I’ve been somewhat critical of DC with some of their creator announcements in the last week, but Justice League is an example of what is actually working within the halls of DC. The writing is solid, and even with a few artists over the last few issues the calibre of the art is high. Justice League #18 does what always happens in group books: the need to build the team. I will be commenting on a few events within the issue, but nothing that spoils the details of the plot.
First, as I mentioned, the writing. Whereas other books are sometimes lacking in the strength of the writing, this book is the opposite and that can be summed up in 2 words: Geoff Johns. This a man who has literally thrown the DC Universe into disorder and was asked to come in and straighten things out. He has been responsible for Green Lantern for 9 years running, for events such as Blackest Night and Brightest Day, and for bringing both Hal Jordan and Barry Allen back from the dead in the previous DCU. Within the New 52, he was responsible for writing the flagship title which launched the universe as well as being the primary writer on both Green Lantern and Aquaman, and has recently expanded his writing role to include Justice League of America as well as its direct spinoff of Vibe. Johns is definitely a man with a vision, but what’s nice is that he also has the talent to make that vision a reality. He seems to be centerpiece of the New 52 in many ways, setting the tone of where things are going, but still letting other creators have some freedom. This is what makes him a strong Chief Creative Officer for DC. That said, the main is not infallible. In this issue, the character of the Flash has mannerisms that I wouldn’t associate with the man based on what’s going on in his own book. Here, he comes off rather sure of himself, somewhat cocky; in the pages of The Flash he is more unsure of himself and slightly awkward. His solo book is more like the Barry Allen of yesteryear; this version is more like what Wally West was. As well, since it’s a recruitment drive, they obviously need to add more space for the team in the meeting room. All of the current players in the Justice League – Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg – each have their own seat in the meeting room. Now, although the comment about needing more chairs is definitely said in jest, it’s important to remember that Green Lantern is also a member and is temporarily unavailable (as everyone thinks he is dead). Little details like this get noticed, and I have to wonder if that’s a fault of the writing (as I have not seen the script for the issue) or the artist.
Speaking of the artist, the work for this issue is done by Jesus Saiz, with the backup story of Shazam still done by Gary Frank. Although the art is not what I’ve seen in this book so far, it does help define what this issue is about: change. But its a good change. The art is very well done. It’s clean, but also puts some embelleshes on characters that give it some personalization. For example, extra shadows on Batman and a few of the characters who have a slightly darker tone at times (such as Wonder Woman), but Flash is almost always brightly lit. He gets Batman’s scowl done very well, and the previously mentioned cocky smile on Flash’s face gets some focus here too. With Aquaman’s shirt – the orange of which has always been subject to ridicule – we see it more as the scales it is intended to be and not just an orange t-shirt he throws on (as I recall a few times from classic Justice League of America issues). My only real criticism of Saiz (and this is being VERY nitpicky) is that of his Superman logo. (Yes, that nitpicky.) This is more the classic S of old on the armor, whereas the New 52 crest was more angular, less rounded corners. Now, it’s not a big thing and it doesn’t detract from the story… But I cannot honestly find some fault with Johns and not with the artist, right?
The backup story’s art is done by Gary Frank, as have all of the Shazam chapters in the series. One of my colleagues had previously mentioned that this story would have been better as a standalone rather than a backup story, and I tend to agree. However, I think by doing a finite amount of pages per month we’re getting some of Frank’s best work. The anger on Black Adam’s face is quite evident and it’s not a forced image like some artists may do. The anger and distrust of Billy with his adopted siblings is quite visible as well. And, really – not many artists could draw a tiger the way that Frank can?
Even though it was not the biggest action story of the year – no Darkseid, no Parademons, no invasion of Atlantis – this was a solid issue. it set the groundwork for many future stories, which take place both in the pages of Justice League as well as elsewhere. This is still the flagship book of the DCU.