No other title in the New 52 has polarized fandom like JUSTICE LEAGUE. From one side the popcorn eaters have said it’s a tantalizing thrill ride that thankfully hasn’t gone too deep into morose waters of heavy emotions from the team and global angst. I believe the word “fun” is the term they often use. Also, the K-5 set have gone absolutely gonzo for JUSTICE LEAGUE, making Johns and Lee comic books’ Phineas and Ferb.
Then there are the comic erudite, those who have read so many books that they expected JUSTICE LEAGUE to not only traverse new grounds, but to do so in a way that would bring forth an originality of content that would leave Grant Morrison agog. My complete objectiveness has allowed me to see both sides. I was forgiving of the first few issues mainly because of the excitement surrounding the New 52. I didn’t feel we could pass judgment until an antagonist surfaced.
Well, that villain came and went in one page. Literally! With one two-page splash decrying “I am Darkseid,” a Parademon Cocksicle sticking out of the ocean, and a one page trip to Apocalypse, the world’s greatest heroes banded together and no one was really sure why, least of all our heroes. Again, I was forgiving, trying to look at the whole universe and DC’s mantra to offer books to fans of all ages. I figured if the kids dig it, groovy, I’ll simply go wade in more adult waters.
Then arc 2 turned the tide, but not in a good way. The five years before excuse went away, yet coming forward a half-decade offered no maturation of this team. And nothing jibed with each hero’s solo title. Barry and Hal were still the two Corey’s. Azzarello has been portraying WONDER WOMAN as a dark God slayer and protector; in JUSTICE LEAGUE she liked ice cream. SUPERMAN is all over the map from title to title; in JUSTICE LEAGUE though he just moped and hit things while SUPERMAN and ACTION battled for “whose personality is it anyway?” And the second arc’s story was just meh. Not a ton of fun watching the world’s greatest heroes Battle their psyches.
Then came the kiss that made the fans of Lois Lane spontaneously combust from blood boiling rage, but it also moved the needle ever closer to an intriguing team dynamic for JUSTICE LEAGUE. Couple this wanton super affection with BATMAN slapping a Bang Bros. secret camera on Superman’s back and we began to see wafts of the Johns we know and love.
Some will say this change was spurred by Lee hitting the happy trails. I don’t think any of us know how Lee and Johns developed the story, so this is true speculation. If Lee was plotting things though, with the art coming first, this theory more than treads water. Johns needs smaller panels with faces to thrive. Big bodacious poses just ain’t where he’s comfortable. So with the right artist in place and some real personality for the remaining team members we enter the first big cross-over for JUSTICE LEAGUE with “Throne of Atlantis.”
JUSTICE LEAGUE 15 delivers on its 42 Point Font cover exclamation – this is indeed A BOLD NEW ERA! And it succeeds for every reason the past 14 issues have faltered.
Epic destruction is the order of the day. After a missile test is sabotaged it sends a barrage of ballistics that give the denizens of Atlantis the Long Johns deep fryer treatment. However, not every mermaid and merman end up cooked, there’s still plenty left to initiate Phase I of the Atlantean Attack plan to…wait for it…drown the Eastern seaboard. After watching countless hours of the Japanese Tsunami on YouTube I figured I would pretty desensitized to comic destruction. Ivan Reis does wonderful work though trumping reality with epic size waves that send Metropolis and Gotham (sing it with me) uhnda da sea, uhnda da sea…Lois, it’s better down where it’s wetter just wait and seeeeeee. If you appreciate good art, there’s a two page spread that one could stare at for five minutes – you’ll know it when you see it.
One could argue that we’ve had big images in JUSTICE LEAGUE prior and that the Darkseid run had thousands of parademons. The problem though was every single page was a bombastic spectacle, with issue 15 the epic is juxtaposed with the closer views of real life. Arthur helping Batman catch a criminal. Superman and Wonder Woman finally going on a date in their civvies (with a very nice explanation on why glasses are such an effective disguise). And of course the grand reveal that Aquaman helped craft the plans that drowned several million people.
Another phenomenal aspect of this JUSTICE LEAGUE arc is the grand villain, the King of Atlantis and Aquaman’s half-brother, the fully Atlantean Orm. All right, I’ll admit I’m cheating here. All of the Orm build-up happened over in AQUAMAN’S title, but honestly what fan of DC isn’t reading AQUAMAN right now? He’s the most interesting thing in scales since Daryl Hannah took a bath in Splash and he’s probably the most three dimensional character in the DCU right now. Also, JUSTICE LEAGUE should be an amalgam that brings books, titles and events together, instead of trying to be the fulcrum from which the universe expands.
For once SHAZAM wasn’t the best thing in JUSTICE LEAGUE, but make no mistake the back-up that should be a full title, continues to deliver. Billy lets adulthood get to his head and we leave with the first encounter between Billy and Black Adam.
Throne of Atlantis is to action, what Death of the Family is too horror – together they show that the superhero genre has many places to go yet other than deconstruction.