Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Comic Review: Justice League #7 *Spoilers*

DC has broken ahead into the lead with the New 52 reboot of the DC Universe -- but they are invariably in for a challenging Summer, as their lead title, Justice League, is going to have to do without the fan favorite art of Jim Lee for a while. Gene Ha comes in to temporarily fill this spot - and while his art style is different from Jim Lee's - the feeling of a bold and decisive art style is still present in this issue.

Just because Jim Lee isn't on this issue, this is still an issue you should still pick up. It gives another good foundation for the world the Justice League now inhabits. There are a few problems I have with the issue - but over all I'd give it a good recommendation.

The issue starts with the League coming in to stop a hoard of gremlin like monsters rampaging in Baltimore Maryland. The League are seen as heroes - with the public having absolute faith in them. I have to say, the time difference from the end of issue #6 (which was 5 years ago), picks up seamlessly with this issue in the modern day. A bit too seamlessly. It's like nothing changed in the interim. No roster changes in the last 5 years? They still seem to be bickering among each other.

And, seriously, Green Lantern is still acting like an over-grown child. This was acceptable 5 years ago, when he was brash and younger, just starting out as Green Lantern. I would have hoped he'd have matured in that space of time. It also flies in contrast to how Geoff Johns writes Hal in the regular Green Lantern title. Hal can be head-strong and brash in that title too - but it's balanced by his seriousness about his job, and responsibility he carries during the series. Some fans have always complained about how Geoff Johns has changed Hal's character too much - making him into an irresponsible jerk. I never paid any mind to those criticisms, because I saw a very well crafted redefinition of his character in the pages of Green Lantern. Johns gave Hal Jordan a personality, where once he had none. So I never bought into those fan complaints. Now I know what they are talking about. Also -- "We Got This." is not an acceptable rallying call.

Anyway - while trying to figure out how stem the tide of this endless hoard of monsters, the group goes over the facts that led to the situation. Cyborg puts up a holographic display, showing how a man transporting an artifact, called the Orb of Ra, was exposed to it by an unknown assailant. This gave him monstrous powers - and they follow the trail to find out where he is - as he's actually only controlling these gremlins from a distance. This scene is nice, showing that there can be cooperation between the group -- with a nice tough of Hal providing umbrellas for everyone from the down pouring rain. Aquaman, though, tells him he doesn't need an umbrella.

The group finds the the person controlling the gremlins and take him down. The final battle isn't shown, as we transition to a press conference being given by Steve Trevor. This issue is really primarily focused on Steve Trevor - as he's acting as the public's liaison to the Justice League. Steve Trevor, a Wonder Woman supporting cast member, is a surprising character to see so closely used in the pages of the Justice League. Trevor's importance, though, is greatly expanded beyond army man and friend to WW. He's the head of the Advanced Research Group Uniting Superhumans, or A.R.G.U.S. - which backs the League up with the more mundane things. (That name for the group is pretty painful, though - right?) As head of the group Trevor has to work public relations with the press and the government. The Press Conference turns into a love-fest for the Justice League -- with over the top adoration, like that the the Justice League would be better at running the government than the politicians. The League really must have been doing a REALLY good job those past 5 years, to get that kind of vapid news analysis! Congress, though, is a bit more curious. Steve Trevor reports to them - as they wish to know if he's ever been up on their satellite, the Watch Tower. They want to send a representative to check the place out. Steve gives some rather sunny-faced prepared answers like "Well, they haven't asked us." He basically is telling them to simply trust the Justice League. When pressed more on the issue, with the senators saying it's an issue of trust, to know more about the League, Trevor becomes much more angry and threatening. He tells them that the Justice League could never be controlled, and given their powers they might not want them to continue asking questions. Trevor points out that public already wants the League to take over their jobs. The Senators meekly apologize, feebly saying they didn't mean to offend him.

If this sounds like the Authority (a series where Super Heroes basically tried running the world themselves, which naturally disastrous results), then you're not alone. The shift between unabashed comic-book like optimism, versus the darker reality, isn't as enjoyable as you might think. It's interesting -- but it's a theme I don't want to read about all the time in every issue. Public scrutiny was good to see in the first six issues, when the public didn't know anything about super heroes. The reverse of that, with the public's impossibly perfect expectations, is sort of disturbing.

