Thursday, July 9, 2015
Wednesday Comics: JLA - Justice League of ATHEISTS.
So I just finished reading JLA # 2 written and drawn by Bryan Hitch.
The Justice League is the flagship team of DC. It is so fundamental that when the New 52 was relaunched in 2011, the first title to be released was Justicie League #1. Last month DC premiered a new concurrent title, to Justice League: JLA.
Getting Hitch was a real coup for DC. His work on Marvels The Ultimate is still talked about today. He has a talent for having the action explode from the page in an almost cinematic experience. I can still remember reading the issue where Hawkeye and Black Widow take out a building full of aliens. I read it over and over and just adored the art.
And that is why JLA is so dissapointing and insulting.
SPOILERS FOR JLA #1 and #2 BELOW
The first issue started intriguing enough with a great mystery and a room full of superman cadavers. But the second issue felt like a sucker punch.
The plot revolves around this: Rao, the god of the Krypton, has come to Earth and is trying to convert the people. Superman is immeadiately taken over to Rao's side as well as much of the population. But others like Batman are skeptical.
There are a number of problems with this story. But before I continue I have to admit at the outset that since this is only the second issues, I do not know with certainty where the story is headed. This might be a classic fake-out and all of my analysis below may be moot. But based on my experience and intuition, I do not believe I am wrong.
The main problem is that Hitch is incredibly careless about religion. I am not saying the plot itslef is uninteresting or that religion cannot be a legitmate topic to explore in the medium. But this is transparantly an attack of faith.
Rao is obviously a villain. You can see it coming from a mile away. He preaches love and faith but there is no doubt that he has sinister motives. Strangely, Geoff Johns just wrote a Superman story that had a similar plot where aliens from another dimmesion offered a kind of salvation to people of Earth. But whereas that story had a more universal applicability, this is narrowly focused on religion.
Hitch has also decided to out Aquaman as an atheist. When an emisary from Rao speaks to him, Aquaman confidently asserts that he doesn't believe in any gods. This is not taken as a moment of introspection or exploration, but Aquaman is clearly meant to be in the right.
Batman is portrayed as the doubter. When love and forgiveness are preached he asks where God was when his parents were shot. This at least is an intersting question. But it is also clearly meant to foil Alfred's refernce to the Bible.
Superman's faith in Rao comes off not as reasoned belief but as naivette. He is immeadiately taken in by Rao like a cult member whose will is bent.
Finally, Lois Lane writes an editorial on Rao titled "Do we need another God?" In this article, she not only is skeptical or Rao, but uses it as a chance to attack all religions as sources of division and violence. This of course ignores the fact that atheist regimes are resonsible for the largest mass murders in history.
Faith and doubt can be powerful story elements. And in the past DC has done some good work here. I remember in JSA we would see Chrisian Dr. Mid-Nite and atheist Mr. Terrific often debate the topic. But that is not what we find in JLA #2. Instead we get a heavy-handed smackdown of religion.
What is so upseting is how unnecessary it is for DC to hurt their brand this way. They must not feel like people of faith read comics anymore. And the other title, Justice League, has never been better. If both books were at the same level of quality, tht would be such a boon for DC. But instead they decided to needlessly insult religious people.
That is a shame because I wanted to like JLA. I was willing to plop down my money every month for their product.
Not anymore. I am done with JLA.