Saturday, March 28, 2015

Justice League #30

Injustice League Chapter One: Kicking Down Doors

Geoff Johns Writer
Ivan Reis & Doug Mahnke Pencillers
Scott Hanna Inker
Rod Reis Colorist
Dezi Sienty Letterer
Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis Cover
Amedeo Turturro Asst. Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Jose Shuster
By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

I'm not sure why this cover has the Forever Evil banner since this issue clearly takes place a week or two after Forever Evil ended. I guess it could serve as a Forever Evil epilogue, but it's titled Chapter One of a new Injustice League story arc. The cover itself is rather bland, with all our heroes posing in front of a vague, green background. But I think that blandness is at least partially intentional, as the real drama of the cover is simply the choice of characters. Front and center is Lex Luthor, and to the far left is Captain Cold, two notable super villains now standing side-by-side with Earth's greatest heroes. Less surprising is Shazam, who has been seen on Justice League covers as early as issue #15. But he hasn't officially been a full time member until now. Notably absent are Superman and the Flash.

Our story begins with Dr. Psycho hosting a meeting of the Secret Society of Super-Villains. This group is comprised of several lesser-known villains, including classic Flash villain Dr. Alchemy. We haven't seen the Flash fight him yet, or even make mention of him, but apparently he is quite active and willing to join forces with the likes of Clayface, Livewire, the Tattooed Man and Scavenger. Anyway, Dr. Psycho claims he has plans to take down Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. And since everyone thought the Secret Society fell with the Crime Syndicate, they have the element of surprise, and will be able to ruin the Justice League member's lives before they realize it.

Suddenly, the wall of their secret headquarters is blown apart by Lex Luthor, who is joined by Cyborg, Shazam, Aquaman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Captain Cold. Luthor tells the villains they're all under arrest in the name of the Justice League, and Wonder Woman asks who wants to surrender. Shazam is amazed that someone took the time to carve "Secret Society of Super-Villains" into their table, and Cyborg suggests Dr. Alchemy did it.

Four days earlier, everyone is reading the Daily Planet with the headline, "Lex Luthor saves world." (Sadly, that story is nothing but Lorem Ipsum dummy copy.) Clark Kent is out walking the streets, talking to Bruce Wayne on his cellphone. Apparently unworried about anyone overhearing his conversation, Clark complains to Bruce about how he's trained his super hearing to pick up any time someone says Luthor's name, and now everyone won't stop talking about him. Bruce is also weary of all the attention Luthor is getting, and says even his trusted advisor Lucius Fox suggests that he go into business with Luthor. Even though interviews with Luthor are constantly running on TV, nobody's actually seen him for the past few days, which is what worries Superman and Batman most. Meanwhile, the Doom Patrol watches Luthor's interview in a dark room, and blame the Justice League for unleashing the Crime Syndicate on the world.

We then cut to Wonder Woman interrogating Metallo on Luthor's whereabouts. She is joined by the Flash, who reminds the Amazon they need to keep Metallo conscious. Wonder Woman is quite worked up by all the accolades Luthor is undeservedly receiving, and she claims she'll put her sword in Luthor's throat. Flash rather sternly tells her that Luthor deserves to be tried, convicted and sentenced to an appropriate punishment, one not involving swords. He promises Diana they'll give Luthor the full Amazonian inquisition as soon as they find him, but no swords in throats.

In Central City, Leonard Snart is meeting with Jake Shell, parole officer to the Rogues. Shell wants to make sure Snart is on the straight-and-narrow, so he asks him what he did last night. Len says he stayed home and watched a movie, when he really went out drinking with Trickster, Weather Wizard, Mirror Master and Glider. Shell tells Len he needs to keep a low profile since Luthor has been telling everyone that Captain Cold helped save the world. Len doesn't see the point in this, since the Flash won't ever let him go free. But his parole officer points out that the only thing the Flash can do now is to take off his mask and testify under his real name, which seems unlikely. Shell reminds Captain Cold that he's not a maniac like Ocean Master or the Joker, and Cold begins to wonder what Luthor wants with him.

Since the Justice League's Watchtower satellite has been destroyed, the team has taken to meeting in the Batcave. Batman notes there are still more than a dozen members of the Secret Society at large, and Wonder Woman and Flash report on their encounter with Metallo. Flash complains that Metallo told him too many things he can't unhear while under the spell of Wonder Woman's lasso of truth. But ultimately, as Wonder Woman points out, their interrogation was fruitless, as Metallo did not know where Luthor is. Batman says Luthor is an insect, and bats eat insects. Flash loves this joke, and quickly checks to see if Batman pulled it out of a little black book of bat-comebacks.

Aquaman and Cyborg arrive at the cave and report that Parasite also doesn't know where Luthor is. Cyborg begins to suspect that Luthor isn't on Earth anymore, and sure enough, he turns out to be right. The Justice League soon receives an invitation to a satellite orbiting Earth in the exact opposite position of where the Watchtower used to be. So the League teleports up there to find Luthor, Shazam and the most expensive champagne in the world. Shazam doesn't care for the drink and asks if he can have soda instead. But none of the League are interested in drinking and want to get straight down to business.

