Justice League 14

Today, Mikyzptlk and Shelby are discussing Justice League 14, originally released November 21st, 2012, 

Mikyzptlk: My complaint with the first 12 issues of Justice League was that there was too much emphasis placed on the action and not enough on the characters. Being a fan of Geoff Johns for many years, I’ve seen what he can do with characters big and small and have read many tales of his that were rich with deep characterization. As year 2 of Justice League is starting to rev up, I’m happy to see Johns starting to focus more on his characterization. Even though this issue isn’t perfect, I’m glad to say that it’s less a Jerry Bruckheimer summer blockbuster and more of a return to what I come to expect from Johns.

The issue opens with a Cheetah-infected Superman attacking the Justice League. The League subdues Superman with the help of the tribe that once considered “The Cheetah” an ally. During the fight, the villainous Cheetah escapes so half the League stays behind with the tribe to attempt to heal Superman while the other attempts to capture Cheetah. Fortunately for both groups, the tribe knows how to cure Superman and Aquaman has a plan to capture Cheetah along with the help of Wonder Woman. While all of this is going on, the tribe explains that “The Cheetah” is actually a goddess of the hunt that through a convoluted series of events ended up in a knife that Barbara Minerva then stole to become an evil version of The Cheetah. Anyway, Superman is cured and Cheetah ends up in Belle Reve which apparently (and unfortunately for our heroes) is right where she wants to be. It turns out that she’s working with Black Manta and has been positioned in Belle Reve for some sinister purpose. Back in Justice League HQ the team discovers that Barbara Minerva is simply one of her many aliases and that all of her other identities have multiple criminal offenses. Wonder Woman’s assertions that “The Cheetah” corrupted Minerva are proven wrong causing Diana to have a major sad. Superman takes her out to Smallville for a date in a diner and tells her not to be too let down by the fact that some people are jerks and that she should remember that they all fight to protect the good in humanity. As Superman and Wonder Woman make out some more it is revealed that Batman has placed a tracker on the Man of Steel and is being a SUPER creeper.

There is a lot that I liked about this issue. I feel that Johns is paying more attention to his characters and that we are starting to see a team of heroes that actually want to work together. I like seeing Batman and Aquaman work more effectively as a team as well. I can see them being a very interesting and effective duo in the issues to come. Lastly, I’m VERY interested to see what kind of trouble Batman’s paranoia is going to him into this time. In the Pre-52, his paranoia partly led the dissolution of the Justice League and a world wide crisis. With “Trinity War” approaching, I wonder if Batman’s paranoia will lead to League infighting once again.

Now on the some of the stuff I didn’t like as much. Take a look at the panel below.

Here, Cyborg is shown translating between the tribe and the other Leaguers. This is a pretty cool and DEFINITELY useful trick considering how many different kinds of beings the JL comes across. Even though I love that Johns is elevating Cyborg in this way, I still can’t stop thinking of him as the Justice Leagues personal T.A.R.D.I.S. My point is that I want to see more of this character beyond just the cool things that he can do. As the youngest Leaguer of the bunch (currently) I think that he can provide an interesting perspective to the older Leaguers and provide a unique window that readers can view the book through. In a recent interview on CBR, Johns says that we’ll be seeing Cyborg’s “biggest role to date” in the upcoming “Throne of Atlantis” storyline. I’m hoping this means we’ll get a deeper characterization of the character that goes beyond what we’ve seen so far.

Another thing that bothered me about this issue could be due to the fact that I used to eat paint chips when I was kid. Take a look at the following few panels that gives us the explanation of what transformed Barbara Minerva into The Cheetah.

Is it just me or is this needlessly complicated? I feel like I need a flowchart to understand this thing.  Seriously, I had to read this over a bunch of times before I understood what was going on. I don’t really understand why the curse had to have some kind of complicated journey to get to Minerva. Why not just simplify it and get on with the story? I imagine this convoluted set up is here because the League will use this information to stop Cheetah somehow but I would have appreciated a more streamlined explanation that didn’t require me needing to read it a couple (hundred) times.

Tony Daniel’s artwork was inconsistent at best in this issue. I’m really not sure what happened here. He’s improved greatly over the years but this image of The Crow…I mean Superman should tell you all you need to know about what I didn’t like about his artistic outing in this issue.

