JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE VILLAIN’S JOURNEY | ‘New to Comics’ REVIEW

New to Comics is a segment where I look at various comic books; explaining, reviewing, and breaking them down for readers unfamiliar to the medium. The title is a reference to a university project that I carried on as its own site for several years before laying it to rest.

With Flashpoint out of the way, it’s time to get back to the Justice League. I previously looked at volume one, Origin, in 2018. But conveniently, Flashpoint ends sometime after the events of Origin, and this comic in turn has Flashpoint easter-eggs, so it works out quite nicely.

Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Gene Ha, Carlos D’Anda, Ivan Reis, Jim Lee, Joe Prado & David Finch
Year: 2011
Pages: 176
Collects: Justice League (Vol. 2) #7 – 12


WHAT’S THE STORY?

So, after the events of Flashpoint, DC reset their universe. Some stuff was kept, a lot was thrown out. What was and wasn’t still canon was undefined, but supposedly the editors had a list of things that still transpired. Things like The Death of Superman and the majority of big Batman and Green Lantern events made it through unscathed, even if that didn’t necessarily jive with the new five-year history of DC’s superheroes.

The first story in this volume of Justice League, Origin, took place not long after the emergence of superheroes. In that story, the various heroes remark on how they’re meeting for the first time or have seen reports on them in the news, or how they didn’t believe Batman was anything more than an urban myth.

This story takes place in the present, alongside the majority of other DC comics at the time, five years after the first story.

In that time, the team have supposedly had various adventures and presumably fought many classic foes; seemingly evidenced by the fact that one page in this comic finds them talking about a recent defeat of the Android villain Amazo, and the way they talk about it implies having had previous encounters. However, unlike the Superman comic books, which had their sister title Action Comics explore some of the new earlier adventures of Superman, Justice League just powered on through. 


FEATURED CHARACTERS:

THE JUSTICE LEAGUE

Founding Members: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman & Cyborg
Base of Operations: Hall of Justice, Washington D.C.
First Appearance: The Brave and the Bold #28 (March 1960)

After reality was rewritten during the ‘Flashpoint’, younger iterations of Earth’s greatest heroes banded together to stop the New God of Apokolips, Darkseid, from conquering Earth. Under the command of Batman, space-cop Green Lantern, Atlantean King Aquaman, speedy forensic scientist Flash, Amazonian Princess Wonder Woman and ‘space-god’ Superman fought back against this evil. Amidst this conflict, young football prodigy Victor Stone was bonded with Apokoliptan technology and became the technological superhero Cyborg, rounding out the Justice League and ensuring Darkseid and his forces defeat. Becoming the most powerful and respected heroes on Earth, these seven inspired further ‘Leagues’ to rise up to battle the occult, extra-terrestrial incursions and threats to American interests respectively. Under this banner, the Justice League now features a formidable army of superhumans ready to protect both the Earth and reality itself!


WHAT’S THE PLOT?

Five years after the Justice League first appeared to the world, author David Graves, the man who catapulted them to fame and glory through his book ‘Justice League: Gods Among Men’, seeks revenge on the heroes, who he blames for the deaths of his family.

As Graves takes steps to break the League apart, the heroes must content with public distrust, Green Arrow’s desperation to join their team, a blossoming romance between Superman and Wonder Woman and the growing animosity between some of its members. All the while Steve Trevor, their government liaison, must hold the ship together and struggle past his feelings for his ex-girlfriend Wonder Woman.

WHAT’S THE VERDICT?

There’s some great stuff in here. Lots of great stuff. The growing tension between League members is well-executed, and the way it explodes into a clash between heroes feels like a well-earned payoff. The overall plan of the villain, and the way it affects their heroes not just physically, but mentally and emotionally plays out well enough (in the end), as is the way the heroes have to deal with the way the public perceives them and the question of whether or not they’re failing them.

This is all well realised by a team of strong artists lead by Jim Lee, and while their styles don’t all necessarily blend together, they generally are able to capture the right tone of the various issues they’re illustrating. 

However, in spite of that, this comic is also a bit of a mess.

While all of that stuff is well done, the way it’s all squeezed together doesn’t really work. The story tries to run off in various different directions, and as a result, it’s not really clear what the story is actually about until it finds it’s bearing towards the end.

In a way, it’s kind of like Avengers: Age of Ultron, in that a lot of its problems come from the fact that it’s less concerned about being its own thing and more concerned with setting up things to come. It’s got a tie-in to the Green Arrow comic that you wouldn’t know is a tie-in unless you were either a) reading that comic or b) looked it up (I went for ‘b’), and also spends several pages working towards building up its oncoming spin-off book, Justice League of America

On top of that, due to the in-story, five-year-jump, we’re left in an even more bizarre spot. We’re told that the League has had five years worth of stories that we’ve missed out on, including classic League founder Martian Manhunter joining the team before subsequently getting into a fight with his teammates and leaving, and yet because none of this has actually happened at the time of them writing this comic, the characters interact with each other as if they’ve been working together for a few months at most – definitely not five years – due to the fact they’re still being developed as these new versions of the classic characters. 

The comic hasn’t quite struck the right balance between what it’s supposed to be and what it wants to be, and I feel like that could well be due to editorial decisions more than it is any failure on writer Geoff Johns’ part. 

It’s a shame because if this had just focused on a few fewer things, this would probably be quite a memorable comic. However, instead, it just ends up being something you need to trundle through to get to where you want to be. 

All-in-all, if this was spread out over maybe two stories, it would be a pretty strong comic, but as it stands, I can only give it:

2 thoughts on “JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE VILLAIN’S JOURNEY | ‘New to Comics’ REVIEW

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