Justice League 19

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Today, Scott and Patrick are discussing Justice League 19, originally released April 17, 2013. This issue is part of the Trinity War crossover event. Click here for our complete Trinity War coverage.

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Scott: Much like nations at political odds, the relationships between superheroes can be delicate. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Justice League 19, which finds our heroes causing a ruckus in the Middle East while also tending to some interpersonal matters. Writer Geoff Johns packs a surprising amount of story into this issue, which continues prior plotlines involving new Justice League inductees and the relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman while introducing an intriguing new mystery. It skirts close to melodrama at one point, but the result is a satisfying mix of new questions and answers, a creatively packaged, fast-paced thriller.

Justice League 19 begins in the Batcave, where Alfred and Red Hood are attacked by a mysterious intruder, who is able to access a mysterious room filled with mysterious cases, each marked with a different JLA member’s symbol. Batman recruits Cyborg and Aquaman to help uncover the identity of the thief, but they’re stumped. Meanwhile, new Justice Leaguers Atom and Firestorm arrive at the Watchtower for their certification, only to find that the other members have forgotten or, better yet, are distracted. Superman and Wonder Woman are in the country of Kahndaq, where they’ve rescued 8 hostages, much to the chagrin of Batman, who arrives to tell them of the political turmoil their interference has created, which reflects poorly on all of the Justice League. He also reveals that he knows of their romantic involvement, and warns them to be careful- the rest of the world will be gunning for them, including the Batcave intruder, who has stolen something that could hurt Superman.

So who is this mysterious intruder? Not only does he enter the Batcave unnoticed and leave without a trace, he is able to enter Batman’s super secret room, which requires both handprint and retinal scans.

Ok, so we know the thief has retinas...

If Batman were to have a room where he keeps secret plans and items and that can destroy other Justice League members, who would he grant access powers to? I can’t think of anyone besides, well, Batman. But if you’re looking for someone else who might have handprints and retina information identical to Bruce Wayne, you needn’t look further than Batman 19. Whether Clayface could actually pull something like this off, I’m not so sure, it just seems like quite a coincidence that he recently transformed into an exact DNA copy of Bruce Wayne and now someone is possibly using Batman’s DNA info to break into the Batcave. Does Clayface even know that Bruce Wayne is Batman? Not so far as I can tell. Does he have any apparent reason to be going after Superman? Not really. Are Batman and Justice League two separate comics capable of having two simultaneous but entirely distinct storylines that shouldn’t necessarily be read-into like this? Yes, yes they are. But hey, I’m just thinking and typing here.

The art team, led by penciller Ivan Reis, just killed it in this issue, hopping between several very distinct and fully realized worlds. My personal favorite was the Ape-Orc battle, occurring in the MMORPG that Atom was playing before heading off to her Justice League certification.

C'mon Atom, at least TRY to blend in

How awesome is it that newest member of the greatest Superhero team in the world plays World of Warcraft (or some non-copyright infringing lookalike)? Living one fantasy doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in another in your spare time. I’m sure LeBron James plays a little Madden before his games.

The centerpiece of the issue is the extended scene involving Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman- the comic book scene the masses want to see. This one just happens to appeal more to our inner romantic comedy fan than our comic nerd side, which usually knows better than to get suckered into drama like “Two of the three biggest superheroes in the world are dating, and the third one isn’t that cool with it.” But dammit, it’s compelling! Batman is trying to put the onus on Superman and Wonder Woman to recognize the consequences of their relationship, but he’s the one who blew it. Bruce has the detective skills to deduce who is dating who, but he can’t figure out who got into the Batcave, and it looks like Superman will pay the price for Batman’s failure to protect his own property, whatever it is.


It’s not overtly specified that the thief stole the kryptonite ring, but the issue’s cover and the green glow emanating from the “S”-marked case are pretty good hints. It can’t be too comforting for the other Justice League members to know that Batman keeps a box of tools he can use to destroy each of them hidden in a secret room in the Batcave. Even if nothing ever comes of it, the fact that Batman was holding onto that ring threatens to dissolve the trust between Batman and Superman (although Batman can use the defense that Superman could pretty easily kill him anytime he wants).

I haven’t mentioned the significance of Kahndaq, which also plays a role in the Shazam! backup. I hardly ever consider the fact that the Justice Leaguers are Americans, and thus, there is a sense of a jurisdiction over which they can use their powers. I can’t really tell if the outrage in Kahndaq is because they’re Americans or because they’re superheroes. I mean, most the stuff they do in America isn’t strictly legal, so why is it so much worse if they’re doing it in another country? If Kahndaq had its own superheroes (possibly it does?) would it have been OK for them to interfere in the hostage situation? Patrick, do you have any thoughts about this? Surely you have thoughts about other aspects of Justice League 19, like the identity of the thief or the outcome of the Ape-Orc battle. Out with them already!

