Jaime Reyes, the Blue Beetle, was shot through the head at the end of last issue. But that's not important right now.
Because this issue steps away from current events to provide a one-stop-shopping insight into the mind of the man who shot Beetle, Maxwell Lord. We learn that his father was a pharmaceuticals executive and would-be whistleblower. One day he was found dead. Suicide, they said ...
Sounds familiar? Yes, it's exactly what Max did with regards to the last Beetle, Ted Kord. He justifies such actions because his mother convinced him that 'when you're fighting powerful people, good people are always going to get hurt'. And the powerful people Max is plotting against are the superheroes he once revered, used to do good in the world. For his mother died when Coast City was destroyed by alien warmonger Mongul, and Max blames the heroes. He now believes that while they do good, the regular people must be protected from them. And he's perfectly willing to use his own super-power - mental manipulation - to ensure the super-powered don't cause too much trouble.
He is, as you can see, more than a little twisted. But in a way that makes sense. Author Judd Winick adds some new stuff here, such as the story of Max's parents, but he weaves it into what we know of Max. How he was truly a philanthropist, but one who thought the best way to bring a new Justice League together was to hire terrorists and supervillains to provide a credible threat. You can see how this basically good, but misguided, man might one day become as bad as the villains he wanted to protect the world from. I doubt anyone will weep for the man Max is now, but they may feel sympathy for the boy he was.
It's not all flashback this issue, as Max escapes the JLA after shooting Beetle, and the team fights to find a spark of life in the young hero. But it's mainly Max, and I'm good with that - I'm no longer confused as to how the charming manipulator behind the JLI became the murderer of Ted Kord. I only hope he pays for his crimes.
As Winick writes, so Joe Bennett draws - superbly. The penciller captures the sorrow and anger of Max's mother well, and brings out his growing madness. The action scenes of the JLI in the past and today pop, while there's a clever pulling back of the 'camera' on the final page. It's all nicely inked by Jack Jadson & Ruy Jose and lettered by Travis Lanham. And the colourist from Hi-Fi starts by using that old standby sepia for the flashbacks, gradually adding brighter tones as Max's story reaches the present day - smart, that.
Dustin Nguyen is in movie poster mode with this striking cover, one of the best this series has had - and it's had a lot of superb covers.