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Justice League Volume Two: The Villain’s Journey
posted February 21, 2013


Creators: Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, et al
Publishing Information: DC Comics, hardcover, 160 pages, January 2013, $24.99.
Ordering Numbers: 1401237649 (ISBN10), 9781401237646 (ISBN13)

imageThis is the intended showpiece book of DC's New 52 line, and, one supposes not coincidentally, the biggest hope for Warners to re-establish their giant blockbuster superhero film status over the next several years. It has since surrendered some public favorite-comic status to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's work on Batman. This latest volume collecting the serial comics has recognizable merits, mostly on the writing side. Geoff Johns sets forward pretty clear, basic narrative goals and then vaults over them. This doesn't sound like much, but it's rarer than you'd think. In terms of how this cycle of stories serves the series more generally, we get 1) an extension of the feud aspects of the team, the way they all bicker with each other to the delight of fans heavily invested in these surface-oriented relationships, and 2) a riff on DC's established formula of having all their biggest comics be about how fundamentally awesome their characters are. These superheroes are just a bit down from awesome, a 9.8 grade rather than a 10.0, which is only significant if you read these things over several years and have to bear witness to how hard they continue to sell these characters to people that have already bought in. It is definitely formula tweak as opposed to more intriguing, straight-forward thematic work, but again, the bar for these books seems incredibly low right now.

One thing I noticed had very little to do with the comic but had a lot to do with similar tiny but key breaks with the last 15 years of conventional wisdom: there are ads and continuing storyline moments in this volume that feel intentional, that feel like everyone is fine with them being in there as opposed to some business-decision overlay. This may be a nod in the direction that for a growing group of mainstream comics fans, trades is how they buy serially now. That's about the only thing that's revelatory here. Certainly the plot, about a villain seeking revenge for losing his family -- and for becoming sick himself -- from the fallout of the last big Justice League battle, marches through the usual story points like someone with OCD moving through an antique shop full of things to touch. I don't recall Steve Trevor having much of a significant role in my old superhero comic books, so that's sort of a novelty, but the character flits all over the place, running the range of modern superhero cliches. (He's the badass in awe of the bigger badasses, an entry point character if you're only sort of an egomaniac.) The story we get through Trevor isn't told in a way that's noteworthy except, perhaps, for the relative lack of sophistication in the story. This is actually sort of appealing. I find most of these characters ruthlessly dull, though -- as much as they want to underline these supposed difference, the range of personalities on display seems to run from A to maybe C or D, and what's truly distinct about them has to be taken seriously, and thus as functional and normal, as opposed as a fount for affecting, oddball weirdness. The story ends with a much-hyped Wonder Woman and Superman kiss that feels like that time your most boring friends got together and everyone in your group shrugged and went back to watching TV.