Justice League of America 3

JLA 3

Today, Mikyzptlk and Patrick are discussing Justice League of America 3, originally released May 8th, 2013.

Mikyzptlk: Justice League of America is a series starring the “world’s most dangerous” superheroes. However, since the start of this title, these dangerous heroes have mostly been sitting around, talking to one another. Some, like myself, didn’t mind this all too much, while others didn’t exactly feel the same way. Regardless, the last issue promised us some good old fashioned fisticuffs. This issue delivers on that promise, but it spends the rest of the issue in a virtual standstill as far as the overall plot goes. There have been some developments as far as the team itself is concerned, but is that enough to excuse the lack of significant plot progression?

The Justice League of America (some of them anyway), find themselves facing off against who appears to be Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. However, it’s quickly discovered that this Trinity is comprised of nothing more than robotic doppelgangers. The League takes them out (like, not for dinner) and the team returns to H.Q. where it’s discovered that the robots were most likely created by Professor Ivo who was previously thought dead. Unfortunately, this doesn’t get them closer to finding the Society since the mansion they were tracking has vanished. To remedy this, Steve Trevor concocts a plan that has Catwoman “betray” the team in order to attract the attention of/infiltrate the Society. So, how does that all work out? Take a gander.

Cat Trap

So far, this series has shown us the recruitment of new members of the Secret Society in the beginning of each issue. The last issue featured Scarecrow in a very similar looking chair, so to see Catwoman in it at the end of the issue is a nice little tweak to the villain recruitment formula that we’ve seen so far. Based on what we’ve seen before, Selina is probably going to meet the mysterious cane-wielding fellow soon. I’m curious to see how Selina plays this. Somehow, she’s still in communication with the JLA (or at least she thinks she is), but I wonder how long that will last. I also wonder if Seline will be tempted toward the dark side for realsies. This version of Catwoman hasn’t learned to be quite as heroic as she once was in the Pre-52, so it could be interesting to see her be tempted with, well whatever it is the Society might have to offer her. Speaking of the dark side, could Amanda Waller already be there? Take a look at what I found to be the most interesting and perhaps perplexing page of this issue.

Trevor

In the last issue, I mentioned that Amanda Waller was getting her wish as her League faced off against robotic counterparts of the Justice League. I thought it was an interesting coincidence that a team manufactured to take down the Justice League immediately found themselves face to face with a replica of the three biggest threats from that team. Does Steve Trevor think this is too much of a coincidence though? This page suggests to me that he just might, but what could this mean? The “Trinity-bots” were definitely under the Society’s control so what exactly is Trevor thinking here? There’s some kind of realization or suspicion going on, but he can’t be thinking that Waller is in cahoots with the Society can he? I mean, she’s certainly unscrupulous at times, but I wouldn’t call her a villain. That would be one hell of a twist, but I suppose that he could just be witnessing how effective his team is against a version of the Justice League. It seems unlikely to me that Waller would be revealed as a villain, but there’s just so much mistrust between these two characters that I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s crossed Trevor’s mind. Stargirl might be of similar mind based on the following scene.

Stargirl

Alright, so Stargirl probably doesn’t think Waller’s a villain, but I’m sure the word “bitch” has crossed her mind. What I do take away from this scene is that Waller isn’t…a very nice person. Okay, that isn’t exactly a revelation, but I get the feeling the Johns is steering Waller into a direction that will eventually find her losing control of her League. Every issue finds her saying or doing something that simply goes against everything that a true Justice League stands for. While this scene may not develop the overall plot of this particular arc, I do believe that it’s important to the larger story that Johns is telling and it is something that could have a big impact on the team dynamics later on. Something that will definitely impact team dynamics can be seen in the scene below.

Arrow

Green Arrow thought that Catwoman was actually betraying the team, but once he figures out that the team is actually working with a known criminal, he uses it as blackmail to finally join the JLA. Green Arrow finally joining the team is going to change its dynamic for sure and is another example of Johns moving his overall story forward in this issue. So, is all of this enough to excuse the lack of the plot development for the Secret Society plot? As readers, we don’t learn anything new about the Society in this issue and I imagine that’ll bug some folks. While I was looking forward to learning at least something about the Society, the last page of this issue does promise to finally reveal their secrets in the next issue and because of that I think I’ll let this issue off the hook. Besides, at least we finally got to see a few punches thrown! So Patrick, was any of this enough to keep you interested in this series? More importantly, what did you think of the glorious return of the Signal Man? That guy is just… yeah.

Patrick: I have a policy of embracing the deep-cuts that grace the Justice League books – that means I’ve got even enough shitty-superhero love for Signal Man.

