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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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?