Thursday, 19 July 2012

Justice League #11

The Justice League members recover from the assault of their opponent, memory manipulator David Graves, only to find him gone. Gone to the home of Tracy Trevor, sister of their government liaison, Steve Trevor. Boom Tube teleportation gets the team there just as he's blipping out, having terrified Tracy with tales of what he has in store for Steve. An angry Tracy blames Wonder Woman, who flounces off in search of Graves, proclaiming: 'I'm going to find him - I'm going to cut off his head - and I'm going to bring Steve home.'

Which is shocking enough. The Amazon's behaviour is compounded as she not only turns down the helping hand offered by Green Lantern Hal Jordan, she assaults him. Punches him across the street.

Then slices him open with her sword.

Then she lays into Superman with a sucker kick. Diana finally calms down and the whole League goes looking for Graves. Finding his home empty, they travel to the Valley of Souls, where a surprise awaits ...

It's a shame the Eisner Awards have just been given out, because if there was a Most Contemptible Portrayal of a Superhero gong, writer Geoff Johns would walk it. I know the current DC thinking is that Wonder Woman is nothing more than a Xena copy, a knock-off of a knock-off - that's one of the reasons I've stopped reading her title. But at least the warrior princess has charm and humour - this Wonder Woman is a battle-crazed harpy, a loose cannon barbarian no sane person would tolerate on their team.

Johns even has Diana make a barbed comment about Hal's sexual prowess (click on image to enlarge). It's tacky stuff.
I've previously bemoaned the presentation of Hal Jordan in this book as a fratboy with a magic ring, but here Johns gives him an excuse, as he alerts Diana to the horrors he faces in space. 'Being with the League is a vacation compared to my time with the Green Lantern Corps.' So while Diana's character is hung out to dry, Hal - not coincidentally, written by Johns - gets a free pass. What's Diana's excuse? She was 'worried', according to a pathetically wimpy Superman.

We've seen enough of Johns' Diana in this book to indicate that either he really doesn't get Wonder Woman as loved by generations, or he just hates the idea of a wise, compassionate female fighter who isn't one mood swing away from slaughtering you.

To put all my critical acumen into one clever phrase - gah.

It's not all bad news this issue. There's a nice little mystery set up around the nature of Cyborg's existence, and Tracy Trevor is appealing in her short scene with Graves. Jim Lee's pencils combine with the inks of Scott Williams and Jonathan Glapion to tell the story well enough, with the creepier moments being the best. The fussy lines and shading on the heroes' costumes is annoying, and Batman's hand is bigger than his head, and Wonder Woman has strange things under her eyes, but what do I know?

The Shazam serial continues, with Black Adam intrigued by Dr Sivana while slaying his colleague, and Billy and Freddy annoying the local rich kids. The story ends with Billy one step closer to his destiny. It's solid work from Geoff Johns, illustrated superbly by Gary Frank and coloured by the excellent Brad Anderson. The casual murder has no place in a strip built on the work of CC Beck, but that's the New 52 DC ... forget what made characters unique, and beloved - it's a horrible world out there.
And I don't like that Billy's almost as big a jerk as the bullies - I get that he's had a tough life, and is scared to let people get close, blah blah, but there's a real nastiness in his eyes (above). Let's hope an encounter with an old wizard makes him a little sunnier. Otherwise, what is the point of him?

I'm beginning to wonder what the point of following this book is. I know it's become a bit of a joke to call the Justice League 'Super Friends', but that's exactly what they should be - DC's greatest heroes, providing an example of how people can work together for the greater good. I despair of the current portrayal, which presents DC's biggest icons as idiots, simpletons and now, psychopaths. And while Shazam has been the bright spot of late, if the tone is going to be one of spite, and if the murders keep on coming, well, there are plenty of other books out there.

60 comments:

  1. ah, that is disappointing, mart. i'm really sorry that DC has no idea what to do with their flagship title nor the characters in it, even more so that wonder woman is just so... irredeemable at this point, whatever book she's in. i'd be THIRILLED if she were more like xena at this point. jesus, i'd be thrilled if she were more like cathy lee crosby at this point.

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    1. Now that is a terrific idea - a nice red jumpsuit and a donkey!

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  2. It's strange: I enjoy this series -- particularly the Shazam backups, lately -- but only when I forget that it's supposed to set the tone for the DCU. When I think of it as the flagship book, I just shake my head. It's an entertaining (to me) take on the Justice League, but nowhere near how I'd want the JLA to behave for "real." They're all such tools. (Maybe I find it easier to overlook since at least *my* hero, Flash, comes off as the most likable of the bunch.)

    On the other hand, I really did like the implications for the spiritual status of Cyborg -- and how Batman immediately dismisses it.