I actually really liked the increased focus on Catwoman in this issue. Both in the main story and in the back-up, she’s a featured player. Perhaps most refreshingly, she’s never motivated by pure dumb carelessness, like she has been throughout her solo series. There’s a lot of Selina personality on display here and it’s all appropriately charming and coy without becoming some grotesque sexual caricature of Catwoman. The way she baits the Leagures to chase her a little bit before apprehending her is a great example: she teases them with a confidence that she’s then able to back-up with raw ability. What’s not fun about watching Selina talk a good game and then deliver on her trash talk? Yeah, it might take her twice as long to break out of Arkham as she originally quoted, but 48 hours has still got to be a record. Plus, she gets the biggest chuckle out of me for this line:

Katana holds her sword to Catwoman's neck

First, I love the assumption that Katana married the sword when it was a sword. Granted – that may not be more ridiculous than the idea that her husband’s soul is in the sword… But notice how Selina just glosses of the idea that the sword has a will of its own – she’s hip enough to this dumb universe to know that could very well be the case.

Yuck, you know what though? David Finch’s art. I don’t know if it’s his pencils or the inking responsibilities he splits with Richard Friend, but the faces on just about all these characters end up with oddly-selected lines determining their expressions. All the men end up with incredibly dark, shadowy, angular faces while the women’s faces are all in the coloring – giving their features a creepy porcelain doll quality.

Men are from Thanagar, Women are from Los Angeles

The art also just isn’t very engaging. The sequence where they’re chasing Catwoman on the roof tops could have been a marvelous set-piece, but the space is too muddy and there’s no real sense of motion behind any of these characters – so the whole thing falls flat.

Oh, but I did love that Selina was tasked with stealing a martian stone from the very museum exhibit I was making fun of just a few weeks ago when it appeared in DC Universe Presents 19 (remember, it had a time-traveling Beowulf chasing a shapeshifter). It’s a ‘Culture of Superhumans’ exhibit!

Finally, we’ve got the back-up which doubles back to a split second interaction between J’onn and Selina. In the moment that J’onn scanned her for sincerity (or… whatever), these two characters got a peek behind the curtain and a closer look at what makes the other person tick. Writer Matt Kindt frequently uses a detached — yet still passionate — third person narrator, his Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. would do this from time to time. It’s not always the most successful device – detachment is a bitch. It always worked best when there was some kind of trick to it, as in Frankenstein 15. Here, we not only get background on the characters whose memories we’re exploring, but we get an insight into the other character by viewing those memories through their filter. It says something about J’onn that he sees her kitty-cat house and thinks that she is “surrounded by life,” just as it says something about Selina that she’s excited to experience J’onn going home.

Mike, you’re right, this issue didn’t deliver on the plot in any major way, but this feels like a much more successful issue to me regardless. There is strong characterization and if you ignore the usually shittiness from Amanda Waller, people are actually pretty decent to each other. I’m interested to see what everyone else’s reactions are to this one – we’ve been divided on this title in the past. Hey, here’s one thing we can agree on: it’s silly that the title page continues to list Simon Baz as a team member when this is the third consecutive issue to not feature him.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

26 comments on “Justice League of America 3

  1. I agree with Mikyzptlk that launching JLA as an action packed series and then letting Johns develop it as a character driven comic book (which screams ABSOLUTE BOREDOM to readers who are fond of action packed comics) is a bad marketing move.
    Anyway, I love character driven comic books, so I may give JLA a try sooner or later.

    • Hi wwayne! I love character driven comics too and some of Johns’ past books have been my absolute favorite. His JSA is absolutely masterful and steeped in engaging character work, and I’m excited to see hints of that here!

        • Yup! Overall, I don’t think it’s as strong as some of his other Pre-52 work, but once he gets on a roll, the series really turns into something special. I LOVE how he writes Tim Drake, Superboy, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl and I think some of the more tragic elements of Infinite Crisis would be somewhat lost without reading this. Unfortunately, the last storyline is kind of a dud, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the majority of the series because it really does bring home what makes these young heroes so special.

        • Your comment persuaded me to spend this weekend on my bed, reading as many back issues of Teen Titans as I can. Thank you for your reply! : )

  2. OMG, Patrick, seeing Simon Baz in the title page actually made me laugh in the “at” and not “with” kind of way. I guess he just keeps showing up for marketing purposes? It probably would have been a lot cooler to wait until the character was back on Earth to reveal Waller’s intentions to have him on the team. Have they even talked to him about this yet? Like, what if he says no? That would be awkward.

    Oh, and I’m glad that you enjoyed this issue. I was worried that you wouldn’t as much because of how you felt about the previous ones. I also felt that people would ding it for not having any significant plot progression, but I’m glad you were able to enjoy it for its characterization and I hope others will too!

    • Man, Simon Baz drew the short straw didn’t he? I loved his shit during the Third Army bullshit, but he’s role has been necessarily diminished in the First Lantern arc – but not so much that he can fight with the JLA. In the grand scheme of things, he barely matters in the current GL story. It’s just crummy to see him come out with such a big bang and then slide into the background.

      • For sure. Let’s hope that Johns makes his presence worthwhile in the finale, otherwise it may had been wiser to get him over to JLA as quickly as possible. Although, at the very least, Baz has now had some experience out in deep space, as any good Lantern should!

  3. Also, The Puzzler? Signal Man? I was being super sarcastic about him in my write-up, but I love how Johns digs deep down into DCU lore. Even though he may not have as much history to play with anymore, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have that rich character well to pull characters like these out of obscurity.

