There are a lot of places where Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Justice League #2 could have gone very wrong. To tell you the truth, looking at the cover I was dreading this issue — not because it’s not really well drawn (it is) but because these superhero slugfests tend not to sit right with me. Why do our heroes always have to beat the crap out of each other before they can team up? That’s a genre trope I wouldn’t mind leaving in the pre-reboot universe.
I’m really happy to report that, in my estimation, not only does Justice League #2 skirt most of the problems issues like this tend to have, it does a lot of stuff really, really well that I wasn’t expecting to see here. Maybe that’s made me overvalue the book, but whatever. I really liked it, and I think a lot of other people will too.
As you might have guessed from the cover, this issue starts off with a throwdown between Superman and Batman… kind of. After an unsuccessful first volley of incapacitating gadgets from Batman’s utility belt (which mercifully we don’t waste many pages on), Batman figures out that the best way to exit this battle is to talk to Superman. In all the times they’ve fought in comics, I don’t know that this has ever been the outcome, but man does it make me happy. That makes so much sense, and of course it’s the conclusion the Dark Knight would come to, because frankly Superman has him so outclassed he doesn’t stand a chance.
Unfortunately, Green Lantern’s nearby and not hip to Batman’s plan. And in this new universe (also five years in the past), it seems that Hal Jordan’s even more of a hothead than he was before, because he’s not going to take Superman’s hostility sitting down. Has anyone else noticed that the Hal of Justice League seems to be given Ryan Reynolds-style dialog? That’s probably not an accident.
Since Batman can’t get a word in edgewise and Green Lantern’s clearly outmatched by Superman, Hal decides to call in one more buddy, and so we meet Barry Allen, aka the Flash. One of my favorite surprises about this issue is how Johns characterizes Barry here — he’s a nice mix of sensible and whimsical, with a solid control (and enjoyment!) of his powers and a good head on his shoulders. He’s the voice of reason, but he can have some fun, and like Wally West he brings levity to the team, which needs it now more than before. He’s a more clearly defined version of the milquetoast who recently returned to the preboot DC Universe. I can see some people being upset that Hal and Barry’s characterizations have changed a bit here (though really they’ve just become sharper), but I think that’s totally necessary. Before this reboot, those two were basically characters by retroactive editorial decision; now Johns and company have been given a chance to flesh them out more or less from the beginning, and I think so far it’s going really well for them. By the end of this arc we should have a team of seven superheroes with distinct voices and traits, and that’s how Justice League should be.
Speaking of new character work, I’ve been really impressed with the last few issues’ treatment of Victor Stone, the boy who will become Cyborg (sooner rather than later, it seems). Though some might see his situation as a fairly by-the-numbers “parents just don’t understand” scenario, I think his interaction with his dad here actually breaks some interesting emotional ground. Hearing his dad basically tell him to his face (and calmly, I might add) that he thinks his mega-talented son is wasting his life and he’ll never go to one of his football games broke my heart a little bit. What could have been played for melodrama is, I feel, carried out with just the right amount of emotional restraint.
As for the rest of the issue, some more of our first story arc’s villains show up to trouble our heroes, and things start to go really wrong for Vic Stone. I love the identity of this first arc’s Big Bad; it’s so much more compelling than Starro, White Martians or whatever else has been used to unite the League in series past. And Jim Lee’s art is fantastic; it’s easy to see why he sold millions of comics in the 1990s. Normally I’d complain about his use of two double-page spreads in one issue, but I think this book had enough story that the splash pages actually complement its flow. Here’s one comic I don’t mind paying $3.99 for.
Justice League launched before all the rest of the New 52 so DC could get some early promotion for its flagship title. Two issues in, I think this book has earned that role. It’s a sharp action-adventure comic with a keen eye for character and great art, playing off the strengths of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee with seeming ease. I admit the first issue didn’t totally sell me (although I did like it!), but with number two I’m convinced: this is a book that must be read.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more