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Mild Mannered Reviews - Justice League Comics

Justice League #10 Justice League #10

Justice League #10

Scheduled to arrive in stores: June 27, 2012

Cover date: August 2012

"The Villain's Journey" - Chapter Two: "The Belly of the Beast"

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams, Mark Irwin, and Jonathan Glapion

"Shazam!" - Part 4

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Gary Frank
Inker: Gary Frank

Ralph Silver Reviewed by: Ralph Silver

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Justice League #10 Justice League #10 "The Villain's Journey" - Chapter Two: "The Belly of the Beast"

We begin three years ago in the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia. David Graves battles extreme weather as he searches for something near Mount Sumeru, a place known by some for its connection to the afterlife. David encounters a large deity with six arms. Exhausted, David begs for help. Instead the deity tells David he must complete the journey on his own power. At the urging of this deity, David continues to head towards a mystic temple of some sort; at first rowing his small boat, then attempting to walk, and finally crawling the rest of the way.

In the present,we see Steve Trevor, still imprisoned in a room where David Graves has taken him. The room is windowless and has large pipes exposed, suggesting it is a basement of some kind. Trevor is bleeding and exhausted from being tortured by Graves last issue. Trevor is bound to a chair with clamps that restrain him at the wrists. He struggles and breaks free. As he attempts to head through an exit door, he is assaulted by some supernatural entities that use ghostly arms and hands to grope at Steve. The entities call out to Steve, suggesting they want to feed on Steve's personal loss and emotional pain.

Aquaman helps rescue survivors of a cruise ship that has shipwrecked. Some TV reporters get in his face, rudely suggesting that there are other super-heroes more deserving of Justice League membership. Aquaman shakes off the insult. Cyborg summons him to an emergency Justice League meeting. Aquaman tells Cyborg he is too busy. But then Aquaman reminds himself of an earlier time when he served the needs of Atlantis as its King, out of a sense of duty and responsibility, even when it was difficult. Aquaman tells Cyborg he is on the way.

At the Watchtower, Batman explains to the other members that somebody named Graves has been attacking, torturing, and interrogating Justice League enemies. When Green Lantern asks why this is even a problem, he is told that Graves has been collecting information about their secrets, including weaknesses and relationships of the Justice League members. Cyborg proceeds to provide some of the details.

Graves shows up at the Watchtower, using Steve Trevor's access code to get past the satellite's security system. Wonder Woman wants to know what Graves has done to Steve Trevor. As she lunges towards Graves, he seems to use occult powers to suck the life out of her, leaving her emaciated and in shock. Demons help him accomplish this; demons he first encountered in the Pamir Mountains.

In flashbacks, we see when Graves first encountered the demons. David was looking to reunite with his deceased family members. He sees them in spirit form. The deities tell Graves he will rejoin his family, and he will have his vengeance. Then Graves seems to absorb several of the demons, rather painfully. The images suggest that Graves may be absorbing the spirits of his deceased wife and children.

Back in the Watchtower, Batman says, "Take him," and the team attacks. But each member in turn has his life force sucked out, as the demons feed on each member's emotional pain and personal loss. As Superman is the final victim, the other heroes already lie on the floor, lifeless and emaciated.

4Story - 4: This is another worthy installment in a story arc I am really enjoying; the second major story arc since the relaunch began. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are crafting an interesting multi-part story that features a new villain who poses a dangerous threat for the Justice League.

I like that Geoff Johns has taken a minor character from a previous issue, and made him the central villain here. When we first see David Graves, back on page one of issue #6, he and his family are fleeing from a scene of horrific carnage as Darkseid unleashes a merciless attack on the city of Metropolis. David is fleeing with his wife and two children; running for their lives. As they run, David urges his family to keep together and to keep their eyes shut. He offers words of comfort, although he is pretty sure they are all about to die horribly. His fear and despair turn to hope when he sees the Justice League engage Darkseid in battle.

In that initial scene, David is portrayed as a courageous and very sympathetic character. He is a huge fan of the Justice League, and later writes a best-selling book about them. He loves his family and takes the responsibility of protecting them very seriously. We identify with him. We root for him.

So much has changed since then. By issue #9, he is transformed, and not in a good way. His body is wracked with illness, placing him near death. His family is gone; presumably deceased. He is discouraged and bitter. His previous worship of the Justice League has turned into resentment and hatred. Graves commits murder before our eyes, as seen last issue. This character is now as ruthless and despicable as he once was courageous and admirable. But we remember him during better times, which makes the journey of this character down the path of evil all the more tragic.

Next point: I really like the way Geoff Johns includes scenes that reveal tidbits of information about the Justice League personalities and interrelationships. The revealing banter in the Watchtower is what really makes this issue for me. Much of what they say is new to us; some of it may not be new; but all of it rings true. For example, when we hear that Flash does not like to work outside of the law because he is a police officer, we know that this agrees with our current understanding of the character as strait-laced. It makes us appreciate Flash and will help us understand his behavior in future situations. It also helps us realize how much different that makes him from, say, Batman.

