By: Geoff Johns & Jeff Lemire (story), Doug Mahnke (art), Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Tom Nguyen (inks), Gabe Eltaeb & Nate Eyring (colors)
The Story: Killed a man, got thrown in lock-up, and now has a cold—can Superman’s day get any worse?
The Review: Doesn’t it strike you that this title seems a bit too young yet to co-sponsor a Big Event? The team hadn’t even come completely together until last issue, and up till that point, the character work on the series had been pretty weak. In a story context, the JLA was formed for a specific purpose, of course, but from a storytelling perspective, it seems like the only reason this title exists is to help move Johns’ long-planned plotline along.
After all, it is rather odd to find the JLA marginalized in their own title. Except for an occasional character moment, the cast doesn’t really feature much at all. Oh, sure, you might get a bit of the Atom’s hand-wringing over her supposed “betrayal,” a funny gag about Hawkman’s tough-guy persona (when the A.R.G.U.S. physician tells him his muscles have healed wrong, he produces his saber and instructs her to use it fix the problem), maybe snatches of conversation between various members on the craziness they’ve been through. All in all, though, these are infrequent exceptions to an issue that almost entirely features the real Justice League.
While it does seem a waste that out of a couple dozen of DC’s biggest names, Johns-Lemire focus mainly on the usual suspects of Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman, the Trinity scenes are undoubtedly the strongest parts of the story thus far. Clark’s devastation over his own actions is a given, but it’s Bruce and Diana’s varied responses that are compelling, revealing important differences in their backgrounds, philosophies, and compassion. “Did he have a family? Did Doctor Light have a family?” Clark asks urgently.
“Yes,” answers Bruce. “A wife and three daughters.”
Diana is appalled. “What are you doing? Why would you tell him that right now?”
As each goes off to help their friend in their own way, they end up exposing deeper mysteries about the Event at hand, which lies at the intersection of science, myth, and magic and thus has serious potential to alter the DCU landscape as it goes on. Undeniably, the story has echoes of Johns’ first Big Event, Infinite Crisis, what with its spotlight on the Trinity and the Secret Society’s involvement, but there’s also traces of Final Crisis as well, given the fixation on the nature of evil and the hints of higher powers that can “frighten even the Gods[.]”
For all its pretensions of grandeur, the story thus far really boils down to a whodunit, which makes the Question’s appearance all the more appropriate. Everyone can go into a panic all they want over Superman’s “crime,” but it’s all a farce since we know he wasn’t really responsible anyway. Still, it’s a relief to see that contrary to all the promos, Johns-Lemire haven’t unleashed a Civil War-like scenario upon us—which would just be a drag. Frankly, it’s almost tragically remarkable to see our heroes actually behaving like role models, keeping their tensions under control as they work together to find out “Who is the evil behind the evil?”
If the issue has any sense of scale whatsoever, it’s mostly thanks to Mahnke’s striking artwork. There is something about the smooth, polished faces he draws, the incredible workmanship of the props and tech, that brings out the high, Wagnerian drama of a script. But there’s no end to the action Mahnke can deliver, either. Look at that two-page splash of the two leagues broken off from battle as a desperate Superman cracks the earth beneath them. In that static image, his godlike strength comes through with perfect clarity as he sends rubble and superhumans alike flying about him like so many asteroids round a planetary giant. Eltaeb-Eyring bring amazing texture to Mahnke’s figures; you can practically feel the cool steel of Katana’s sword, the rough grip of Ollie’s bow, or the sleek velvet of Superman’s cape.
Conclusion: The issue itself is fine, but uninspired, though with so many different directions the story can go, Johns-Lemire manage to maintain your interest. Mahnke’s art is a wonder, and elevates the simple premise to something more worthy of a Big Two Event.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Come to think of it, were Diana and Steve ever official?
– I do think it’s rather unkind of Diana to treat Hephaestus so rough when he’s basically the nicest god she’s ever encountered.