By: Geoff Johns (writer), Gene Ha (artist), Art Lyon (colorist), Gary Frank (feature artist), Brad Anderson (feature colorist)

The Story: Working with the League isn’t unlike babysitting surly teens, as Steve Trevor learns.

The Review: Something I learned the hard, painful way back in college was that you could bring your most creative ideas in the world to the table, write them using the choicest words you know, put all your thought into crafting a unified plot, and still end up with a lifeless dud of a story.  What’s missing from the equation here?  The character.  If you don’t have a character readers would be willing to follow along for whatever length of work you produce, you’re toast.

Sad to say, but Justice League is browning in the oven quick—and yes, that’s a terrible metaphor, but there’s a reason why I’m reviewing fiction now, rather than writing it for a living.  Johns didn’t do the greatest job developing the team in his first arc, as they came across as little more than straw men (and woman), spouting short blurbs that merely echo personality.  Six issues of work, and you didn’t really connect with them at all.

If the League manages to win you over, I suspect it’s by virtue of their sheer star power; you like them because you’ve always liked them.  For me, it’s Wonder Woman and Aquaman—which is somewhat unfortunate as both get the least to do in this series.  The problems Johns had writing them before remain painfully present.  It’s truly remarkable he can create several whole, running storylines around Aquaman in his own ongoing, yet here the king of Atlantis gets only two lines, one of which is, “I don’t need an umbrella, Lantern.”  Still, that’s less irritating than the broken-record quality of Diana’s dialogue: “Then I’m ready to hit him.  How’s our opponent fight?”

The rest of the League don’t fare better; they speak little beyond the substance of the plot, and even when they do, they tend to be grating than ingratiating.  If you thought the obnoxious Hal of previous issues was due to his five-year decrease in age, think again; he’s easily just as annoying and bratty here, perhaps even more so.  To liaison Steve Trevor, he demands, rather mindlessly, “…we need more rations.  Food and drinks and stuff.  Have them leave ‘em at the drop-off and I’ll swing by later.”  To Batman’s reasonable belief that the League could operate more effectively, with less risk to person and property, Hal boasts, “I like risk.”

It sure offers a sharp contrast to the general outpouring of confidence and praise from the reporters at Trevor’s press conference: “I’m betting the seven of them could put their heads together and fix our economy and balance the budget you guys have blown.  They could reform educaton!”  Trevor, as he does with all things, takes their comments in stride, though clearly unhappy juggling demands from his military division, the government, the media, and the League itself.  If there’s one redeeming factor about this issue, it’s Johns sensitive portrayal of Trevor, although he receives so much focus, the League feels peripheral in their own title.

Ha’s organic style definitely brings a different, some might say more serious, flavor than Jim Lee’s populist appeal, but it’s a suitable look for the title.  The acting from the characters feels more emotionally true, particularly during Wonder Woman’s video-chat with Trevor, during which you can get a kick out of both their reactions at the ongoing commentary from her teammates in the background.  Love their weary expressions as Batman and Lantern bicker, then simultaneously lash out at Flash.

The “Shazam!” feature feels more fleshed out, better paced, and better constructed than the main event, truth be told.  Its only flaw lies in the protagonist; from his traditionally goody two-shoes demeanor, he’s been re-envisioned as a shameless brat who manipulates and mocks the foster parents who wish to give him a better life.  It’s difficult not to detest him—no doubt something Johns wants, for whatever reason—so you’ll need to take a big leap of faith to believe a hero lies in this boy’s heart.  Frank is one of those celebrated artists whose work I haven’t gotten a chance to talk about, and I can only say he’s celebrated for a reason.  He draws some of the most believable, personable characters I’ve seen, and some of the most beautifully composed sets; that exterior of holiday-season Philadelphia is lovely, especially with Anderson in charge of putting each colored twinkle in the Christmas lights.

Conclusion: The art beats the stories by a mile, though there are some redeeming moments.  It’s just been frustrating waiting for this series to reach the potential it’s always promised, and now it feels like we’ll never get there.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Hoodie Captain Marvel—I mean, Shazam?  Yeah…no.



