Today, Mikyzptlk and Michael are discussing Justice League of America 2, originally released March 20th, 2013.
Mikyzptlk: Motivations, we’ve all got them. It’s what drives us to do whatever it is that we do. Geoff Johns is intent on letting us in on what drives his characters in his latest series. Not only that, but it seems that he’s using these motivations to drive the story forward. That leaves us with yet another issue that is mostly a bunch of characters yammering on. Fortunately, what they are yammering on about is fairly interesting, and the story that’s unfolding is getting more intriguing by the page.
Much like issue 1 of JLA, Johns’ second outing begins with another recruitment by the Secret Society. This time, it’s Scarecrow, and we get a much clearer look at the cane-wielding man from the first issue. It turns out to be…well, I don’t actually know who it is, but he does a terrific job of convincing Scarecrow to join his little team of ne’er–do–wells by promising to bring to the world something scarier than Batman. Back at A.R.G.U.S., Steve Trevor reports to Amanda Waller what he’s learned from Green Arrow’s mission. Now that Waller knows about the Secret Society, she feels it’s the perfect training opportunity for her new League. Speaking of the JLA, the next scene finds the various team mates (minus Greens Arrow and Lantern) meeting for the first time to fairly entertaining, and sometimes hilarious effect. Steve Trevor informs the team that President Obama has decided to introduce the Justice League of America to America. After Stargirl gives the world a speech about Johnny Appleseed, Martian Manhunter mind probes Green Arrow and learns where the Society could be hiding. The JLA then begin retracing G.A.’s steps only to be confronted by some very familiar faces.
The Trinity? Okay, probably not, but I’ll get to that in a minute. One of the biggest complaints from the last issue was that it was exposition heavy and the same thing can be said here. The majority of this issue is people talking. Personally, I didn’t mind a bunch of talking heads in the first issue because I enjoyed watching all of the pieces of Johns’ story being set up. I can say the same thing with this issue as I continue to dig Johns’ story building, although I did find myself aware that this was yet another action-light issue. That said, while the bulk of the first 2 issues have been mostly a bunch of people talking to each other, I’m interested to hear what they have to say to each other, and what those interactions reveal about the many characters featured in this series while simultaneously propelling the story forward.
First off, we have the Evil Cane Dude. He’s clearly done his research on what makes Scarecrow tick as he knows exactly what to say to get him to join the Society. I really enjoyed reading how deftly he got to the bottom of Scarecrow’s motivations. “You enjoy being scared and Batman terrifies you? Well how would you like front row tickets to something even scarier than him?” SOLD. Not only does this scene provide us a peak at Scarecrow’s twisted psychology, but foreshadows an enemy that is somehow scarier than Batman. And here I thought the only thing scarier than Batman…was Batman smiling.
God, that’s creepy. Anyway, Steve Trevor also digs into Amanda Waller a bit with the conversation they share. Trevor claims that all she cares about is moving up the political chain (not so noble) while Waller claims that she’d do anything to protect her country (that’s noble…right?). Johns also reinforces the idea that Waller wants to ensure that her team is powerful enough to stop the Justice League. Not only does this conversation highlight some of Waller’s motivations, but it propels the story forward by having her force the team into their first mission.
Green Arrow also pokes his head into Steve Trevor’s motivations after he finds out that he doesn’t actually have a place on the team.
Is he a sell out? If G.A. is right, then Trevor is back where he wants to be: on the Justice League and taking orders like a good soldier. But if he views himself as the guy who “rebels against authority,” then maybe no one is actually sure at all what his true motivations are – including Trevor himself. Trevor has to be at least partially on board with the JLA, but he’s certainly got issues with it. There is clearly a rift between Trevor and Waller, and this may just be the start of putting to light just how different their motivations are from one another.
Green Arrow’s motivations are laid out bare as well in this issue.
For those who may be unfamiliar with Green Arrow, this provides a nice little explanation of what drives this character. He wants to be a better person by becoming a hero, and it seems like he may view joining the Justice League as a kind of “graduation” or rite of passage that would perhaps confirm that he’s succeeded in his goals to improve himself. Not only does Martian Manhunter’s peak inside his psyche reveal a bit about G.A., it also allows the League to figure out the possible whereabouts of the Secret Society. Again, we get a peak at what makes these characters tick while the story gets another push forward.
The conclusion of this issue gives us a pretty significant build up in momentum that’s bound to continue into the next issue and hopefully the rest of this arc. I’m talking about the three beings who somewhat resemble the most famous members of the Justice League. This is just a guess, but I’m going to go ahead and assume these folks are robots. It looks like Waller is getting her wish two-fold, not only does she want the JLA to be able to protect the country, but she wants them to be able to take out the Justice League as well. I can think of no better way for them to get this kind of experience than this! Speaking of the robotic Trinity, their design is probably David Finch’s greatest contribution to this issue. I really enjoy the subtle differences between his Justice League doppelgangers and the real deals. Wonder Woman’s skirt and Superman’s red underwear are wonderful callbacks to their previous looks.
Alright Michael, were you as entertained as I was to learn more about what motivates these characters or were you looking for more action? Do you have any theories about the Society or the Evil Cane Dude? Seriously, who is that guy? And what about the backup story that I neglected to mention? I enjoyed that brief flashback featuring my favorite Martian, what was your take on that?
Michael: I half expect evil Superman, Wonderwoman, and Batman to get into a lengthy conversation at the start of issue #3. I completely agree with you Mik about the excessive exposition and talky-talk. And as you mentioned, normally if the talk is interesting or dramatic enough, it can make up for a comic with a lot of standing and talking. This issue of JLA does not provide the scintillating, thematic talk necessary.
The only real through-line is a mounting concern about the Secret Society, although there’s so little information to go on at this point that the JLA simply mentioning it’s existence – a friendly reminder to the reader about a growing threat – it’s easy to forget about that when our heroes convey no details, specifics, or inklings of a philosophy. They may as well just say “bad men” until they’re ready to let this story lay out. Some of the best stories – not all, but some of the best – introduce an initial problem or crisis that feeds or morphs into the main crisis of the story. Instead, we have a team assembled, waiting patiently for the main crisis to reveal itself to them. Very passive. Boring. So what do you do with your elite team to kill time until the next issue. Anything really. Cross-talk, bureaucratic bickering, logistics. Oh and romance. This might be the best/most confusing rejected kiss.
I know its early in the greater story, but so far this is the most disjointed series I’ve read all year. Not because it’s overly complicated or bit off more than it could chew, but rather, it seems like Johns forgot to write a beginning – now we’re all waiting around for the middle (or “story”) to begin. It seems like default filler for comics is tepid romance, inter-0ffice bickering, or both. These tropes are so infrequently related to the story that I’d often rather read an advertisement until that actual intentional story comes back. You would think “heated crosstalk” wouldn’t be a staple of comics, since it looks stupid and conveys little else than characters annoyance and/or lust for each other. But filler scenes seem to work – I think I only catch them/identify them half the time. My point is, I’d rather have a moment like the one below, than here someone yell at someone else for being a “rogue” or an “insubordinate”. No. Hawkman covered in blood, please.
Lately, I’ve been turned off by any band of heroes that utilize a headquarters as I think it invites the laziness of writers who wish to easily and lamely team people up or explain the plot. JLA is a prime example – using the Tower as a kind of intermission within the comic, resetting the tone and momentum where plot and action have failed. At least save the excessive rehashing and regrouping until something meaningful happens.
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