Justice League of America #4 “Power & Glory”
Written by Bryan Hitch
Art by Bryan Hitch
Inks by Daniel Henriques
Colors by Alex Sinclair

After more than a month’s wait, we finally have the fourth installment of Justice League of America. I’ve enjoyed this book so far, but have openly admitted that my overall consensus of how I view this arc will depend heavily on Rao. We knew it was coming. We knew he was evil. And in this issue, we get to see the initial stages of him revealing it. So I bet you’re wondering if I’m still on board with this book… My teaser for that, is that there’s some good and there’s also some bad.

For those of you who haven’t been keeping up – or maybe your memory is a little foggy – Rao, Krypton’s sun god, has arrived on Earth. Along with him, he’s brought his disciples, and a whole lot of wholesome goodness. I’m serious. Rao is curing sickness and disease. He’s eliminating famine. People are happy… and Batman isn’t buying into any of it. In addition to this, Flash and Green Lantern are teleported back in time, and arrive on Krypton. Wonder Woman also gets teleported, but she is sent to Olympus to find it vacant and destroyed.

There isn’t much plot progression in this issue, but there are two substantial reveals – one pertains to Rao (no, it’s not that he’s evil), and one could force us to forever change the way we look at Superman. Most of the book focuses Batman’s mission to learn Rao’s true intentions. He’s also managed to spread the slightest amount of doubt to Superman who gives a sample of his blood to Cyborg to study. Which is a big deal, because Superman has never given his blood to anyone for them to study… and I have to ask myself, why not? This is Supes! There’s so much that can be done with a sample of his blood – and Hitch makes a point to acknowledge that. I mean, I understand that in the wrong hands his blood could potentially be dangerous, but the good outweighs the bad. I’m a little surprised he never offered it up before.

Anyway, while Cyborg and Mr. Stone test Superman’s blood, Batman starts investigating another lead: the people who have converted to become believers in Rao. Rao continues to convert more and more people across the world: adults, children, leaders, the lost, and those with a sound religious background. I can’t help but think that most of the world – including Atlantis – are now believers, and will follow Rao to the end… and if you really think about it, that’s a scary thought. As Batman studies the believers, both he and Cyborg make discoveries that completely change everything for the team and solidifies Batman’s notions concerning Rao. But “big brother” is watching, and he’ll have something to say about it.

Then, hundreds of thousands of years ago, Flash and Green Lantern – who is a respected man due to his Guardian status – are welcomed by the Kryptonians, and are invited to meet the planets sun god, Rao. There is apparently a war brewing, and Krypton wants Green Lantern to help them make peace, or fight for peace. But once again, things aren’t what they seem as Rao reveals the key to how he earns and maintains his powers. And for those of you hoping to learn a little more about Wonder Woman’s current situation, you are unfortunately out of luck, because she’s nowhere to be found.

Before you continue reading, be warned that there are spoilers below!

The Art:  I don’t mind Hitch’s art. It isn’t bad. He gets the job done and does it well. I don’t think it’s perfect, and there are a number of artists I would prefer to have on this book, but as I’ve said before, there can be benefits to having the same person cover both writing and art duties… my problem with this though, is that it actually has become a problem. Hitch isn’t delivering work on time, and he’s not delivering his best possible work as far as the art – and potentially writing as well – is concerned. So if I were at DC, and I knew I had a title getting delayed (which is a loss of income), and that the work that was being submitted was struggling a little, I would hire another artist to step in.

For a glimpse at some of the internal art, check the spoiler tag below.

Spoiler

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The Good: Rao’s power over people. I loved this reveal! A part of me was concerned that this was going to end up being some type of brainwashing due to a magical glamour, or maybe even psychic control, so I’m glad to see that it’s not that exactly. Instead, Rao is affecting people’s entire chemical make-up… and he’s been doing it for thousands of years. At some point, the Kryptonian race had their DNA modified to feel hope, and essentially become “programmed” to believe. It was in their blood. And that has to bring up questions about Superman as well. How much can he be trusted now? What other effects could this have on him?

Joss Whedon’s television show Angel had an arc that is very similar to this book so far. Jasmine, a god from another world, comes to Earth and begins turning people into followers. She creates peace across the world (seriously, one of the episodes was called, “Shiny, Happy, People”), begins eliminating hunger, and makes the world a better place. The way she converts people into believing and following her, is also very similar. Her presence and grace turns them into believers – the same way Rao’s blessing turns people. While her power is more of a glamour (and I’m not counting that out for Rao), her blood also played a key role. If her blood somehow found its way into someone’s bloodstream, the glamour would fade, and people would see her for who she really is. I have to wonder if the same thing will begin to happen here. I also have to wonder if Rao’s followers will also turn into his warriors, much like Jasmine did with her followers.

Rao’s Power. Thanks to Green Lantern’s time hop, we’re able to learn how Rao gets his powers. I was a little confused when Hal met Rao, and Rao was a three hundred year old man… that was actually old. I immediately thought that this war/peace scenario was going to lead to a power hungry guy taking killing Rao and taking his place… then I we saw Rao “power-up” by taking the life-force of some of his followers, and he was suddenly a younger, more powerful, and more capable looking person… And again it reminded me of Angel. Jasmine would get her power by feeding on people. She would kill dozens to save millions… and that same idea is lightly touched on here. Is that worth it? And if it is, where does free will play into this?

 
The Bad: “It would’ve been so much easier if you just believed.” Ah… here we go. Psychotic Rao is stepping up, but I think he’s jumping the gun a little in regards to showing his hand. He finds out about Superman and Batman’s curiosities, and he automatically turns to attack mode. He’s inertly going to have Superman’s trust, and there are ways for him to at least try and justify what he’s doing. If he were to explain the positives of what’s taking place, there’s a chance Superman would still align with him. Even other members of the League depending on what they hold as being more important to them… but nope, Rao automatically makes Superman the enemy. Unfortunately, we won’t know the full fallout until next month’s issue… if we even get it next month

Recommended if:

  • You want to learn more about Rao and his abilities.
  • You love when Batman proves he’s right.
  • You watched Angel and were a fan of the Jasmine arc.

Overall: Hitch delivers in certain ways and fumbles as well. I’m afraid Rao is going to end up being less interesting than I had hoped, and will end up being just a generic, yet powerful, villain. I’m also torn on how similar this character is from Jasmine from Angel. I know stories have been done and re-done tons of times, but there are SO MANY similar traits between the two narratives that it almost feels like it’s more than a coincidence. On a positive note, the discovery of Superman’s genetics could play a long-term role for his character – and I really hope it does!

SCORE:  7.5/ 10