  • kurumais

    am i more of racist or elitist to think cyborg is way too D list to be in the league? this book is meh i only bought it for the captain marvel back up i have to stop myself next month

    • Minhquan Nguyen

      You know, considering the original conception of the League was formed using lower-tier characters and lower-tier characters have always been part of the League (Aztek in Grant Morrison’s JLA, anyone?), I think we can accept one of the finest Teen Titans as a Leaguer.

  • Tel…

    Morrison’s JLA in the 90s work was done out of love and a yearning to tell a good Justice League story. This current effort is merely a paycheck for Johns. I know Jim Lee has a lot on his plate. I understand there’s a business to run..but I saw him leaving this title early and he proved me right.
    Come on..we’re all thinking it if we’re not saying it out loud. This is DC’s attempt at Marvel’s Heroes Reborn and this current “continuity” will be disposed of..likely sometime next year. The gimmick didn’t work and all it did was disrupt great stories like James Gordon Jr’- serial killer in Detective and Morrison’s entertaining “Batman Inc.”. They could have brought Swamp thing back without overtuning the entire DC boat. And the new logo stinks too.

    • paladinking

      1. DCnU continuity has been working fine for many of the other books though. People believing that the “old” universe will be magically restroed, let alone so soon, are living in bitterness and nostalgia. If I could bet you money that you’d be wrong about the “old universe” returning next year and the DCnU vanishing, I would.

      2. The reboot disrupted Snyder’s James Jr. story? That story was ALWAYS meant to conclude when it did, and exactly how it did. Snyder had planned a finite run. He always planned for it to last that many issues.

      3. Technically, brining Swamp Thing back had nothing to do with the relaunch either. He was brought back (shittily) under Brightest Day.

      4. Jim Lee isn’t gone permanently. Gene Ha is just filling in for a couple of months. You may as well say that JH3 bailed on Batwoman. In fact, Lee is back on the title with #9.

      5. I think Geoff Johns is VERY financially comfortable as far as comics writers go and his job couldn’t be more secure. I highly doubt that one more ongoing title is responsible for putting food on his table.

      • Minhquan Nguyen

        Agreed on all points, in particular the first. DC has made too much of this relaunch and invested too much time, energy, resources, and planning into it, to reverse everything in anything less than a couple decades, at least–if at all. I’m afraid if you don’t like this new DCU, you should just walk away from it, because it’s not plausible for it to regress in the foreseeable future.

  • RobA.

    This issue was awful. Characterization was all off. This book is free falling.

    • Minhquan Nguyen

      Free-falling quality wise–but not in terms of sales, apparently. Makes you wonder…

  • Anonymous

    At the recommendation of this site I picked up the last 4 issues of Fantastic 4 and was blown away. Then I read JL 7, fearing it was going to be more of the same of 1-6, and I was right. Such a shame that JL and JL Dark have been so mediocre with the re-launch.

    • paladinking

      Be sure to track down the rest of Hickman’s run in trade, if you can. It’s magnificent and definitely gains a lot from being read in its entirety!

      Sadly, he’s leaving the title soon. The replacement has not been named.

      Glad you enjoyed it though. It’s great comics.

      • Minhquan Nguyen

        For a peculiar concept and group of characters like the Fantastic Four, you really need a writer of Hickman’s caliber and imagination to handle them well. How many of those kinds of writers can you name?

    • Minhquan Nguyen

      Not to mention Justice League International. There’s something amiss with DC’s most powerful brand spawning some of the most underwhelming titles for the relaunch.

  • I totally concur. I dropped JL a few issues in, then tried #7 because it’s the beginning of the new “present day” arc and… it’s just a mess. Nobody gets enough screen time to become interesting, and there’s at least one item per page that annoys me. (the adoring journalists, the way Barry acts like Wally…)

    At least the art was better this time.

    • Minhquan Nguyen

      The adoring journalists really takes the cake for me, because as a former journalist, I don’t know too many who would jeopardize their objective credibility by being so vocal in their fawning.

      I didn’t really see Barry as acting as Wally, but then again, it’s been so long since I’ve seen or heard Wally as anything other than a cartoon teenager that I might not have noticed.