Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Justice League #14

"The Secret of the Cheetah Chapter Two"


Geoff Johns • Writer
Tony S. Daniel • Penciller
Matt Banning and Sandu Florea • Inkers
Tomeu Morey • Colorist
Dave Sharpe • Letterer
Katie Kubert • Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham • Editor

So once again Geoff Johns forgot what he titled this story. The previous issue was "The Secret of the Cheetah Part One." But now this one is Chapter Two. It's a minor annoyance, I know, and it has no effect on the story.

The cover is by Tony S. Daniel, Richard Friend and Tomeu Morey. It's an exciting image that works well both in color and black-and-white, and I'm glad they didn't forget the Flash this time. However, this cover implies a big fight with the Super-cheetah-man, which we really don't get that much of unfortunately.

The variant cover is by Jason Fabok and Alex Sinclair. This isn't the best Superman I've seen, but together with Wonder Woman, this cover works as a whole. It also helps to have Sinclair on the colors — he really is one of the best in the business.

The story picks up right where issue #13 left off, with the Justice League hidden in the Congo, battling the Super-cheetah-man. The fight doesn't last too long, though, as it is interrupted by the lost tribe the League was searching for.

The tribe's priestess, Hara, blows on a mystical horn that scares away the Cheetah and causes Superman and Aquaman a great deal of pain. Cyborg figures out how to synthesize that sound and uses it to keep Superman at bay, while Batman sends Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Flash to track down the Cheetah. Cyborg acts as a translator for Batman and the tribe, and Hara is able to heal Superman with some mystical blood.

Meanwhile, Flash finds Cheetah, but she slashes his calf, almost tearing clean to the bone. Wonder Woman tells Flash to sit the fight out, but he refuses, saying a doctor can fix him later. Wonder Woman says she doesn't want more people getting hurt because of her, but Flash reminds her that Cheetah is the one causing the damage. They then form a plan with Aquaman to draw Cheetah east. Flash finds Cheetah again, but is subdued when she slashes his chest this time. Wonder Woman then steps in and begins to fight her old friend, Barbara Minerva.

While they fight, Hara tells Batman the true story of the Cheetah. The Cheetah was the San tribe's goddess and protector, until she was killed by a hunter with a mystical knife called the Godslayer. The Cheetah possessed the knife when she died, so when Minerva later stole it, she became the Cheetah. Now for the tribe to get its goddess back, Minerva has to die.

Back to the fight, Wonder Woman is finally able to best Cheetah and kicks her over a cliff and into the river, where Aquaman is waiting for her with a school of piranhas.

Later, Wonder Woman visits Cheetah at Belle Reve. Minerva tells Wonder Woman that the Cheetah isn't the bad one, but she is. She also says she belongs behind bars and that not everyone can be "saved." Once Wonder Woman leaves, Cheetah communicates with an unseen and unknown person. She says she got locked up as requested and asks to be informed when Black Manta arrives.

On the Watchtower, Batman tells Wonder Woman that Barbara Minerva is actually a notorious criminal who has gone by Priscilla Rich, Deborah Domaine and Sabrina Ballesteros. Wonder Woman is quite upset to learn that her first friend was always secretly evil, and she begins to lose faith in her instincts. To help show her that the world isn't completely full of bad guys, Superman takes her to Smallville Diner and shows her the farm he grew up on. They then kiss again, but this time, Batman is watching, using the tracker he put on Superman's cape way back in Action Comics #12.

The backup is Shazam! Chapter 7.  Billy, who turned into the hero formerly known as Captain Marvel in Justice League #0, is now goofing off with his new powers and his foster-brother Freddy. Meanwhile, Black Adam and Dr. Sivana start gathering the Seven Deadly Sins of Man.

The Good:

The art. Tony S. Daniel is worth the price of admission. For a Wonder Woman-centric story, he draws a pretty good Wonder Woman. Also for a story that takes place in the jungle, he is willing and able to draw a pretty good jungle. His two issues on Justice League were quite good, and I wouldn't be upset at all if he started drawing the book full-time.

