This Thanksgiving, you’re probably sitting around a dinner table with relatives you really don’t see all that often, a nice warm Turkey filled with your dad’s own recipe of stuffing, and perhaps a small dog running under the table yapping and begging for scraps. Maybe even a cat who keeps hopping on the table despite everyone picking her up and putting her back on the floor (they don’t learn lessons as easily). You’ll eat, you’ll fill up, and then what? Sit around and watch TV? Don’t you know TV rots your brain?! How about you curl up next to a warm fire and read a book! How about you make that book a comic book, or rather, a graphic novel? Does that sound good to you? Yes? Alright, good! Because I have the perfect graphic novel for you! It’s called JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice, by David S Goyer and Geoff Johns, and it makes a wonderful read for any Thanksgiving. Allow me to present my short and sweet review of your new accidental holiday classic, after the cut!
JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice is about the Justice League and the Justice Society getting together in the Watchtower to celebrate Thanksgiving. Perfect timing, right? Everyone’s talking and sharing stories, Batman’s sitting in the corner being grumpy. You know. The usual. But as the evening continues, President Luthor (yes, it was written during those days) is attacked by one of the New Gods of Apokalips, and of course the JLA and JSA come to the rescue. As our heroes come to the rescue, they find the God is too easily defeated, and soon afterwards several of the members begin to act quite strangely. Captain Marvel takes away Black Adams powers, Power Girl is feeling rather … open, we’ll say, and Kyle Rayner is being rather jealous of people mentioning Hal Jordan. Heck, even Batman is angrier than usual. With the flash of an eye, our heroes are seperated into different dimensions, and the wayward out-of-their-mind heroes are rampaging through the streets of the city. So what are we left to do? Well, let’s call some of the reserve members that don’t get enough screen time and solve this mystery! So we’ve got heroes like Green Arrow, Black Canary, Zatanna and Elastic Man doing their best to solve the case. And believe it or not, but you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! (And by that I mean that the main antagonist(s) are quite a surprise).
The book is written in a joint team effort of David S Goyer and Geoff Johns, both of whom were in charge of the respective titles around the time that this was written (2005). However, neither writers miss a beat. Often times with collaborations you can tell who wrote what, but this book has both the writers in a unique form of sync not often seen in comic books. The story alone is well worth the read, and each characterization done by the authors is perfect for any of the given characters. No one seems too over the top – they all seem just right. It might sound odd to say, but often times creators just don’t understand a character (like a reader wrote to us in regards to my bashing of Gambit), and this can be true. However, this definitely isn’t the case for Goyer and Johns. I also absolutely love the concept of the story. There is something inside this book that I feel is a big give away as to what is going on, and I’d rather not spoil it for you – but in a nutshell, the mythology of a character I greatly enjoy who is painfully underused (and recently had his powers taken away and transferred to someone else by Judd Winnick and Geoff Johns) is elaborated upon, and it makes for a high class read. Plus, who doesn’t love an ANGRIER Batman? Guilty until proven innocent and then some.
Then we’ve got the astounding artwork of the title. The art is done by Carlos Pacheco, who I’m most familiar with due to his current run on Ultimate Comics Avengers. What’s amazing is the style shift that is so clear between his current work and the art of this one, and I mean that in the most complimentary way. Avengers features Pacheco doing an emulation of the Hitch artwork from the original two volumes of Ultimates, whereas this book feels much more organic and to his own personal style. Then you’ve got Jesus Merino on the inks, doing a fantastic job with shading and color throughout. The two make for an excellent pairing for a book full of artwork that is just cartoony enough to get a certain vibe through with the book. The story itself is great, but it is very much the type of story you’d expect from old Saturday Morning Cartoons of the ’90s with the Batman and Superman animated shows. Remember when they had their crossover? I imagine JLA and JSA kind of like – everyone eating Thanksgiving, villains appear to swap everyone around, and there is the eventual resolution by the end of the morning so you can make soccer practice. That vibe is only existant because of the artwork done in it. The story itself could very easily be read either as definingly serious or the “SMC-vibe”, and thanks to their artwork we get SMC, which translates to an INCREDIBLY fun read that makes JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice a story that can be read time and time again each holiday.
JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice is, of course, a short read, and very much a blast from the past considering all that is going on in comic books today. However, the book reads today as fresh and fun as it did back in ’05. I mean, all it is is a crossover that they decided to make outside of their books, but it works none the less. In fact I’d go so far as to say that it works better being a story not contained to anyones story restrictions but their own. The story feels very free flowing, and I love the creative thinking behind it, as well as the explanation for everything. There aren’t very many “accidental holiday classics,” but due to this taking place during Thanksgiving, I’m calling it as a Thanksgiving read. And for the low low price that this costs, you could stand to pick it up. It’s well worth the read.