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Patrick: I’ve never had my opinions solicited so forcefully! I assume that Ape-Orc battle is going to proceed smoothly, with victory going to Atom’s buddies. I mean, she can hop into her computer and manipulate some kind of avatar in this digital world, which means she must be pretty good at the game. You don’t think she’d party-up with a bunch of n00bs, do you? Here’s how good she is: she somehow takes her iPhone into the game with her – and the rest of her party is stuck with strictly medieval gear.

The Atom brings her iPhone into the World of Warcraft

Actually, as silly as it is that Rhonda can literally immerse herself in a video game world, this ability is a fun call-back to one of the earlier Atoms, Ray Palmer. For starters, Ray was able to shrink himself down to such a tiny size that he was able to hop into a telephone receiver and ride the electrons that travels the phone lines. It means he had to dial another phone and wait for the person to pick up, but then he was effectively instantly transported to the location he had just dialed. It’s one of those “sure, why not?” powers. Never mind that it would take an unfathomable amount of accuracy to shrink yourself to the correct size and location to ride an electron — and also never mind that electrons sort of exist in multiple places at once and also never mind that they’re more energy than they are matter: IT’S A FUN IDEA OKAY? Ray also went into self-imposed exile after his wife killed Sue Dibny (every time I think about Identity Crisis, it gets cooler in my mind). While living a tiny-life, he had adventures with teeny-tiny people in a very fantasy-like environment, which I believe Rhonda’s WoWing is also a reference to.

Oh, I guess there are some non-Atom stuff in this issue too… like Scott’s questions about the Americanness of the Justice League. I totally get where you’re coming from, Scott – pointedly, neither of the two people actually causing the international incident are technically American. Clark was born on another planet and Diana’s a damn Amazon. But the fact remains that the US government has a Justice League liaison in place, so as long as someone on the team is American (and they all keep speaking English), they’ll be considered “American.” Also, because Kahndaq ends up being a surrogate for all middle-eastern countries at once, the negative reaction to Superman and Wonder Woman might just be the standard response to outsider involvement of any kind: blame the Americans.

The concept of Kahndaq is fascinating to me. DC obviously has a rich world populated by cities and countries both fictional and real. The appeal of fictional cities, as I understand them, is that they act as a clean slate for writers, artists and readers to project their own urban experiences on. When I was a kid, growing up in southeastern Wisconsin, I was utterly convinced that Gotham City was Chicago, because that was my frame of reference for what a city was like. I now understand that Gotham has a lot more in common with New York, but the universality of it allowed me to engage with the idea as a youngster. But even now, I’m comfortable ascribing Chicago-qualities or Detroit-qualities to Gotham. That makes Kahndaq a mighty-powerful idea – you can ascribe as much political turmoil as you like to the country. But you can also ascribe an almost biblical mysticism to it, as Johns does in the Shazam! back-up.

Very quickly: on the run from Black Adam, Billy and his foster brothers and sisters discover the Black Adam’s history. He was once a little boy living in slavery in ancient Kahndaq, driven to dark magic to seek revenge against his captors. Billy is invigorated by the thought that Adam is actually just a misunderstood kid like he is, so Billy rushes off to reason with him. He soon discovers that Black Adam is profoundly not interested in being reasoned with.

Billy Batson and Black AdamWhile a page or two of this already-short story gets taken over by the Adam-origin, it’s full of refreshing little tid-bits. First of all, Gary Frank’s acting continues to be just absolutely stellar. There are maybe half a dozen panels that are basically the same in this issue – all of Billy’s face as lit by the iPad – but every single one shows a subtly distinct emotions on his face. My favorite of which is when Billy realizes that he might have something in common with his enemy and the solution to his problems may be talking, instead of violence.

Billy realizes Adam is just a kidLook at that mix of wonder and hope in his eyes. This moment also says some beautiful things about Billy’s character. Billy isn’t good at making friends – in fact, he’s kind of made a life out of making enemies. His default mode of interaction is confrontation, and failing confrontation, he bails. Not this time. He sees a kindred spirit in the slave-boy with anger management problems and he projects all of his own fears and insecurities on to Black Adam. It’s touching, and it would border on hackneyed except for the fact that it doesn’t work – Black Adam basically spits in Billy’s face. Like most problems in this world, this one will be solved with punchings.

