Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Justice League 12, originally released August 29th, 2012.
Shelby: “Is this the end of the tried-and-true Justice League?”
This is the question the world is facing at the end of Justice League 12, and the end of the Villain’s Journey arc. I was really struck by this line, because my question is “What tried-and-true Justice League?” My biggest complaint with the Justice League since the reboot is the lack of cohesion to the team. The team starts out rough, and five years later still can’t work together. We’ve discussed over and over how they are such a bad team, and now at the end of the arc, Geoff John’s point seems to be… they are a bad team. Maybe my question should be, “What was the point of reading this in the first place?”
Our heroes are right where we left them: being confronted by the icy spirits of their loved ones. The spirits begin to encase the team in ice, claiming it’s the only way they can be together. Graves walks through, monologue-ing like any good villain in his situation would. Surprisingly, his motives are based in pity; he feels sorry for the team, and the individual losses they’ve all experienced. He wants to help them, help everyone, to be as happy as he has been since being reunited with his family. Just as he is about to commence destroying the temple to release the spirits to the world, he’s shot by (gasp) Steve Trevor, who looks like shit but is totally alive. This raises the very valid question of how his ghost can be chilling in this temple. Turns out, these are not the spirits of the League’s lost loved ones, they are some sort of parasite spirits. Everyone pulls themselves together and destroys/banishes/separates Graves from the spirits attached to him. Without his icy armor, he’s just a sick, grieving, pitiable man.
Back in the real world, Wonder Woman visits Steve in the hospital. She basically breaks up with him again, claiming it’s too dangerous for him to be close and saying they were going to ask for a new A.R.G.U.S. liaison. On the satellite, Batman, Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman, and Green Lantern are dealing with the fallout; the world is beginning to question the team, and the team is doing the same. After some argument that a change in leadership is necessary, Hal says he’s the problem, so he’s going to quit. As the world sees it, he started the fight with Wonder Woman, so if he takes the fall the rest of the team can continue to do good. While all this is going on, Wonder Woman and Superman are talking on the roof of the Lincoln Memorial. They chat about being different from everyone, and keeping loved one’s at an arms length to protect them, and about being lonely, and then they kiss.
I know that’s a long recap, but there were a lot of things going on in this issue. Despite that, I was underwhelmed. I still don’t feel anything for these characters: an impressive feat, considering I am reading titles starring more than half them. Johns has made the support characters of Trevor and Graves more compelling than any of the League members. On the one hand, I don’t believe this sudden reversal of Graves’ motives. Wanting to destroy the Justice League as a team but help it’s individual members just doesn’t feel believable to me. Even with that, I still feel nothing but pity for him in the end.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a villain I can empathize with; a pitiable villain is more complex, and makes for more compelling story telling. What does it do to the story, though, when the villain is so pitiable, it makes the good guys look bad? I know Johns is trying to make the point that the Justice League may not be the great team the world thought they were, but I feel like Johns may have over-made his point with this one.
This title has been a frustrating read. All year, we have been complaining about how crappy of a team Johns’ Justice League is, and with this conclusion Johns is saying that was his point all along. Well, great, I guess, except that a bunch of people not getting along makes for some really uninspired reading. I guess I should be happy that the team has finally realized the error of their ways and is going to learn and grow together, but mostly I just feel irritated that it took so long. The only character I’ve liked is Trevor, and he’s just been crapped on the whole time, and is apparently going to be leaving the title. With all the hype about Justice League of America, I feel like Johns has just been using Justice League as an excuse to create this new team. In the long run, this will probably prove to lead up to a really compelling universe; right now, reading it month to month, I’m feeling pretty much over it. What about you Patrick, were you more impressed with this conclusion issue than I was? I didn’t even touch on the kiss seen ’round the world that had no bearing on the issue at all, what did you think of that?
Patrick: I think you’re right on the money, Shelby. Everything about Justice League screams OBLIGATORY. The question you pose above (“What was the point of reading this in the first place?”) is one that goes unanswered, while the question “What was the point of writing this in the first place?” is immanently answerable. Justice League 1 launched the New 52 – it came out on the same day the final issue of Flashpoint came out, and those were the only two released at that time. (Which is insane, by the way. Even more insane? Both of those issues were penned by Geoff Johns, meaning he was 100% of the company’s output on September 7th, 2011.)
And that very first issue showed us two heroes very clearly: Batman and Green Lantern. Both were back to being Platonic expressions of these characters. Batman was Bruce Wayne (and not Thomas Wayne as implied by Flashpoint, and not Dick Grayson as implied by pre-reboot continuity) and Hal Jordan was flying around Earth being a Green Lantern. The story of the team coming together was a clerical responsibility; an armada needs a flagship. So you put your two biggest guns on the deck (Johns and Lee) and sail out into open waters.
And it’s in that spirit of clerical responsibility that this story arc closes. Hal leaves the team because he wants to salvage the groups’ reputation? Or Hal leaves because the Green Lantern books just disappeared him and so he’s going to absent from all titles whether JL acknowledges the Third Army stuff or not. Superman and Wonder Woman kiss because they’re both outsiders forced to keep their loved-ones at arms-length? Or they kiss because Lois Lane isn’t being written as a love interest and, hell, they’ve never done this pairing before. Actually, let’s talk about that kiss a little bit.
Johns has said that this isn’t a temporary thing; a Clark/Diana ‘ship is the new normal. I know there’s been a fair amount of outrage in the fan community, and even we are likely to point to this pairing as arbitrary. But, you know what? Big deal. Human beings (or Kryptonians and Amazon’s pretending to be human beings) fall in love for non-spectacular reasons all the time. It’s up to the storytellers to convince me this is a love worth exploring. The kiss here is the beginning, not the end. And for his part, Jim Lee does an impressive job of giving those pre-kiss moments some much-need electricity.
What actually does sort of bother me is the wacky logic employed by both our heroes and villains in this one. You mention Graves’ weird little reversal, but it’s also odd that the Justice League buys into Graves’ line about dooming his family. Batman explains: “David Graves and his family were the only survivors of a group of people Darkseid had cornered in Metropolis. They escaped his omega beams, but they breathed in the ash. Who knows what that could have done to them?” How can the team possibly feel bad about this? They’re not fucking doctors – they’re the superheroes. It is objectively more important that they stop Darkseid from cornering and murdering more people than diagnosing a to-that-point-unknown malady caused by an ash they’d never encountered before.
This issue also suffered from a lack of Shazam. Does it seems sorta shitty to you that we shell out the 4 bucks for a longer book that usually has a fun backup story in it, only to discover that the last four pages are simply hype for future comics? Not even in-narrative hype, but plain old advertising. Heads up DC, I saw that JLA graphic on line last week, I don’t get any extra sense of enjoyment from seeing it tacked on gracelessly to the end of my story.
But what the hell, we like speculation here, don’t we? Here are the two preview pages, let’s throw out our wildest theories in the comments.
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?