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    1. the flash is definitely the most decent of the lot, but oh so bland! he's like an ACOA trying to keep mommy and daddy from divorcing. where the humor, johns? where the jibes and comebacks?

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    2. With JL setting the tone for the new DCU, it's reminding me that this reboot is basically one honking great Elseworlds.

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    3. I had to look up ACOA, foresight. I laughed out loud, nice one!

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  3. Hmm... look on the brightside. Next week is Justice League Dark, the true Justice League title you can like! Also, this week had the last issue of the Vandal Savage arc in DC Universe Presents. You can wash the taste out of this issue out with that and what comes next week.

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    1. I do love JLD, but I don't think of them as a Justice League so much as Shadowpact 2.0.Booster's JLI, now, they feel like a proper Justice League!

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  4. How did these guys stay together for five years? It seems after five years they all still hate each others' guts. It makes no sense that they would still stay as a team if they keep behaving like this. The JLI of the new 52 are a much better team than these guys.

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    1. Spot on, Reno - this bunch of egos wouldn't have survived into their second year, acting like this, never mind gotten to year 5. It's so depressing.

      And it's not like the League hasn't had inter-member spats previously, heck, there was a great subplot involving Wonder Woman when Steve Englehart was writing. But previously, things didn't get so vicious or personal. And at the end we might get the motto 'The League stands'. Now it'd be, 'The League can't stand one another'.

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  5. Shazam has taken so long to get to any kind of point I don't think I care where it goes from here. And the Wonder Woman scene did assassinate Diana's character but it did at least show us her power levels in regards to her fellow heroes. Trouncing GL and hurting Superman shows things that going up against literal gods can't...

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    1. True, I just wish her strength was demonstrated against actual villains.

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  6. Is this book set in the present DCU or is it still in the past, I am unsure as all the team seem diferent from what they are in their own books. To me they havent shown any growth or maturity at all, as a JLA fan it hurts to say that this one is heading for the chopping block.

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    1. It's present day, Rob. Unbelievably.

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  7. It is such a distorted view on what I think the DCU is, with the JLA fighting each other like rookies despite having been together for 5 years. Nonsense. I'll finish the arc ... and then I think I am out.

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    1. I shall likely join you. What shall I try instead - I hear Eric Jones and Landry K Walker's Danger Club is excellent.

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  8. Mart, I agree with everything you wrote, especially about Wonder Woman. Giving her a sword is the most uncharacteristic element, even in a "reboot". I hate to say it, but since George Perez put the idea in people's heads of Amazons as Greek warriors (sword, spear, axe), we are no longer dealing with a compassionate character.

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    1. It's ironic, that - Perez presented Diana as the most compassionate heroine around.

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  9. You hit on ever reason I don't like the new Justice League title nor the Shazam backup feature. I just do not enjoy this comic at all, yet keep getting it because I keep hoping it'll get better and I just went through 5 years of love for Johns' run on Action Comics and Superman: Secret Origin. Something is just very, very wrong with this comic book.

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    1. I did enjoy Johns on Superman so much more than this, but he's writing for the imagined New 52 audience now - teenagers who play shoot 'em up video games to a hard rock soundtrack. It strikes me as daft to try and please just me sector of the audience.

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    2. InformationGeekSunday, 22 July, 2012

      Please. I prefer long drawn out battles in RPGs and using my mind for tactics on how to defeat my enemies. That and playing Lollipop Chainsaw.

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    3. You would never defeat me, never NEVER!

      Well, maybe ...

      Off to look up Lollipop Chainsaw.

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  10. Well, look at it this way. When older readers (no offense) bemoan about what is written now and talk about the good old days, I would say the new 52 has done what it set out to do. There would have been a time when YOU were younger and your parents bemoaned what you enjoyed.

    If you check around the net many new readers enjoy JL. On tumblr the younger females love the new 52 Diana. I doubt we could really know how a 23 year old Amazon written in today's world would act. ;)

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    1. Kids today ...

      A 23-year-old Amazon might act like Cassie Sandsmark, Wonder Girl. And we already have her for the angry Olympian powerhouse role - I just want Diana to demonstrate her traditional values ... wisdom would be a nice start. Compassion. Empathy ...

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    2. "There would have been a time when YOU were younger and your parents bemoaned what you enjoyed."

