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Cover date: October 2012
"The Villain's Journey" - Chapter Four: "Rescue From Within"
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Jim Lee, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, David Finch
Inker: Scott Williams, Sandra Hope, Jonathan Glapion, Mark Irwin, Matt Banning, Rob Hunter, Joe Weems, Alex Garner, Trevor Scott
Reviewed by: Ralph Silver
We pick up where we left off last issue, near Mount Sumeru at the Mythic Valley of Souls. It is believed that the dead wait here to be judged before entering the afterlife. As we saw in the final panel last issue, Wonder Woman confronts an apparition, the apparent ghost of Steve Trevor. He tells her that she was too late, and that he needs to move on. In turn, Superman, Batman, and all the others are confronted by loved ones from their past. Most of the members greet this with strong emotion, but Green Lantern isn't buying it. He believes it is a hoax of some kind, and warns the others.
In a moment, it is clear that Green Lantern is absolutely correct. The ghostly images of deceased Justice League family members are replaced by David Graves and the ominous demons or spirits that seem to always surround him. The spirits attack the Justice League members, just as they did back in issue #10. The spirits continue to speak to Superman and Wonder Woman as if they are the ghosts of Jonathan and Martha Kent, and Steve Trevor. Then David Graves begins to speak directly to the League members. He is pretty much babbling to them, telling them he can support them now that they have experienced pain and loss the way that he did. He says he has destroyed the Justice League, but can now work with them to help the world. He plans to transform the Justice League members, just as he has been transformed. David Graves wants to destroy the temple at the Mythic Valley of Souls and free all the spirits found there. He wants to spread joy by reuniting everyone with their deceased loved ones.
Then Steve Trevor shows up badly injured but alive. This changes everything, since it makes it crystal clear to the Justice League members that the spirits that contacted them were not who they pretended to be. Trevor tells Wonder Woman the details of how he escaped from the basement where Graves had taken him and tortured him; and how the spirits chased and attacked him after his escape.
Wonder Woman attacks David Graves swiftly and aggressively, striking him hard with her right hand while she wields her sword with her left hand. When Aquaman asks who has attacked them, Batman posits that they may be pretas, spiritual parasites that feed off the living. As the Justice League retaliates, we see that white noise from Cyborg and the emerald light from Green Lantern are bothering the spirits and having some effect. Batman urges Superman to throw some heat vision into the mix, as they try to exorcise the spirits from David Graves. When Superman's heat vision is unable to melt the mystical ice due to the effects of magic, Aquaman steps in to shatter the ice with his trident. The demons cry out, still pretending to be the ghosts of David Graves' wife and children. But Batman reminds the team that these "ghosts" are phonies, not who they pretend to be, and urges the team to press on.
It becomes clear that David Graves believed all along that these spirits were the ghosts of his deceased family. As the Justice League attacks drive the spirits out, David Graves reverts to the emaciated, disease-ridden person we saw at the beginning of issue #9 before his transformation. He cries out in agony, asking why the Justice League took his family away. He weeps in loneliness, grief, and despair. Batman reminds David Graves that those spirits were not really his family members. The Justice League members seem very sympathetic. After all, it was really those spirits who attacked the Justice League. David Graves clearly was not in his right mind while he was possessed.
24 hours later, we see Steve Trevor in a hospital bed, recovering from his severe injuries. Wonder Woman visits, and she tells Steve that she is to blame for his near-death by allowing them to enter into a relationship. Steve Trevor, sounding bitter, asks her to leave.
The Justice League members listen to news reports that suggest that the team was criminally negligent. They suggest that the team may in some way be responsible for the death of David Graves' family, and also perhaps responsible for other threats that the team faced. Aquaman says the Justice League can do better, and makes another bid to be the leader. But Batman quickly disagrees, saying he is the leader, and that his leadership was agreed to a long time ago. They debate this a bit longer.
Batman suggests that breathing in the ash from Darkseid's Omega Beams is what made the Graves family so ill. The Justice League members feel some responsibility, and wish they had handled things better. Flash suggests that David Graves, in his own twisted way, was trying to help everyone. Flash asserts that the Justice League needs to recommit to helping everyone.
Hal Jordan resigns from the Justice League. He says he started the fight with Wonder Woman, and that he has been the problem all along. He also says a scapegoat is needed to regain the trust of the populace, and that he is willing to take the fall. The other members try to talk him out of this. Green Lantern leaves. Flash is tempted to go after him. Batman asks where Superman and Wonder Woman are, wanting to tell them of this latest development and get their input before making a decision about Green Lantern.
In fact, in the next panel, we see that Superman and Wonder Woman are together. She sits atop the roof of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. looking pensive and sad, and Superman shows up to ask how Steve Trevor is doing. Wonder Woman gives a one-work answer. "Angry."
