Justice League of America #2 Review: Everyone Loves Rao


Justice League of America #2
Writer: Hitch, Bryan
Artist: Hitch, Bryan
Cover Artist: Hitch, Bryan

If you were not aware, Justice League of America was rebooted this summer under the creative leadership of Bryan Hitch. Rather ambitiously, he has taken on both writing and artistic duties for the title; succeeding mostly, his formula through the first two issues of the series has a retro feel laced with modern stylings. Save for the addition of Cyborg (I am still getting used to the idea of Vic Stone as a founding member of the JLA) and the absence of the Martian Manhunter, Hitch’s JLA is about as traditional as it gets: Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Flash, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and Aquaman are all on hand. Hitch has done a good job of presenting each character with his or her unique, historical traits. A comic fan back in the 1960’s would immediately recognize his characters from today. Batman’s grim brilliance, Wonder Woman’s connection to truth and strength, Aquaman’s standoffishness and Superman’s boy scout tendencies are as important to 2015’s JLA as they were back in the 1960’s.

What I might consider “modern stylings” come from Hitch’s artwork and story pacing. His detail and use of perspective have made Hitch one of the most admired and followed comic artists working today. He brings his complete toolkit to JLA, each panel full of detail, his layouts smooth and cinematic. I have always also thought of Hitch as singular when depicting big visuals; alien hordes from The Ultimates, global battles in The Authority, extra-dimensional wackiness in Fantastic Four. His talent for successfully working with a large canvas, filling pages with highly detailed action sequences and dense panoramas has been Hitch’s calling card to date. It is no different with the new JLA. His New York City is huge, Atlantis labyrinth in nature, and anytime he takes us into the sky, his use of perspective shows us just how big his world, and art, can be.

His contribution as the writer for JLA works similarly well. As noted, he understands our heroes and has sought to display their unique characteristics. The main plot that he has started the series off with serves as a strong vehicle for Hitch’s exploration of how our characters act and work together. Rao, the ancient and up-to-now mythical sun god of Krypton, has arrived above New York City. He proclaims a new day has dawned for humanity; one where, with his help, disease, poverty and even death will be made obsolete. Superman immediately buys into Rao’s story. He appears to be overwhelmed by Rao’s divinity and message of peace. And he isn’t the only one. Within a short time, Rao has dispatched his “prophets” around the world. Wherever they go, they heal the sick and speak of Rao’s magnanimity and desire to help all of mankind. Millions around the world begin to praise Rao and his prophets.

Not all of the JLA get swept up in the near-religious fervor of Rao’s arrival. The Flash and Green Lantern have yet to reappear after disappearing during last issue’s fight with Parasite. Batman and Cyborg focus on who may have been responsible for Parasite’s release. And Aquaman casually dismisses one of Rao’s prophets, secure in his god-free worldview.

"Rao? Krypton’s God? Didn’t do a great job there, did he? It blew up. Everybody died. Almost everybody. In terms of saving worlds, it’s not a great start, is it?"

Meanwhile, Wonder Woman, who also disappeared during the previous issue, finds that she has been transported to Olympus. The Olympus she wakes to has been torn apart, buildings and stonework floating in empty space. The power it would take to combat the gods and destroy their home begs the question as to who could accomplish such a thing. And while the comic ends without revealing our antagonist, one can infer a connection between what Wonder Woman is experiencing and the fanaticism Rao is inspiring back on Earth. While Rao has shown nothing other than a willingness and ability to help, a reader can also see that Rao and what he offers is just too good to be true. Rao is changing the world, yes, but what must go in order to make room for his new order? I suspect the answer will not totally surprise us. To be continued.

From DC:

"The JLA learns more about the armada of religious zealots that has arrived on Earth – and their stunning ties to Krypton!"

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