Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Justice League #9 review

The JLA are split into teams this issue, as two of their old villains break into detention facilities. Superman, Batman and Cyborg defend Arkham Asylum from psychic vampire the Key, while Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman interrogate the Weapons Master after stopping his assault on Central City's Iron Heights.

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.

20 comments:

  1. He mart if you want a great cosmic team book try the hypernaturals from boom studios by DnA they even had a fcbd special.

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    1. And thank you for the reminder, I've still got that to read!

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  2. Cool do you plan on posting a review

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    1. I do now! Dedicated to your good self, in a subtextual way ...

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  3. I'm glad to see Lee back on the art for this issue -- his presence makes it feel more consequential. I'll be interested to see where this goes -- Graves certainly seems to be doing his homework. And having written a handful of nonfiction books myself, it's kind of a thrill knowing I could use my expertise on Wyatt Earp or Lewis & Clark to become their greatest enemy!

    But the Shazam backup is really stealing the show, in my opinion. I'm glad we're finally getting to see Billy step up and show some virtue...especially in a way that could get him thrown out of school. With each episode, I'm getting more and more invested in this family.

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    1. Please don't take out Wyatt Earp and those explorer chappies! You'll be locked up and never get to see what happens next to Billy and co!

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  4. A great review, thanks to you I've decided to buy this book since JlI is getting the axe after issue 12 and annual 1

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  5. Cheers anon. I'm hopeful that JLI is changing, more than going altogether. Fingers crossed!

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    1. the good news is geoff johns and dan didio are writing the annual and the plot is using threads from omac's series

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    2. I'm looking forward to that one, where will the team go next?

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    3. batwing 12 apparently

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    4. Thank you very much, I never knew that. Lord Battle indeed. Wonder if Captain Fracas and Private Spat will appear too.

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    5. actually batwing has gotten better mart you should give a chance also you should try blue beetle as well

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  6. I'm afraid I still find that most characters in JL are very unlikable. That's really my big issue with the title. Otherwise it's passable, but not really worth the hype.
    There are far better titles being published by DC.

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  7. I can't believe Marvel gets away with selling its comics for a dollar more than DC does...Imagine if Coke decided to sell it's product for a similar percentage more. I just don't buy from them for that reason.

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    1. More power to you, Mr Whiskas - you're a strong one.

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    2. I'm more cheapskate than hero Martin :)

      Besides, I catch up with Marvel via the TPB's, which are more equally priced in my experience.

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  8. Finally got the chance to read this issue. Since I don't order it, I have wait quite a bit until my local Barnes and Noble gets it in. I got to say, this is just great.

    I am a big fan of Geoff Johns work, despite the sketchiness of Brightest Day (Only half of the comic was worth reading overall and suffered from very annoying as hell inconsistant artwork, flipping on the fly between pages). However, his first arc of Justice League, I wasn't really feeling it. Oh sure, it was decent, but it didn't grabbed me like his Justice Society of America run right off the bat. However, with these past 3 issues, I finally see the writer I enjoy. Interesting plot developments, enjoyable characters, a looming villian on the horizon that excites me, fun dialogue, and great set up for future events (sort of like his Green Lantern run where if you read the early issues, you see tons of set up for the future events that happen).

    While I probably won't start ordering it now, I'll be definitely getting it in trades. I find Johns work, like Morrison, reads much better in the books.

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    1. I'm delighted you're also enjoying this book, now!

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