The Bad:

Too little Flash. Having him courageously choose to keep fighting after his calf got torn up was amazing. I think even Batman would have to take a breather if he got cut that bad (who am I kidding, the Batgod wouldn't even flinch). Anyway, Flash gave a nice heroic speech, and then what? He immediately got slashed in the chest and was literally absent the rest of the issue. I understand that Cheetah is Wonder Woman's enemy and she has to beat her, but couldn't the Flash have done something — anything — after his heroic moment? Now that I think about it, the only time Flash has used his powers in a cool, interesting way in Justice League was in issue #5, when he fazed through a parademon. Other than that, he has been used as comic relief, occasionally in a kind, sympathetic role, and mostly, largely ignored. And this will be Flash's last appearance in Justice League until issue #18. Are people accurate when they say Geoff Johns loves this character?

Missed opportunities and general annoyances. Turning Superman into a cheetah-man was an exciting idea. It was last issue's cliff-hanger and this issue's cover. So why did we only get one page of them fighting him? I almost think we could have had a whole extra issue in here with the League fighting Superman, and maybe have the Cheetah bite someone else, too. An extra issue would have at least given the Flash a chance to do something. Also, in case you were wondering, piranhas are not native to Africa, which is ironic, because Steve Trevor initially said the lost tribe was in the Amazon. But cheetahs aren't in the Amazon, so they went to the Congo instead. Minor details, I know, but they add up like, if Superman's cape is invulnerable, how has Batman's tracker stayed on it this long? Wouldn't it be impossible for anything to stick to that cape? But more importantly, who cares that Batman's spying on them kiss? And for my final complaint, who is Cheetah working with? The end of Justice League #12 had a lot of teasers for the upcoming year on the book and one of them had Wonder Woman saying, "It's not just the Cheetah. It's who she's working with." So ... who is she working with? How long do we have to wait for that to be revealed?

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time: Yes, yes, I know Barry has to go back to Central City, but first he has to go on one more quick Justice League adventure — investigate the new Green Lantern!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Justice League #13

"The Secret of the Cheetah Part One"


Writer Geoff Johns
Penciller Tony S. Daniel
Inkers Richard Friend and Batt
Colors Tomeu Morey
Letters Patrick Brosseau
Assistant Editor Katie Kubert
Editor Brian Cunningham

For better and worse, Jim Lee is off Justice League and before Ivan Reis takes over, we get a couple of issues by Tony S. Daniel, who is a very solid artist in his own right. In fact, I wouldn't be upset at all if Daniel became the regular artist for Justice League.

This is a very nice cover by Daniel, Friend and Morey. Although the action might be slightly exaggerated, I wouldn't call it misleading by any means. It serves the main purpose of showing us that Cheetah is taking on the entire Justice League, and it looks really good in color and black-and-white.

The variant cover is by Alex Garner, and I am a big fan of it. It's a unique realistic style you don't see that much and everybody looks great, even if it looks like Aquaman is peeing his pants and Superman and Flash are yelling just a bit too loudly. The main drawback with drawing the Cheetah in this realistic style is it becomes more apparent that she is naked, which is a rather uncomfortable thought. But seriously, though, I do love this cover and I need to find some more Garner artwork.

The story picks right up where issue #12 ended, with the much-publicized Superman-Wonder Woman kiss. It's very sweet and romantic, but as soon as Superman tries to talk to her, Wonder Woman awkwardly and quickly flies away.

Five days later, Wonder Woman gets into a fight with the Cheetah in Central Park.

The two argue about the nature of humanity, with Cheetah maintaining that all humans are truly savage beasts that merely wear a mask of civilization. Ultimately, Cheetah knocks Wonder Woman out. She's later found by Flash and Cyborg, who are both surprised to see the Amazonian knocked down for the first time.

They take her up to the Watchtower to talk to Superman, while Batman and Aquaman visit Steve Trevor in the Medical Care Unit of ARGUS. From the two conversations, we learn the story of the Cheetah, who once was Wonder Woman's first friend, Barbara Minerva. Minerva oversaw the Black Room at ARGUS, which secures mystical and dangerous artifacts. One day, she cut herself on a ritual dagger and was possessed by the goddess of the hunt — the bloodthirsty Cheetah.

Wonder Woman says this is her personal matter and doesn't need the League's help. Superman asks Flash and Cyborg to step into the hall so he can talk to her alone. He tells her they want to help because they care about her, and then he talks about their kiss and they both admit it was nice.

