Sunday, June 28, 2015

Justice League #37

The Amazo Virus Chapter Two: Patient Zero

Geoff Johns Writer
Jason Fabok Artist
Brad Anderson Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Fabok & Anderson Cover
Darwyn Cooke Variant Cover
Amedeo Turturro Asst. Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor
Superman create by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

The cover shows Batman and Wonder Woman trying to prevent Superman from killing Lex Luthor, which is an interesting enough concept. However, nothing even remotely similar to this scene happens in this issue. Superman doesn't even appear on the same page as Luthor, and there's only a passing, obligatory conversation about how Luthor might have caused this on purpose. The cover tells one story; the inside pages tell another. Luckily, my comic shop was able to give me the variant cover for this issue.

I love Darwyn Cooke's art, and I love this cover. It hearkens back to the bright, optimistic roots of these characters. The lineup is an odd hodgepodge of the old and new rosters, but it still works. Mainly, I'm happy just to see these characters smiling again. Superheroes can and should be happy from time to time. My only small nitpick with this cover is that it's sideways. It is slightly awkward, but not at all a deal breaker.

Our story begins with a quick glimpse at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. All the flights have been canceled, and everyone is evacuating the place as fast as possible. A woman had a brief manifestation of telepathy before dying. As Lexcorp employees in hazmat suits attend to her, one of them requests Firestorm, but is told that he, too, is infected. So we don't see Firestorm, and I still wouldn't call him a member of the Justice League, but a reference to him was kind of nice.

In Metropolis, Superman and Batman have located Patient Zero, whom Superman has identified as a Lexcorp research pathologist named Doctor Armen Ikarus. Batman observes Ikarus' vitals with his haz-bat suit, and Superman makes fun of him for the name. Batman claims it was Robin's idea. The comedic aside is soon interrupted as Ikarus' eyes mutate to mimic Superman's heat vision. After knocking down both heroes with a big blast, he sprouts a pair of gigantic wings and flies away.

We then check in on Lex Luthor, who is visiting his sister, Lena, and trying to explain to her why someone would want to kill him. Lena asks where the would-be assassin, Neutron, is, and Luthor explains that he's with the other infected members of the Justice League. The Amazo Virus took away Neutron's ability to create and control radiation, but it did not take away the radiation already in his blood, which has made him very, very sick. Luthor explains to Lena how the virus affects normal people, and she asks him how he could create something so awful. Luthor talks of how many people meta-human criminals kill each year, and how no prison can hold them. But Lena calls her brother out for lying.

Superman and Batman follow Patient Zero's trail, and Superman talks about his distrust for Luthor, even proposing that Luthor intentionally released the virus to set himself up to be the hero. But Batman doesn't agree with that theory. They finally find Patient Zero, and Wonder Woman comes out of nowhere to join the fight. She wraps her lasso of truth around his neck and asks how he became sick. But Patient Zero answers by saying, "I am not sick. We are not."

Captain Cold tells Luthor that Patient Zero has been found, but Luthor still seems worried about the health of the Justice League. Cold makes a sarcastic remark about Luthor never intended this, which makes his boss quite upset. Luthor says there are things the League doesn't know, and this is far worse than anyone could believe. Suddenly, Luthor is attacked by the man named Bullet we saw last issue.

Back to the main fight, Superman finally subdues Patient Zero, and Batman tries to collect a sample of his blood. But Patient Zero retaliates with another blast of heat vision, spilling the vial of blood and shattering the haz-bat's visor.

The Good:

Patient Zero is a slightly intriguing villain, in that he mimics superpowers organically. But he's a really flat character. Superman tells us he has a wife and kids, but we don't see them, so why should we care. I also found it odd that Geoff Johns named him Ikarus, right after Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato had a big run in Detective Comics involving a man who produced a drug called Icarus. In Detective Comics, the reference to the boy who flew too close to the sun is more fitting than it is here.

The Bad:

Little to no Flash. It's interesting how Johns works valiantly between story arcs to update and expand the Justice League roster. But when he actually dives into his five- or six-part stories, he almost always finds the roster to be too big, and has to do something to cut it down. And without fail, the Flash is one of the unlucky ones to be left out.

Tedious storytelling. Johns wasted so much time reiterating everything we already knew. Just in case we missed the first two issues of Amazo Virus, we're given lengthy, detailed explanations from Batman and Luthor. I guess this series requires so many reminders because it is frequently delayed and interrupted. Ironically, though, this issue that seemed most weighed down by repeated information actually came out right on time. Also, Superman displayed a severe lack of urgency. He casually cracked jokes with Batman, then took his dear sweet time tracking down Patient Zero, just so he could remind Batman that he doesn't trust Luthor. Yeah, we get it! You, and the entire Justice League, were moments away from arresting Luthor just 24 hours ago. And my last storytelling complaint is of the empty cliffhangers. Are we really to believe that a complete nobody is going to kill Luthor? Or that anything bad is going to happen to Batman? Come on, Johns! We're smarter than this!

Final score: 3 out of 10

Next: The power of ... Batman!

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