New 52 – Justice League #15 review

If you’re going to continue reading Justice League for the Throne of Atlantis storyline then you’re going to need to pick up Aquaman as well to get the full story. I’m sure they’ll try and write it so  you’ll be able to follow along well enough if you only pick up Justice League but if you ask me you should be picking up Aquaman right now anyway. It’s a buck cheaper than Justice League and I’ve found it to be one of the best, most consistent series to come out of the New 52.

Now what we have here is a really good but brief first chapter (Aquaman #14 was a prelude) that really kicks off the war with Atlantis and yet another stellar Shazam backup (he’s only in the backup though, ignore what you see on the cover). It’s a terrific issue and it’s also a great jumping on point for new readers! Justice League #15 also happens to be one of the very best illustrated comics you’ll buy this month. As usual, Gary Frank does an awesome job with the Shazam backup but this issue also marks the start of Ivan Reis’ run as the regular artist on this series. Since I’ve been reading Aquaman from issue #1 I’m familiar with his work and it’s phenomenal. Jim Lee might do big action and iconic shots well, but I think Reis brings all of that plus some much needed emotion. Even the quieter scenes of this explosive book resonate when he’s penciling them. And when I say explosive…I really can’t stress that enough. We see Batman take down some of Scarecrow’s old henchmen on a speedboat and that seems like it’s pretty cool but then…whoa! When the armies of Atlantis strike the east coast it’s absolutely jaw-dropping.

So who makes an appearance here? Well, like I said before, Shazam is on the cover but he’s only in the backup. Flash, who I’ve argued in previous reviews is the most worthless member of the team doesn’t show up at all. Green Lantern is still absent, Aquaman is obviously here and we see him clash again with Batman over leadership of the team, Cyborg plays a small role, and even Aquaman’s wife makes an appearance. There’s really no good reason for why Mera isn’t on the Justice League. If you ask me she’s probably the most bad-ass character in all of DC Comics. She controls water, people. Water. She can even pull water OUT of a person. That’s a helluva power to wield and kind of a waste of potential for her character to always be in the background especially when a recurring theme of Aquaman is that he’s upset at how the world doesn’t take him seriously. What if they did a story in which everybody started taking his wife seriously and she was seen as the most powerful hero of them all? Just a thought.

Some of the best scenes however are surprisngly not from any of the aquatic heroes. It’s the great character moments between Superman and Wonderwoman that really make this a pretty well-rounded issue. I like the way their relationship is going so far and the conversation they have about dual identities and the need for a normal life is fascinating. I want to see more of them together.

The thing that holds Justice League #15 back for me is how short it is. Geoff Johns’ writing style is brilliantly suited for trades but the single issues have a knack for being way, way too brief. An arc reads great all-together but if you pick up a single issue you’ll likely be done with it in no-time at all. There’s an attack, a nice scene between two lovers and then– bang. It’s over. On to the backup.

The backup actually felt much longer than the core Justice League story, which is funny because it’s so simple! You have this little boy who has just been turned into a man with superpowers. He and his pal decide to use the newfound assets of age and magic to do all the things that they never get to do as kids. Priority one: buy alcohol. The only problem is that Shazam’s powers give him a tendency to always walk into situations in which a hero is needed most so time and time again he ends up foiling a robbery of some sort. It’s highly amusing and the series continues to be more and more endearing. I can’t wait for it to be collected as a trade so I can read the entire story in one sitting. Better yet: DC needs to give Shazam his own series.

Overall this was a great issue and it really feels like we’re in for an epic after the rather disappointing 2-part Cheetah story. Throne of Atlantis is shaping up to be a pretty cool event and I can’t wait to sit down with Aquaman #15 (which also came out Wednesday) and see what happens next.

SCORE: 9/10