Flash and Cyborg meanwhile are worrying about the future of the Justice League. Green Lantern has left, Batman and Aquaman are caught in a power struggle, and now there's some tension between Superman and Wonder Woman. Cyborg says he doesn't know what he'd do without the League — whenever he's not on missions, he just hangs around the Watchtower and watches movies. He admits to the Flash that sometimes he feels like a machine that only thinks it's a kid named Victor Stone. Flash is able to comfort him by pointing out that robots don't laugh at jokes, talk about favorite TV shows or even worry that they're robots. He then cheers up Cyborg by asking him if he's ever fantasized making out with a toaster. Cyborg thanks him and Flash tells him to call him Barry.

They then rejoin Superman and Wonder Woman, who has finally agreed to accept their help tracking down Cheetah. She says they need to find the ritual dagger's lost tribe, so Cyborg starts pulling up maps and Flash volunteers to comb the area. For the first time in about four issues, Wonder Woman smiles.

Batman and Aquaman thank Trevor for the information and leave him. Trevor would like to talk to Wonder Woman again, but the two heroes deny him, effectively cutting him off from the Justice League.

The entire League then goes to the Congo, where Flash is having a hard time finding this lost tribe that Wonder Woman admits she doesn't even know the name of. Superman thinks he can hear them, but suddenly they're attacked from behind by the Cheetah. She slashes Batman's chest, surprisingly lands a blow on the Flash, then bites Superman's neck, turning him into a cheetah-man.

In the backup story, Trevor is officially replaced by Amanda Waller as the Justice League's liaison. But he meets up with Green Arrow and they putting together the Justice League of America.

The Good:

The art. I will always place Jim Lee ahead of Tony S. Daniel, but this artwork was a breath of fresh air after the inconsistent small army of inkers and colorists struggling with Lee's pencils. Daniel's characters look great, the action is exciting, but what really impressed me was the backgrounds. Central Park looked nice and the Congo was downright breathtaking. That to me shows someone going above and beyond. Knowing he only had two issues, Daniel easily could have mailed it in, but he didn't, which makes this issue so good.

Great Flash moment. In the past few issues, Geoff Johns has made the Flash ineffective and obsolete, kind of a jerk, and merely a comic relief. Here, he finally started to tap into some of those qualities that make the Flash such a great character. I loved how Cyborg felt comfortable enough around the Flash to admit to him his greatest fears, and I thought Flash's response was completely appropriate. He demonstrated sympathy, kindness, understanding, and topped it all off with just a touch of humor. It was a very natural and heartwarming scene and it makes me crave some Flash-Cyborg team-ups in the future.

The Bad:

Nothing really. Geoff Johns did fall into one of his more curious techniques — having two separate simultaneous conversations that essentially say the same thing — which really felt unnecessary here. But that's not too big of a complaint. Surprisingly, I'm not at all bothered by the Cheetah's power being amped up or the supernatural aspects of her character. I guess I'm just growing more accepting of magic in comic books. Ultimately, though, I can't complain about anything in this issue, because I was so glad to see that it followed directly out of The Villain's Journey, when this could have easily been a frustrating filler like issue 7 or 8.

Final score: 7 out of 10

Next: The truth behind the Cheetah!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Justice League #12

"Rescue from Within"


Writer Geoff Johns
Pencils Jim Lee
Ivan Reis and Joe Prado Art pages 29-30
David Finch Art pages 31-33
Inks Scott Williams, Sandra Hope, Jonathan Glapion, Mark Irwin, Matt Banning, Rob Hunter, Joe Weems, Alex Garner and Trevor Scott
Colors Alex Sinclair, Gabe Eltaeb, Tony Avina, Sonia Oback and Pete Pantazis
Lettering Patrick Brosseau
Assistant Editor Katie Kubert
Editor Brian Cunningham

My goodness. Look at that army DC needed to produce this 33-page issue! I understand this was something of a "special" issue and they decided to forego the Shazam backup this month, but still ... did Scott Williams really need eight other people to help him ink the pages? I really don't get it. And as I've said before and will say again, the art suffers when you have too many people working on it.

Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair did the main cover plus two variants, which helps explain why they needed so much help on the inside pages. The main cover is a striking, powerful image, although I was upset that DC spoiled this new romance so early. Wouldn't it have been mind-blowingly awesome to not know Superman and Wonder Woman kissed until you got to the last page of the issue? Anyway, the art is solid here and the lack of a background does wonders for Lee's pencils. However, I do wonder why Wonder Woman has the lasso of truth wrapped around Superman. Does she do this with all her dates to make sure their intentions are pure?

