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Mild Mannered Reviews - Justice League Comics

Justice League #11 Justice League #11

Justice League #11

Scheduled to arrive in stores: July 18, 2012

Cover date: September 2012

"The Villain's Journey" - Chapter Three: "Atonement"

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

"Shazam!" - Part 5

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

Ralph Silver Reviewed by: Ralph Silver

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Justice League #11 Justice League #11 "The Villain's Journey" - Chapter Three: "Atonement"

Last issue, David Graves breached the Watchtower and launched a supernatural attack against the Justice League. When we last saw them, the Justice League members were suffering from that attack, lying motionless and emaciated.

As Batman now regains consciousness, he pushes out disturbing images from his mind; vivid images of the street thug murdering his parents while a defenseless pre-teen Bruce Wayne watches in horror. As Batman pulls himself from the grip of the mental images, he seems to scold himself for allowing those memories to take control over his mind.

Hoping to revive the others, Batman calls out to Superman, who awakes and says he just watched Jonathan Kent have a heart attack again. Superman felt helpless because he could not save his dad. As the other heroes revive, they tell similar stories of reliving tragedies that occurred in their lives.

Batman asks Cyborg where David Graves has gone. Cyborg explains that Graves has teleported to the Washington, D.C. home of Steve Trevor's sister Tracy.

David Graves confronts Tracy. He asks about her family, which upsets her greatly, fearing for their safety. He lectures her about the Asuras, who are demigods living near Mount Sumeru, and about the process of awaiting judgment after death. Souls do not receive instantaneous judgment, but often wait their turn for an extended period, trapped in the Valley of Souls at the foot of Mount Sumeru; a place that David has visited. Some suffer punishment and are reborn through one of the Four Unhappy Births. Becoming an Asura is one of those births. The Asuras are consumed by wrath, and are never at peace. It was the Asuras who united David with the souls of his family.

David Graves implies that Steve Trevor will meet an untimely end.

Tracy looks on and is amazed to see the ghosts of David's wife and two children. David Graves says his son's mind had been so clouded with disease at the end of his life that he did not recognize his father. David Graves reminisces about being with his boy in better days.

The Justice League arrives via Cyborg's Boom Tube technology. As they arrive, they discover they have missed David Graves, who disappeared in a hurry just before they got there. Tracy launches into a bitter verbal attack against Wonder Woman, saying she broke Steve Trevor's heart, and may now be causing him grave danger. Tracy demands that Wonder Woman bring Steve home safe.

The heroes continue their discussion outside of Tracy's home. Flash tries to let Wonder Woman off the hook, saying that Tracy was just upset. But Wonder Woman is being very hard on herself, assuming guilt for letting her relationship with Steve get too close. Superman and Batman fill the other heroes in on details about David Graves. Wonder Woman learns that Graves has a writing cabin in Maine. Wonder Woman angrily states she is heading to Graves' cabin to "cut off his head" and bring Steve home. Batman corrects her, saying the League does not cut off anyone's head. Green Lantern encases Wonder Woman in an energy bubble, to prevent her from leaving, and to convince her that this is a Justice League mission, not a Wonder Woman solo mission. She demands that he let her go, and Green Lantern refuses, which makes her very angry. Wonder Woman angrily smashes her way out of the energy bubble, and clobbers Hal, which sends him flying. When a bystander says Wonder Woman "kicked Green Lantern's ass", he gets miffed and retaliates. This causes Diana to draw her sword and really get tough with him, which puts Green Lantern in some danger.

Superman intervenes to stop her rampage. He grabs her sword to protect GL. But Superman gets a surprise when Wonder Woman lands a hard side-thrust kick to his jaw. As Superman is launched into the air from the kick, Batman barks a command to Flash and Aquaman to get civilians out of danger. Suddenly, Cyborg informs his teammates that Graves is somehow broadcasting their fight over every TV, every computer, and every Smartphone. This is putting the Justice League in a very bad light around the world. Batman urges Cyborg to Boom them out of their current location. They arrive at Graves' cabin, and Flash finally gets Green Lantern and Wonder Woman to stop fighting. Cyborg reminds Batman about the broadcast, but Batman says they must deal with that later. Superman admits that he really felt that kick, and will feel the effects for a while. Wonder Woman does not show remorse for giving Green Lantern a whooping, since she feels he had it coming. But she shows genuine regret for striking Superman.

