By: Geoff Johns (story), David Finch (art), Sonia Oback (colors)
The Story: The team goes on their first mission without so much as a proper, rah-rah send-off.
The Review: One thing that really hampered Justice League when it first hit the stands was how much time it spent simply getting itself together. It wasn’t until I think the fourth of fifth issue that you finally had the entire group in the same place, which is a pretty long time for a team book to gather its wits about it. On the plus side, with the invasion from Apokolips as the trigger for their formation, they never wanted for action from the first issue.
Justice League of America seems to have the opposite problem. Although you get pretty much the whole crew (minus Simon Baz, who’s still occupied over in Green Lantern) in one room within the issue’s first few pages, by the end of the issue, you still haven’t really seen them go to work. In fact, aside from Green Arrow’s brief flashback to his infiltration of the Secret Society, there’s no League action at all.
Instead, Johns spends his time developing friction among the team. While you can see the seeds of camaraderie between certain natural pairs (the young’uns Vibe and Stargirl, the introspective Martian Manhunter and Katana), the JLA is mostly a collection of problem children. If the goal is to craft a team that looks good for the public, then someone make sure Hawkman cleans the blood off his person well before they have a press conference, and Catwoman doesn’t randomly plant a wet one on the first person that springs into view, just so she can punk their valuables.
That kind of friction does have its entertainment value, however (seeing Vibe overtly scoot his seat away from the bloody Hawkman is especially a treasure). Less entertaining—in fact, quite tiresome—is when characters engage in direct confrontations where they “say it like it is” in this expository, awkward manner that Johns has a habit of doing. This just makes it so obvious what Johns’ purpose is, and that always feels patronizing to me.
For example, we all know that Stargirl is meant to be the bright-eyed, perky one in a group of cynics, downers, and strong, silent types. Did we really need her to gush, “I can’t wait to see how much good we can all accomplish together,” to drive that point home? You can sort of tolerate that kind of unfiltered remark from a teenage girl, but to see two grown men engage in that sort of dialogue just feels, well, awkward and unnatural. Like when Ollie accuses Steve, “You get a place back on the Justice League and you fall back in line with bureaucracy,” and then Steve protests, “I’m the guy who rebels against authority!” Who says that—out loud?
Although Finch’s heavily shaded and hatched style of linework fits the covert, secretive tone of the JLA, he really needs to bring a lighter touch to the characters. Everyone just seems so grim and unemotional all the time. The closest Finch comes to capturing some human personality is when Selina gives Steve the aforementioned kiss. There, you can see the flickers of genuine confusion and surprise that ever so slightly softens the stone-cold leader. But in the next panel, the rest of the team’s reactions are so understated that the humor and energy of the moment just hits a wall and drips away. Even when Oback fills a scene with sunshine, Finch’s linework makes it seem dark and vaguely threatening.
The real surprise delight of the issue is Matt Kindt’s Martian Manhunter back-up. It’s always been clear that J’onn’s up to a lot more than he lets on, and here we see that even the JLA may just be a byproduct of his manipulations. To what end, we still don’t know. But it is intriguing to hear him baldly admit that he has few reservations against giving certain things a “nudge” to go his way, even if he has to do so telepathically. Also very interesting is how Kindt portrays a country responding to the existence of superpowers, like the myriad precautions installed into the White House. I wouldn’t mind an entire ongoing of this, especially if Scott Clark (with inker David Beaty and colorist Jeff Chang) provides his highly sophisticated, dramatic art with it.
Conclusion: A somewhat underwhelming main feature, boosted, surprisingly enough, by a rock-solid back-up. Johns and Finch need to put in a lot more energy and action for this title to be up to Justice League standard.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: - And for heaven’s sake, Finch, just zip up Catwoman’s jacket already. She is now constantly one slip away from a Janet-Jackson-at-the-Super-Bowl moment.
– So let’s tally the known members of the Secret Society of Super-Villains thus far, shall we? Cheetah and Black Manta, and now Scarecrow. An interesting mix to be sure, but none too impressive just yet.
– Alright, we get it—Barack Obama is the president of DC’s America, too. That’ll thrill any Republican readers, I’m sure.