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Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: Justice League of America #2

After a surprisingly great issue that did nothing more than establish who would be on the team, Justice League of America is able to finally dive into the real meat of its first arc in issue 2.  Does this issue continue the trend of top-notch writing and art that began in the first issue?  Read on to find out!

Meet the Justice League of America!  With Justice League of America #2, we get to see the team meet each other for the first time, though they do not have much time for introductions before they are introduced to the world....only to be rushed right into their first mission without any training.  On this first mission the JLA begins to realize that they may have bitten off more than they can chew.  In a back-up story, we see the ways the government is protecting the President from super human threats and how Martian Manhunter is able to manipulate such security.

Of the many strengths Geoff Johns has as a writer, perhaps his best is his ability to navigate multiple characters working together.  Such a skill is not an easy one, but it has caused his work on Justice League to remain great, despite the plot of the book being little more than traditional superhero beat-em-up action.  Johns demonstrates these talents big time in Justice League of America #2, giving us several small character moments that give a good hint of how this team will be able to work together.

Looking at the cover for this issue, one gets an idea of just how disjointed this group really is.  The Justice League often looks like a cohesive unit when seen together.  Which the should; they are DC's core group of heroes fighting together.  While the JLA of the New 52 has the requisite skill set to match against the Justice League, they do not outwardly seem to form a cohesive whole.  Do Hawkman, Catwoman, Martian Manhunter, and Green Lantern (Simon Baz) really belong together on a team?  As Johns begins to tell in this issue, they most certainly do.

The main crux of the story for this month's book deals with the JLA meeting up and announcing their existence to the world.  There is a hilarious moment between Vibe and Hawkman, where Vibe takes real notice of how dangerous Hawkman may be.  This moment was not only a good bit of comic relief, but it also helped to establish the varying personalities which make up the JLA.  Vibe and Stargirl are teenagers on a team of adults, many of whom are quite possibly unstable.  While we do not get any real moments of fighting villains in this issue, we get enough of a set-up of this team's interaction to see how well their personalities mesh.

Perhaps the strongest character moment in this issue goes to Catwoman.  I have not been reading Catwoman's solo book, so I am not up to date on what she has been up to in Gotham, but Johns writes the character as a woman attempting to undo the wrongs of her past.  Becoming a member of the JLA is a way for Catwoman to gain redemption for the evil she has perpetrated.  Not only does Catwoman bring the obvious sex appeal to the group, something she makes a small joke about in this issue, but she also has an emotional side.  After stealing leader Steve Trevor's wallet, Catwoman comes across a photo of Trevor and ex-girlfriend Wonder Woman.  Seeing this picture allows Catwoman to think of her own superhero ex.  While Johns does not give much dialogue on this page, the look on Catwoman's face at this part tells us there is more to this woman than just a reformed burglar.  Johns already seems to not so subtly be leaving a hint that there may be a relationship developing between Catwoman and Steve Trevor.

As I mentioned in my review of Justice League of America #1, one of the things that separates this book from its sister title Justice League is the depth Johns goes into the more governmental control over the formation and use of this team.  This theme continues in this issue with the use of Martian Manhunter in particular.  As he is the team's resident telepath, it only makes sense that J'onn would be put in charge of interrogating suspects or, in the case of this issue, delving into the minds of comatose team members for answers.  Inside the head of Oliver Queen (aka Green Arrow), J'onn is able to make the discovery that the JLA's first foe will be the Secret Society of Super Villains.  This team's weapon of choice?  Some kind of clones (robots?) of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman.  

While this scene of Martian Manhunter probing the mind of Green Arrow may not seem like a big deal, Johns makes a very subtle move when Oliver wakes up and cannot see Martian Manhunter.  This is an interesting moment as this would seem to put the motivations of Martian Manhunter and Steve Trevor into question.  Why are the two of them so intent upon keeping Martian Manhunter's telepathy a secret?  Or perhaps it is not his telepathy, it is that this a sign to the reader that Martian Manhunter can control the perception of others.  Despite this ability not getting much use in this issue, it would seem to be a bit of foreshadowing as to a potential story thread later on.

In the back-up for this issue, Martian Manhunter's motivations are examined even further, causing one to question whether he is working with the JLA, or has simply joined the team to serve his own purposes.  The back-up also brings up an interesting plot point in the beefed up security at the White House to detect super human threats.  Some of the technology used seems quite Orwellian, but it gives a good example of how the presence of heroes such as Superman have had an effect on the DC Universe.  It is often easy to forget that many of these comics in the New 52 take place only five years after the revelation of super-powered beings to the rest of the world.  Johns' depiction of the lengths our government has gone to protect our most powerful officials may have questionable ethics, but they also bring up a very realistic take on how our society would most likely react to superheroes.  Not to mention, the end of this back-up raises an interesting question related to how the JLA is able to exist in the first place.

On the art front, David Finch continues to do excellent work.  While he may have done a great job with Batman in recent years, he draws for Justice League of America in such a way that it would seem he was destined for team books.  Unlike the opening issue, Finch is able to show us a bit more color this time around, but not at the expense of the necessary shadows that give his art style.  In general, Finch's art helps to add that extra level of realism and sophistication to this book that is already present in Johns' writing.

Overall, Justice League of America #2 continues to build and improve upon what made the first issue great.  I am comfortable saying this issue is even better than the first one.  Suffice it to say, Justice League of America needs to either be on your pull list, or a book you buy the second a trade is released.  I do not know what the Secret Society of Super Villains has in store for the JLA, but the foreshadowing given with the use of Scarecrow at the beginning of this issue sets up what will very likely be an exciting story arc.

Rating: A+

Summary:  Justice League of America #2 builds upon what made the first issue great, adding some great character moments to make this an overall improvement from the debut.
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