With issue #4 hyped to be the big reveal of the Secret Society of Super Villains, you can be sure that there are quite a few New 52 firsts that happen in this comic. And while not all of the Secret Society emerges from the shadows to introduce themselves, those that do should excite old fans and send new fans running to Wikipedia. Some classic foes haven’t even become villains yet and what you see here is their origin story! Other New 52 firsts aren’t villains at all but classic fixtures of DC history with a new purpose that makes a bit more sense
One thing you’ll notice immediately is that the artwork has changed and changed drastically. Artist Brett Booth is filling in for a couple of issues, having abandoned Kyle Higgins’ Nightwing for the chance at illustrating a big Justice League story. It’s a real shame that he left that book since his style is such a perfect fit for the material, but it’s kind of hard to blame him when he gets to draw so many more varied and iconic characters over here. Still, his character designs doesn’t quite work in the JLA. The former Teen Titans artist draws everyone looking far too young. Even Waller appears the youngest and skinniest she’s ever been. It’s often hard to imagine any of these characters being older than 20 years of age. He did, however, give Ollie a little bit of a 5 o’clock shadow goatee, so that was nice. He still looks like he’s a teenager, but at least we’re getting a little goatee action. Speaking of action, the fight scenes in this book are pretty fun to look at but, unfortunately, who they fight is spoiled by the issue’s cover. Booth has a knack of capturing movement, particularly with the more acrobatic characters like Catwoman (he really should’ve stayed on Nightwing, dammit) and there’s a two-page spread showing the entire squad in an all out brawl that looks really cool.
I can’t stress enough how important it is that Selina Kyle fans pick up Justice League of America #4. Hell, they should be picking up #3 as well because that was an even better Catwoman episode. Writer Geoff Johns doesn’t do quite as well with her characterization by showing her doing anything particularly smart (she doesn’t come off as a phenomenal cat burglar, she just wanders around the Secret Society’s mansion aimlessly while whispering to herself) and Booth couldn’t decide whether her zipper should be up or down from page to page (it never goes as far down as the awful, excessive boobage Finch did on the cover) BUT the events that surround Catwoman in this issue could have tremendous consequences as we move forward. So if you care about Selina at all, you should really consider reading this book.
With the backup we go get to know Martian Manhunter even better as we dive ever deeper into his past and see a Mars that is a thriving utopia. Matt Kindt does a fine job detailing the history of Mars and taking us through J’onn’s thoughts and feelings while Andres Guinaldo’s pencils and the colors by Wil Quintana bring this world to life. It’s a pleasant enough backup, but I do wish we would get another one like we saw in issue #2 which had some great twists and turns and actually added something extra to the overall JLA story.
There’s some fun action, a long list of characters and things from the old DC Universe making their first New 52 appearance, and some things occur that make issue #4 a must-buy for Catwoman fans. But even with all the cameos and changes for Catwoman, the plot barely inches forward from where we were in issue #3. Also, while Brett Booth and his team deliver the goods as usual, their style doesn’t appear to suit the the characters or tone of JLA as well as it did Teen Titans or Nightwing. But perhaps that’s just me being bitter about Booth leaving Nightwing. Anyway, Justice League of America needs to bring greater focus to more of its characters so we get to know them and care about them and it might just be the 1 month delay in release from #2 to #3 but the plot needs to pick up the pace.