Justice League of America #1. By Bryan Hitch, Inks By Daniel Henriques, Andrew Currie & Bryan Hitch, Colors by Alex Sinclair.
The epic story continues this issue as we get to know more about Rao and his reasons for coming to Earth. It should be no surprise that Superman is at the center of this issue, but all the JLAers have interesting character moments.
Superman is stumping for Rao from the beginning, trying to allay fears while promoting Rao’s message of healing and peace. It may seem odd to have Superman evangelizing in this way, but I think it fits a facet of his character that is often overlooked- Superman’s spirituality. It also evokes a theme from Superman: The Movie and Superman Returns– Superman as savior. While it may have been played out a bit more heavy handed in Superman Returns, it is none the less an element from the most well-known theatrical interpretation of Superman. Additionally, Perry White in this issue echoes Jackie Cooper in the Superman: The Movie as he exhorts the Daily Planet staff to get the most important interview since “God talked to Moses.” Instead of being lazy or a retread of the past, it makes this world more familiar. The homage to that interpretation of Superman suggests that this is a more timeless and iconic take on Superman and the Justice League of America. Hitch could’ve easily put Superman in the red trunks to accomplish the same thing, but the contemporary costume designs keep this JLofA title modern- classic but modern. Superman’s characterization also maintains the same feel. It feels light years apart from the current status quo in the Superman books that came out this month.
While Superman is a true believer, Batman is considering all the angles as he takes Cyborg back to the cave to help him try and get any information he can on the Infinity Corporation. Batman and Alfred fall into familiar roles as Batman mistrusts and Alfred tries to find the hope in the situation. There is an interesting interlude with Aquaman as he allows the prophets of Rao to preach in Atlantis. What’s intriguing here is that Hitch is using the old sci-fi trick of using the extraordinary situation as social commentary on the world we live in- specifically, the role of religion with Aquaman playing the atheist.
Rao gets an audience of most of the world’s nations aboard his craft in order to plead for his causes. It seems to go well as around the world his prophets heal the sick. In his euphoria Superman searches for the missing Diana as the issue concludes. Superman is unable to find her, but we get a look in on her as she seems to be waking up in the ruins of Mount Olympus. Oh yeah, and where are Hal and Barry?
The use of sci-fi as commentary was particularly engaging as Aquaman evoked a real world sense in his interaction with Rao’s prophet. Bruce’s complexity came through clearly in his scenes with Alfred and Cyborg. Superman’s sincerity goes a long way in selling Rao’s message and there’s only the slightest indication that all is not what it seems. I would say it owes more to the fact that we’ve experienced this type of story before that the fact that the story actually contains elements that reveal that Rao may be untrustworthy. Hitch is using a great storytelling technique here by playing on the readers’ previous experience of this type of story rather than showing all his cards.
I can’t find any. Sorry.
While many of the motifs and themes in this story may seem familiar, over used or predictable, the creative team successfully presents this tale in a way that makes it sincere, relatable and exciting. Deep down we all want to believe that this sort of situation of an alien benefactor could happen and be all smiles and rainbows despite knowing that it’s too good to be true. Is that us? Are we all that cynical? Again, Hitch is able to use the sci-fi milieu in order to comment on the human condition.