In Baltimore, the Justice League saves the day when scientist Dr Samuel Street is infected with a virus he’s delivering to government organisation ARGUS. The bug turns him into a monster-man able to create mini-monster men. As well as physically, it brings out the worst in him mentally, causing him to threaten his ex-wife. Putting him down proves ridiculously easy for the League, it’s just a matter of force, and with Aquaman, Superman,Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Cyborg and Batman to hand, they have power aplenty.
As it turns out, the monster wasn’t the point, the fight was set up to give a mysterious background villain the information he needs to defeat the Justice League. And in the opinion of the bad guy – who seems to be David Graves, the cash-in author we met last month – the weak link is their government liaison, ARGENT officer Colonel Steve Trevor.
After his introduction at the start of this run, it’s good to finally see how Trevor acts as the League’s handler, though it’s also disappointing. Good, because we have a Steve who’s smart, brave and ready to bat for the League when Congress start tightening the leash, and as a Wonder Woman fan of old, that makes me happy. Disappointing, because the League, hiding away in their satellite above Earth, are like a bunch of bratty frat kids, waiting for their ‘parents’ to send up another parcel of goodies.
This presentation from writer Geoff Johns is surprising; #7 is set five years after the first storyline and I expected the League to be functioning as a mature team by now, on and off the battlefield. But Green Lantern Hal Jordan is still razzing on Batman, Flash is his super-wingman and there seems to be no real leadership. Wonder Woman is located as the calm presence, raising her eyebrows at the idiot boys. And Batman makes a surprising remark as regards the Justice League International.
It’s ironic that while her own book fills its pages with godly posturing, it’s in Justice League that we properly meet her most famous supporting characters – as well as Trevor, there’s Etta Candy, no longer a chubby white gal but New 52-ed into a skinny ass black lass. I’m going to start a donut collection to send her, this girl doesn’t look happy.
We also learn something of Steve’s relationship with Diana, and the knowledge made me want to give Steve a hug, the lovesick sap.
Steve’s actually the star of this issue, when he’s not shooting up the ‘Seeds’ of ‘Spore’ to save typically ungrateful citizens, he’s standing up to Congress’s demands that the League lets one of them visit the Watchtower satellite. He handles the small stuff so that the League can focus on the big stuff. Wonder Woman thinks his work for the Advanced Research Group Uniting Superhumans is beneath him, though he has his reasons.
Johns’ dialogue is pretty good. Hal’s daftness and, later, lasciviousness aside, he shows the JL as a focused group when on mission, ready to listen to Cyborg’s intel and not needing Batman’s guidance. And there’s a nice gag involving umbrellas.
Gene Ha provides the art this issue and it’s intelligent, atmospheric work. The storytelling is spot on, with even the splash pages earning their keep. And everything is well-coloured by Art Lyon. Fans missing regular artist Jim Lee may enjoy his cover with inker Scott Williams and colourist Alex Sinclair. I do like the gaudiness of the tones.
Cameo lovers will enjoy an appearance by British TV star turned comics writer Jonathan Ross, but not as much as he will (click on image to enlarge).
This issue sees the debut of Shazam – Captain Marvel as was – in the New 52 Universe. Geoff Johns gives us a short yet entertainingly efficient tale of mystical abductions, a moody orphan and a scientist desperate to learn the secrets of magic. As well as meeting a very teenage Billy Batson and an oddly hunky Dr Sivana, we hear the legend of Black Adam and get a close-up of, presumably, the wizard Shazam. And we meet an apparently lovely couple who want to foster Billy to join their existing bunch of kids … I see a bit of Flashpoint continuity about to cross over.
There’s a terrific podcast joke, a man who may be another take on Steve Trevor and an ending ladled with pleasing foreboding. And it’s all stonkingly well drawn by Gary Frank and coloured by Brad Anderson.
Finally, an issue of Justice League that’s worth the money – two potentially fine stories begin, both filled with intriguing character and incident, and drawn with drama. While the new take on Captain Marvel looks to be miles from my personal preference, for what it is, it could be good.
After the first six issues, I was ready to give up this series, but with the move to the present day, and the addition of a quality back-up strip, the comic steps up several notches. I do hope it can keep it up.