By: Geoff Johns (story), Jesus Saiz (art), Jeromy Cox (colors)
The Story: It’s time to turn this band of heroes into a super-party!
The Review: Even though the Avengers and Justice League have been around for ages now, there’s still that irresistible appeal of seeing your favorite heroes all together in the same place. Forget the naysayers; watching all these major icons butt heads and rub shoulders is just fun, plain and simple. That is, so long as there’s some chemistry to get attached to. If the team just ends up being a bunch of people doing their own thing, they might as well go back to solo work.
Johns’ Justice League had that problem for a long time, and only in the last arc has he managed to breathe a little bit of life into the group. Despite the fact that they’ve grown more familiar and comfortable with each other, as you can see by their pow-wow aboard the satellite, their dynamic is still mostly reserved and polite. Granted, they only got together a relatively short time ago, but there’s a noticeable lack of genuine really personal interaction among them.
Maybe the problem is with the composition of the core League itself. You have these major icons who are used to doing things on their own, on fairly grandiose adventures and missions—undersea kingdoms, god-children, fifth-dimensional demons, and the like. By contrast, the potential Leaguers in this issue are heroes who work closer to the ground, with much more prosaic motivations and battles. They not only add ten more voices to the mix; they give the core Leaguers a little more humanity: the Flash retreating from Goldrush’s advances (“Y’all ever been married, Flash?”), Superman promising to help Zatanna investigate her father’s death, Batman reassuring Blue Devil that he’s just as wanted on the team as his partner.
Ultimately, Johns puts in a quite a bit of effort to spotlight everyone for a modest reward of three new members. Though Element Woman’s wide-eyed eagerness (“But if [the League] picked me. Oh, it’d be a dream.”) can get a little grating, her unpredictable whimsy should keep the team on their toes. I can also see the young Atom (college student Rhonda Pineda) and even younger Firestorm as companions for the somewhat isolated Cyborg. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that the newbies add a decent dose of racial and gender diversity to the group as well.
With so many new faces to meet, the issue turns into one large talk-fest, interrupted only by Platinum (of Metal Men fame) freaking out when she finds herself miles away from her master-creator. Though we get a few interesting developments, including Cyborg’s increasingly invasive (if unintentional) data-gathering as well as a traitor who steals the fruits of his labor,* we have no hint or set-up as to the next arc, making this issue a semi-important piece of filler.
Saiz is no stranger to team books, having worked on both Birds of Prey and the now-defunct Brave and the Bold (which I’d like to see come back, by the way), and he shows it here. With nearly twenty characters moving around, he manages to keep everyone look well-built and attractive, but classy, distinct in shape, and convincingly active. True, he may fare less well in a more cluttered setting, given his clean and functional style, but in the spare spaces of the League satellite, and with Cox’s buffing colors, it looks perfectly fine.
What I’m starting to really like about this Shazam back-up is how pure and wholesome it feels to me. First of all, it’s Johns writing kids learning to be heroes, which suits him to a tee. Second, it reflects back on your own childhood dreams of superheroism. And third, there’s a lack of pretension and hipness with the characters, particularly in the way they talk (Mary: “People are really getting hurt out there, Freddy. If this is all a joke—”) that feels nicely old-fashioned, but not antiquated or out-of-touch. It’s feel-good comics, especially if you have Brad Anderson giving sparkle and polish to Gary Frank’s utterly human and grounded characters. There’s something lovable to that reaction shot of a bus flying across the city, the cops in an angry panic, Mr. Vasquez protectively embracing his wife, and the kids staring awestruck through the window.
Conclusion: Not quite the exciting stuff of the last few issues, but chock-full of fun and endearing moments that move the Justice League closer to being a group of super-friends.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * My bet is on Goldrush, since she’s the only unknown variable in a group of fairly established heroes, but I suppose the Atom or Element Woman count in that respect as well. Or it could just be Batman.
– As a major Zatanna fanboy, I was pretty damn excited to see her in the old top hat and tails regalia, I’ll tell you.
– Anyone notice how Johns is turning the Barry into Wally essentially, especially with all the juvenile jokes? “Sometimes when Batman drones on, my speed kicks in and it’s like listening…to…every…word…in…slow…motion.”