Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Justice League of America #7 review

Trinity War continues with the three Justice League teams trying to solve the riddle of Pandora's Box - did its ancient magic cause Superman to kill, was it Dr Psycho, or someone else? No one seems to believe the loss of control that done for Dr Light was down to Superman, not even Lex Luthor, despite his distrust of 'the alien'. Pandora herself thinks Luthor may be dark of heart enough to open the box and imprison the Seven Deadly Sins once more, but Wonder Woman's sub-team isn't having any of it.

Elsewhere, another pick'n'mix group of Leaguers find force isn't the way into the House of Mystery, with Catwoman discerning a way in (sadly, it isn't a Cat Flap of Mystery). Most of the heroes who went to heaven to interrogate the departed Dr Light in last week's Phantom Stranger are returned, the poor guy having nothing for them. The Stranger himself doesn't make it back ...

The Secret Society, meanwhile, weaponises the corpse of Dr Light, priming it to blow up when Superman's sub-team reaches the ARGUS facility to confront the Machiavellian Amanda Waller - is she behind the frame-up? Would she go so far as to engineer the death of Dr Light to discredit the Justice League so that her Justice League of America could step in and take over?

Not that they necessarily would at this point, as her supposed playthings are seeing what a truly rotten apple Waller is. And the wall of secrets between the Leagues begins to crumble, as the original team learns the JLA was formed to take them out, with the Atom admitting she was Waller's spy in the JL.

While the Atom's naïveté allowed her to be manipulated, the big patsy this issue is Dr Psycho, used in the Secret Society's scheme against Superman, then abandoned. Not that he doesn't deserve it - this isn't the cutesy freedom fighter of current issues of Superboy, but a real psychopath, kidnapping and cutting up ordinary people in some weird quest to find a truly good person. It's as if he's attacking Pandora's problem from another angle - only a truly good or evil person can, supposedly, re-bottle the evils - though should he find a white knight, they're going to be in no fit state to open a jar.

I don't like this portrayal of Psycho. Traditionally he's been a woman-hating loon, with the Superboy version being a departure - but as that's the first version seen in the DC New 52 revamp, that's who he should be, not a refugee from a Saw movie. The Superboy version could have been used here, doing something dodgy without actually being a nightmarish figure - I see the hand of gore-happy Geoff Johns here, rather than co-writer Jeff Lemire.

I'm not down with Martian Manhunter's willingness to risk destroying Psycho's own mind to get answers, either, but at least this hard-nosed attitude is consistent with the J'onn J'onzz of the last few years.

I do like the portrayal of Lex Luthor as a man who considers himself effortlessly superior to all around him, and adore the way he pops Pandora's portentous prattlings (click on image to enlarge).
And there are plenty of nice moments between the heroes, such as the teamwork between Atom and Firestorm, and the Flash's offhand remark to new Green Lantern Simon Baz.
It's a pretty decent script overall from Johns and Lemire, with dramatic moments moving the crossover along, getting the heroes nearer the truth. Incidental points also please, such as the news that Green Arrow's basic green arrows are blunt instruments, and the increasing effectiveness of the Jason/Ronnie Firestorm combo. The cliffhanger is a bit dull - another hero gets possessed by Pandora's box - but there's enough intrigue overall to bring me back for part five of this six-episode story.

There are about 74 inkers this issue, but happily Doug Mahnke's pencils are strong enough to survive the slightly different treatments from scene-to-scene - and all of the inkers involved are talented. Mahnke is at his best in the packed pictures of determined Leaguers looking in every direction for the truth.
The credits splash, for instance, is a real grabber. with some members opening a doorway to Psycho's hideout as others dive through - I never knew Element Woman could go large, but it's not as if she's been defined in the new DC Universe; we know she can change her body parts into different elements, and that she really, really wants the Atom to be her friend, but that's it.
Smaller moments are effective too, such as the horribly hollow-eyed Psycho post-J'onn J'onnz mindscaping, and the sheepish shame of the Atom as she comes clean.
The storytelling is mostly clear, with only a scene involving Luthor, Pandora and the arrival of Wonder Woman and co giving momentary pause - it's as if that silent panel was cropped at the right, lopping off the hands which would have made sense of the image.

Mahnke's cover is a bit of a letdown, it's far too crowded and Alex Sinclair's colours don't make much sense of  the image - not even Firestorm's 'hair' pops. Everything seems on the same plane, nothing grabs the eye.

Justice League of America #7 isn't a brilliant comic, but it's my favourite issue to date, with incidents aplenty and heroes acting together to get closer to the bad guys. There are fun character moments and disturbing character moments, but it's never boring, and looks great.

6 comments:

  1. 'A real psychopath... kidnapping & cutting up ordinary people'. First thought: 'oh, is this a Johns book'.

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    1. And you weren't wrong. What IS it with Geoff Johns?

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  2. Completely agree with you about Dr Psycho.

    I think Pandora is a bit misguided. She should have asked Savage if there was any evil in the world before 10000 years ago or if it disappeared for a time.

    --Eki

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    1. That's be rather smart, nice me Eki.

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  3. I reviewed it for the website I work for and it was alright. It was a step from the last issue in terms of story progression, but it doesn't feel like the heroes ultimately accomplished much. The plus side though, it does seem like the story will be picking up pace and excitement if the cliffhanger is anything to go by.

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  4. Two issues to go - I wan curious as to where the goodies are going to.

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