Batman finds the journals of David Graves and begins to read. He explains to the others that David Graves and his family were on a book tour that took them to Metropolis during Darkseid's attack. Months later, his wife and two children started getting sick, and died shortly afterward. David Graves started to get sick after he buried them. Batman explains that David Graves went to Mount Sumeru to find the ghosts of his family.

The Justice League transports to the Valley of Souls. Cyborg finds the entrance, although the others cannot see it. Batman explains that according to Graves' book, only those walking the line between life and death can see the entrance to the Valley of Souls. This causes Cyborg to wonder if he is partly dead. Batman says of course not.

The heroes enter the Valley of Souls. They immediately see ghostly images of their lost loved ones. (Batman sees his parents Dr. Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne; Superman sees his Kryptonian parents Jor-El and Lara; Green Lantern sees his father, test pilot Martin Jordan, and so on.) Except Cyborg only sees an image of himself, as he looked before his accident. Diana is startled to see a ghostly image of Steve Trevor, who looks sad and tells her she is too late.

5Story - 5: I found this story interesting and entertaining from beginning to end.

It is rather unusual that the Justice League and the villain (David Graves) never actually confront each other in this issue. They just barely miss each other when the League members arrive at the home of Tracy Trevor just as Graves disappears. The entire story is about Justice League efforts to gather information, solve the mystery about what is going on, search for David Graves in order to catch him, defeat him, and rescue Steve Trevor. But that confrontation will wait for another day.

The heart of this chapter is the bitter fight between Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. This is a fight that has been brewing for some time. Their personalities just do not mesh. Green Lantern is cocky, brash, and overconfident. He is often rude and condescending. He may also have some issues with women; as he is attracted to strong women (e.g. Carol Ferris) while often having difficulty coexisting with them.

On the other hand, Wonder Woman is independent-minded, determined, and very aggressive when provoked. When Green Lantern imprisons her in a green bubble to restrict her movement, it is like tossing a spark into a pool of gasoline. Things explode quickly.

Their battle seems very personal to me. Wonder Woman says, "This isn't giving me any pleasure. But I'm sure you've heard that before." This seems to be a direct attack on Hal's sexuality; a remark that she would never make except that tempers are really flaring right now.

Once again Green Lantern has an inflated view of his own power level. Clearly, he is way out of his league when fighting Wonder Woman. After the first blow, he should just back off for his own safety. But when a bystander says he is getting pummeled by a woman, Green Lantern just cannot help himself, and jumps back in for more punishment.

When it looks like Green Lantern is about to get seriously injured, Superman jumps in to put a lid on things. He gets a surprise when she turns her attack on him. I was surprised too, because Superman and Wonder Woman are good friends. She kicks him in the heat of battle, but it is more a reflex than a mean-spirited attack. It is noteworthy that Superman chooses not to retaliate; although it is clear that he is the only hero on the team that can truly challenge her and hurt her bad if he wants to. He shows remarkable restraint and good judgment.

Later, Superman tells Wonder Woman he is going to feel the effects of her kick for a while. But Superman is being gracious here. Among his powers is a strong healing factor. He will be pain-free in no time.

I had a couple of questions as I read this story...

Question #1: Why is Cyborg able to see the entrance to the Valley of Souls, while nobody else can? Is he somehow connected to death, or near death? Is the fact that he is essentially half man and half machine the simple explanation?

Question #2: When Green Lantern tells Wonder Woman he knows why she cut off the relationship with Steve Trevor, what is he talking about? He says the whole team knows the answer to this question. But I can only guess what he is driving at. Maybe Geoff Johns will come back to this point and give more details in a subsequent issue.

I find David Graves to be an intriguing villain. He is a very dangerous foe. Yet he was once a very sympathetic character. In one sense, his motivations are understandable; grief and a desire to reunite with his family. But his ideas have become twisted. He has become deranged. Because of his bitterness and hatred of the Justice League, and his willingness to torture others, he is an evil force that must be stopped.

By the way, Geoff Johns did not make up all that stuff about Mount Sumeru, the Asuras, and the Four Unhappy Births. This all comes straight out of Buddhist theology. Check it out on Wikipedia if you are curious. I found it fascinating that Johns did such a good job of integrating concepts from eastern religious thought into the heart of this story.