The real personality conflict regarding the Justice League, though, might actually lie with Steve Trevor himself. He is fiercely protective of the team - largely because of his love of Wonder Woman. Etta Candy, another WW supporting character, is introduced as Trevor's aide. This version of Etta Candy is a black skinny woman; as opposed to an obese white woman she use to be depicted as. Etta Candy was a purely comedic side-kick in the early Wonder Woman days - consisting of nothing but fat and foot related jokes. I don't mind her redesign here, per say -- but I feel like they really dropped by the ball by not having her be at least a little bit over weight. It just seems sort of insulting, to suddenly have her skinny as a twig - as if being overweight is unacceptable. The same has happened to Amanda Waller, in the pages of Suicide Squad. She was one of DC's best famously over weight characters, who was so well written and defined in her character and personality, that the fact she was fat simply didn't matter. I just think this sends the wrong message to women - that if they aren't skinny, then they aren't attractive. That's a really rotten message, that I hope DC will fix over time.

The issue ended with Steve talking with Wonder Woman through a web cam. They discuss various things, but largely their relationship seems a bit strained. I have to say - Wonder Woman is actually starting to worry me, in regard to how she affects this title. Over in the pages of Wonder Woman, her mythos are slowly being ripped apart in favor of a decidedly dark interpretation. Recently in the pages of WW they revealed that Diana is actually the daughter of Zeus - rather than being made of clay. Fine, fine - a minor alteration. What isn't minor, though - is the revelation that the Amazons on Paradise Island aren't immortal - but rather seek out men traveling on the sea, to take "you-know-what" from them, and then kill them. That is the hardcore version of the Amazons - and it's pretty aggravating to see coming from DC's premiere female hero. It gets worse, too! What happens if the Amazons have male children? They get sent down to a hellish weapon workshop! How am I suppose to root for Wonder Woman if she accepts this kind of crap from her people? She was raised ignorant about all of this -- but it simply undermines her, in every possible way, if she doesn't repudiate those practices once she knows about them.

The issue ends on a personal note for Steve Trevor, when Etta tells Steve that he should tell WW that he loves her. Trevor somberly replies that he did.

A villain is foreshadowed at the end, yadda, yadda, yadda... To be continued. Green Arrow guest stars next month. The best part of this issue is in the back-up story!


Geoff Johns and Gary Frank are beginning a back-up story about Captain Marvel. Well, he's no longer called Captain Marvel. Since most people already think his name is Shazam (it's the Wizard's name!), they decided to simply name him Shazam. Although the basic frame-work of a young boy being able to become an adult super hero is still in place, pretty much everything else is different in some way - and that turns out not a bad thing.

We're shown a man who steps into an elevator one day, and mysteriously lightning strikes - and the man is suddenly alone in the elevator once full of people. It suddenly starts falling at an alarming speed. Screaming for dear life, the elevator suddenly stops and the doors open. He finds himself in a throne-room of sorts. Broken chairs line a path towards a scraggily bearded man. He's looking for someone who's worthy, and this person isn't it. Lighting is shot at the man again - and then finds himself in the elevator like nothing had happened.

We pull out to see this man telling his story of his magical abduction. There are countless others with similar tales - walking into a bed room, out of a tent - whatever. All with the same story. Dr. Sivana (an old foe of Captain Marvel, now much more bulked up) is reviewing these witness reports. While talking with a colleague Sivana tells how all his life he's searched for a cure to save his family. Where science has failed him, magic is required. The magical abduction stories all tie into the Legend of Black Adam. Its a tale that describes the Rock of Eternity, where the first sorcerers and sorceresses met to share their secrets. A slave disappeared from his cell much like the abductees, finding himself being chosen as the sorcerer's new champion. Being granted incredible powers, Black Adam saved his homeland of Kahndaq from the Seven Deadly Sins, and then vanished.

The story shifts to an orphanage in Philadelphia. A young Billy Batson, almost exactly like he use to be, is meeting with prospective adoptive parents. They meet a fresh faced honest young man, exemplifying the best traits possible for a kid. The parents decide they want to adopt Billy. They leave, being told they can come and sign the papers tomorrow and take Billy home with them. As they leave, the too-good to be true Billy remarks "What a couple of idiots." The head of the orphanage snaps at Billy, telling him that he better not screw this one up, as she's running out of foster homes. In contrast to the Billy Batson of old, this Billy is rude and frustrating. "Billy Batson is Trouble", a prologue states - further hinting at what is to come. "Now Magic is Returning. And An Ancient, Brutal Evil With It." Ending with a page showing the new hooded style of the brand new SHAZAM!

This 12-page story really was great! This makes getting each Justice League issue a little bit more fun - as we get to see the foundation for this revamped character take hold. Long time fans of Captain Marvel shouldn't dispair, though. Billy might be brat -- but this series already seems to harken to the core tenents of the old Captain Marvel lore. Don't worry - Billy Batson, I'm sure, will eventually grow up! (And not just with the magic word: SHAZAM!)

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