    I looked up their history and, let me tell you, it does NOT take long to read it. These characters are straight out of the Silver Age and I love how Johns makes that overt. Look at Signal Man’s cheesy grin! Look at his COSTUME!!! It’s practically untouched from how it originally looked.

  4. I enjoyed this issue much more than the previous two. To me, the biggest problems with issues 1 and 2 wasn’t the lack of action, but the fact that we barely saw the JLAers. We have these 8 heroes as the supposed stars, but almost everything was about Steve Trevor or Amanda Waller. I was really happy to see the other Leaguers do stuff this time around, especially Catwoman, who put in a very fun showing. When written properly, I really love her character; and hey! Her costume was zippered up for most of the issue!

    Also loved poor lil’ Vibe worrying that he did something wrong when Trevor said “thanks to Vibe”, and I loved Green Arrow worming his way into the team. Its like Magus said over in his solo series: “you may not be the best warrior, but your determination is admirable.” I’m really coming to enjoy Ollie’s tenacity.

    • I think I made this point when JLA 1 came out, but that first issue was essentially just like reading the coverage for the series back when it was announced. It was mostly just two characters talking about how these heroes would work together. That chart on the wall, drawing lines between who could fight what Justice Leaguer is a perfect example of the kind of non-story that was being told there.

  5. I agree with Patrick about Finch’s art. So far I’ve been very unimpressed and like to see someone new, especially as this is being pushed as one of their flagship titles. At least Finch/DC Editorial got the message from last issue and zipped Selina up in this one.

    • Zipped up only when she’s in action. When she’s just hanging out around the JLA conference room table (which, by the way, is not a setting I want to spend too much more time in), she still has it zipped down to her stomach.

      • I agree with you that it’s pathetic, but you know how things go: Catwoman zipped down = some more copies sold. I understand it, and I don’t mind about it very much. I wrote “some more copies sold”: how many people buy Catwoman’s solo series or the other comics she appears in SOLELY for her boobs, in your opinion?

        • I actually have a hard time imagining anyone buying Catwoman because they wanted to see breasts. Even kids – I know I would have been embarrassed to buy a comic with a busty lady on the cover. There are just so many easier, more satisfying ways to see boobs.

          Also, I don’t know about you guys, but Selina showing more skin because that zipper is so low isn’t actually any sexier than the suit that covers basically everything. For me, the Batman Returns Michelle Phifer Catwoman costume is the sexiest, and you can barely see any of her skin.

        • Talking about Bat – movies, tonight an italian channel broadcasts “Batman & Robin”. I really can’t see why they chose the WORST Bat – movie possible, but I think I’ll see it anyway. There a lot of worse ways to end the day. Thank you for your reply! : )

        • I don’t want to get in a huge debate here BUT “Batman & Robin” is my favorite of the Burton-world Batman’s. It was a live action cartoon!

        • I think that the hatred surrounding Batman & Robin definitely is overblown, and I agree that the cartoonish style of that movie is one of its most appreciable details, but I wouldn’t say that Batman & Robin is superior to Burton’s first Bat – movie, for example. But it’s a matter of taste. Thank you for your reply! : )

        • I started to appreciate Batman & Robin when I realized it was just the 60’s TV show version of Batman with a modern effects and a Hollywood budget! At least, that’s how I look at it.

        • I generally HATE Movie Bob over at The Escapist, but he did a pretty interesting take-down of the public opinion of Batman & Robin. He argues that it’s basically as campy and crummy as the Burton Batmans, only with a gay aesthetic in place of Burton’s… Burtony aesthetic. I don’t totally agree with that (like, I think there are other, totally valid reasons to hate on those movie), but he’s not wrong in that it does say something about intolerance in the 90s.

        • Haha, I love this conversation whenever it happens. I can tell you I don’t fully enjoy any Bat-movies except for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, but I do have a good time watching all of the others (ie. the bad doesn’t outweigh the fun). My beefs, though, in order – Batman ’89 (Joker is Joe Chill, Batman is gun- and kill-happy), Batman Returns (Pengiun is literally a pengiun-man, Catwoman is literally a cat-woman… WHAT?!?), Batman Forever (I actually love this one, but we had already established that Lando is Harvey! Is this the same continuity or is it a new Schumakerverse? Seems to be neither or both.), Batman & Robin (HUGE Arnie fan, but MR. FREEZE?! Terrible casting! And don’t get me started on Bane… makes DKR look like they nailed it in comparison), DKR (Talia is not a femme fatale/ninja, Bane is not born in a prison nor addicted to venom nor Batman’s strategic equal since the plan was actually Talia’s, “Robin” is a brand new character…why?, Batman retired? Twice?, Occupy Wall Street commentary). Oddly I find it easier to enjoy the more campy movies that were botched (Burton, Shumaker) than the really serious-toned one that I consider to be botched (Dark Knight Rises) – what is up with that?

        • For me it’s the Ed Brubaker costume. I know it is essentially the same as today but drawn classier which makes it better.

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