Also, a brief mention of Patty Spivot, Flash's current girlfriend, is a nice bit of continuity with Flash's own monthly title.

It is amusing that when Cyborg explains that Graves has been gathering information about the Justice League and their weaknesses, Green Lantern reacts by saying, "What weaknesses?", as if they don't have any. This is pretty funny, and consistent with our understanding that GL is often brash, overconfident, and ego-driven. And is anybody surprised that Green Lantern has a track record of hitting on Flash's girlfriends? This is the same Green Lantern who shouted "dibs" when Wonder Woman first showed up in issue #3, implying that he was going to be the first one to ask her out.

I liked the interplay between Superman and Batman. Cyborg tells us that Batman doesn't trust anyone on the team. This is certainly consistent with our understanding of him. But when Superman chimes in, saying, "Batman trusts me," Batman is conspicuously silent. This made me wonder if Batman's level of trust of his friend Superman is perhaps less than 100%. Superman seems to be wondering the same thing, at the top of page 10. Am I imagining this, or is Superman actually glaring at Batman, as if to say, "Why didn't you speak up? Do you think I am not trustworthy? Why would you possibly think that?" But a few minutes later, Batman does admit to the group that he and Superman work together often, and you get the feeling that this simple acknowledgement is enough to satisfy Superman for now.

I also found it amusing when Cyborg revealed that Superman is a reporter, and some members express surprise and disapproval. This brings home the point that the Justice League members generally have not shared their secret identities with each other, except for the couple of heroes (Superman and Batman; Green Lantern and Flash) who work together in pairs. The members will need to share those secret identities soon, or leave themselves vulnerable.

I like when Cyborg reaffirms that he has access to any information stored on a computer anywhere. This makes him a tremendously valuable asset to the team.

This was an entertaining issue. I look forward to #11.

5Art - 5: Jim Lee does another really solid job.

"Shazam" - Part 4

Foster parents Victor and Rosa Vasquez discuss Billy Batson and the events of last issue. Victor suggests that Billy was doing some play acting when they met him at child services, and that he is showing his true colors now. Rosa defends Billy, suggesting that Billy's encounter with Mr. Bryer has left Billy traumatized. Mr. Bryer is the richest man in Philadelphia, and the father of the four nasty bullies who are bullying Billy's new family at school. Mr. Bryer is a pretty nasty fellow himself, and Billy had the guts to stand up to him. But now Billy has hardly touched his hamburger, and Victor is concerned. Victor expresses frustration, telling Rosa that Billy never gave them a chance.

In fact, Billy is in his room, packing that hamburger in his backpack. He leaves the pickles behind, and sneaks out. Billy heads to a zoo, crawling in through a breach in the brick wall, and feeds the hamburger to Tawny, a tiger that Billy seems to know personally. Freddy tails Billy, but is eventually spotted by him. Billy pushes Freddy, who tumbles down in the snow. Freddy admits he previously lifted Billy's wallet out of curiosity, but did not steal anything.

Billy and Freddy discuss the problem with the Bryer brothers. Freddy reveals that the four bullies have been bothering them daily for quite a while. Freddy usually distracts the bullies so that Mary can help the younger ones get away.

Freddy tries to convince Billy to give Mr. and Mrs. Vasquez a chance. But Billy defiantly says "They aren't my parents."

Freddy thanks Billy for intervening when the bullies were bothering them. They consider heading to the Bryer home to get even.

45 miles north of Baghdad, Dr. Sivana continues the archaeological dig at the Tomb of Black Adam. Aided by his magical right eye, (see last issue), Sivana is now able to read the hieroglyphs. They tell him that he can release Black Adam and bring magic to the world with the utterance of a single word. Sivana quietly speaks the word "Shazam", the magic lightning hits, and a hooded Black Adam stands before him, asking for the Wizard.

4Story - 4: I continue to find this series a very pleasant read. I like that the focus is on Billy Batson for now. I am rooting for Billy to have the courage to open up his heart to his new family. They are trying very hard to make Billy feel welcome. But clearly it is going to take some time.

I keep wondering what the long-term plans are going to be for this character. Is this backup feature a prelude to a new Shazam book? If so, I would definitely add it to my pull list.

5Art - 5: Gary Frank is the perfect artist for this series.

4Cover Art - 4: The Justice League members have been reduced to skeletons, lying inert in their coffins. David Graves hovers over them, appearing pleased with his handiwork. This is a dramatic cover that catches the readers' interest and draws them in. The color scheme of blue, green, and grey has eye appeal, and is perfect for this ghoulish tale.

1Cover Art (Variant Edition) - 1: David Graves sits at a table, or maybe a beach ball, or who knows what. Whatever it is, it has images of the Justice League on it. Graves holds a knife, but why? To carve his initials on the table? To puncture the beach ball? Some other reason? This cover is confusing and unappealing. Graves looks way too cartoonish, considering the grave nature of the threat inside the book.

This terrible cover does not do justice to the fine story inside the book.


Mild Mannered Reviews

2012

Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

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