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23 comments on “Justice League 19

  1. The mysterious intruder could easily be anyone that Bruce has entrusted to give that kind of access to, but I have a strange feeling that it’s someone a lot closer to the Wayne family. Not only does the dude have access and knows exactly where to go, he’s even dressed like Batman. All black, yellow utility belt, just add some Bat-ears and he’s good to go.

    The only problem is, the Bat family isn’t very big, so who could it be? It’s obviously not Jason and the only other person that fits the intruders body type is Dick. Hmmm….there’s even red accents on the dudes uniform. Red for robin?

    • Oh, I figured this had something to do with the fake superheroes we saw in JLA. I know cyborg specifically rules out that this was an android, but maybe it’s a clone?

      • I mean, it could be anyone or anything at this point, but I’m trying to keep Occam’s razor in mind for this one. It could be robots, clones or even Clayface, but I get the impression that it’s something a lot simpler and a lot closer to (Batman’s) home.

        I do love clones though, that could be fun!

  2. Since you bring up the fictional city point, a quick side bar: what are your opinions regarding Metropolis geography? I’ve seen people say that the “DC Atlas” (that’s a thing I guess) puts Metropolis across the bay from Gotham, but to me Metropolis always had a West Coast feel to it. Maybe I think that bc of how brightly it’s always colored and I associate sun with California, but also I’m of the opinion that Batman and Superman are too much for one coast.

    I realize this is a moot point bc it’s fiction and we can interpret it however we like but I’ll argue it anyways because COMICS!

    • I don’t remember where I saw it or who wrote/said it but I always liked it:

      Metropolis is New York during the day and Gotham is New York at night.

      Aside from the fact that both cities are coastal I always want them to be Chicago (Gotham) & St. Louis (Metropolis) but this probably has more to do with Smallville and the Nolanverse.

      • “Metropolis is New York by day; Gotham City is New York by night” is a statement that has been attributed to both comic book writers Frank Miller and John Byrne.


    • That’s interesting. I definitely see Metropolis as a New York stand-in — it’s THE big city of the DC Universe, with a nationally distributed newspaper that other papers aspire to be. That said, it has WAY less character than Gotham, so could really be anywhere. Gotham is very obviously a New York stand-in — they’ve even cemented its geography as one of islands and boroughs — but is rather specifically the corrupt, seedy, violent parts of New York. I kind of agree with Patrick and Evan’s feelings that Gotham bears some resemblance to Chicago in terms of its historical relationship to crime and corruption.

      Ultimately, they’re really supposed to be ur-cities, though, right? Like, it’s important that we recognize these cities as big cities more than anything too specific about them. For Patrick, that meant Chicago, but for those in Southern California, the image for “big city” might be Los Angeles.

      Also, Evan, I love that New York by day/night quote, whoever said it. For better or for worse, the Comics industry is still tied to New York, which means the references writers and artists are using will tend to also be New York-centered. Marvel makes that literal, but DC is almost as transparent about it.

  3. Hey, so it seems like Justice League may win the prize for hardest reset, as it seems clear that NO pre-New 52 stories are canon. That means cool ideas like Khandaq or Bruce having failsafes against every member of the league (and the potential for having those failsafes stolen and used against the league) have to be built from scratch. I’m sure someone more conversant in post-crisis continuity can do Black Adam’s old history more justice than I can, but 52 saw him as the undisputed god-king of Khandaq, which is kind of a cool idea, right?

    • It is a very cool idea and I hope they revisit that here. Black Adam has the potential to be very much like the Namor of the DCU, so I hope they go that route with him.

      Tower of Babel was great in the pre-52 so I’m not surprised seeing that revisted somewhat. Also, did you notice the Brother Eye blueprints in the room? It seems that our mysterious intruder has broken into the Batman’s closet of bad decisions. Brother Eye has caused some very localized damage so far in the N52, but Geoff Johns seems to have plans for him (as seen in the JLI Annual). Now, seeing that Bats has all of these contingencies in place (which did NOT work out for him before), it seems like Bats’ overpreparedness is leading to yet another event-sized kerfuffle, at least in part.

      • Hehe, I’m shocked I got through the review and then this much of the discussion before anyone referenced the Mark Waid similarities

  4. Atom being able to shrink down into a video game and play it like a VR simulator is just ridiculous, but in a really fun kind of way.

    I’m surprised neither of you mentioned the attacker on the Watchtower. Think its related to the Batcave theif, or someone totally different?

    Patrick, what did you mean by “another” Sue Dibny? I’m not quite following your thought there.

    Atom and Firestorm looking for a kitchen and a bathroom was great. I’d love to see Batman walk into a Watchtower closet and siddenly see a newly transmuted bathroom inside. “FIRESTORM!!!”

