We're two issues into the all-new series of "Justice League of America" and let's be clear: it's a fine looking book. Bryan Hitch's skills as an artist have been known for quite some time, and it's something that was never in doubt when the title was announced. His storytelling slows down a bit this month, though, as "Justice League of America" #2 goes through all of the plot beats that one would expect after last month's cliffhanger.
Hitch deals with the arrival of Rao on Earth in a manner that most readers certainly saw coming; Superman praises this long-lost Kryptonian god, Batman is skeptical and Rao, of course, uses his abilities to start curing the sick and making miracles occur. While that's thankfully not the entire issue, it is the vast majority of the comic. It's the sort of moment that needs to happen on some level, because they're settling up the inevitable conflict to come between Rao and those who don't fall under his thrall. The problem is that Hitch is taking a very obvious and predictable plot and spooling it out a little too slowly. When you know the story beats for an issue, it takes an extremely deft hand to still make it sing, and we don't get that here.
Still, there are some little moments that stand out. Aquaman's comments on Poseidon are intriguing, especially when you consider that he knows Wonder Woman and her connection to the gods of Olympus. It's an interesting viewpoint to take in a world where the Greek pantheon really does walk the earth and, while I'm not entirely sure it's believable as a result, it is still intriguing. Even more so is the final page of the issue; up until this point, it would be easy to simply write off Rao as an alien pretender that impersonates a god. Hitch's story may have been predictable up until this point, but that final page sends at least one assumption into a tailspin; it doesn't automatically negate it but, if nothing else, things have gotten a bit more complicated when it comes to the mystery of Rao.
Hitch's pencils as classic as ever. His strong-jawed, expressive characters look great here, and I love how well he can draw Superman's hopeful expressions whenever Rao is present. Other characters get a good depiction too, though; I like the slightly scruffy off-duty Aquaman, for example, and every time we see a random background character they look real, not just a face and torso that's been dashed off. With Daniel Henriques, Andrew Currie and Hitch himself inking the book, there are some pages that have a slightly different level of smoothness to the figures, but Alex Sinclair's colors just light up every page and ultimately bring a strong consistent look to the pages. All it takes is the silhouette of Rao's ship hovering over the cityscape to take your breath away all over again.
"Justice League of America" #2 may be a little predictable, but there's still more than enough to keep readers interested, especially considering a cliffhanger that will keep everyone until next month. If nothing else, it's a very handsome book, but Hitch's overall plot so far feels sound, if familiar. Here's hoping for some surprises down the line but, until then, it'll still be a pleasant experience.