I am looking forward to issue #12.

5Art - 5: Jim Lee gives us some great images here. I love the two-page spread where Wonder Woman smashes her way out of the energy bubble, sending fragments like shards of glass back in Green Lantern's face. The side-kick to Superman's jaw is another great action shot. And the final splash page where Wonder Woman confronts the ghost of Steve Trevor is drawn in terrific detail, including the backgrounds.

I also like the way Jim Lee uses digital techniques to draw Green Lantern's constructs. Look, for example, at the ring-generated floodlights when the Justice League first arrives at Graves' writing cabin.

Great stuff!

"Shazam" - Part 5

We begin at the Tomb of Black Adam. Doctor Sivana has just spoken the magic word and freed Black Adam, who had been imprisoned. Black Adam asks where the Wizard is. Black Adam reveals superhuman strength, flight, and a very bad temper. He kills one of the archaeologists on the spot by hurling him into a stone wall. He then lifts Doctor Sivana and an assistant high into the sky. Doctor Sivana speaks to Black Adam in his native tongue, which pleases Black Adam. The other archaeologist begs for his life in English, which annoys Black Adam, who brings the magic lightning and incinerates the man. Doctor Sivana introduces himself and tells Black Adam he will help him find the Wizard.

Billy Batson and Freddy are outside the home of the Bryer bullies, looking to get revenge for abusive treatment. They are plotting to break into a parked car using a hanger, put it into neutral, and push it down the hill towards the house. But the alarm goes off and foils their plan. Billy attempts to run away, but Freddy moves very slowly because he walks on crutches. Billy stashes Freddy behind an evergreen tree, taunts the bullies, and then runs while they are in hot pursuit.

Billy heads down into a subway station and boards a train. The door closes before the boys can enter, although one of them lands a quick punch. As the train pulls away, magic lightning hits. Billy and his train are transported to another place, although a passenger aboard the subway train is left behind.

When the doors open, a heavy fog fills the subway car. Billy exits the train amidst the thick smoke, and stands before a mystic temple of some sort, which also appears to be an entranceway. Some text in the final panel promises we will see the Rock of Eternity in the next installment.

4Story - 4: I am enjoying this retelling of the origin of Shazam. We continue to have two parallel storylines: one featuring Doctor Sivana and Black Adam, and one featuring Billy Batson and his new family. These story lines will merge at some point. It appears that Billy is about to meet the Wizard. When that happens, Billy's life will change forever.

As Black Adam is freed from imprisonment, we see how powerful and how truly evil he is. For no reason except selfish arrogance, he reduces Doctor Sivana's assistant to ashes, and discards the remains like a used cigarette butt. He is pure evil, and too powerful to be on the loose. He will need to be stopped.

I am watching for Billy's evolution from brattiness to kindness. It has started already. He sometimes does kind things for others, like when he protected his siblings from the Bryer bullies. But then he acts kind of bratty as a defense mechanism. We will watch and see what circumstances cause him to realize that total kindness is the better way.

I hope that Billy's adventures will continue in this book, or else that he gets his own book. Either way, I will keep reading and keep enjoying.

5Art - 5: Gary Frank continues his fine work on this series. His strength is conveying emotion on face shots. Black Adam's snarling face exudes pure evil on pages 2 & 3. On Sivana's face on page 4, I see excitement with just a little bit of fear. (He did, after all, just see he assistant get burned to a crisp and discarded like a bit of fireplace ash.) And on Billy's face, we see a gamut of emotions and expressions, from impatience on page 6, to gloating and feeling self-satisfied on page 7, to snarling in annoyance at a dog on page 8.

I also liked the final splash page showing Billy at the mystic temple and what may be the entrance that leads to the Rock of Eternity.

3Cover Art - 3: This is a solid if unspectacular image of the Justice League members ready to spring into action. We see the enlarged face of David Graves in the background, and his right hand, or should I say claw, in the foreground. Flash is front and center this time, although he does not play a central role in the story inside.

There is nothing wrong with this cover. I just liked the other covers in this series (issues 9 & 10) better.

2Cover Art (Variant Edition) - 2: This is another shot of the Justice League members ready to spring into action. But this is a weaker cover than the main one. The faces do not look right, especially Aquaman and Green Lantern.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2012

February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012

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