spangled Kid.
As the two chase Grundy down a deserted subway station, Courtney accuses Jakeem of wanting the pen back because it’s his power.
Jakeem corrects her: It’s his friend.
As the two walk the tunnels, they snipe at each other. Jakeem thinks Courtney is too full of herself and too busy pretending to be an adult. Courtney surprises him (and us) by revealing she knows Jakeem has been lying about his age – he’s actually 15. (And just small for his age.)
Like the best horror movie monsters, Grundy launches himself from the shadows. Just when all seems lost and Grundy will kill yet another Kid, Jakeem is able to exert himself as he never has before and summons the pen – and the Thunderbolt.
Thunderbolt fries Grundy – from the inside out.
Born on a Sunday, ash on garbage day.
Jakeem sends Thunderbolt to repair all the damage Grundy did across the city, including the Statue of Liberty, and apologizes to Star.
Star reminds Jakeem they are the future of the JSA – and they agree to be friends.
Of all the Justice Society members, Jakeem is one of the most tragic. He lives with his aunt, who can barely tolerate him. When he finally finds his father, he sees him happy with a new family and can’t bring himself to reveal his identity. With the exception of perhaps Rick Tyler and Jay Garrick, Jakeem doesn’t have anyone looking out for him. That’s all the more surprising since he wields one of the most powerful forces in the universe, an extra-dimensional genie who can grant just about any wish, minor, mischievous or malevolent.
Ya know, with that kind of power, I”m surprised the JSA didn’t do more to tutor Jakeem. At least in this issue, he gained one more pal, Courtney.
I miss Jakeem and I hope that if/when “Doomsday Clock” ever hits the reset button, he will be re-introduced into the DCU.
One last thing about this story’s ending: Jakeem admits to Courtney, “I really wish I could talk to Johnny Thunder. He’d understand.
“Stupid Alzheimer’s … I wish I could make him better.”
And something flashes in Jakeem’s eyes.
And in a nursing home in Keystone City, Johnny Thunder is on his feet, hearty and healthy, dressed and heading for the street, to see his old pals.
In a couple of issues, that happy turn would take a sinister swerve into the single most frightening cliffhanger in JSA history. But that’s a nightmare for another day.
You can get this story in the DC comics app. You can get caught up to speed here with how the JSA celebrated Thanksgiving or who they visited on Christmas. Seems like the JSA had just about every holiday covered except Arbor Day. Maybe there’s an untold Justice League team-up.