JSA PRESENTS: STARS AND S.T.R.I.P.E. collects issues # 1- 8 of the 1999 series featuring the first regular DC work from Geoff Johns. Johns is now recognized as a major architect of the modern DC Universe, and as his work is so closely associated with the JSA, this series was begging for a collected edition. Regular readers of JSA have probably picked up on the origin of the second Star-Spangled Kid, Courtney Whitmore. Well, Stars and STRIPE is where it all happened, and like so much of Johns' other JSA work, it has strong ties to DC's Golden Age.
Courtney's mother has just remarried, and her husband is none other than Pat Dugan, aka Stripesy (the sidekick of the Golden Age S-SK, Sylvester Pemberton). Courtney is not happy about either the marriage or their recent relocation to Blue Valley, Nebraska, and while digging through some of Pat's boxes, Courtney comes across the original Kid's cosmic converter belt and costume. Without her mother's knowledge, and against Pat's protestations, Courtney begins to adventure out on her own. Pat realizes he must put his formidable mechanical engineering skills to use in order to watch over her and ensure she makes it home for dinner in one piece. Encased in a suit of high-tech armor, Pat once again plays sidekick to the Star-Spangled Kid, but this time as S.T.R.I.P.E.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. It's a great prelude to the magic that Johns would work in later years, paying homage to DC's rich history and bringing back classic characters in various forms. There are nice references to the Seven Soldiers of Victory, the original Robotman, Ultra the Multi-Alien, and even some ominous appearances by Solomon Grundy and the Nebula Man! Unfortunately, there's just not a lot of meat here. The writing has some painfully rough edges, and the ongoing plotlines involving Shiv, kidnappings at Courtney's school, and her quirky principal, got old quickly. Also, it's difficult to sympathize with Courtney when Johns writes her as a one-sided smartmouth whose only objective is to annoy her parents. It seems to me that the easiest solution to Pat's dilemma would be to just take the belt from her. As for the art by Lee Moder... too cartoony for my tastes, but it gets the job done.
Anyway, I am looking forward to volume 2. Hopefully it will address some of the issues Johns brings up in the first volume and tie the series more firmly to the JSA title.