There are a lot of people who don’t like DC’s Showcase Presents Omnibus editions because of the black & white format and cheap paper but really, when you can get twenty issues collected for a mere $16.99 how can you complain? The second volume of the Justice League of America has just been released, featuring issues #17 – 36 of the Silver Age era and measuring in at 518 pages. This was not my favorite era for the Justice League of America. By comparison to a Marvel Comics counterpart the Avengers, the stories in these issues from the early 1960’s are simplistic and often silly. While it had the great advantage of hosting the top heroes of the day (Superman, Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman, etc…) the threats they faced were usually quite hokey. This explains why few of these villains would go on to become household names, with the exception of those such as Despero, and a couple of others. Thankfully villains such as the Tornado Tyrant and Matter Master gracefully faded from view.
The artwork of these early JLA stories is another source of irritation. Mike Sekowsky spent over twenty years at DC and some people consider him a bit of a Silver Age legend. But stack his work next to others from the same era such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Curt Swan, and Joe Kubert, and his work is woefully inept. It certainly didn’t help him having Bernard Sachs as his inker on most of these stories. You need only compare the covers where Murphy Anderson inked Sekowsky to see just how vast the improvement was with a talented inker. Sekowskys figures are short and squat and all look like they need to go on the Atkins Diet.
Still, it’s not all bad. There are some very good stories in this collection. Most notable is the two-part cross-over with the Justice Society of America from issues #21 – 22. While the Golden age Flash and Green Lantern had already made their returns, this was the first time the JSA had made an appearance as a team since 1951. In this story, villains from Earth 1 and Earth 2 form the team known as the Crime Champions. Their members include Chronos, Felix Faust, Dr. Alchemy, The Fiddler, The Wizard, and the Icicle. They pull off robberies on both worlds, hiding out in the borderland between the two Earths. Finally the JLA unites with the JSA (Atom, Black Canary, Dr. Fate, Flash, Green Lantern, and Hourman) to take them down. It’s a good story, and fun, but also historically significant due to the return of the JSA.
DC new a good thing when they saw it and quickly brought the JSA back for issues # 29 and 30, “Crisis on Earth 3” where yet another Earth is introduced. Earth 3 would be the opposite of the other Earths. As the British win their independence from the United States and it not heroes but rather Super Villain opposites of the JLA that call Earth 3 home. This time the JSA features Starman and Doctor Midnite. Again, a solid and significant story.