[25 March 2013]
I’ve always felt that DC Comics’ creative Boy Wonder, Geoff Johns, and King Midas of ancient Greek myth both have a similar trait in common: whatever they touch, no matter how lackluster or trivial, is turned into radiant gold and worthy of attention. With the sudden cancelation of Justice League International, it was appropriate—if not a predictably safe measure—that Johns be given the scripting reins of its high-profile successor Justice League of America. Critical reception doesn’t lie, Justice League of America #1 received rave reviews from across the board and accomplished whetting our appetites for the next installment, despite concentrating on setting the stage for events to transpire later. While the title’s second issue manages to drum up anticipation for the showdown with the Secret Society of Super Villains, the story is far from garnering a perfect score.
Justice League of America #2 starts off on a very strong note showing an anxious Scarecrow strapped to an electric chair, greeted by, at long last, the mastermind pulling the strings of the Secret Society… an as of unnamed villain that resembles a gangly and pallid Stan Laurel with an affinity for purple garb. There was a conflict of personal opinion regarding this scene since the exchange between Scarecrow and his mystery benefactor was brilliant, the latter of the two understanding the drive behind his potential recruit’s actions and giving us an inkling of what he has planned for him and those of his misanthropic ilk. However, it was meaningless to withhold the name of Laurel’s apparent evil twin even in light of revealing of his physical identity. Were he still obscured by a veil of shadow this would have made logical sense, but not doing so doesn’t add much to this suspense since, well, it’s already been shattered.
Meanwhile, on the JLA’s side of things, Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller lock horns over proper protocol surrounding management of the team, with the heroes that constitute its ranks meeting for the first time, of which can only be described as—for a lack of better expression—cordially abrasive over misunderstandings and unintended voyeurism (keep it professional, Vibe). Johns’ handling of the group’s shaky meet-and-greet was refreshing as any other writer would feel pressured to have at least two of the members come to blows as a means of comedic relief or take a juvenile, unrealistic approach with the obligatory quip exchange such scenes usually call for. Its entertaining nature notwithstanding, the moment still came off more as spillover that should have been reserved for the first issue, granted it hadn’t devoted a majority of its pages to vignettes for each individual JLA member.
Another slight shortcoming that this issue’s story experienced was the fact that the entirety of the JLA was not present—regardless of the cover saying otherwise (reaffirming the creed to never judge a book by its cover for better or worse). It was a given that Green Arrow would be out of commission as a result of the severe beating he took at the hands of Professor Ivo’s robotic Justice League clones, but the fact that the new Green Lantern, Simon Baz, was surprisingly errant was a disappointment to say the least. Whether Johns has bigger plans for Baz later on in the series’ run or he’s tied up with the events of the Green Lantern title due to editorial oversight is uncertain at this time, though omitting such a profound and progressive character that had been promoted heavily as being a part of the JLA’s roster since the series’ announcement is unfortunate.
The artwork wonderfully maintains complimenting the general tone of the series; muted colors and well-placed shadows distinguish it from the more cheerful and classic sensibility of its sister title Justice League. David Finch’s pencil work, on the other hand, has some minor inconsistencies in relation to character design—Waller’s hairstyle inexplicably changes from the first and second issues—and character proportions are at times glaring. Even so, Finch’s unique and detailed artistic style suits the title well and he will hopefully stay onboard for quite some time.
Beginning in this particular issue is the first of many back-up stories focusing the spotlight on the team’s enigmatic member: Martian Manhunter. Penned by Matt Kindt with Scott Clark and David Beaty on art duties, the short tale “Security Detail” fills in the blanks of the main story, explaining how the President was so keen on endorsing a government-sanctioned assemblage of super-powered beings in a world where people have become apprehensive toward the hero element, especially given the fallout of Aquaman and Justice League’s “Throne of Atlantis” crossover event. The back-up was succinct in its storytelling yet gave an underrated character his deserved due, something that wouldn’t have been accomplished in the story proper. The artwork—completely different from that of Finch—is distinct from its pencils to coloring that, in my opinion, echoes Jae Lee’s style. It’s fitting and suffice it to say that the art has a unique flavor.
Maybe some of my pedantic nitpicking comes from my wanting to see the JLA engage in superhuman fisticuffs with the Secret Society ever so much, but it has done nothing to diminish my excitement for each subsequent installment. After all, one has to bear in mind that the first few issues of any fledgling series aren’t always perfect—no matter their amount of prestige. Justice League of America will always remain at the top of my reading pile each month and certainly has the potential to be something great.