    • Good point man, Despero attacking the Watchtower is some serious shit. It’s crazy how many hallmarks of Infinite Crisis was featured in this issue. Brother Eye, Batman’s contingency plans being used against him, Despero, Trinity infighting. Kinda nuts.

        • Oh man, that’s a loaded question. The only one that I can recommend with no strings attached is “Identity Crisis.” While the rest of them are all awesome, universe shaping stories, Identity Crisis tells a much more intimate story about pain, loss and regret on a stunningly human scale. I read it before I was balls-deep in the DCU and it manages to transcend it’s event-like premise to tell a story with some real emotional heft. But, be forewarned that it’s not all fun and games (like the rest of the crisis, which all achieve levels of ridiculous that only comics can achieve).

          But that’s a great question, and I’d ask everyone to chime in with their two cents about the Crisiseseses – especially given that the re-launch seems to have scrubbed them out of continuity, what’s still worth reading?

        • I love all of the Crises, even Zero Hour. I just find it so fascinating to see the various attempts at “fixing” all of the continuity issues that arise from this kind of storytelling. I started reading DC Comics with Crisis on Infinite Earths. I was utterly blown away and over my head. It was great, I jumped feet first into the rabbit hole and never looked back! It’s a classic and I think it’s a great example of event-sized storytelling. Plus, it’s the best introduction to the Anti-Monitor, a character that is still somehow a part of the continuity.

        • My favorite Crisis is Infinite Crisis, though it helps that I started reading monthly comics right as the event began. I keep meaning to reread it actually. It’s super convoluted, but there’s a lot of fun cosmic crisisey stuff going on, and despite all that, it still manages to tell some really effective, interesting and moving stories with Batman, Superboy, and the Superman of Earth 2 especially.

          Crisis on Infinite Earths is worth reading for its historic importance alone. The moments with the Flash and Supergirl especially deserve to be read. But it’s very much a product of the 80s, and it doesn’t hold up as well as Wolfman’s other 80s classic (“The New Teen Titans”). It’s also probably too long and super convoluted as well.

          I have mixed feelings about Final Crisis. It’s the least complicated and has some killer blockbuster moments and tremendous art. But it’s very Morrison-y, and I feel like he sacrifices a coherent plot and stable narrative structure in order to make his points at time. Theme is important, but in Final Crisis the theme literally swoops in at the last second and derails the entire plot. It can be fascinating or frustrating depending on who you are; it’s a very divisive book. If you like Morrison at his most trippy, though, it’s worth a look.

          I still haven’t forgiven Identity Crisis for what it did to Tim Drake; I feel like that moment derailed his entire character and to this day I still don’t think he’s quite recovered what made him unique before that. But it’s a very very well told story, it just has a few questionable or uncomfortable choices here and there.

        • The only crisis I’ve read is Final Crisis, and Spencer said it — it’s SUPER Morrison-y. I’d say its actually more useful as an example of what people mean when they say something is Morrison-y than it is an interesting story. I’ve read that fucker twice and still can’t make heads or tails of it.

          I’ve been planning on picking up Infinite Crisis for a while now. I recently read all of Gotham Central, which piqued my interest in how it interacted with the Crisis. I was also interested in tracing Kate Kane back further than Elegy, which meant reading 52. I’ve now read the first two trades of 52, but feel like I could really benefit from reading both Infinite AND Identity Crisis before reading any further. I haven’t felt particularly compelled to read Crisis on Infinite Earths, but Mik makes a pretty compelling case for that one, too.

          I think I just want to read all the comics.

        • Hahaha, I think we all want to read all the comics! It’s kind of a problem because my original comment could have gone on WAY longer. Since you are reading 52, it would be a great idea to read Infinite Crisis as it’s basically a sequel to it, BUT reading Identity Crisis would be beneficial too as that was the series that kick started the events of Infinite Crisis.

          This reminds of my comic salesman days, my store had all of these timelines on the wall so that people would know where to start and where to go with all of these trades. We had timelines for Batman, GL, and a bunch more including Infinite Crisis. It started with Identity Crisis then JLA: Crisis of Conscience, OMAC Project, Villains United, Day of Vengeance, Rann/Thanagar War, Infinite Crisis, 52. Superman: Sacrifice was also somewhere in there, but it was A LOT to read if you wanted to get all of the details, it was NUTS.

          I always recommended ID Crisis, OMAC Project and Villains United as the most essential lead-ins to Infinite Crisis with Infinite Crisis being the only essential lead-in to 52.

          Was that confusing? Man, those timelines really did make this a lot easier. LOL

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