Today, Shelby and Peter are discussing Justice League 11, originally released July 18th 2012.
Shelby: Losing a loved one is beyond difficult. It can be the most trying, emotional, painful experience we’ll ever know. Whether it’s a sudden death or a prolonged illness, the grief of loss is a heavy burden to bear. It’s one thing to forever carry the memory of a loved one with you, but something else entirely to carry that burden of grief, never letting go, never moving on. Justice League features a villain literally doing just that; Graves constantly carries with him the souls of his family, and his grief will not abate until he exacts his revenge. You would think with such a heavy and universally relatable idea, this issue would garner something stronger than “meh.”
As the League regroups from Graves’ attack, Cyborg traces him to the home of Tracy Trevor, Steve’s sister. The crew teleports there, only to see Graves disappear. Tracy accuses Wonder Woman of putting her brother’s life in danger, and demands she bring him home. Wonder Woman is understandably upset, and decides to run off to kill Graves and rescue Steve. Hal — of all people — councils patience and tells her they’ll all go, she can’t handle this alone. Diana snaps, and an inter-League fight breaks out. Cyborg teleports them all to Graves’ cabin, and Aquaman calms things down. Batman uses his superb detective skills to read Graves’ journal and get some backstory. They all head to the Valley of the Spirits for some answers; interestingly enough, only Cyborg can see the entrance, which is apparently only visable to those who walk the edge of life and death. Once inside, they are all confronted by spirits of their passed loved ones. Cyborg sees himself, and even worse, Diana sees Steve.
My first read through of this issue, I wasn’t wild about it, all because of the fight. It seemed too big, too much; Wonder Woman pretty much lost her mind one she realized Steve was in trouble.
I thought about it more during my second read through, and I realized this is Geoff Johns giving us exactly what we’ve been wanting. We’ve been frustrated with the slow pace of this story: well, here you go, a big-ass fight scene and a ton of exposition. I could try to make some sort of argument about the tension between teammates finally boiling over, or Wonder Woman’s feelings for Steve going deeper than even she realized, or Batman’s exposition is totally justified because it gets us to the Valley of Souls where shit is gonna get real. I don’t know, for an issue so action-oriented, I was a little … bored.
That’s not to say this issue is wholly without merit. It’s nice to see the team finally acting like a team instead of a bunch of whining babies, even though it took a fist fight to make it happen. Also, the reveal about Cyborg seeing himself in the Valley of Souls is very interesting.
It’s true, he would be dead without the technology fused to his body, I can see that giving him the death’s-edge vision needed to see the entrance to the place in the first place, but his soul is in what appears to be limbo! What sort of implication does that have for him, personally? That is a deep, deep question, and definitely the most interesting thing I took away from this issue.
I still wish this title were better. It hasn’t been bad, but I feel like Johns just hasn’t been able to hit his stride with this. I still don’t really believe in the individual characters, let alone the team as a whole. Steve was the most interesting and strongest developed character, and he might be dead at this point. It seems like each character is just acting like the role they are supposed to play: Hal is the cocky jerk, Batman is the bossy one, Wonder Woman is the sometimes angry, sometimes sensitive woman, etc. I might buy into that if they all came together and created a cohesive team, if the Justice League itself became a character. I’m just not seeing it, and at this point I don’t know if I will.
Peter: I agree that this title hasn’t really hit it’s stride yet. I bet that it will pick up by the time we get to the Trinity War. We have griped about the fact that Johns doesn’t use all the characters at his disposal in this book. In this issue, however, he’s starting to get away from that slump. It’s still not what it could be, but every member of the team says something this issue. I also like that everyone has a moment in the Valley of Souls, and during the fight with Graves.
The big winner in this issue is Wonder Woman. Johns is really developing her character here through her connection to Steve. I mean, she goes so far as to beat the crap out of several of her teammates. I agree with you Shelby that I still was a little bored by the action. It didn’t really do much more than show off Jim Lee’s amazing pencils. It felt quite hollow.
I’am also really liking Cyborg in this issue. This whole thing with him seeing himself in the Valley is pretty messed up. I can only assume that we are setting up for a Cyborg-centric issue in the near future, dealing with this whole idea of him being dead/alive or whatever. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and here is what I’ve come up with. After the accident at S.T.A.R. and Vic’s subsequent transformation into Cyborg, his old, ‘human’ life is dead. He is now just Cyborg. That is his future. He will never age or grow, he is only the Cyborg. I hope that at some point we get some Cyborg centric stuff. He’s the only member of the League that doesn’t have his own series. I would read a Cyborg book, especially if it covers his psyche, like Johns is trying to dabble in here.
Shelby, you didn’t talk about the The Curse of Shazam story, but I really liked it. Here’s a quick recap. Sivana and Black Adam team up. Billy and Freddy are trying to sabotage the Bryer’s SUV when the car alarm goes off. Billy shoves Freddy into a bush and leads the Bryers away from him. They run into a subway station, Billy jumps a train, gets punched in the nose, and the train takes him to the Rock of Eternity.