I like this variant even better than the original. The colors are great and the image really shows just how powerful these two are. That's right, we can kiss each other up in space!

Now this variant I absolutely hate. Not because of the art — that's fine — but because nothing even remotely like this happens in the issue! Yes, that would be an awesome story if Aquaman took down Superman and Batman, but it didn't happen here, so why draw it? Misleading covers like this really get under my skin.

Alright, enough preamble and on to the story! DC wisely anticipated a fresh influx of new readers for this issue, so the first three pages serve as a recap of The Villain's Journey so far, told through a TMZ newscast. They replay the footage of Green Lantern fighting Wonder Woman and discuss her relationship with Steve Trevor, who they believe was kidnapped by David Graves.

We go back to the Mystic Valley of Souls at Mount Sumeru, where each of the Justice League members are talking to ghost-like things that look like their lost loved ones. What appears to be Steve Trevor tells Wonder Woman that she was too late. The ghosts talking to Superman now look like Jonathan and Martha Kent, who tell him they wish he didn't feel so alone. Batman's parents tell him he doesn't need to avenge them anymore. Aquaman's dad tells him to leave Atlantis and Flash's mom tells him to close her case. Green Lantern tells Flash not to listen to the ghosts as his dad expresses disappointment in him. Cyborg's ghost tells him that the real Vic Stone has died and Cyborg is only a machine that thinks it's Vic. The ghosts then all say they can join with them to make them happy and loved and safe.

The ghost-things attack the League and start to cover them all in ice. Graves then enters the room and says that he has learned that they all have experienced the pain of loss — except for Wonder Woman. So by killing Trevor, he believes he is making her a better hero. He then invites the League to help him destroy the temple to free the spirits to the world and reunite everyone with the dead. Suddenly, Graves is shot in the back by Trevor.

When the League sees he's not dead, they realize the ghosts aren't actually their loved ones and they break out of the ice and begin fighting Graves and his ghosts. Batman finally explains that the ghost-things, according to Graves' book, are actually pretas — spiritual parasites that feed off the living. Green Lantern and Cyborg figure out how to take down the pretas and Aquaman is able to shatter Graves' armor. Graves is devastated to be separated from his family again, but Batman reminds him that he always knew those things weren't really his family.

Twenty-four hours later in the Medical Care Unit of A.R.G.U.S. in Washington, D.C., Wonder Woman comes to visit the recovering Steve Trevor. She tries to apologize for putting him in harm, but he won't accept it. They quickly begin to argue about his role with the League and she leaves by saying they're going to ask for a new liaison.

We cut to the Watchtower, where Batman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern and Cyborg are watching the news and discussing whether the Justice League can survive their recent PR disaster. Aquaman says he could've prevented this if he was the leader, but Batman naturally argues with him. Green Lantern says they have more important things to worry about, but Flash says Graves' lies could destroy all the trust the League had built up. Batman tells Flash that Graves didn't lie. He and his family were the only survivors of a group of people Darkseid had cornered. Although they escaped his omega beams, they did breathe in the ash, which may have caused their fatal illnesses.

They all admit they made a mistake, but this makes Flash angry. He says they can't afford to make mistakes because when they do people die. He argues that the League should be working harder to make sure everyone's OK, and as twisted as Graves was, he was trying to do more than the League has ever done. Green Lantern says it's impossible for the League to save everyone every day, but that doesn't mean they should stop trying, and to do that, they need the trust and support of the world. To help earn that trust, Lantern volunteers to quit the team and be the scapegoat for causing the fight with Wonder Woman. Everybody tries to stop him, but he wishes them luck and teleports away.

Meanwhile, Wonder Woman is sitting on top of the Lincoln Memorial after her fight with Steve. Superman joins her and they talk about relationships and feeling alone, and then, under the full moon, they kiss.

At Belle Reve Prison in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, Amanda Waller visits the sickly David Graves. She wants him to write one last book before he dies about how to destroy the Justice League. He titles it, "The Villain's Journey."

The Good:

Important ending. Yes, as a whole, I feel like this story failed to reach its full potential, but that doesn't take away the significance of this issue. Superman kissing Wonder Woman wasn't a surprise, but it still is a big deal. Green Lantern leaving the team was a pleasant surprise, though, and it opened the door for the Justice League to change its roster, which I think can be a good thing. Another good part of the story was when the "ghosts" were talking to the League, although it went by way too quick for me. And sadly, once again, I cannot put the art under the Good category. Some of these many guest inkers and colorists just did not know how to work with Jim Lee's pencils. Right from the first page, I thought there was a mistake. Not all pages were that bad, though, especially the last couple, which I think Williams inked himself, so I won't put the art under the Bad category.

