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Justice League of America is one of DC’s flagship titles and yet since issue #1 it’s been confusing and strange at best. Issue #4 continues this trend but also manages to be the most slow-moving and boring issue so far.

The JLA are en route to the Secret Society’s mysterious moving mansion which was in an English forest earlier in the series and is now somehow in Minnesota. Catwoman allowed herself to be captured by the SS in the last issue and is being held inside the mansion (the JLA are tracking her position using a homing beacon in her goggles).

This issue introduces Dr Light into the New 52 universe for the first time, looking a lot different than he did pre-New 52, younger and with a moustache/beard and a wife. He’s working for ARGUS (DC’s crappier version of Marvel’s SHIELD) and is an “expert in superhero energy signatures”, a field that feels very limited not to mention bizarre. And can you become an expert in a field that’s only existed for 5 years (in the New 52 superheroes only started emerging 5 years ago)? At any rate he hasn’t started raping women yet but given an accident that happens in the last few pages, I’d say it won’t be long before he starts behaving crazily.

The issue continues to re-introduce familiar concepts from the pre-New 52 world with a modified C-17 Boeing Globemaster 3 that has a cloaking device and literally becomes invisible – Steve Trevor rather imaginatively calls it “the Invisible Jet”. We also learn a bit more about Professor Ivo’s New 52 background – he used to work at STAR labs until he faked his death in a lab explosion, so he could continue making robots of the Justice League.

Why he’s building robots of the Justice League is a mystery especially as they’re not particularly effective. Green Arrow is the only one who was hurt by them though even he managed to escape them and when the JLA caught up with the Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman robots last issue they were easily defeated.

Once the JLA get inside the Secret Society’s mansion they discover Professor Ivo’s remaining Justice League robots (deactivated) and fight the Shaggy Man (depicted on the cover) who manages to defeat the JLA single-handed! So far the only success the JLA have had in combat is against some inferior Justice League robots which makes them a pretty ineffective team especially as their sole purpose is to fight super-powered beings who’re much more powerful than the Shaggy Man (what a name)! So much for being the “World’s Most Dangerous”, eh? The Shaggy Man can beat them – including Martian Manhunter, which makes no sense as he’s shown in a previous Justice League comic as holding his own against the entire Justice League! Is the Shaggy Man the most powerful being in the New 52 universe?

The mysterious pale man in the bowler hat – the leader of the Secret Society – makes another appearance though who he is and what his group’s agenda is remains unknown. And in the end one of the main characters is shot in the head and is presumably dead – though of course this being superhero comics, death is merely a brief setback quickly overcome.

Brett Booth takes over pencils from David Finch and does a competent job. He can draw action well, particularly Catwoman’s movements, but it’s a pretty generic style that’s comparable to any number of superhero artists. He does at least zip Catwoman’s suit up rather than showcase her chest like Finch has shamelessly done in each of the issues and the cover of this one too (seriously, look at that ridiculous cover – David Finch, you are a massive perv!).

Matt Kindt’s backup continues to explore Martian Manhunter’s character, this time revealing MM’s past on Mars where his people are shown as living a tediously utopian existence being one with nature and one another, Avatar-like. I appreciate the effort at character-building which the main story avoids for the sake of bogging down the pacing even further, but Kindt’s just not a very good writer and the script in this backup falls woefully short of originality and insight. Falling back on new-age tropes to explain MM’s society, he writes “On Earth, a human is lucky to establish one strong close emotional relationship in his lifetime. A ‘soul mate’. Now imagine having that a thousand times over.” Zzz…

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Justice League of America #4 doesn’t advance the already threadbare plot much further and the comic moves at a snail’s pace. A lot of nothing happens until the final page which you just know is going to be revealed later on as a fake-out death anyway. Worse still, the setup is very dull – none of the JLA are particularly interesting and their mission feels generically superhero-y at best. This iteration of the JLA simply aren’t convincing as a superteam and this series continues to be an unimpressive and forgettable one.

Justice League of America #4 by Geoff Johns and Brett Booth is out now

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This article was first posted on June 2, 2013