Justice League of America #1 Cover

In the wake of a battle between The Suicide Squad and The Justice League, Caitlin “Killer Frost” Snow has turned over a new leaf. Taking control of the hunger that once caused her to seek out warm bodies to drain, her desire to use her powers for good has spurred a similar change in the heart of Batman. A revelation that heroes must inspire as well as protect – that people must see their heroes not as gods to worship or fear but as other people to emulate.

How the heck that squares with him deciding to build a new Justice League with Lobo as a member is anyone’s guess. But he doesn’t have to explain anything. He’s Batman!

The rest of the team is indisputably human but directionless. Vixen is a competent heroine whose fame as a model prevents her from being taken seriously. Black Canary has no such problems, despite being one of the hottest rock stars in the world, but suffers from a similar need to prove herself. The Ray is inexperienced but enthusiastic. Ryan Choi – the new Atom – is even less experienced but far less enthusiastic. And Lobo is… well, Lobo.

The team will need to come together swiftly in the wake of the arrival of The Extremists. Representatives of the tyrant Lord Havok, they claim to have come to save the people of Earth from themselves, offering security in exchange for freedom. Not if the new JLA has anything to say about it!

What enthusiasm I had for this series in the wake of the first Rebirth special has dissipated somewhat. While Steve Orlando seemed to have a handle on the cast in that first issue, the characterization here is as typically shallow as in most team books. Only Lobo seems to have any vestige of personality beyond that of a cardboard cut-out, with all of the female cast being generic Strong Independent Women and the rest of the male cast being some variant of Clueless Newbie. Except for Batman, of course, who is Batman.

Credit must be paid, however, to Orlando for tackling a timely issue. The central argument of The Extremists – that surrendering freedom is necessary to provide security and peace – is very much a concern in the United States at the moment. Ignoring that the debate is facilitated by people in tight clothes punching, shooting and blasting each other, the subject is handled with surprising subtlety.

I say this with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek, as there is little that is subtle about the artwork and the designs for The Extremists in particular. Between The Extremists having names like Lord Havok (note spelling) and Diehard,  Ivan Reis and Steve Orlando seem to be offering up a critique of the 1990s Dark Age of Comics and the kind of “heroes” that flourished back then along with the political commentary.

While the conceit doesn’t quite work as well as hoped, the whole affair is gloriously over-the-top. Reis’ designs for our heroes leave them looking less exaggerated than their alien enemies and the disparity between the two teams visually is a credit to his creativity. The inking is consistently excellent throughout, despite a team of three inkers working on the book. Marcelo Maiolo’s color art is strong enough, though it goes a bit overboard in pushing the orange light/blue light contrast.

Overall, this issue is something of a disappointment after the first special, with the characterization being paper thin and the story fairly standard stuff for a team series. Taken as a work of commentary however, the book becomes a brilliant piece of satire, albeit it possibly unintentionally. I can’t say I liked it much but neither did I dislike it.

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