Justice League 9

Today, Peter and Drew are discussing Justice League 9, originally released May 16th, 2012.

Peter: With Free Comic Book Days exciting reveal of the future Trinity War event, I have been incredibly excited for what is going to happen in Justice League. The sheer amount of question that it raised made me excited to see how we get to that point. This new issue is a definite step in the right direction.

Issue 9 opens with a flashback to 4 years ago. David Graves is sick. Wheelchair and dying kind of sick. His doctor can’t do anything for him. The Justice League has something to do with his condition, stemming from their encounter a year prior. David’s doctor suggests that he ask the Justice League for help. David doesn’t want to do that. He shoots his doctor, determined that he can fix himself.

We then cut to present day, where we see Colonel Steve Trevor leaving a wine store. He gets mobbed by the paparazzi. They hassle him about his relationship with Wonder Woman and his relationship with the Justice League. All he wanted to do was go over to his sister’s for dinner.

We then move over to the Batcave, where we see Bruce brooding in front of the letter that his father sent him from the Flashpoint universe. He is reminiscing about when he first lost his parents. Over the news, Bruce learns that Arkham has been broken into by The Key. Chaos is ensuing. Bruce springs into action.

At the Daily Planet building in Metropolis, everybody is gushing over Lois Lane’s most recent work. Clark is sitting at his desk, eating his lunch when everyone else goes downstairs for a taco on Perry. Clark thinks back to his childhood in gym class, and how he used to get picked last. Clark gets a text from Bruce, asking for his help in Gotham.

Batman and Superman burst onto the scene at Arkham. They round up inmates and search for The Key. Superman can’t see through the walls because of the lead pipes in walls. But Batman brought a map. Right on cue, Cyborg appears on scene via Boom Tube. Cyborg pulls up the map and directs the team toward the The Key, who is further down in the Asylum. Bruce finds out that Cyborg is plugged into all the computers, even Batman’s. Cyborg then has a flashback to when his father would ignore him about his football games. Now his dad actually wants to talk to him, and Cyborg just ignores him.

Meanwhile, back at Arkham, Batman, Superman and Cyborg follow their map down towards The Key. Elsewhere, Colonel Trevor arrives home from dinner to find his television on and the lights off. He draws his weapon and enters the room. He is ambushed by a mysterious figure, who abducts him.

The Flash and Green Lantern are off dealing with Weapon Master near Iron Heights. They are about to interrogate Weapon Master using the good cop/bad cop method and are arguing over who gets to be bad cop. Hal has a flashback to when he used to get in bar fights. Green Lantern relents to let Flash be the bad cop. That doesn’t work. Wonder Woman steps in and uses the Lasso of Truth to get the information. They find out that someone is coming for the League. Someone who knows how to hurt them all. Back in Arkham, Batman, Superman and Cyborg simultaneously discover The Key hiding in the deepest cell. Both Weapon Master and The Key give the same name…..Graves.

Colonel Trevor is being held hostage and tortured by Graves. Graves threatens Trevor with destroying his family if he doesn’t tell Graves how to get into the Watchtower. The last scene shows Trevor agreeing to give Graves what he wants.

Man is this issue a doozy. After the Free Comic Book Day issue, I have been really excited about the future of the Justice League, and this issue gets us started off right. I am really excited that we are entering a new story arc, since the last few issues left something to be desired.

One of the interesting parts about this issue is that it takes the time to focus on each individual character. I really like this approach, since, so far, some characters *coughSupermancough* haven’t had much to do. The inclusion of a small anecdotal flashback really lends itself well to developing each character as we move into this story arc that has been touted as being long, arduous, and awesome. Noticeable however, is Aquaman’s absence. I wonder if this is because he is busy with the Others, or maybe this has something to do with that 2 page spread where he is fighting against Wonder Woman?

Jim Lee’s pencils are a welcome return. He’s doing a very good job of conveying emotion in this issue.