The Bad:

Anti-climatic climax. Geoff Johns seems to have a hard time ending his big battles in Justice League. I was unimpressed with the Darkseid conclusion, and I was rather upset with how they defeated Graves. Earlier, he exhibited mysterious powers like teleportation and could take down the entire League in seconds basically by just looking at them. But suddenly in this issue, it seemed like the League defeated him simply because they decided it was time to defeat him. And it just ... happened, leaving me with a lot of questions about how Graves' powers worked and what exactly those preta things were. Sorry, Batman, your heavily-delayed line did not cut it for me.

Basically no Flash. The Flash could have been entirely removed from this story and nothing would have changed. He didn't do anything! He was a complete non-factor in the fight with Graves and he couldn't even convince his friend Hal to stay on the team. Really the only thing he did was whine like a baby on the Watchtower. I do admit it was interesting to see him start pushing for increased League activity like Superman wanted five years ago in Action Comics #10, but I know that despite what the Flash or anyone says, nothing really will change. It would be cool to see an increased discussion on what the Justice League can and should do to help the world, but that aspect, in my opinion, has remained overlooked lately.

As a whole, The Villain's Journey was a slightly disappointing story arc. It had so much potential and only lived up to a little bit of it. It did establish/confirm three important things in the DC Universe: 1) Superman and Wonder Woman are now going out, 2) Green Lantern is now off the team, and 3) the Jim Lee/Scott Williams/Alex Sinclair team cannot maintain a monthly schedule. Their art is amazing and when it's firing on all cylinders, it's some of my favorite stuff. But in these past few issues, they had to bring in so much outside help, that amazingness was greatly diminished. The three of them should definitely keep making comics, but I think they should be reserved for big, special events like graphic novels or bi-monthly stories. I don't want to see them struggle like this on a regular monthly title anymore. It's just too painful.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time: I'd love to take Barry Allen back to Central City (where he is still officially dead and his relationship with his girlfriend is quite complicated), but the Justice League needs him for one more quick adventure in Justice League #13. Don't worry, though, when I do go back to The Flash, I'll stay there for a while.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Justice League #11



Writer Geoff Johns
Penciller Jim Lee
Inker Scott Williams with Jonathan Glapion
Colorist Alex Sinclair with Gabe Eltaeb
Letterer Patrick Brosseau
Assistant Editor Katie Kubert
Editor Brian Cunningham

This is still part of the Villain's Journey storyline, but for some reason, Johns decided not to title it "The Villain's Journey Chapter Three." Anyway, the cover is by Lee, Williams and Sinclair, and it ... wait, do my eyes deceive me? Is that the Flash? Front and center on a Justice League cover?

It is! The Scarlet Speedster is finally getting some love! I'm so happy I won't even complain about Barry's eyebrows. This is another symbolic cover, but it looks great colored and in black-and-white. But my favorite is this half-and-half version:

You get the best of both worlds with this version, which is currently my iPad's wallpaper. I wish DC would do this more often — it just looks so great.

The variant cover is by Bryan Hitch and Paul Mounts. It's a pretty exciting image and everyone looks pretty good, but I have one problem with it: Why is the Flash smiling so broadly? Everyone here is fighting for their lives, but the Flash is happy as can be, just running around, oblivious to everyone's problems. Don't get me wrong — I like a happy Flash, but only when it's appropriate.

The story picks right up where issue #10 left off, with the Justice League all withered and dying and trapped in ice after the fight with Graves on the Watchtower. Batman is the first to get up, fighting off visions of his parents dying. He frees Superman, who says he saw his dad have a heart attack again. The rest of the League wakes up and Green Lantern says he saw his dad's plane crash again. Flash asks Batman what he saw, but he says it doesn't matter. Cyborg then discovers that Graves used the teleporters to go to the house of Tracy Trevor, Steve's sister.

In Tracy's house, Graves implies that Steve is dead, but it's for the greater good because it will save the world from relying on false gods. He shows her his ghost family and says that his young son lost his mind to disease and even now doesn't recognize his father.

