Together for the first time, the heroes of the Justice League and Justice League of America have saved a city from a chemical fire. They’ve extinguished it and dealt with the accompanying cloud of poison gas. Cyborg, just-named leader of the Justice League Regular, tries to take control of the aftermath in a spiffy new illusion suit.
Embarrassing. Worse, the local people are convinced the superheroes didn’t care about them, because they went to the richer part of town first... that’s where the need was greatest. Then a dispute breaks out between the heroes after Superman tells Cyborg they should leave the first responders to do the clean-up
Meanwhile, on the satellite, Aquaman has been recovering from dehydration at the hands of the wackadoodle ‘Fan’ who’s been messing with them. He meets the lawyer from last issue who is, it turns out, a female Fan ... it seems the Fan is a Fandom. Soon, though, Aquaman, too, has friends, thanks to the transporter beam bringing both teams aboard. By this team the female Fan has escaped and the Big League has to worry about her evil handiwork.
So, do the heroes of two leagues immediately rally to save everyone’s skin? Nope, they start wittering on, and on, about whose life is worth saving. In a bubble of negativity the like of which we’ve never seen, an understanding emerges that not everyone can be saved - so who should be saved?
Batman, having handed over the reins of the satellite team after the Fan began messing with their public image, pretty much refuses to come up with a plan. He just hangs around in the background - maybe it’s to give Cyborg room to save the day, but he really should have chosen a less urgent crisis in which to practise his lurking.
This superhero balloon game finally ends when Cyborg comes up with a plan combining the abilities of several Leaguers. It’s classic League thinking, and he might have come up with it earlier had most of his peers not become such negative nellies.
Meanwhile, down on Earth, a politician and his assistant are watching a shyster lawyer try to cash in on the League’s recent troubles.
Interesting comments in that final panel - did the politician, perhaps, have a costumed identity at one time?
The book ends with the satellite still plunging to Earth, but there’s hope that all the heroes will live. But will they manage to pull together? The two teams have the makings of a terrific Big League to rival the Satellite Era mob of the Bronze Age, but there’s so much bickering here - it’s like the Marvel-style tension of the Bronze Age Steve Englehart run turned up to 11.
My big problem with this issue is that I find it really hard to believe Superman and Wonder Woman alone couldn’t right the satellite. If Wonder Woman still has that magic elastic lasso she could just grab the thing - heck, the Ray might be able to make such a construct for her. Superman can certainly breathe in space, he’s massively strong, all he needs is some way to get purchase enough to slow, then stop, the satellite. Writer Priest tries to get around this by pretending Superman isn’t as powerful as we know he is.
Otherwise, it’s a lovely little scene with the Ray. This issue is full of nice moments, from the Atom and Flash’s grasp of the science to Lobo’s concept of ‘one for all’ to Vixen’s knowledge of the most obscure creatures. Caitlin Snow, who’s dropped the ‘Killer’ from her name as she tries to be a hero (whoever wrote the cover copy obviously doesn’t believe her) isn’t so lucky - Frost gets the issue’s one truly cringeworthy moment.
I really dislike the idea that the other heroes of the DC Universe believe there’s a classic Justice League and that everyone else is a D-lister. It’s too meta. And the mocking crowd’s chant of ‘FER-GUS-SON’ has about as much place in a superhero comic as 9/11 did in Marvel’s Spider-Man - Priest is trying a little too hard to be relevant.
This issue is billed as part two of Justice Lost, which is a bit confusing as there doesn’t seem any reason not to consider it the continuation of The People Vs the Justice League. It’s still all about the Fans’ manipulation of public opinion to, er, some end - they’re meant to be supporters of the League but are blackening their name at every opportunity. The female Fan has a speech all about their motivations, and it’s nonsense. I do not get why the Justice League hasn’t found the so-called Fans by now and sorted them out... these are not tyro heroes.
So, the script has interest, but it’s frustrating. No such problems with the art, though, Illustrator Pete Woods and colourist Chris Sotomayor bring Priest’s story to life with real style, making an awful lot of heroes look awfully good. The body language and expressions are especially great, for example, check out Frost’s hands and eyes in that sequence, above. Cyborg’s temporary look should become his default, while his version of the Ray and Atom, especially, are the best they’ve looked in years. Sotomayor keeps the heroes distinct within the scenes, when they could easily be clashing with the backgrounds. And I got a huge kick from the Silver Age JLA logo being incorporated into the art.
Similarly, the floating heads on David Yardin’s fun cover recall the classic JLA/JSA team-ups; but why are the heads on either side not at the same height? JG Jones’ variant is terrific, right down to little skulking Batman.
All in all, a pretty good issue of an intriguing storyline. It’ll likely read much better as a collection when we’re not waiting several issues for mysteries to be solved - where DID J’onn J’onzz take the Green Lanterns last issue so they’d be handily absent for a rescue this time?
Justice League #40 review, Priest, Pete Woods, Chris Sotomayor, David Yardin, JG Jones