The Key’s eyes especially here convey a true fear that we haven’t seen in Lee’s pencils yet in Justice League. If this can translate over to other characters, specifically each member of the League, hopefully they will flesh out almost like they were in their own books.

The SHAZAM backstory is also very good this month. The introduction of school, as well as a rich family that pretty much gets everything they want, and control the school through donations is a little cliche, but it works really well here. This gives us a good opportunity to see what Billy is really like. Up until now, I was convinced that he was just a little shithead, but now I think that he just confused.

The way he jumps to the rescue near then end there shows some true heroism, and kindness, traits that I would look for in Shazam/Captain Marvel. Also, the fact that Sivana is looking for Black Adam’s tomb, and now can see magic with his lightning eye is an interesting twist that I’m not entirely sure what to make of. Is it possible that Sivana will become Black Adam? Who knows, but I’m still really excited about this story.

Justice League is returning to the top of my pile for the first time in a long time, and I am anxious to read about what happens next, as we get ready for the future, and the Trinity War!

Drew: Nerddom is a funny thing. Most of the time, it can make us particularly excited about our obsessions, but occasionally, it forces us to focus on petty negatives, preventing us from enjoying those same obsessions. For some reason, this issue of Justice League has put me firmly in the latter category, even though I agree with pretty much everything Peter wrote.

Take, for example, the brief flashbacks we get for each hero. As a LOST fan, I must admit that I’m particularly partial to this mode of storytelling — it’s an incredibly efficient way of establishing motivations and broadening characterization. I also agree that it’s well-deployed here. My only issue is that we don’t really need it. These are characters we already know and love, so showing us that Bruce was steely and stoic after his parents died, or that Hal tends to get in a lot of trouble doesn’t actually tell us anything new. These flashbacks still give us a window into the characters’ minds in the moment, and they can certainly be effective going forward, but this issue felt more often like needless rehashing than revelatory.

I appreciate how much of a high-wire act writing Justice League must be: it has to avoid stepping on the toes of the writers of all of the other titles who share their heroes, while still trying to craft compelling character arcs for each of them. Johns has recognized that in order to do that, he either has to stick to very broad-stroke character histories, or focus on the 5-year shared history of the League. He does a little of both this issue, but I think the latter is much more successful. Wonder Woman’s flashback, for example, does a great job of this. Sure, it doesn’t really give us any more details than what we already knew, but it also outlines a story I’d actually like more details on, unlike most of the other flashbacks.

In fact, with the heroes as well-established commodities, any intrigue must come from either Steve Trevor or the villains. We get a little of both this issue, and I think those are some of the strongest moments. HOWEVER, I have to quibble a bit about the fact that Colonel Trevor is well-known as the liaison for the Justice League. When so many of the Justice Leaguers have secret identities — presumably to keep bad guys from leveraging their loved ones against them — why would they be so lax with security around the one non-superhero who knows all of their secrets? This is like superhero 101 stuff, and it seems like a bit of oversight Johns wrote-in because it was dramatically convenient.

The writing isn’t the only place where this title ignores inconvenient details — Jim Lee takes some kind of goofy liberties that I almost feel silly pointing out. For example: why do the patients’ jumpsuits at Arkham read “Arkham Penitentiary”? Especially when the caption clearly points out that this is “Arkham Assylum”?

I know this is “magic xylophone”-level pettiness, but that just seems like a dumb detail to overlook. I’m also bothered by the shot we get of the interior of Justice League: Gods Among Men in Graves’ home.

I can understand that Johns didn’t have the time to write copy for this panel, but holy god is that terrible fake gibberish. Is Lorem ipsum not good enough, or did somebody just really want to make the case for the semicolon being a letter? At least make the margins look believable. This looks like it was typeset by a monkey (and not one of those Shakespeare-writing monkeys). I realize this is a very stupid detail, and one that doesn’t have really any bearing on my enjoyment of this issue, but it also gives credence to the feeling that this title isn’t getting the kind of love and attention from its creators that we see so much in our perennial favorites.