      Except if anything else I was more idealistic than they were. Just because *some* older people (I've seen some quite disturbingly cynical, Nietzsche-loving (yes, specifically, which chills me to the bone) posters my age who think the new WW is just dandy) don't like it, and some younger people do like it, doesn't make it good. And bluntly, I would hope a 23-year-old Amazon in today's world would be just as good as she was before, rather than the sickening, distorted mess we have now. If anything, I would expect her to try to be more of a shining light in today's world, encouraging the 99% movement and personal empowerment, fighting against the still-going-on-with-scary-vigor anti-feminist crowd in the US and abroad, and promoting--after years of evil warmongering--peace, love and understanding. The "go for the sword first" mentality was something she fought for her whole publishing history in all kinds of different eras, and her values were never the mainstream ones in those any more than they are now.
      --ChastMastr

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    3. Hello ChastMastr, brilliant to hear from you. It actually disturbs me a little bit, just how many readers are embracing this cypher using Wonder Woman's name, and it makes me feel ancient, but I feel like yelling: 'You don't know who Wonder Woman is, kid!'

      Am resisting ...

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  11. I disagree with most of what this article had to say!
    First of all it sounded very one-sided.
    IT says "this Wonder Woman is a battle-crazed harpy, a loose cannon barbarian no sane person would tolerate on their team."
    What? Not true at all. She was only trying to defend herself from GL who was being a a$$hole trying to enslave everybody with that ring when ever he feels like it.Hal had no respect for Dianas decision to help Steve.
    For Diana it was no longer a mission it was personal. WW said herself the fight wasnt giving her any pleasure. Hal attacked her, she was only trying to leave.

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    1. If you check out the panel where Barry helps Hal to his feet, she is charging after him with a sword straight past the cars she just punched him through. She doesnt stand down, she moves in with for the kill. Battle crazed harpy seems accurate to me.

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    2. It looked to me like she was just standing there with her sword and Hal attacked her first, the only thing that went a little over the top was when she kicked Sups but I think she apologized for that but Hal definite had it coming disrespecting her privacy

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    3. 'Disrespecting her privacy' would be breaking in on Diana while she's polishing her big shiny sword in her room at JLA HQ. Here, he's trying to stop her making a JLA mission her own, likely suicidal, vendetta.

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    4. I didn't know the Justice League had rules against members making their own decisions and saving thru friends. Hal was the only one protesting this.

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  12. I don think the person that wrote this article even understands or knows Wonder Woman.

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  13. Hi Anon, I certainly don't understand the current Wonder Woman, but I've been reading the character since the early Seventies, and read hundreds of stories predating that era.

    Hal has certainly been a prat in this series, but this issue, in this scene, he was acting like a concerned team-mate. The fact she responded so brutally to Hal restraining her so he could have his say - something she would have done to him with her lasso had the situation been reversed - showed he was right to question her judgement. She was raging, and trying to handle things herself rather than accept help from her teammates who, remember, had also been attacked by Graves.

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    1. A concerned team mate"? Come on that's no excuse for what hall did in attempting to jail WW I would of reacted the same way who wouldn't? Especially with a douchy guy like Hal. And how can you say WW would of done the same thing if the situation were reversed? 1st of all that's impossible because Hal doesn't have a personal attachment to Steve and what makes her more likely to restrain him than Sups or any other leaguer? I think Hal stepped over the line and should of respected WWs request and had no right to restrain her

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    2. He's not trying to jail Diana, Hal's restraining her in a bid to talk her down - he'd let her out when she saw sense.

      You're interpreting my comments a bit literally. Obviously, Diana is closer to Steve Trevor than him. A reversal of the kind I was positing would involves someone he cares for, such as Carol Ferris.

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  14. The funniest thing in this issue was how anti-climactic the resolution to last issue's climax was -- everybody just gets up and shakes off the seemingly deadly effects of last month's attack. It reminded me of Danny Aiello's escape from death in HUDSON HAWK..."Sprinklers, airbags -- do you believe it?"

    And the characterization of everyone is so awful. I gave up on the new WONDER WOMAN four issues in, realizing that I really missed Phil Hester's surprisingly good recovery of JMS's initial botch on ODYSSEY. So it goes. I can't be the only person who thinks Brian Azzarello shouldn't be allowed near superheroes. He's staggeringly awful.

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    1. It's a tad sad that the work of 'just fill out the run' guys Phil Hester on WW and Chris Roberson on Superman is so much better than anything we've had before so since, Jonathan.

      And now I'm recalling those scene with WW in Azzarello's horrendous Superman run - ouch.

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    2. The sooner Azzarello leaves Wonder Woman the better. He treats her in her own book, the same way in treated her in his terrible Superman run, as a plot device: not too bright,
      not very powerful, someone to be slapped around by Superman.

      She's a plot device in her own book now: a supporting character to the gods, who've slapped her around in issues" 2,6,8. 10 and 11.

      Steve

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  15. Brettc1 here - these days something like this happens in a comic and I am almost afraid to talk about it because I figure that this is what makes folks happy with the characters. Its a relief to see that its not just me. A really sad thing for me here is that since Diana has the lasso on her she cant be lying, so I guess she really does hate on Hal. And all the while innocent people flee for their lives. If I were in the League I would be waiting for when the character called Wonder Woman finally kills someone in anger.