Just then, the Justice League shows up via boom tube, but Graves was able to disappear before they could confront him. Tracy, though, is able to confront the League and yells at Wonder Woman for putting Steve in danger. Outside Tracy's house, Flash tries to console Wonder Woman, but she takes responsibility for Steve. Cyborg finds David Graves' last known address, his cabin in Maine, and Wonder Woman decides to go there alone.

Batman tries to stop her, but she brushes him off. Green Lantern then steps in and puts a bubble around Wonder Woman. She doesn't like this and punches Lantern, sending him flying down the street and into a car. Flash makes sure he's OK, but Lantern immediately goes after Wonder Woman again. She slices his chest with her sword and Superman then steps in, but gets kicked down the street by the Amazon. Batman sends Flash and Aquaman on crowd control and Cyborg discovers that Graves is somehow broadcasting this fight on every TV and computer in the world.

Finally, Cyborg is able to boom the whole team away to Graves' cabin. Flash tries to get GL and WW to stop fighting and Aquaman tells them they'll find Steve faster if they work as a team. Superman is ultimately able to calm down Wonder Woman by telling her that they know she's worried, but they only want to help. Lantern asks Flash why she listened to Superman and Flash says its because Superman's better with words, more charismatic, smarter and taller, too.

Batman then finds Graves' journal and reads how Graves and his family were on vacation in Metropolis when Darkseid attacked. Although they survived that day, they were all exposed to something that made them sick a few months later. Graves' children and wife died of a mysterious illness and then he traveled to Mount Sumeru.

So the League follows in Graves' footsteps and arrives at the mystical mountain. Only Cyborg can see the entrance to the temple with his human eye, and he worries that this means he's partly dead. Once inside, the League is greeted by a lot of the ghost-things that take the forms of their lost loved ones. Batman sees his parents; Green Lantern sees his dad; Superman sees Jor-El and Lara; Flash sees his mom; Aquaman sees his dad; Cyborg sees himself; and Wonder Woman sees Steve Trevor.

The backup is Shazam! Chapter 5, where young Billy Batson is taken to a mysterious, magical temple.

The Good:

The art. After last issue's average performance, we're back to the high quality we're accustomed to with Jim Lee. Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair still did need help, but they only needed one additional artist instead of the two or three like last time. The special effects with the ghosts turned out really well, especially with Graves' ghost family on the couch. It also helped to have some good, old-fashioned inter-League fighting.

The Bad:

Flash is kind of a jerk. Graves' ghosts made the League see the most tragic thing that happened in their lives. Only a couple of them chose to share their visions with the team. The Flash didn't tell anyone what he saw, but he still felt compelled to ask Batman what his vision was. Batman correctly said it doesn't matter. Come on, Flash! How rude are you? This is personal stuff! Later, Flash also is rather rude to Green Lantern after the Wonder Woman fight. He could have been supportive toward his oldest friend on the League, but instead he chose to go on and on about why Superman's better than him. I don't think Johns intentionally made the Flash a jerk in this issue (he was probably just trying to be funny), but that's how it turned out, which is not the Flash I'm accustomed to. Actually, now that I think about it, Johns did make Flash rather jerkish in Rebirth, but I figured that was because Barry was older and having a hard time adjust to life after being dead for so long. In any case, I prefer the Flash written by Francis Manapul, who is young, happy and nice.

I also was a bit disappointed with the story for the whole Villain's Journey so far. I thought it was supposed to be a great, psychological attack on the League, where they each confront their own fears and where we, the audience, get to learn more about each of them through poignant flashbacks. That really hasn't happened. We've seen the most with Batman, and we already know everything about Batman. I guess you could say Johns was limited by the lack of concrete New 52 origins (this came out before the Zero issues), but I say that shouldn't have been an issue. DC editorial should have known the origins of the main characters and allowed one of their biggest books to show parts of these stories. Of course, I guess I should refrain from judging this whole story arc until I finish it, but still ...

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time: The Villain's Journey concludes in Justice League #12.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Justice League #10

"The Villain's Journey Chapter Two: The Belly of the Beast"


Geoff Johns Writer
Jim Lee Penciller
Scott Williams, Mark Irwin and Jonathan Glapion Inkers
Alex Sinclair, Gabe Eltaeb, Tony Avina and Hi-Fi Colors
Pat Brosseau Letters
Katie Kubert Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Editor

So Katie Kubert has replaced Darren Shan, but I haven't noticed any perceptible difference. While this issue isn't any better than other Justice League issues, it's not any worse. I do notice, however, whenever Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair need help on the art, but I'll get more into that at the end.