I’m really not sure what is going on with some of his artwork here. While some of his work is laughable like the Super Crow up there, other shots, like the first image of Batman I posted, are quite nice.

Shelby, this issues had some highs and lows and I’m curious to know what you think of it. I didn’t even get a chance to write about the Shazam backup so I’ll let you tackle it and catch up with you in the comments section!

Shelby: When does Super Crow come out? That is a title I would read. I can see where Johns is finally beginning to pull the team together and focus on character development,  but it doesn’t feel especially genuine to me. Clark’s “there are good people out there” speech is fine, I guess, but it’s not especially interesting. That was my problem with this issue; for all the action we had, I found it a little dull. You’re dead on the money about the Cheetah legend being needlessly complicated, both in story and visually. It’s almost impossible for the eye to follow the text boxes and flashback when combined with the dialogue and action of the fight between Diana and Cheetah. Mushing the two together completely eliminates the drama from both stories and produces a spread that my eyes just sort of glide over without taking any of it in. There are also some details that are just sort of glossed over; details like the Flash being seriously injured, or Clark being magically healed and never speaking of the ordeal again. That last one really bugged me; Clark is going on about how people are inherently good and ultimately demonstrating that he is an ideal representation of Good In The Universe, but when he’s possessed by a demonic force and turns on his friends, he doesn’t have anything to say about it? There’s a lot of interesting character development right there that is completely ignored so Diana can talk about her trust issues.

Again, the Shazam! backup proves to be a better reason to read this title than the actual Justice League story. Black Adam is trying to get used to the way the world works now. He decides he doesn’t like it, and enlists the help of Sloth, one of the seven deadly sins, to help him tear the world down and start over. Meanwhile, Billy and Freddy are still running around enjoying the fact that Billy is now “pretty jacked.” I’m really liking Black Adam as a villain; he’s got a “free the enslaved” vibe that I can get behind. When he sees some people protesting pension cuts, the solution seems simple.

 

Yeah, he just dropped a man to his death, and then told the protesters they were free. He’s certainly a villain, but his free-the-slaves motives make him slightly more complex than “I’m a bad guy, so I do bad things.” You know me, I’m a sucker for complex villains. I assume he’s going to go about, collecting the rest of the seven deadlies, and that’s an exciting prospect. There’s just enough Christian mysticism involved to make me super interested. I’m also glad we didn’t focus any more on Billy and Freddy than we needed to. I get it, he’s a kid in an adult body, they’re going to run around doing adult things. That’s all I need to know. I suppose it’s pretty weird that I mostly like this title for it’s backup story, and in the backup I prefer not reading about the title character. I’m not sure if that means Johns is doing something good and interesting, or just terrible; only time will tell, I suppose. 

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?

20 comments on “Justice League 14

  1. Shelby, I also really liked the depiction of Black Adam as almost an old-world hero that doesn’t understand how to apply his powers to the modern world. He’s a hammer in a world that demands an electron micro-scope. That’s enough to drive any would-be hero to villainy.

    Also, I had hoped we’d see personifications of all 7 sins and it looks like we’re well on our way to that. I’m not convinced that “gluttony” is going to look all that different from “sloth,” and just as Orange Lanterns are kind of a weird abstract concept, the sin of “pride” is going to make a weird villain, but I can’t want to see them all assembled. FURTHER, I’m looking forward to seeing Gary Frank draw a “lust” character – he’s one of the few dudes I’d trust to take on something like that.

  2. I hate Tony Daniel’s art in this issue. There’s an image of Wonder Woman diving into action with the most awkward ass-tits-face pose I’ve seen of this character in the New 52. I thought we were at least beyond the point of drawing this character like a fucking pervert, but I guess TD has spoken: we must see Wonder Titties at all times!

    • Hahaha, I can’t help but see that now! Though I wonder where his paranoia is going from a story perspective though. It makes sense that Batman would be this paranoid but it totally goes against what he says earlier in this issue when Superman is still all Cheetah-ed out: “This man is my friend.” Batman has always been pretty gruff with his friends and allies but the last time he started going down this road it led to the creation of Brother Eye and his OMACS nearly taking over the world. Johns is obviously aware of this since he was a big part of that story so I’m wondering what is going on in his head as he writes yet another paranoid Batman who takes to some serious privacy invasion of his supposed friends.