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    1. When has WW ever killed an innocent person? I think it's silly to worry shed kill anyone. Hal's just being Hal

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    2. Hiya Brett, thanks for joining in. It seems pointless for us to deny DC is skewing its presentation of Wonder Woman towards a bloodthirsty generation, but I'm not going to stop railing against it.

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    3. "When has Wonder Woman ever killed an innocent person?" , Anon? When has WW ever sliced open a colleague's chest with a sword? Never, until now - she had no thought for the innocents who could have gotten hurt as she attacked Hal. So who's to say that next time she won't accidentally kill an ordinary person who's in the crossfire?

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    4. Dude I really doubt Geoff Johns was going for a savage blood thirsty character I believe you are really misinterpreting WW. She cut Hal because she was defending herself she of course had no intentions of stabbing or killing him. I don't kno why you'd think she would accidentally kill anyone , it's never happened to Sup or Bats as reckless as they are in fights sometimes.

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    5. Not 'Dude', Martin or Mart, Ta

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  16. Brettc1 again - PS - Does anyone else appreciate the irony of Diana cutting on Hal with a sword when he stops her trying to get herself killed. Because I remember in For Tomorrow [written by Azzarello and drawn by Jim Lee] SHE was the one using force to stop Superman trying to do what she saw as the exact same thing - so she cuts him with a sword! Her character has come full circle in the "I cant let you do that" stakes, and is ironically screwed over in both versions.

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    1. Didn't Azzarello say he hadn't researched who WW was before this latest run? That fits with his portrayal of her in Superman too. I'm not sure how much Geoff Johns has read, outside of JLA, but he certainly doesn't seem to be a WW fan.

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    2. I don't think it's appropriate to label someone as a savage or blood thirsty person just because of what happened in JL11. It should take several issues to form an opinion on soneone don't be so judgmental. WW probly just doesn't like Hal and who knows Hal might mature in time and their relationship might develop.

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  17. Wonder Woman killing Maxwell Lord was a big plot point for several years before, during, and after INFINITE CRISIS, though she didn't use a sword on him -- she broke his neck. And I'm not sure if he stayed dead. And I'm not sure if she was partially mind-controlled at the time (as Superman was when they fought during the storyline, which led to WW killing Maxwell Lord to stop Superman's rampage).

    As to WW running around killing people, I'd probably refer to Alan Moore's line about WW, albeit in a different comic-book context -- "Too obvious?"

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    1. She did kill MaxLord because she felt she had no other choice. He came back to life tho

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    2. Jonathan, she wasn't mind controlled, she felt she had no other choice - I hated that notion.

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  18. If you want a better team book try guarding the globe, they had a 6 issue mini now in a tpb along with an ongoing coming in september, trust me mart you will love this series

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    1. Invincible spin-off, yeah? I shall have a look, thanks!

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    2. you read invincible, i thought you'd be turned off by the violence, anyways it's a great book with a ton of memorable characters like le bruiser a bulldog with superstrength or team member yeti who has a startling secret.

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    3. I don't read Invincible, bought the first trade and packed in after two issues, bored. I was turned off by the violence in Kirkman's Destroyer series, if that's a help!

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    4. what bored you about invincible

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    5. Oh, I can't remember the details - heard it was amazing, didn't find it so. Ditto, Walking Dead ... actually, not quite, I bought the trade and couldn't even be arsed to open it. Zombies!

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  19. I'm keeping up with this book through your reviews. But they make me so sad! Thanks goodness I'm not buying the comic any more!

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    1. No problem - other bloggers do the same for me as regards GL and WW!

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  20. Good review. I just found your blog, but I find myself agreeing with a lot of your reviews. The JL has become a joke. They seem to hate each other more than they hate their arch enemies. I'll keep reading out of morbid curiosity, and hoping the next arc will be better.

    As for the back up, Captain Marvel (I will never call him shazam) is my favorite DC hero, but I'm hating these stories. Billy Batson's biggest trait was his never quit attitude. He was a good guy you could count on, even though his own life wasn't great. Now, he's a huge, unlikeable jerk. Then, they take the wimpy Dr. sivana and make him bigger than hulk Hogan. I may find the main JL story weird and annoying, but i'm hating the back up story. I'd rather they had left him in comic book limbo with Wally West, Donna Troy, etc.

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    1. Hi Anon, glad to have you visit. I'd rather have a more traditional/proper Captain Marvel strip, but for now I'm approaching this as just another revamp in the giant Elseworlds that is the New 52. Right now, though, I feel like cracking open the old Jerry Ordway/Pete Krause Power of Shazam series and wallowing in smartly crafted CC Beck-style fun.

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