If Justice League is the main attraction, Justice League of America is definitely the side show. In an inspired showing of world-building navigation, Geoff Johns has developed a new way to look at one of the most iconic franchises in comic book history. Not only are the Justice League and JLA separate teams, they also have veritably different enemies. In four short issues, Johns has established that A.R.G.U.S.’s League is much more about espionage and shadowy operations.
This issue shows how deeply Johns cares for these characters and the DC universe in general. The Justice League was kind of a given when it came to roster decisions, but the JLA is a wholly different beast in the ‘New 52’, which meant Johns was able to craft it specifically to his needs.
This is a series about a government-sanctioned superhero team. This is not a group of strangers with powers who come together organically, and Johns strives to convey this idea throughout Justice League of America #4. Their first real mission is to take down the Secret Society of Super Villains that we first saw way back in Justice League #6, albeit in it’s pre-officially-named form. Before the ‘New 52’, I wouldn’t have batted an eye at the Society popping up because they popped up all the time. The ‘New 52’ has allowed writers to reinvent not only the literal characteristics of DC characters and teams, but also the underlying feel.
We still don’t know a lot about the Society, and that’s just fine. Johns is purposely pacing this narrative, as the idea of a group of allied super villains is actually quite frightening, something it hadn’t been in a long time pre-September 2011. This issue is less focused on advancing the plot and more focused on how the team interacts–Johns jumped right into the action with this series, and he’s doing a great job establishing more characterization and relationships with each issue.
Brett Booth’s art is fantastic. I’ve noticed that Booth’s work has been steadily getting better over the past year, and this issue feels and looks like the best yet. While I respect David Finch’s style, I’m not a huge fan and it felt somewhat out of place in a title such as this; Booth is a much better fit.
The final pages of this issue will either make you very mad or very intrigued.
Where is Simon Baz? This might be a concern about the series in general instead of just this issue, but Baz has been solicited as the JLA’s resident Green Lantern since the series was announced. And with Robert Vendetti focusing on Hal Jordan in Green Lantern, JLA is supposed to be the only place to find consistent Simon Baz appearances. Unfortunately, he’s been absent from every issue so far, and in the opening pages of Justice League of America #4, he doesn’t even get a character profile picture along with the rest of the team. It’s confusing because Johns created him, not to mention Baz is one of the best new characters to come out of the GL franchise in a long time.
While I enjoy the pacing, I’m also worried about it. At moments, this issue drags on, and I honestly cannot see how Johns is going to reconcile this Society arc against “Trinity War” coming up in July, of which JLA is an integral part. Maybe I’m counting my ducks before they hatch, but with a build up this big and (at times) tedious, it would be a shame to see a rushed conclusion.
I really, really like this series. I like Geoff Johns’ writing, I love the characters being used, and the spy thriller angle is different enough to warrant a separate Justice League title. Justice League of America #4 continues “World’s Most Dangerous” on an emotional level more than a plot-advancing one. Pre-‘New 52’ readers will appreciate the numerous new elements being integrated throughout the issue, which continues to show how the other League lives.