Justice League of America (or how to make the JLA edgy)

JLA by David Finch

JLA by David Finch

Written by Geoff Johns and drawn by David Finch
“This is a very different kind of team book,” says Geoff Johns. “On first glance, people might think the heroes of the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA stand in the shadows of Superman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the JUSTICE LEAGUE, but Green Arrow, Katana, Martian Manhunter, the new Green Lantern, Stargirl, Vibe, Hawkman and Catwoman thrive in the shadows. They’re underdogs who have everything to prove and something to lose. They’re a team of unlikely heroes who will help one another discover they’re as A-List as anybody — yes, even Vibe. Though getting there won’t be easy. Why they’re formed, why each member joins, what they’re after and who the society of villains is they’re trying to take apart will all be clear in the first issue when it hits early 2013. David and I are really focused on delving deep into what it’s like to not be a member of the big seven and why, sometimes, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.” (via DC Comics)

Despite outward appearances, Justice League of America has (in my opinion) been in a kind of soul searching for decades. Be it the fantastical reach of the Grant Morrison run or the bizarre comedic Giffen/DeMatteis series the comic has run the gamut in approaches and even lineup including the traditional to more unknown superheroes. The latest iteration is a reboot, (simply) Justice League from the ground up, starting with the superheroes of the DCU fighting each other and threats from beyond. Sure, it’s a much simpler and glamorous version of the comic book where almost every member of the team is a jerk, but it has been the most successful version of the book in a very long time.

So whenever a comic book is this much of a hit we get a spin off, hence: Justice League of America (yes, this is possibly the tenth spin off of Justice League, joining Justice League International, Justice League Strike Force and many more).

The Justice League of the New 52 Universe are unknown quantities who answer to no one and hold vast powers far in advance of any individual government. Steve Trevor was intended to be a liaison to the League, but that fell apart quickly when his relationship with Wonder Woman similarly dissolved. With Trevor in disgrace and the Justice League running with no one to stop them, another team is quickly assembled, answerable to US government official Amanda Waller (looking about a tenth of her regular size).

There has been a general ‘us vs. them’ theme running through a few DC monthly books including Batwoman who works for the DEO in secret. However, this is a strong response to the superhuman threat that takes into consideration not just what power players are available but also if they can be controlled. Hawkman is presented as a brilliant tactician, but a brutish thug compared to Batman. Green Lantern is on the run and therefore easily reigned in by the US. Stargirl, Vibe and Katana are all newbies with little to no knowledge of how their world functions. Catwoman has dubious morals, but also the most straight forward motivation. Martian Manhunter is a major win for Waller as he is their most powerful member and is completely avoided by the other League.

Justice-League-of-America-2-Hawkman-and-Vibe-David-Finch-Geoff-Johns-DC-Comics-Trinity-Comics-ReviewI do like the unusual team dynamic and how some characters are incredibly naive and others seasoned veterans, yet all of them are unused to working with others. It promises a lot of potential for some interesting stories and the uses the relative obscurity of many heroes to its advantage. This is a book where Hawkman and Green Arrow are the most recognizable heroes, and both are second or third tier characters, depending on your point of view.

Green Arrow is eager to prove himself as a viable hero to the league, which places him as the ideal person to infiltrate the Secret Society, a newly formed group of super villains. The series so far is spinning wheels, showing the formation of the team and unraveling the threat of the Secret Society in painfully slow steps. That’s not to say that I dislike it, it oozes in character and action, but that said… there’s not a lot happening so far.

Justice League of America started with an unusual multiple variant cover explosion spotlighting every state flag of the US and has been selling like hotcakes. The art by David Finch, most well known from Moon Knight and Batman: The Dark Knight, is a major pull for the comic as is the looming possibility of what could happen next. It’s not so much what is happening in this comic that attracts me, but what could happen next.

The relationship between Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller is on a knife edge (does this guy get along with anyone?) and Oliver Queen is the most interesting character to date as Green Arrow (it is wise for DC to ride his current popularity thanks to the WB TV series) and I am interested in seeing where that all goes. Two issues in and the team has still not faced a single threat and all of the action is in flashback.

So if you are a fan of superhero books and have a lot of patience, check this one out.

3 thoughts on “Justice League of America (or how to make the JLA edgy)

  1. Look at Green Arrow # 19, page 3: Oliver admits he probably couldn’t have made the impossible shot that Komodo threw at him. A normal superhero would never say he/she is inferior in comparison to his/her villain: Oliver, on the contrary, admits it, because Lemire loves to deconstruct the superhero mythology.
    Second deconstructing detail: at the end of the issue, Fyff asks Oliver what happened, and he replies “Got beat up by a little girl.” A superhero is supposed to be invincible and to defeat even the most powerful villains, so Oliver admitting that a child defeated him is something delightfully nonconformist and unusual.
    Third deconstructing detail: A superhero never escapes flat out, and never gives up. Oliver, on the contrary, decided to wave goodbye to Komodo when he realized he had been encircled. And he ended up in a dump! Can you imagine any other superhero in a situation like that? AWESOME!!!


    • I agree with your observations… but I disagree with your statement about what a superhero is. I think that’s exactly why so many writers get superhero stories wrong, actually. IF you write them as invincible, without fail, supreme confidence in the face of reality… then they aren’t actually heroes.

      Look to our real life heroes… Policemen and firefighters are not without fear… they do not think they are invincible… they know their limitations… but with that fear and acknowledgement that they might not survive… they put their life on the line to protect and serve anyway. That’s what makes a hero… bravery comes not from being unafraid, but in fact from recognizing that you are afraid and facing it head-on.

      Super-heroes should be a hero in spades, basically… but they aren’t always written that way.

      I think that is why so many people were drawn to Spider-Man back in 1963 when Lee + Ditko created him… Spidey knew his limits, failed a lot, but kept putting himself in the line of fire against the baddies anyway. He would fight when he was sick or injured too… that was heroic.

      I think, sadly, that we are so used to heroes not being written well… that when someone finally does it, we are so surprised we forget that it should be that way all the time.


      • You’re right. It’s like when we celebrate someone for having acted in a honest way: moral integrity should be the rule, but it has became a so rare exception that we applaud the few ones who show it. Thank you for your reply! : )


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