By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
I’m starting to get worried about this book. It’s been plagued by delays, to the point that they had to plug different creators into issue #5 and make it a filler issue. Needless to say that’s frustrating, especially when you consider Hitch has put together the best Justice League book on the stands.
With his true nature revealed, Rao goes one-on-one with Superman, and the Man of Steel has more than met his match. And things don’t look so good for Wonder Woman or Aquaman either. Meanwhile, Green Lantern and The Flash remain trapped in the past, searching for answers about what’s happening in their time.
So here’s my question: What does this have to do with Batman? The Dark Knight is the only Leaguer vertical on the cover, having apparently been the last man standing in a battle of sorts. But no such battle takes place in the issue, and Batman doesn’t even appear. So while the issue itself is more than fine, there’s a disconnect with the cover from the get-go.
The confrontation between Superman and Rao in this issue is brief, punctuated by the Man of Steel being sent flying across the arctic with a single punch. Hitch goes as far as to give us a two-page spread of his landing, which creates a massive crater. It’s arguable whether that much page space was merited for a moment like that. But it does create the epic/”wide screen” vibe Hitch is going for. And he gets a little more slack from me, considering this confrontation meant something. We’d been building up to it for four issues (we don’t count issue #5), and it adds to Rao’s credibility as a threat to the League. Interestingly, I remember Scott Snyder and Jim Lee doing a similar long-distance punch in Superman Unchained. But that fight wasn’t nearly as impressive as this one, as much of this series has been built around Rao. That wasn’t necessarily the case with…whatever the monster from that series was called.
Hitch remains very good at making it seem like all the Leaguers stand on equal footing, which is immensely refreshing in a company that overemphasizes Batman to death. Hell, intentional or not, they even did it with this cover! But regardless, Hitch is able to place the plot threats for Superman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, and all the others on equal footing. That’s a sign of great writing.
There’s something to be said about how religion is portrayed in this series. Obviously you have the Rao character performing miracles as his disciples seek to recruit new followers who are obviously being deceived. Then in this issue, Wonder Woman has some dialogue with the Oraculum on Olympus about being called a god that might make believers frown. These two lines in particular…
“I’ve never been comfortable with that. Being a god. Being somebody others would pray to. Would believe in.”
“Perhaps it is more important that you believe in yourself.”
I’m not sure if there are supposed to be real-world implications here or not. I’ve never been big on religious agendas, or agendas of any kind, in my comic books. But if it’s a good story, which doesn’t beat you over the head with whatever ideals the writer is conveying, hat usually trumps any sort of distaste brought on by preachiness. What we’ve seen so far in JLA is good storytelling, so I’m once again inclined to be lenient with it.
While he’s got some stiff competition from Geoff Johns over in Justice League proper, Bryan Hitch has managed to put together the best JL book on the stands right now. It’s a book that truly feels worth of the League. In an interview earlier this year, Hitch called referred to his vision for this book as “an HBO series with an unlimited budget.” If you’re a DC fan and you’re not reading this book, you need to do some binge watching.
Image 1 from darkknightnews.com. Image 2 from author’s collection.
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