Oh, DC Comics. How you’ve worked to turn me into a team DC fangirl. From Rebirth’s concept to execution, the slow and steady beat of titles moving away from grimdark and into recapturing a sense of hope and wonder that was lost for years has slowly pulled me back into your orbit. Now you had to go and up the ante and get me hooked on a team title.
I’ve never been much for team titles; the solo runs are where I normally find the type of character pathos I like. But with a lineup of Vixen, Killer Frost, Black Canary, the Atom, the Ray, Lobo, and Batman? Well, Justice League of America has sucked me in. Dammit.
This is a team that really should not work well together. With Lobo alone, I’m expecting him to drive the ladies of JLA up a wall to the point one or all of them blasts him into space. Batman leading another team without a Batfam member in sight? This group is a hodgepodge of personalities, and yet they all boil down to one shining ideal driving them: they don’t like fascists.
At least, that’s how the first JLA arc has kicked off. For those of you who are just joining us for issue #3, Justice League of America has been set up with single titles that have re-established the team members before kicking into the actual team run. With the team run started, Sir Grumps-a-Lot and his Merry Crew were immediately confronted with an off-world team of invaders led by a being called Havok. Now, they’re more or less your run of the mill tragic backstory fascists. Their world crumbled, they watched it happen, their world’s heroes didn’t stop it and then fell to them, blah, blah, blah. Things went boom-boom, and since their last run went so spectacularly well, they’re here to save Earth from itself!
After thoroughly trouncing the JLA, Havok and the other Extremists teleport out to an Eastern European country currently overrun by conflict, kill their leader, and take it over in one day. The JLA find themselves in a quandary because with Havok in charge; they’re not actually allowed in the country to stop him.
That’s not going to stop the JLA though. Oh no, they’re going to sneak in anyway, find a resistance leader, and lead a massive coup. As you do.
So that’s where we are as of this issue. And it’s this point where we start to see how the solo intros have paid off by letting us in on the pathos of each of the team members. The JLA employs a divide and conquer strategy. Vixen and Batman meet with the leader of the resistance and openly say to her that they’re going to do whatever she needs. They don’t go clomping in all “RAH RAH, SIS BOOM BAH, WE’RE HERE TO SAVE YOU!” Instead, Vixen point blank asks what they can do to help.
It’s refreshing since we’ve seen oh so many team titles where the good guys swoop in and act over the local populace to solve a problem. Not so infrequently, the good guys caused the problem themselves. Here we have Batman knowing his role and more or less shutting his mouth (as much as Batman can, anyway) because this isn’t his country, these aren’t his people, but he kinda helped send Havok here, so he’s going to take a seat and do what the locals say.
Other members of the JLA spread out to pick off the members of the Extremists that Havok has sent out to either kill dissenters, keep order, or to kill one of their own who had to be rescued from the JLA in issue #2. Some of the Extremists are just straight up rotten. Some of them, however, are either with Havok because he promised them order, or because he promised them vengeance. And then some of them have been with Havok for so long that they don’t even know how to step out from under his thumb. Yes, it’s fun to see Lobo do Lobo. But there are moments of poignancy when we can see the Ray try to connect with a member of Team Terror because he understands what it means to feel out of control and isolated.
Or when we see Killer Frost acknowledging her past villainy, but then also admitting that power from fear doesn’t last, and it always leaves the user emptied out.
Not everyone turns to terrorism to watch the world burn. Some just don’t see a better option.
Back in the capital, Vixen and Batman lead the resistance coup and help their leader storm Havok’s stronghold. He mocks them and brags about how while they’ve been playing divide and conquer, he’s bullied and threatened his way into securing the cooperation of every neighboring country. And here, my friends is where some delicious, delicious shade comes in.
Coincidentally, Captain Fascist aka Havok also has a round shield he wears on his back. It’s shiny and red, with stars on it and the words “Liberty” printed out on it. A trophy of sorts he’s picked up. As he mocks the JLA about his border country regime takeover, Batman enters in Grand Bat-fashion and blows that shield right off Havok’s back. The issue ends with Batman holding the shield of Liberty, standing next to Vixen and the resistance leader, more or less telling Havok to “bring it.”
Again, it could have been a happy accident. For me, it was the cherry on top of a fantastic issue.
Bottom line: Justice League of America is a fun title with a team of people who shouldn’t work together at all, but somehow manage to be more compelling than the Justice League. Tack on the tried and true hero hobby of punching down fascists, well, you really can’t go wrong. The artwork comes together with the story to show a technicolor explosion of character pops and kinetic energy, carrying the coup from panel to panel. Also, yes. JLA proves you can draw Lobo as a biker without making him a walking, Liefeld-ian nightmare.
Justice League of America #3
Writer: Steve Orlando
Pencils: Diogenes Neves
Inks: Ruy Jose and Marc Deering
Colored by: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Cover: Joe Prado, Marcelo Maiolo, and Ivan Reis