TITLE: Justice League, Vol. 2: The Villain’s Journey AUTHOR: Geoff Johns PENCILLERS: Jim Lee, Gene Ha, Carlos D’Anda COLLECTS: Justice League #7-12 FORMAT: Hardcover PUBLISHER: DC Comics PRICE: $24.99 RELEASE DATE: January 30, 2013
By Rob Siebert Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Well, the readings on the douche-o-meter have gone down a bit since Justice League: Origin, they’re still a little high for my taste.
Set five years after the team’s formation, The Villain’s Journey pits the Justice League against the newly super powered David Graves, formerly an author who rose to stardom after writing a book about the League. Graves blames our heroes for the death of his wife and children, and now intends to exploit their personal weaknesses. He starts by kidnapping Steve Trevor, the League’s government liason, and an old flame of Wonder Woman’s Now the team must face their personal demons to rescue their friend and defeat the enemy. And interestingly enough, amongst all the anguish and the chaos, a new romance will bloom.
One of the major problems I had with Justice League: Origin was the way some of the heroes acted like immature, douchebag teenagers trying to one up each other. They said things like: “Chains? You’re funny Green Lantern” and “So, who’s in charge here? I vote me.” Not to mention the big fight Superman got into with Batman, GL and the Flash. Obviously, Johns and Lee were playing up the many differences between these characters, and the idea that most of them were meeting each other for the first time. But the constant bickering got to be irritating. Thankfully, the readings on the douche-o-meeter decrease in this book, but they’re still a little high for my taste.
Our primary offender is Green Lantern, who is still an arrogant, quippy comic relief character whose demeanor grates on the other heroes. He winds up in a fist fight with Wonder Woman, which is accentuated with an eye-roll inducing sex joke from Wondy. And yet, just like in Origin, Johns redeems him at the end. Obviously, a character with this kind of personality tends to help a story come alive a little bit more. But at times it feels like we’re dressing a stock character up in a Green Lantern costume and throwing him into the mix.
The Green Lantern issue happens to feed into a larger one: This book does NOT feel like it takes place five years after Origin. Five months seems more likely. While some of the characters seem calmer and more experienced (most notably Superman), the constant dissension in the ranks, mixed with the way most of these heroes don’t seem to know any more about each other than they did five years ago, shatters the illusion that they’ve been working together as a team for an extended time frame. Whether they don’t quite understand how Cyborg’s powers work, or they’re drilling Superman about what he does in his civilian life, I don’t have any kind of feeling that these characters have spent time with each other longer than a few months. Even in the outrageous world of comic book superheroes, it’s pretty bold to ask us to believe that a group of people on such shaky grounds could co-exist for so long.
I have no problem with DC wanting to rebuild the Justice League’s continuity for the New 52 initiative. It gives readers a fun chance to watch the team grow from the ground up. But human relationships usually don’t stay so stagnant for five years at a time. If you want us to believe it, we need more evolution in the rapport between the team members than what we got here. Trying to fill that big gap with throwaway lines about Aquaman and Green Arrow, or even that big two-page flashback about Martian Manhunter, isn’t enough.
All this talk of human relationships brings us to the highly publicized Superman/Wonder Woman romance that blossoms toward the end of the book. For the most part, I was fairly pleased with it. When you read all the issues back to back, as opposed to on a monthly basis, it’s fairly obvious that there’s some sort of unspoken bond between the two characters, which culminates in a big romantic moment. Perhaps that chemistry is one of the few things we can say did build up in the five years we haven’t seen. The book uses Wonder Woman’s relationship with Steve Trevor to convey that neither she nor Superman feel they can have a romantic partner without endangering them somehow. It’s the old “if the bad guys ever found out I was a hero…” routine. But with this story there’s an added dimension to it, as these are literally the two strongest heroes in the world. They could literally take on some of the most powerful beings in the known universe (i.e. Darkseid). Would you want to put someone you love in the path of such cosmic danger? With this romance, both parties have chosen one of the few people in the world that they know for certain can defend him/herself against whatever threat opposes them. It’s a “safe” relationship, in that sense. And when you factor in that both characters are outsiders, in the sense that neither comes from the society they protect, it makes sense that they’d be drawn to each other. Given what we know about Superman and Wonder Woman, the romantic connection isn’t difficult to believe in.
Despite some of the flaws in Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s run on this title, one thing that can’t be denied is that it has restored a certain must-see quality to the book, which I’ll call the “big fight atmosphere.” That was one of the reasons the previous volume of Justice League fell off so badly. We had no Superman, no Wonder Woman, no Flash, no Hal Jordan. At the end, the closest thing we had was Dick Grayson standing in as Batman. Without at least a few of those iconic staples of the Justice League, all you’ve really got is just another team book. The New 52 was, and still is, ripe with questionable editorial decisions. But putting all of DC’s big guns back where they belong was never one of them.
The book is also jam packed with foreshadowing for Johns and David Finch’s upcoming Justice League of America title. After you read the book, look at that team’s roster. Things’ll make sense pretty quickly.
At the end of the day, things still aren’t where I want them to be in the land of the League. I’d put this book at about the same level as the first, if not marginally better As a long time fan, it’s sometimes irritating to see these characters you grew up with (arguably) robbed of some of their depth by a company-wide reboot. But the spirit of the tried and true Justice League is still present in this new incarnation of the team. You just have to look harder to see.
Image 1 from insidepulse.com. Image 2 from galleryhip.com. Images 3 and 4 from comicvine.com.
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