Wonder Woman begins a conversation about male/female relationships, and how they are different from what she was led to believe while growing up on Paradise Island. Superman says relationships are complicated, especially for superheroes. Superman reveals his Clark Kent identity, and then explains why he keeps a dual-identity. This leads to further conversation and an admission from both that their status as separate and different from mankind often leads them to feel very lonely. This thought has them both feeling suddenly amorous; and after exchanging a glance that is filled with instant connection and a hint of passion, they are locked in a kiss and an embrace that seem at once passionate and tender.
David Graves gets a visit at Belle Reve Prison from Amanda Waller. She says that the metamorphosis that he went through is now slowing down the progress of his disease, increasing his life expectancy. She has brought him a typewriter, and wants him to write a book on how to destroy the Justice League. He begins to type a new book titled "The Villain's Journey".
Story - 5: If I could give this issue a 6, I would!
I found David Graves a very compelling villain. He is unique, even sympathetic, in many ways. Some Justice League villains, like Darkseid and Brainiac, are pure evil. But David Graves is different; a good man who lost his way. Previously a family man, author, and big supporter of the Justice League, things went dark for him after the loss of his family and his subsequent illness. He was overcome by grief, despair, and a deep longing to be reunited with his family. But once he gave in to those feelings, and especially after he began dabbling in supernatural things that were too much for him to handle, his mind became twisted and confused. He went down a very bad road. We saw him shoot his personal physician in cold blood. We saw him torture Steve Trevor without mercy. But we also saw him talking about reuniting people with their deceased relatives in order to bring joy to many. After Graves is defeated, Batman puts his hand on David Graves' shoulder in a sympathetic gesture. Perhaps Batman, better than anybody, is able to understand what this tortured man has gone through.
I liked the scene where Green Lantern resigned, although I will be sad to see him go. I hope he reconsiders. His bad-boy behavior has been a problem all along. He has been consistently very rude to Aquaman and Batman. His brash, cocky overconfidence got him in trouble with Superman when they first met. And yes, his arrogance caused the skirmish with Wonder Woman last issue. But ironically, his admission here of his bad behavior shows that he may finally be growing up. In order to regain public support for the Justice League, Green Lantern is willing to be the scapegoat. This is commendable, and causes Aquaman and Batman, the two who have taken the most guff from him, to nudge him to reconsider. I hope we have not seen the last of Hal Jordan in these pages.
And of course, the scene that got the most buzz and media attention is the conversation and brief moment of romance between Superman and Wonder Woman. I liked this scene a lot. And Steve's poll indicated that a large percentage of readers agree, although there were certainly some dissenters.
I have always believed that Wonder Woman was the perfect match for Superman, both in terms of power level, and also as a reflection of his kindness and altruism. If this is the beginning of a relationship between these two heroes, I welcome this development. But I do understand that some fans are very loyal to Lois Lane and would prefer that Superman spend his free time with her. Also, I have poked around on the web, and seen fan fiction devoted to a relationship between Wonder Woman/Superman, between Wonder Woman/Batman, and even between Wonder Woman/Green Lantern. So I understand that everybody has a strong opinion on this. While I respect all points of view, put me squarely in the Superman/Wonder Woman camp. With the Clark/Lois relationship & marriage not part of current continuity, this is the perfect time for Superman to follow his heart and head down this alternate path. I see no reason why Diana cannot be Clark's love interest and Lois his close friend; sort of a flip-flop of what we have had in the past.
But of course, it is not clear if this will develop into a romantic relationship or not. Some have suggested that this is just a stunt to sell comic books, and will have no lasting impact. I do not think so. I believe it is an earnest attempt to explore something that has always made sense. I hope it is.
So far, Superman and Wonder Woman have had a brief moment of connection and warmth. Will this turn into something deeper? If so, how will it affect the dynamics of the team? For example, will Batman be jealous. And if Superman and Wonder Woman decide to keep this a secret for now, what will the ramifications be? Will Clark Kent and Diana Prince choose to date openly? If not, what will Clark's response be if other women, such as Lois, come on to him, thinking he is unattached. There is much to consider
I can't wait to see where this all leads.
Art - 5: The artwork is very strong once again. Jim Lee shows us some of his best work in the four pages with Wonder Woman and Superman at the Lincoln Memorial. The range of emotion he is able to convey on Wonder Woman's face, from intense sadness to deep desire, is very impressive. And I love the panel done in silhouette, where only their insignias and her tiara are displayed in color. You know, the panel where Wonder Woman says "Do you ever feel alone?".
Cover Art - 5: Superman and Wonder Woman share a very intimate moment. As they caress, Wonder Woman's golden lasso is a reflection of her emotions, dancing wildly in every direction as her heart beats with passion. A brilliant sunset paints the sky orange. We catch them at the split-second before their lips touch, when they are filled with anticipation.
When this comes out as a poster, I am getting one framed for my living room.
Cover Art (Variant Edition) - 3: "Aquaman takes Charge"? What does this have to do with the story inside the book? Pretty good image though.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2012.