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.

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