Review: Justice League of America: Power and Glory hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bryan Hitch's Justice League of America: Power and Glory is a spritely diversion and one that makes me more eager than I had been for Hitch's Rebirth Justice League. Especially in the wake of the New 52 Justice League's "Darkseid War" finale that didn't even include Aquaman(!), Hitch's "Big Seven" line-up is considerably closer to what I want to see from a League title.

In his mix-and-match Leaguer pairings and elements of time travel, Hitch's aptly-named Justice League of America evokes at times Grant Morrison and company's JLA. That's a level the New 52 Justice League never quite achieved and even JLA stopped being JLA after a while; for a return to big ideas and widescreen action, it's surely apt to have Bryan Hitch back in the saddle. Even if the storytelling gets mildly labored at times, for one of his first solo writing gigs Hitch comports himself exceptionally well.

[Review contains spoilers]

Late in the story, after time travel and team-ups, when the Justice League finally comes back together and rallies before the big finale, Superman opines, "He has an army. We have each other. I'll take those odds every time." What a statement. When you consider that the "real time" Justice League over in the Justice League title has lacked at least one of its charter members since after its second volume, and when a still-incomplete League came together in Darkseid War we still saw Batman grousing at Green Lantern Hal Jordan, for instance, this depiction of a League that trusts one another, has faith in one another, and believes themselves better together than apart is a gratifying thing to see. It hardly matters that this is a seemingly one-off story (though it entered continuity in a number of ways since); this is the version of the League I'd rather be reading.

Hitch finishes better than he begins (though it's quite the shame Hitch ends up short just one chapter for drawing the whole book). The reader clearly knows the god Rao is a villain from the start, and that aspect of the book is tired both because we've seen "strange visitor goes bad" so many times recently and also even including in Superman: Men of Tomorrow, where Rao and Ulysses share a visual similarity. That Superman goes along with Rao in the beginning seems out of character to the extreme, as if Hitch writes a Superman far too naive. But for the former, Hitch's time travel aspect helps to differentiate this story, especially once he has multiple versions of Rao running around and also when the League helps create the very problem they're trying to solve. And Hitch satisfactorily explains away Superman's predisposition to trust Rao soon enough, and in all I thought Hitch did well by Superman -- and Batman, and Cyborg, and others -- when they fought back against Rao.

Indeed I thought Hitch got the League mostly right. There are pieces that don't quite fit here and there, due mostly to Power and Glory being at least somewhat its own universe at the outset -- Aquaman being in some sort of talks with the UN, a general conception of Wonder Woman and Olympus that neither jibes with Brian Azzarello nor Meredith Finch -- but those are small details that won't bother this book's intended audience, casual Justice League readers. What Hitch does particularly well is to pair the Justice Leaguers, nodding to the particular friendships of Superman and Batman and Flash and Green Lantern, and also to Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship, and then also pairing Batman and Cyborg (science bros if there ever were some and begging for their own adventure together) and also putting Wonder Woman and Aquaman together in these pages. Characterization is mostly on par, except that Hitch (like so many others) writes an exuberant Flash who's more Justice League Unlimited's Wally West than comics's Barry Allen (though Hitch gives him more than a passing resemblance to Grant Gustin).

The time travel is also handled well, and I'm eager some volumes from now to read the time-traveling characters' return to these pages. Deceptively Hitch sets up something of a whodunit in Power and Glory, given that we later understand that the League's initial fight with the Parasite is both red herring and also a hint to the story's resolution, being a "dry run" of events out of time sequence. Cleverly the book's time-traveling characters and the arrival of Rao are quite unrelated League problems except for the fact that one ends up begetting the other as the League tries to solve both. I'm eager to see if Hitch's Rebirth Justice League stories are equally, smartly complex.

What I've gleaned from online about Bryan Hitch's Justice League has been mixed and so I wasn't sure what to expect from Justice League of America: Power and Glory, but what's here turns out to live up well to the "JLA" name. Justice League titles only have so much shelf life before the demands of events and continuity tear whatever original team asunder -- that'll happen even with Hitch's next volume -- but I'm glad to see the Justice League "classic" done right for a volume when I'm unable to find it elsewhere.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Justice League of America: Power and Glory
Author Rating
4.5 (out of 5)
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2 comments:

  1. I might have to go re-read this series; it sounds like it reads better as a whole. I collected the comics as they were released and I remember thinking it was less-than-enjoyable due to how drawn out it felt. By the end I didn't care about it at all, but that was largely due to the horrible delays between each issue.

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    1. It is long, and perhaps too long a story to read in single issues with delays. It did not feel too long to me in reading in trade. No knock, but some of that length is Hitch's trademark widescreen two-page spreads.

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