Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Justice League #8 review

Green Arrow wants to join the Justice League. Trying to persuade the world's greatest super-team to - ahem - give him a shot, he starts showing up for their missions. And while he's actually pretty useful, his requests for a trial are turned down. Aquaman doesn't like him. Green Lantern thinks he'd be useless. Batman says there's a reason they don't take on new members ... only Superman, with his belief in the underdog, thinks Green Arrow could be valuable.

Finally, League government liaison Steve Trevor pops up in Green Arrow's equipment van to tell him to give up, there's no way he'll get on the team. And what's more, he knows that the hero is actually billionaire Oliver Queen, and that he has a dodgy past. Ollie says that's the point - he wants to make up for his misdemeanors, and bring a social conscience to a group he sees as comprising gods among men. As it happens, Trevor has another offer for him ...

... meanwhile, the JL-ers are recalling what happened the one time they considered another superhero for membership, and it wasn't pretty - they wound up in battle with mega-powered Martian Manhunter J'onn J'onzz.

And across the galaxy, the Stormwatch member's ears must have been burning, as he makes a doom-laden pronouncement about the League.

Current DC text pages are all about world-building and this issue fits right in with that notion: it connects Steve Trevor to the Wildstorm Universe by referencing something in his past, gives us our first DC New 52 look at old League foe Amazo and features a battle with the Talons currently bedeviling Batman. It adds texture to the League's world with a problem connected to Cyborg's Boom Tube teleport tech, forces us to ask what the Red Room is and apparently drops Aquaman into Green Arrow's origin.

With so much going on, I loved this issue. There's a real feeling that the League are at the centre of the DCU, constantly getting together to fight the foes no single superhero can withstand.

It's not a perfect story. The League still exudes an air of ass-wipery, but at least writer Geoff Johns acknowledges that they're not what they might be ('Let's try to act professional around the agents, okay?').  Wonder Woman's sword-happy nature has gotten old, Batman is weirdly protective of the League's image given that he sanctions two other versions of the team and the politicians are one-note annoying.

But overall, it's a great read and the revelation of the League's run-in with J'onn J'onzz is the perfect capper to an issue that's been pretty light-hearted ...
What's more, the flashback is beautifully depicted by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, in the best piece of artwork this book has yet seen. The composition and execution make for a mighty powerful image and I'm itching to be told the story behind it.

The bulk of the instalment is drawn by Carlos D'anda, and elegantly so. I like his sharp style, his clarity in storytelling. Based on his work with Ollie here, D'anda should be booked for the Green Arrow title as soon as there's an opening - it's like he's been waiting all his life to draw the Emerald Archer. One thing D'anda can't do is make the bulked-up Cyborg look good. I suspect no one can.

Gabe Eltaeb and Alex Sinclair provide the vibrant colours, while Pat Brosseau handles the lettering - the latter injects extra energy into the splash page with a dose of vanishing perspective on the credits. Sinclair also handles the cover colours, and don't I just love the yellow and green logo - unusual and attractive. The illustration by Jim Lee and Scott Williams is pretty good, too.

And there's more. The Shazam back-up continues with errant orphan Billy Batson meeting his new 'brothers and sisters', one of whom, spunky Mary, is guaranteed to turn out to be his twin. As suspected, these are the kids from last year's Flashpoint event, who combined to form the heroic Captain Thunder. Heaven knows how they'll fit in here, but they're an interesting callback to Golden Age kid gangs. Mind, there's a tiger in Billy's photo of his parents so perhaps writer Geoff Johns will have the New 52 Mr Tawny eat them.

I hope not, as this re-imagined Captain Marvel story, being so obviously not Proper Captain Marvel, may as well go nuts in the opposite direction as it bids to entertain. Johns is obviously having fun, and Gary Frank's fully illustrated work has never looked better to me. It's complemented by the considered colours of Brad Anderson and delightfully neat letters of Nick J Napolitano.

For the second month running, Justice League feels like the flagship DC Universe book it's meant to be. If things keep improving I'll soon be forgetting the moribund opening arc. Who knows, we could yet have a classic series on our hands.

21 comments:

  1. I'd forgotten that there was a Wildstorm concept called Team 7, but Trevor's history with that military group (if I'm remembering the right book) could definitely fit.

    Though I suspect, if he's recruiting Green Arrow, Team 7 could be transitioning into the 7 Soldiers of Victory... which would be just dandy with me. I'd love to see Johns' revamped Crimson Avenger again, particularly.

    As for Shazam, did you realize there's already been a reference to Talky Tawny in the New 52? In Omac 7, Prince Tuftan mentions he'll need to speak to him (or rather, a cousin with a remarkably similar name, Prince Talken, IIRC) about his father's death.

    Oh -- and I friggin' love Darla, and Billy had better apologize.

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    1. Team 7 becomes the Seven Soldiers of Victory ... oh Rob, that's smart.

      I like the latest Crimson Avenger, too, so I hope Jill comes back.

      And I love Talky Tawny - any version!

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  2. How cool would that be if they really did turn Ol' Team 7 into new(52) 7SOV! I'd like to see not only a Crimson Avenger(maybe sidekick Wing), but also what about The Spider, Vigilante, the Star Spangled Kid and Stripsey?