So Luthor explains that he considered himself worthy of joining their ranks since he did save the world last week, after all. He also invited Shazam since he feels the League could use more raw power. Shazam excitedly asks for a workout session with Superman to see who's stronger, but Superman tells him neither he nor Luthor are members of the Justice League. Luthor makes his case, saying the public's trust of the League is at an all time low in light of the Crime Syndicate attack, and they need him in order to get back into good standing with the public and politicians. Superman still says no, so Luthor offers to let Wonder Woman place her lasso around his neck. Flash sees the look in Wonder Woman's eye, and suggests they wrap the lasso around Luthor's hands instead.

Under the truth-telling spell of the lasso, Luthor says he spent the past three days refurbishing the satellite to serve as a replacement for the Watchtower, so he could find a place on the Justice League. And he says he wants to join the League because he's an egomaniac. Luthor explains that he always hoped to convince the world of an alien threat and be the one man capable for eliminating a Kryptonian. But now he sees Superman isn't the greatest danger to humanity. Whatever destroyed the Crime Syndicate's world is still out there, and Luthor believes only he and the Justice League can stop it.

Superman then angrily rips the lasso off, and tells Luthor it's their job to save the world, not his. So Luthor hands the controls to the satellite over to Cyborg and sadly leaves with Shazam. Flash is initially hesitant about making Luthor's satellite their new Watchtower, but he does admit it's better than the Batcave. Batman points out that Luthor's concerns are correct, but Superman says they know Darkseid destroyed that world, and they know they can beat Darkseid again. Wonder Woman agrees, but Batman isn't so convinced. Flash wonders if there's a way they can visit the remains of the Crime Syndicate's world, but Aquaman doesn't want to risk creating a doorway for the new threat. Cyborg suggests they find Power Ring's ring, which may contain a battle history like Green Lantern's ring.

And speaking of that power ring, we see that it has presented itself to one Jessica Cruz, who has apparently sheltered herself from the outside world for quite some time. The ring tells Jessica she has been chosen to annihilate the earth. We then head out to Wayne Manor, where Lex Luthor asks Alfred Pennyworth if Batman can come out and play.

The Good:

Great cast of characters. Lex Luthor, Captain Cold and Shazam are wonderful additions to the Justice League. They bring just the right amount of edginess and comedy that has been missing ever since Green Lantern left the team. Not only was he willing to get into fights with anyone and everyone, but he and the Flash formed one of the best comedic duos in DC. Without Hal Jordan, Geoff Johns tried to have Flash carry the comedy by himself, which didn't work. And as for the necessary inter-team tension? I guess they were hoping more would come from the Superman-Wonder Woman romance. But now the stagnation has ended thanks to the addition of two notable villains and one oversized kid. Shazam is so wonderful — it still boggle my mind that DC hasn't given him his own on-going yet.

The Batman reveal. I am so glad that someone finally figured out who Batman is. And it makes perfect sense for someone as smart as Lex Luthor to be the one to do it. That reveal made for a great cliffhanger ending, and set up some delicious inter-team turmoil.

Johns got Flash right. As I said before, Geoff Johns really had a hard time figuring out what to do with the Flash once he sent his best friend away from the team. Flash works best as the straight man next to a boisterous comedic figure, and when Johns struggled to realize that, I think he gave up and intentionally left Flash out of the book for a while. But now he's back and nicely filling the role of the team's moral compass. He talked Wonder Woman down from killing Metallo and Luthor in a very natural way that felt true to the character. The situation itself was comedic, but not at the expense of making Barry Allen act like an idiot. I guess it just took Johns a couple of years to figure out how to pull this off.

The Bad:

I don't really have a major complaint here, just a couple of little nitpicks. I didn't like how Superman was openly talking about his super hearing while on a crowded street as Clark Kent. Someone is bound to hear him say that and put two and two together. In fact, I didn't like Superman one bit in this issue. He spent the whole time complaining and shouting. Maybe I would have understood his point of view better had I actually seen this version of Lex Luthor do anything bad. He's spent most of the New 52 locked up in his own prison or actually saving the world. Yeah, we all know Lex is a bad guy, but what has he actually done?

My other minor nitpick was the Captain Cold scene. It is cool to see that he has a parole officer, but I couldn't quite figure out what the point of that conversation was. The whole scene seemed to serve solely as a place to tell the readers what kind of a villain Cold is. But his parole officer really didn't have anything interesting to say, and neither did Cold. I did like seeing him hanging with all the Rogues, and I did notice that Heatwave was absent. This would have been the perfect opportunity to plainly declare his death and then build on that to establish Snart's character.

Final score: 7 out of 10

Next time, we'll take a quick detour into the "Passive Appearances" list but keep things in the Justice League family with Secret Origins #5.

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