Oh geez, now I’m getting ready to hypothesize about Johns and Lee’s workloads, which is so not what this review is about. Peter’s right, it’s a step in the right direction, and it’s a lot of fun. If nothing else, seeing Johns’ versions of Hal and Barry interact is always a treat.

I think the backup is a lot of fun. Gary Frank’s art has this wonderful illustrator quality that really fits the schoolyard material. Peter’s right, the stuff with Mr. Bryer is a little cliche, but it’s saved by the fact that I have absolutely no idea where Johns is going with it. Bryer could turn into a real villain, or just be a prick that gets his comeuppance once Shazam shows up. I know absolutely nothing about Black Adam, but I’m looking forward to actual magic stuff happening soon — Johns seems to be pacing a very long game with this backup.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

13 comments on “Justice League 9

  1. I have to agree with Drew about the Arkham Pen. v Arkham Asylum. I don’t understand why it goes back and forth in the books. I always thought that it was for supervillains, like we see in Batman 1, and/or the criminally insane. But in that shot of Batman and Superman fighting off the bad guys, only one of those inmates looks to really fit either one of those qualifications. It’s the guy to Superman’s right who has like a reptile head. Everyone else just looks like a common street thug. Why aren’t they at Blackgate?

  2. Anyone else have any thoughts as to why Aquaman is conspicuously absent from this issue? He’s not even mentioned at all.

    • I don’t know if we need to read into it too much; this is an ensemble title with a big cast — it makes sense that there won’t always be space in every issue for every character. If he doesn’t show up for the next issue or two, then it might be time for conjecture, but for now, I’m willing to accept that there just wasn’t room.

      • The only reason I read into it the way I did is because of the short flashback sequences. There is one for every member of the League, excepting Aquaman.

        • Actually, maybe we should dig into that a little: you guys read the news about Aquaman subscriptions? It’s weird to consider, seeing as Johns and Reis are at the helm AND it sells really really well, but it is possible that they’re making the choice to phase Aquaman out (or at least change the character somehow)?

        • I can’t imagine why they would do that — it’s been a best-seller for them since the relaunch. The cancellation of those subscriptions is weird, but Scott Snyder said that nothing was changing on Swamp Thing (which also had all of its subscriptions cancelled). That explanation is a little confounded by the fact that the other titles that were cancelled actually are getting phased-out, but so many fans have been pleased with Aquaman, I really don’t know why they would change it (especially with Johns and Reis at the helm).

          I really think that giving six members of the team moments AND introducing the villain AND taking some personal time with Steve Trevor just didn’t leave enough room for Aquaman. I’m glad they left him out rather than try to shoehorn him in just to show him. It’s possible him not being there does mean something, but I’m not sure it has to.

  3. Can I just take this opportunity to register my dissatisfaction with how frequently “Arkham riot” is used as a story for characters in Batman’s world? I get it: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City sold a bunch of copies and therefore PRISON RIOT is a HOT STORY. Until someone has something to say about Arkham Asylum, I’d just as soon not see the insides of that complex again.

    • This isn’t so much a riot/breakout. It’s more interesting since The Key broke IN to get away from Graves. But I totally see your point. Clearly the guards at Arkham are fucking slackers.

  4. Did anybody else read more into Cyborg’s comment about Batman’s computer? We still don’t know what the sides are for the Trinity War, but given that Superman had no problem taking off his arm, I’d say Cyborg is not going to be a friendly. Seemed like pretty ominous foreshadowing to me.

    Oh and you can bet that although Batman didn’t react much to it, in his head he was already thinking of 5 different ways to get him out of the system.

    • I trust Bruce to come up with 50 decoys to throw Cyborg off, just to be safe, but I think they’re actually on the same side in the Trinity War. Look again at that image, and you’ll see that Cyborg’s arm isn’t exploding because of that pillar Supes is wielding, but because the Atom grew from inside it (and the Atom then seems to be making a bee-line for Batman). I think one of the few groupings we can make based on that image is that Bruce, Clark, and Victor are on the same side.

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