    At least Johns is attempting to weave intresting historical revamps into and with the NuDC and Wildstorm universes, but as with Johns, the execution usually falls flat. Only time will tell with this one. Oh...and who isn't still pissed that J'onn is getting the shaft here? He belongs w/ the JLA, not that hunk of metal Cyborg.

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    1. I'm OK with Cyborg being around, I always liked Victor, and if Wally could get a promotion, why not Cyborg? But J'onn should be in the JLA, too, you're right - he's a lifer.

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  3. Did you keep reading? Ivan Reis draws an excelent Cyborg. Probably the best so far. Second best is probably Gene Ha.

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    1. Reis certainly draws a better Cyborg than most, but I maintain that the new design is less than the Perez original - too clunky, too Robocop. Agree to differ?

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    2. You won't get any argument out of me. That's one of the least attractive new 52 redesigns... and there have been some doozies!

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  4. So basically you're saying since Wally, Roy, Donna, and Dick graduated to the big leagues(no pun intended) it's Cyborg's turn? I guess so, but that's still no reason to exclude J'onn. Hey,as cool as Stormwatch seems, how long do you think the title's going to last? J'onn belongs in the JLA, and for Johns to WILLFULLY keep him out both mystifies and aggravates me to no end.

    Maybe Johns has plans for J'onn somewhere down the line, or he'll claim to in a few years, but right now I just don't see it. On the other hand, I'm enjoying his GL run, especially with the Black Hand getting his due/groove back later this year.

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    1. I can't say for sure whether J'onn will ever join or not during Johns' run, but this development -- what seems to be an disastrous first membership -- would seem to me an excellent reason to bring him back onto the team in the future... sometime after all that history has been revealed. Why build up all that tension if you're not going to exploit it? That scene, to me, means that he'll one day be the perfect member to bring on board.

      But down the line a bit, not right now.

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    2. I'm a huge Martian Manhunter fan, but I've been avoiding the core JL title since issue 3. Is J'onn cool enough in this issue that I should give it another shot? Or is he DCnU'ed up into being a big jerk like the other heroes?

      I suppose it's too much to ask that he's still a good guy and that's why he doesn't fit in with the current league?

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    3. Well, he *looks* awesome.

      But he doesn't have a lot to do here, and we don't know the context for why he's doing it. If you'd only be reading for J'onn, flip through it at the store.

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  5. Thanks for the comments, chaps, and I agree that J'onn will become a member of the League in time. I am enjoying his interaction with Stormwatch, for now, though. And I don't think this League deserve a hero so great yet!

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  6. a coworker has been loaning me this series and i've read up to issue #7. so far i can't stand GL the relaunch Hal Jordan actually has managed to be even a bigger as#$%le then the Guy Gardner from the old DCU. oh how i would love for Batman to knock his ass out cold like he did Guy back in the late 80's. thanks for the review i'm looking forward to reading this issue.
    by the way Martin if aside from ROM you like Dr.Strange and Man-Thing you might dig this tribute posting over at the Sanctum Sanctorum blog: http://sanctumsanctorumcomix.blogspot.com/2012/04/with-little-help-from-my-friends.html

    David H.

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    1. You're right, Shlomo, Hal is far more one-note than Guy ever was. It's like they thought the GL film would be a big hit and copied the 'characterisation'.

      I shall check out that website, I'm a big fan of Dr Strange.

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  7. I have to agree about GL he is the only down side in this book for me, he seems so different to the way he is written in his own book. What's disappointing in that its the same writer who does both comics, come on Mr Johns a bit of continuity please. That small gripe aside this is still the book I grab first when my monthly order comes.

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    1. While I'm not crazy about the portrayal of GL here, the "we're not really going to call him" line to Batman was the best laugh line he's delivered so far.

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    2. You know, lads, as Hal is reminiscent of Guy, perhaps Geoff Johns will gift us with an appearance by Kari Limbo ...

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  8. I'd bend over backward to see Kari Limbo!

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  9. I dropped the book after the first arc but have flipped through the last two issues.
    I think the biggest mistake with the title so far is that it does not feel like 5 years has passed.
    There should have been some major changes in relationships/personalities between issues 6 and 7, but there were no differences in style. After five years a lot can change. Think of your own personal relationships and work relationships. Think of your own personal growth.
    I'm disappointed more reviewers are not criticizing the book over this matter, because it's signficant. DC made such a huge deal over marketing the first League tale as taking place 5 years ago, to not have subsequent stories that truly reflect such a passage of time is a failure.
    Think about how, prior to the New 52, DC was always revising their timelines and cramming all of these events into five years or a decade. Good grief, the League's line-up in "real time" changed numerous times over five years of publishing. And now we're expected to believe they only ever allowed one other member?
    Also, although the idea of completely rebooting the DCU kind of turns me off, I was willing to run with it assuming that, Cyborg's joining the League aside, DC was essentially saying all those old Justice League tales occurred in the five year gap and Johns was moving them forward into a new future. I'm not resistant to change, but I didn't need everything tossed out, either, and that's what we longtime fans had been promised - a soft reboot or relaunch or whatever.
    But as of issues 7 and 8 we know that's not the case and apparently was never the publisher's intention.

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    1. Very fair and insightful, Anon. I had my moan about the lack of change in five years with last month's review, so didn't bring it up again this time. I too thought we were getting a Today League who'd had many more members, and am disappointed that's not the case.

      They're promising big membership changes with #12, believe it when you see it.

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