The cover is by Lee, Williams and Sinclair. It is a rather haunting image, even if it is symbolic in nature. I was pretty sad to see the Flash so small and far away, but at least he wasn't covered up by a Shazam promo like Cyborg. The absence of a background helps Jim Lee's pencils, but it still is kind of hard to tells what is bone and what is costume, and what is the ghosty-energy stuff coming from Graves.

The variant cover is by Cully Hamner and I can't stand it. It does remind me of some very old images of the Injustice Society gathering around a table and plotting the demise of the heroes, but the quality of this image looks like it'll fit in better in 1952 than 2012. Graves looks like he's wearing a rubber Halloween mask and I can't tell if he's actually at a table or sitting cross-legged on the floor with some large disc-thing in his lap. Oh well, you win some with variant covers and you lose some.

The story starts three years ago, deep in the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia. David Graves, still sickly and withered, journeys to a place he wrote about in one of his books, Mount Sumeru. According to Graves, it is a nexus to the worlds of the afterlife that can only be found by those walking the line of death. When he arrives, he is greeted by the giant Asuras, who were apparently cast aside by the other gods.

Today, Steve Trevor is finally able to escape from Graves' trap. But as soon as he opens the door, he's attacked by ghosts who hunger for his pain.

Meanwhile, Aquaman is saving a sinking cruise ship. A lot of people thank him, but some make fun of him. He gets a flashback of having a conversation with a former Atlantean advisor named Vulko, who encourages Aquaman to take his place as king of Atlantis. He's then summoned to the Watchtower by the Justice League.

On the Watchtower satellite, Batman tells the others that several more villains have been attacked and interrogated by Graves, including Captain Cold, Cheetah and Scarecrow. Cyborg explains that this is a big problem because Graves now knows virtually everything about the League, including the Flash being a police officer and having a relationship with Patty Spivot. Green Lantern asks why he's never heard of Patty, and Flash says, "Because you hit on my last date five minutes after we sat down for dinner."

Cyborg then mentions that Superman is a reporter, which surprises everybody except for Batman. Flash and Green Lantern are especially worried he might be writing stories about them, but Cyborg assures them he isn't. Aquaman, however, wonders how they're supposed to be a team when their enemies know more about them than they do.

Just then, the temperature drops and the lights go out. A silent alarm goes off that tells Cyborg somebody is trying to use Steve Trevor's access code. But the alarm fails to prevent Graves from suddenly appearing on the Watchtower. He looks out the window at Earth and says, "It's no wonder you're oblivious to the tragedies that befall us. You can't see anything bad happening from way up here."

Wonder Woman demands to know where Trevor is, and she charges at Graves. But he turns around and unleashes several ghost-like things at her. As they fly through Wonder Woman, she thinks she sees her mom, then collapses and starts to wither away. The rest of the League attacks, but the ghosts hit them all and they collapse to the ground just like Wonder Woman.

While this is happening, we're given images of Graves entering the temple at Mount Sumeru. He saw lots of these ghost-things flying around and three of them took the forms of his dead wife, son and daughter. He begged the Asuras to have his family back, and the three ghosts flew into him, creating his current armor with his wife's face on his chest and his children's faces on his arms.

Grave's then leaves the Watchtower with the Justice League unconscious and rather skeletal-looking with chains of ice surrounding them.

In the Shazam backup, Dr. Sivana accidentally releases Black Adam.

The Good:

Umm ... nothing. Normally I'd give a point for the art when Jim Lee's involved, but there were too many inconsistencies with this issue to do that. When I see entire teams handling the inks and colors, it makes me feel like there are too many cooks in the kitchen, and it really harms the issue. Lee's pencils are quite intricate and rather difficult to work with (look at the black-and-white cover again) and only Williams and Sinclair should be allowed to handle them. I'll never understand why some people struggle so much to turn out 20 pages each month, while others (like Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato) have no problem.

The Bad:

Again, nothing. It really felt like nothing happened in the story, but it wasn't bad by any means. Yes, there was rather limited fighting, a notable absence of humor, and a little more supernatural elements than I care for, but it was an OK story overall. Not good, but not bad either.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next: The unknown becomes the known.