It turns out that both bad guys have recently had run-ins with a third, one who wanted to know how to hurt the Justice League members, and have been left terrified. They're happy to be locked away, for their own protection.
Meanwhile, their tormentor, David Graves, is threatening JL liaison Steve Trevor's family to learn from him how to access the team's satellite headquarters.
Along the way there are flashbacks to earlier, sadder times for the JL members, and an opening flashback shows us the moment Graves - fatally irradiated during the League's battle with Darkseid years previously - went from the League's unauthorised biographer to perhaps their deadliest foe. We see Trevor annoyed by the celebrity-hunting media, meet his sister Tracy, get the first confirmation since last year's DC revamp that Batman and Superman are friends rather than simply colleagues, the Flash makes a Very Good Point about his super-speed and Wonder Woman gets to use her Lasso of Truth.
This series continues to improve after the lacklustre opening issues, with writer Geoff Johns weaving a confident, entertaining superhero tale. The characterisation is a little subtler than previously, so that Green Lantern is no longer an ass; he's actually likeable, making his Good Cop/Bad Cop routine with the Flash thoroughly smilesome. And they're interrogating the Weapons Master, for goodness sake - a no-hit wonder from the Dan Jurgens Justice League. It's fun to see the obscure ones.
It's also fun to see the classics, and The Key certainly qualifies here, having fought the League several times from his Silver Age debut, getting more powerful, madder and scarier as time went on. It says something if Graves can spook him. As for why the two crooks were breaking into facilities, and the heroes were having flashbacks, hopefully we'll learn that as the story continues.
Aquaman is absent this issue, while Cyborg may as well be ... he doesn't seem to have the personality of the classic incarnation. Heck, Booster Gold's robot pal Skeets could fill his role as team GPS system, but with a spot of wit. Even on Jim Lee's admittedly cluttered cover, he looks like a spare part. Let's hope Vic Stone comes out of his metal shell soon.
Jim Lee and Scott Williams produce the best art this series has so far seen; it has Lee's patented scratchy dynamism, but more care than usual seems to have gone into the storytelling. The opening two-hander between Graves and his doctor is a mini-masterpiece of mood, with the wobbly lettering of Pat Brosseau and intense colours of Alex Sinclair and co adding to its effectiveness. The final shot of this sequence, a downward looking splash, is fine comic art. And the Steve Trevor torture sequence is unpleasant without being over the top.
All in all, an above average first chapter for The Villain's Journey arc.
And in back-up land, Billy Batson has an eventful first day at Fawcett High, defending his foster siblings from rich bullies, then getting it in the neck from the principal for fighting. Guardian Mr Vasquez forgets his (stupid) principles that say fighting is always wrong to defend Billy from bullies' dad Mr Bryer, while in Egypt, Dr Sivana has his eye opened to the world of magic.
So it's three chapters in and Billy has yet to gain the power of Shazam, and I couldn't care less - Geoff Johns, artist supreme Gary Frank and their colleagues are crafting perfect little dramas, revealing their characters bit by bit. This time we get to know Freddy Freeman a little more, and he proves a likable little fixer. His new look - Freddy has gone from the traditional brunette to dirty blond - is the only thing I don't like about the art on this series, it being random and distracting. Otherwise, carry on crew.
So that's two strips featuring engaging characters and plotlines, by top creators, with contrasting yet complementary moods. For $3.99 DC gives us 31 pages of story and art, compared to Marvel's 20pp and a code for a digital copy you don't need, having already bought the comic. Win to DC.