Cover date: May 2012
"The Villain's Journey: Prologue"
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Gene Ha
Inker: Gene Ha
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciler: Gary Frank
Inker: Gary Frank
Reviewed by: Michael Bailey
In present day Baltimore, Maryland the Justice League fights against a pack of monsters summoned by the man called Spore. They track Spore to his home and defeat him. Later Steve Trevor deals with the press and a congressional debrief before talking with Wonder Woman via webcam. Afterwards he reveals to Etta Candy that he is in love with Wonder Woman and that he has told her this but apparently that didn't go well.
Elsewhere a mysterious figure writes in a journal that the key to destroying the League is not an object or weapon but Steve Trevor.
Story - 2: I was really disappointed with this issue.
Actually I have been disappointed with JUSTICE LEAGUE since the second or third issue. The writing has been very lacking in terms of depth or real characterization and so far this series has failed to grab me on any kind of level. If the old SUPER FRIENDS animated series was a more kid friendly take on the classic Justice League this title is the angry, adolescent, nobody gets along, people don't like each other for the sake of not liking each other version of the team.
There wasn't a whole lot to this issue. There are monsters attacking people. The Justice League shows up. They have tiffs amongst themselves. They save the day and we spend the rest of the story watching Steve Trevor get debriefed by Congress and then talking with Wonder Woman as the rest of the League acts like a bunch of petulant children in the background. The only aspect of this prologue that got to me at all was seeing Steve and Wonder Woman interacting and getting a glimpse of how Steve's feelings for her are eating away at him.
Recently I have come to the conclusion that judging these issues on an individual basis might not be fair. I am nervous that I will hate the first chapters but end up liking the story as a whole in the end. This has happened countless times now and I have to accept the fact that this is how stories are told in this day and age. Taking all of that into consideration I still didn't like this issue and given what we have seen in the previous arc I am not holding out much hope that things are going to get better and that makes me sad because I should love this book because I like the writer involved. To be fair I have had certain issues with Johns' writing in the past (I still haven't gotten over the last few pages of the final issue of LEGION OF THREE WORLDS) but historically I have been a fan of his work. The fact that he was getting a chance to write the Justice League had me very excited. I wasn't expecting a carbon copy of his JUSTICE SOCIETY work but I was hoping to see him dig into what makes the League work as a concept and explore that. So far there has been a lot of fighting and a lot of arguing with little else to offer the reader and while that is a valid way of shaping a story and series it isn't the Justice League I want to read.
This feels like a Marvel book. Not a DC book.
I guess my biggest problem with this issue is the fact that this story takes place five years after the first story arc and the characters are acting the same in the present as they were in the past. If this story took place two weeks after issue six I would be fine with how the characters are being treated because they are still new at the whole being a team thing. I have a hard time buying the fact that after five years these people still can't get along. That doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.
In the end I am not holding out much hope that my mind is going to be changed on this arc or this title as a whole. I am afraid that all we're going to get is a story about a villain that has studied the League thoroughly and is going to try and bring them down through Steve Trevor and along the way there is going to be a lot of fighting and arguing (as I previously mentioned) and in the end the League will be right back where they started with a villain that sounds a lot like the Hunter Zolomon incarnation of Professor Zoom.
I could be wrong though. It has been known to happen.
Art - 4: Despite the fact that I didn't like the story I was fond of the art. Gene Ha has a very distinctive style which may not be my usual cup of tea but I liked it just the same. While the action scenes were solid I thought the best art in the story was towards the end. Sure I didn't like the fact that I bought an issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE and ended up with a third of the story focusing on Steve Trevor but Ha nailed the emotional nature of those scenes.
Dr. Sivana tracks mysterious mystical abductions that have occurred across the world. Sivana has spent his life trying to unlock the secrets of science to save his family but science failed them and they need a miracle, hence his research into the Rock of Eternity and an ancient hero known as Black Adam. Magic exists and at last Sivana knows how to find it.
Seven months later in Philadelphia Billy Batson meets with a couple that may want to take him in as a foster child. The meeting goes well but after they leave Billy reveals his true colors and mocks the family. Billy is trouble but soon a plague of horror will be unleashed on the world and to survive it Billy must learn his greatest lesson and embrace his greatest wish. Billy must become... Shazam!
Story - 3: I'm not getting a good vibe off of this new take on Shazam. Sure the idea that the Wizard was grabbing people at random is kind of neat but just about everything else about it bugs me.
It may seem obvious and maybe a bit premature to compare Sivana with Lex Luthor but to me the two seem very similar. I hope to be proven wrong on this. To be fair, I did like the idea that Sivana was doing some kind of research into the power of Shazam. That was cool.
My biggest beef is with the new take on Billy Batson. Apparently he has gone from being the earnest young man I could root for to a conniving brat. While this characterization presents some interesting possibilities it strikes me as change for the sake of change. With Shazam I want to like Billy right away and not have to learn to like him as he goes on his hero's journey.
Finally, I hate the fact that it is just Shazam now and not Captain Marvel. That...that bugs me. I know why they made the change but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
Art - 4: Like the main story I may have had issues with the overall concept and execution of this story but the art sure was pretty. I've been hard on Gary Frank for a few years now mainly because I am one of five people walking planet Earth right now that gets creeped out when he draws Superman to look like Christopher Reeve but since this wasn't a Superman story I didn't have that problem. This is going to sound strange but my favorite part is that Billy looks like a teenager and not an adult that got stuck in the dryer. Overall I was very impressed and absolutely loved the last page. If I stick with this series it may end up being because of the art not the writing.
Cover Art - 3: I am not a huge fan of this cover. It, like the issue itself, is rather boring. It's the characters all bunched into the middle of the image fighting nondescript monsters. The coloring, especially that ugly green background, is off as well.
It was better than the purple background on the combo pack. I will say that.
Cover Art (Variant Edition) - 4: As a variant cover this works. It is another artist's take on the characters and as a group shot it looks rather cool. I especially like the way Diana looks. On the other hand Superman looks downright creepy. I'd go into more detail but this is a family friendly site.
Cover Art (B&W Edition) - 4: I prefer this to the main cover but the composition still leaves a lot to be desired. It's just a boring cover.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2012.