Way back when The Curse of Shazam started, I made a big deal about Billy’s new character. I thought he was just a little shit. Gradually, we have been getting more and more insight into his character. In this issue, Billy sacrifices himself to save Freddy. That’s huge. Initially, I wasn’t sure Billy was worthy of the power of Shazam, but now I’m sold. His new character will provide a very interesting dynamic for the Shazam character. Still not totally convinced by the new Sivana, and it’s too early to tell about Adam, but when issue 0 rolls around, I hope that we really get going with these characters.
The design of the Rock of Eternity is really cool. In the Free Comic Book Day issue, we are introduced to the first magic wielders of Earth, from different early civilizations. The Rock has taken on characteristics of these civilizations.
Each is represented in some fashion in art or décor. It’s really cool.
I hope that this series picks up soon. The Graves storyline is cool, but it is dragging out, and is somewhat confusing. Right now I am more optimistic about the next storyline, where the team fractures (or at least, is supposed to). I love the JL, it is just slow goings for this book in the new universe.
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I think it’s telling that I find I enjoy the shorty backup story in Shazam more than the actual title I’m reading. Calling it “hollow” is spot on; I mean, we’ve been dragging out this Graves problem for what feels like 2000 issues, and the ultimate team reveal of who he is and his motives for hunting them is so blah.
It’s interesting that both Shazam and JL have been moving pretty slowly, but Shazam appears patient where JL appears aimless. I think that’s partially because Shazam has a singular, solid character to anchor it’s slowly unfolding narrative, where Justice League is this hyper-active scatter shot.
Is anyone else annoyed that in the last couple issues, whenever Green Lantern is in a scene they make the whole page green-washed. I mean I get it, his constructs are green, but that’s twice now that he made green flood lights for no good reason.
Also I don’t buy Aquaman giving Wonder Woman the ‘we have to work as a team’ talk. We still haven’t seen much of him in this title, but he seems like the most reluctant team member of all, only there because he has to. Seemed out of place.
It’s like Johns isn’t reading his own Aquaman series. Arthur’s not a team player, or even a particularly sensitive guy. He’s one of the bigger macho-assholes on the team if his solo book is any indication of his personality.
Green-washing scenes with Green Lanterns in them is one of my primary visual hang-ups of titles like Green Lantern Corps – where like 90% of the issue is bathed in green. I haven’t been so bothered by it in Justice League for whatever reason.
It’s strange that he’s characterized that way too since he had his own “league” back in the day. You’d think he’d be used to it. Although, he was the leader of that team so maybe he just doesn’t like playing follow the leader.
He didn’t even like being the leader of the Others. Remember they were all like “uh, we should have these people from the avalanche” and Aquaman was like “whatevs, yo, I gotta beat up Black Manta (you guys are pussies).”
Haha, good point! I had completely forgotten that scene. Well then, I guess Aquaman is just a dick?
I love that scene, precisely because Aquaman is such a dick. Remember how he rescues the little girl, and then throws her in the snow?
LOL, good times!
I wouldn’t call WW punching Hal the way she did an overreaction. He’s so pushy on this team he really did have it coming. However, I would say Jim Lee’s pencils are an overreaction for sure. I appreciate good artwork, don’t get me wrong, but in this case I think the story was sacrificed just to cram more artwork in. I LOVED the splash page, but then almost half of the next page was Hal crashing into cars. I would have preferred if that page was trimmed to allow for more story progression.
Another thing I’d say about that scene is that Hal knows brash when he sees it and he knew that Wondy was about to go off on her own brashy lonesome. So him actually being a voice of reason in this instance rang true to me. The old childhood saying “It takes one to know one” comes to mind.
As far as this title being “hollow” I am feeling that too. I want to attribute it to us as readers not really knowing what this team has gone through since they first teamed up. After 5 years together there should be some kind of camaraderie between these characters. Instead, it feels like this second story arc is happening directly after the first even though 5 years is supposed to separate the two.
It’s just shitty that we don’t get to spend any time with the team as a functioning unit. We see the bumpy beginnings and then this still-not-working-together middle… it’s going to make the break-up and Trinity War feel inconsequential. If all we know is in-fighting in the League, it shouldn’t really cause any heart-break when they can’t, you know, stop fighting.
I agree, however, Johns does keep saying that next year we’ll see the Justice League as they “should” be which I assume means a cohesive team unit. But I’m not sure if this’ll be the team we see before or after Trinity War.
Hahahaha – the implication being that this isn’t the way Justice League “should” be. Good point Johns.
That’s all fine and good, but if I don’t care enough to keep reading until we see the team as they should be, then what’s the point?
I think Johns’ point is to show us the progression of a group of people learning to work together for the greater good. But the story should still be compelling regardless of whether or not the team is well oiled. And right now, the story is just okay. Although, I’m loving the hell out of Captain Mar—ahem…I mean, Shazam.
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If you like Cyborg, I do suggest you to read his best story arc ever: http://www.dccomics.com/graphic-novels/titans-vol-3-fractured.
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