I was going to start this review off with a short recap of the previous issue, but I found myself at a loss. I could not remember what had happened last month! I remembered the fight with Darkseid…and then Jim Lee took a break and there was a weird sludge monster of some sort that the team easily beat…and Steve Trevor was introduced and he was really interesting…oh yeah! Green Arrow wanted to join but the team kept avoiding him. So apparently the last few issues haven’t been all too memorable, but that looks to change with the beginning of the new story “A Villain’s Journey”.
The eponymous villain is a new creation who you’ve already met but may not realize it. His name is Graves and his conflict with the Justice League appears to be very personal. There’s a gravity here that was missing from the Darkseid arc. Darkseid was there to act as a big impressive threat for the team to fight and show off how cool they all were in the initial issues, but he never had a motivation other than to destroy. He ended up coming off as a Godzilla-like monster and nothing more. Graves, on the other hand, has motivations that aren’t as one dimensional and that’s refreshing.
As for his powers, well, that’s still a mystery by the time the issue is done. All you get is hearsay, but that’s alright. He’s mysterious and interesting for now but in the issues to come all will be revealed. The pacing of this story is quite good and I think it could turn out much better than the Darkseid saga. Author Geoff Johns also improves on his management of the heroes. We get to see them living their normal lives, he doesn’t try to squeeze them all into one room constantly, and for the most part everyone involved has a purpose. I say “for the most part” because Superman and Cyborg’s assistance of Batman was rather unnecessary. There’s a break-in (in, not out) at Arkham Asylum and Batman calls up Superman to lend a hand. As a Batman fan, that’s a red flag right there. Since when does Batman call Superman for help with trouble at Arkham? Superman shows up and enters the prison by blowing a hole in the roof. Then cyborg joins them because they need a map of the facility and here comes Cyborg, Justice League Mapquest! It’s a cool entrance and I salute his showmanship, but did he have to crash through the roof, too? The point of calling these guys up was to help get the inmates back in their cells, not tear the building down. It should also be noted that this is the…let’s see “Batman” #1, “Batman: The Dark Knight” #1, and “Detective Comics” #9…the THIRD Arkham riot that Batman’s had to put down in the past 9 months of comics. He didn’t need Justice League intervention those times and after visiting the place so frequently, he sure as hell shouldn’t need a map. As for the rest of the team, Aquaman is totally left out of the issue, which is fine because the team is honestly too big. Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman have great chemistry and are involved in a pretty funny scene that I had zero complaints about. The most interesting character in the book is still Steve Trevor, though. And if you like Trevor, then you’ll be pleased to know he gets plenty of attention here in issue #9.
There’s a lot going on in issue #9 and it’s a must-buy for fans of Justice League, although Aquaman fans are sure to be disappointed. There are hints at the future, hints at the past (Flashpoint fans, pay attention), plenty of laughs, and more focus on story than action this time around. Since the smashing is kept to a minimum, returning artist Jim Lee but at the same time it looks like he was a bit rushed in some panels. And the coloring is a bit off which I found odd since Sinclair is one of my favorite colorists so I flipped back to the title page and saw that he worked on this along with two other artists. One panel, during a torture scene is filled in with a few scribbles of what appears to be a red magic marker. Pretty pathetic looking, really. So this issue is a definite leap in the right direction in terms of pacing and story, but it’s not the typical feast for the eyes we’ve grown accustomed to.
The biggest selling point for “Justice League” is still not the Justice League at all (no I’m not going on about Steve Trevor, again), it’s the Shazam back-up. I still don’t like Billy acting like such a brat, but the story here is very good and Gary Frank’s art is absolutely phenomenal. It makes me wish that Shazam had been given his own series instead of being relegated to the final 8 pages of a team-up book.
Overall, it’s a very good read and it sets up a story that has real potential. You should at least flip through it at the comic shop just so you can read the (far too few) Shazam pages.