Today, Patrick and (guest writer) Evan are discussing Justice League 18, originally released March 20, 2013.
Patrick: I’m always missing something when I read a DC or Marvel comic. The companies and the characters have been around too long and there’s just too much material for me to be well-versed in all of it. That’s not an apology or an admission of any kind – I think we should all accept that readers have a infinite amount of time and money and memory and interest. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone stares at me, mouth agape and says “Oh my God, I can’t believe you haven’t read blank.” Justice League 18 digs deep into the DC archives but also embraces brand new creation and mixes vigorously. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter what you’ve read before.
The Justice Leaguers are all ready to dial down their commitment to the League – I mean, we’re all busy, right? Right. The problem is that they’d need to hire on some full-time help, so they can all just go part-time (if you get in 20 hours a week, you can still qualify for medical, so there’s that). Cyborg searches every database in the world and assembles a short list of candidates that they invite up to the Watchtower for a kind of Superhero Reception. Let’s take a look at the guest list:
Before you can say “who the hell is Goldrush?” – Platinum’s Responsometer malfunctions, causing her to attack everyone at the table. Via radio communications, her inventor Dr. Magnus, urges them not to damage the precious, precious Responsometer. See, it’s like her robot-brain, and even though its on the fritz right now, it’s an advanced and irreplaceable piece of technology. Element Woman distracts Plantinum while Firestorm turns her platinum body into water – thus leaving the Responsomter unharmed! Or so it would seem until everyone sees the thing plummeting toward the ground. Luckily, The Atom was also invited and she (more on that in a bit) rushes in for the save. So the decision is made: Firestorm, Atom and Element Woman will be the new full-time members of the Justice League. Just then, Cyborg discovers that the super duper secure Watchtower servers have been hacked.
DC’s got such a deep bench of heroes, and Geoff Johns is one of those writers that absolutely relishes digging through the archives for fun characters and concepts to play with. The heroes he brings up to the satellite run the gamut of notoriety levels in the DC Universe. Hell, this is the New 52 introduction of Platinum. And Goldrush? Don’t bother looking her up – she’s a brand new creation that appeared when Cyborg was considering back-up during the battle against Atlantis. We also get a brand new identity for The Atom – a Ms. Rhonda Pineda. Atom’s been one of my favorite D-List heroes for a long time, and I’m happy to see some version of the character here. If future issues of Justice League mean meeting Rhonda, then color me enthusiastic.
The rest of the room is populated with people we’ve seen regularly in the New 52 – if you were looking for them, that is. Black Canary’s been the lead in Birds of Prey and featured heavily in the hyped-but-sorta-crummy Team 7 and Zatanna’s been fighting alongside John Constantine in Justice League Dark. Nightwing and Firestorm each have their own series, and Blue Devil and Black Lightning just finished a four-issue run on DC Universe Presents (issues 13-16). They’re all from such vastly different corners of the universe, and most of them are pretty deep cuts. It’s remarkable to consider that no two people are going to approach this set of characters with even remotely similar expectations.
The plot of the issue is totally trivial – and the conflict presented by a malfunctioning Platinum seems well within the abilities of Superman and/or Flash to address (seriously, Flash couldn’t vibrate through her and pull that robo-brain out?). But as a ‘here’s how a team starts’ issue, this was actually sorta fun. There are so many characters that are new to the series (11 heroes in 9 pages), that it boarders on self-parody. That sense of fun and frivolity is precisely where this issue distinguishes itself from something like the first issue of Justice League of America. I like this series so much more when it’s not focused on being the super-serious center of the DC Universe.
Another reason to love the issue is that it’s drawn by Jesus Saiz. Saiz effortlessly juggles rooms full of superheroes, keeping the space consistent and dynamic whether the characters are idly chatting or throwing each other around the space station. Plus there are two different characters trasmuting matter in this issue – that shit gets complicated. Also, maybe I’m just nostalgic for a time when I really liked Birds of Prey, but it is damn good to see him drawing Black Canary again.
It’s also sort of cool how many lady-heroes got called up to the satellite. Actually, there are a few weird gender-things at play here, and I can’t tell if this issue, over all, has a positive or negative view of women. The biggest problem I have is that Goldrush’s sexuality is treated as some kind of threatening force toward Flash. He’s so threatened by the woman that he “votes no” on her inclusion in the team, but like, all she did was ask him if he’d ever been married and sorta hit on him. God forbid a women express her sexual desires – she must be no good! It’s just sort of a bummer that an issue that features so many strong and awesome lady characters (Z and Dinah ON THE SAME PAGE!) should also have these weird sexual hang-ups.
Evan, I haven’t gotten to the latest chapter in the Shazam saga, so I will leave it that story in your capable hands. Are you at all frustrated to see Billy trying to refuse his magical powers at this point?
Evan: Thanks Patrick! I’m going to get to Shazam! in a moment but I want to touch on the Goldrush/Flash dynamic that you mentioned. My take-away was that Barry was being a bit of a whiner. It made me think less of Barry and like Goldrush more. (can I love someone more, considering I just met them?) Also, totally believe she’s the one who sabotaged the Watchtower.
I’m glad that you left me the Shazam! stuff because I have a lot to say about it. To start, the story is dragging on too long for my liking. I did a little research and discovered that this is the 10th Shazam! back-up, dating back to March 2012. Patrick, Do you remember March 2012? Marvel NOW! Was just a twinkle in Joe Quesada’s eye, Rick Santorum was a Presidential Contender, and Damian was alive, well, and not even a vegetarian yet. A year is a long time. On top of all this, I’m not that crazy about the art. I don’t like heavily inked art and have been known to drop books because of it. All that said, I do like this Billy Batson fellow, and I feel that he is written with a real depth of character. We have seen many times over the course of his story that he has a moral code, but a jaded view of people. He will stand up for others while at the same time pushing everyone away. He is both bratty and likable. Maybe he will be the new Damian.
One piece of writing that I will take Geoff Johns to task on is this:
How can a person live in a world with the Justice League, aliens from outer space, and rings that manifest “will” NOT believe in magic? I get that they are trying to set up Eugene as the science/bookworm type, but comments like that make him seem out of touch with reality.
Switching to the main Justice League story: I too enjoyed watching all the heroes interact with each other. I have not read any of The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men so this was my first chance to read the character and found the interplay between Ronnie and Jason funny, inviting, and I look forward to reading more of them. In fact, I could say the same thing for the just-excited-to-be-nominated Elemental Woman, the great-things-come-in-small-packages Atom, the knows-what-she-wants Goldrush (mentioned above) and the I-know-where-all-the-mutants/superheroes-are Proffessor Xavier/Cyborg.
I will end my first Guest Writer adventure with a bit of frustration over the “C” word – Continutity. Johns went out of his way to mention what’s been going on for these characters in their other books:
- Nightwing is mad at Batman because of Joker stuff
- Flash couldn’t help because of Gorilla stuff
- Aquaman is King of Atlantis because of brother stuff
But then he chose to ignore the fact that Zatanna is trapped in Epoch or that Vixen was in a coma last time we saw her in Justice League International or anything that Brian Azzarello has ever written about Diana.
It’s fine with me if you don’t want to mention other books, and I have no problem believing that Batman can do Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison things at the same time but once you do start trying to connect the books you can’t pick and choose which characters to do it with a which ones not to. I guess what I’m trying to say is I want Strife to join the Justice League.
Evan believes that Batman and Robin was the best the of the Burton/Schumacher films and also loves Superman 3, so take his opinion with a grain of salt. When not watching universally hated movies he enjoys Cosplaying as Nightwing.
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?