      • It’s interesting that you read that as paranoia. I guess I just trust Batman implicitly, so as soon as he thinks something is a problem, I also think it’s a problem. Like, I’m sorta relieved that he’s keeping an Brother Eye on Superman.

        • And the thing is, he’s probably right to be paranoid. I’m also glad that he’s keeping an eye on this but I doubt anyone else will understand his motivations. I’ve seen Batman’s paranoia lead to REALLY bad things including the destruction of the Justice League. Those Pre-52 stories may be coloring my interpretation of what’s happening here though but I’m finding this all forebodingly familiar.

        • The thing about Tower Of Babel and also what he’s doing here, though, is that in both cases I agree with his assessment – I don’t find it to be paranoia so much as cynicism by way of utility. As far as Tower Of Babel, this Justice League 14 shows at least one good reason that there should be a plan for if Superman were ever to be compromised… he was compromised very easily in this issue and if it weren’t for the deus ex machina blowhorn then who *knows* how difficult he could have been to contain. I see his deliberation on the consequences of a Superman/Wonder Woman romance in this issue as being extremely valid, based on the Steve Trevor/A.R.G.U.S. situation alone… even if I *didn’t* know this relationship was going to somehow wipe Booster Gold out of the timeline and probably encite the Trinity War somehow.

  3. Hey, so Cheetah can move fast enough to hit Flash and can pierce Superman’s skin with her teeth, but a swarm of piranhas is too much to handle?

    ALSO – Joker uses some false piranhas against Catwoman this week too. The rat with the “piranha” ball made it through the maze just a little faster this week, I guess.

  4. I’m actually a big fan of this issue and the last – they’re not perfect, but I enjoy the elements at play more than I did those in the Graves storyline. To me, these two issues are flawed by nature due to the practicalities of publishing them – Tony Daniels is a fill-in for exactly two issues before Ivan Reis jumps from Aquaman to Justice League, with Paul Pelletier simultaneously taking over Aquaman, to organize a crossover. This gives Johns very little breathing room so he arguably would have been better off treating the issues as Justice League downtime (the “calm before the storm”.) However, I get the point… Justice League is meant to be the action team-up title and we get the characterization in spades in their solos. Justice League is not the place for downtime. Considering how quickly this had to be accomplished, I think that we got an excellent New 52 Cheetah origin – Johns “flips the script” if you will by making Minerva a career criminal and her Cheetah powers a neutral power set rather than a curse. Like what has been done with Mr. Freeze, I am now treated to a villian I am fond of and familiar with but am allowed the opportunity to see their motivations through a new light – with new information that changes everything. And even while cramming an action plot into just two issues we still got solid character developement on the Superman/Wonder Woman plot (hell, arguably more character developement than we actually saw in the entire first twelve issues of Superman.) Plus, as much as I absolutely love (LOVE!!!) the Azzarello Wonder Woman, it is a departure from her long history and has really been ignoring the way Wonder Woman stories have traditionally worked, so if Johns sees a need for those types of stories and has a place to put them in the Justice League then I am all about that as well.

    • That’s true – none of us have really mentioned what IS satisfying about this story and that’s the speedy nature of whole thing. A new villain is introduced, there’s a fun little complication, there are decent character moments for just about everyone (and it’s not just them fighting eachother all the time) and they wrap it neatly by the end. Both Graves and the Darkseid invasion suffered from Too Many Assholes and from the need to Be Important. A digestible story wherein our team works together (without complaining about it!) to catch the bad guy (and looks like it might also feed in to future events in the series) is ultimately a good thing. I know that’s what I’ve been asking for. It is too bad TD’s art is so so shitty here. Is it just me or is it actually shittier than he usually pumps out?

    • Seriously valid points Mogo. I was going to mention the new Cheetah as well as I do find it to be an interesting twist on the character and I love that her actions here are going to feed into the next story.

      I totally agree with you about what a JL book is generally and that “downtime” isn’t usually a part of it’s makeup. However, I’d TOTALLY read a book that focused on the JLers downtime. They could call it Justice League: Monitor Duty or something and it would only work as a comedy. That’s where Giffen and DeMatteis comes in!

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