The great Kryptonian god Rao spreads peace and harmony further and further over planet Earth, but all is not as it seems…

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #3 by Bryan Hitch

The world continues to fall under Rao’s sway, especially as Superman keeps on flying Rao’s colors. Batman is, of course, suspicious, but so far has no evidence to support his feelings. Meanwhile, the Flash and Green Lantern have been thrown thousands of years back in time–and to Krypton–and Wonder Woman stands amidst the ruins of a shattered Olympus. All seems well on Earth–and only getting better–but the skies grow ominous over the rest of space and time.

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Whoa.

I thought JUSTICE LEAGUE’s “Darkseid War” was huge, but JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #3 cranks the scale way, way up. Where the current arc of JUSTICE LEAGUE is a runaway train of chaos and destruction and a massive ensemble of characters, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA’s “Power and Glory” is a slow-burn of a mystery with story threads reaching throughout the universe, and throughout Time. Bryan Hitch definitely seems to be having fun keeping all these balls in the air, and it’s anyone’s guess where they’ll come down.

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DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT? READ MY REVIEW OF JUSTICE LEAGUE #43!

Since part one of this arc Rao seemed suspicious. Call me traditional, but a massive spaceship that looks like a sword and glows red playing host to a powerful being that calls himself a god is just, well, a big red flag. It’s at once believable and unbelievable that Superman would be swayed by Rao so easily: like Batman says in this issue, Superman stands for truth, and even as a reporter, Clark Kent’s job is to ask the questions that get to the heart of of the story, so how did he accept everything Rao had to say at face value? Because Rao effectively appeals to Superman’s homesickness and hope, giving him quite possibly the strongest link to Krypton he’s ever had–and maybe ever will. Batman’s insistence that this is all too good to be true is a strong character note, though, if nothing else, highlighting one of the core tenets of the character and just how different he is from Superman.

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There’s strong character work going on all-around, in fact: Green Lantern acquits himself nicely as a detective and diplomat, demonstrating that he is just as capable a leader of the Justice League as any other member. Wonder Woman, as happens to her in Geoff Johns’ JUSTICE LEAGUE, finds herself trapped (literally and figuratively) between her responsibilities to Earth, and to the gods. That she can’t seem to get any answers as to who destroyed Olympus–or even get a lead as to how to begin–only deepens her anxiety and frustration. Sadly, the Flash is, fittingly for him, gone from the issue as quickly as he arrives, but the final panel reveals that he and his speed-force (which is a thing I’ve never really quite bought) will play a bigger role in this story yet.

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Unfortunately, Hitch keeps trying to just tell us that Vincent and “the stones” and their “energy” are important… but I don’t really find myself caring. They will clearly play a role in the time-travel aspect of this story, but they all have one more issue to compel my attention before I relegate them to the plot device bin.

That’s really my only big gripe with the issue, except for maybe that Bryan Hitch is stronger on the writing side of things than he is on the pencilling side. He has a strong command of space and depth and detail and scale, creating settings that truly draw your eye (the DC You advertisements for this title weren’t kidding when they said “widescreen”), but the character designs let those settings down. They’re functional, while not doing anything particularly new or interesting (except for strangely large noses–seriously, look at Batman and Green Lantern).

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It’s Alex Sinclair’s colors that really save the day, though. Each page sings with rich and vibrant tones that set each and every scene apart with authority. From the glow of Green Lantern’s ring set off against the dusty backdrop of Krypton, to the eery yet warm red glow of Rao within the pedestrian streets of Metropolis, to the glint of Wonder Woman’s bracelets amidst the cool and foreboding blues of Olympus, Sinclair’s colors are just a home run. Considering how quickly each scene shifts in setting and tone, strong work like this is invaluable.

I will have to confess to side-eying JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA a bit during the huge DC YOU campaign (really, did that campaign not make you skeptical of every title?), but I find myself pleasantly surprised at how much I’m enjoying it. From Rao’s arrival at the end of issue #1, I knew something interesting was unfolding.

The thing is… it still feels as if it’s unfolding. Maybe my sense of pacing is distorted by the rip-roaring page-turner that is “Darkseid War”, but this issue reads as if it’s still setting up, piling even more mysteries onto its main one. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing–taking your time is actually a great thing in storytelling–but given publishing schedules and page counts and story arc turnover, I can’t help but be concerned that this will try to wrap up far too quickly.

That said, I think that’s a good concern to have. It means the story is compelling, and that I’m invested. JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #3 effectively deepens its mystery, putting action in the backseat and letting the plot pivot around character choices. It remains to be seen if that will give way to the usual timey-wimey comic book stuff, but I will certainly be remaining to see it.

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