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Justice League #12 – Review

The New 52's SuperdickerySo Superman and Wonder Woman make out. Even if you missed the media blitz on that, there it is on some of the covers for this issue too. Fortunately, there are some far more interesting things going on in this issue, which brings the Villain’s Journey to a nice little conclusion.

As it turns out, there is more to Graves’ apparent control over the dead, and that really helps salvage Graves as a character. Up until this point in the story, Graves has been a nice design but not much a villain. He lacked substance with his abilities seeming so handwave-y in nature. What we learn about his so-called spirits of the dead in this issue really pumps him up in a more three-dimensional way, giving his power some definition while also painting him as a victim of it. Now, what he’s about is still ridiculously melodramatic. It is not exactly easy to accept our heroes crumbling so easily at the sight of their dead loved ones. But I’m not saying Graves is perfect. Hell, I still can’t reconcile him pulling off that stunt of forcefeeding every media outlet coverage of the Justice League’s spat last issue.

Speaking of that, the story really plays up the public’s disillusionment with the Justice League. It’s potentially interesting, but it also highlights one of the book’s primary failings. Believing that the Justice League have maintained this reputation of god-like infallibility for five years isn’t easy. That’s a lot of history, or it should be. Didn’t the death of Superman still happen? Didn’t Hal Jordan still fall in with Parallax? My understanding is that Bane still broke Batman’s back and that Batman still died for a little while in recent history. Yet, the Justice League’s reputation endured all of this plus whatever else likely occurred, but a relatively minor skirmish with Wonder Woman smacking down Green Lantern and Superman breaks things?

Again, Justice League is a book that clearly wants the New 52 to be much newer than it is. It would probably work had DC been willing to actually be somewhat consistent in their rolling back and revamping of the universe. But instead, Justice League has to butt heads with the fact that parts of the universe like Green Lantern’s and Batman’s have kept all their history while others are wallowing in indecisiveness over what bits and pieces are being kept. This problem also comes into play a little later with the Wonder Woman and Superman pairing.

I think this is the first issue of the series that actually gives up some legitimate character interactions and team dynamics. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I was getting tired of all the childish bickering, especially once we got ot the point where these people have supposedly been together for five years. Aquaman has a good moment of trying to assert his authority against Batman’s. I hope that is something that will play out further. Also, Green Lantern has his own good moment of trying to take some responsibility for what’s happened, though that is a little too neat in regard to what also happened this week in Green Lantern Annual. Still, it is one of the character’s better moments that I have read.

Yet, disappointingly, Cyborg manages to get so very little. In the previous issue, I had hopes that Geoff Johns was finally going to step up his game with the character, who seemingly came face to face with a ghost of himself. The inclusion of Cyborg in the main Justice League lineup was a big deal. It was new and potentially interesting. That potential has yet to be realized as Cyborg has been relegated largely to the background and only brought forward in a deus ex machina capacity from time to time. His role is that of a talking gadget from Batman’s utility belt. It’s highly disappointing. This is definitely not the Luke Cage treatment people were expecting Cyborg to receive from DC.

But let’s get to the big topic at hand here. Wonder Woman and Superman. Let me start by saying that I have always found the idea of these two together as possibly the most boring idea I have ever heard. In all my time reading comics, I’ve never come across a moment where these two exhibited the slightest bit of chemistry. As far as I’m concerned, some fans try putting them together because of their superficial similarities. Like they are the Barbie and Ken of the DCU but with less life to them.

So, DC is doing it anyway. I’m genuinely not sure how I’m supposed to react to it as a reader either. Either unintentionally or intriguingly subtlety, this issue frames their hook-up as a bad thing. At least, that’s my admittedly biased interpretation on it. But how else could I read it? Arguably, the main character of this whole story arc has been Steve Trevor. This issue basically has Steve beaten down physically and emotionally, followed by Wonder Woman and Superman not quite literally making out over his battered self. What the hell. Steve has easily been the most likable and relatable character here, and we have Wonder Woman unfairly turn her back on him while Superman swoops right in on her. That’s... kind of awful. How can I not have Steve’s back on this?

Wonder Woman wants to Max Lord him.
Aside from the Steve Trevor thing, the nature of this hook-up is just distasteful. Rather than from love and admiration, it’s coming from a place of arrogance and detached pragmatism. Their case for hooking up is that they’re both powerful enough not to have to worry about protecting the other? Seriously? I guess it’s interesting in an ironic way that we have a story in which the Justice League has to come to terms with people no longer thinking they’re like gods at the same time as Wonder Woman and Superman hook up because they feel they’re too superior to get involved with lesser beings. I just don’t know whether that is Johns’ intent.

And another aside, I don’t know what to think of this relationship because I don’t know what to think of the New 52 version of Superman. Who is he? Grant Morrison has been doing an interesting job in Action Comics of depicting Superman’s early days, but I can’t say the same for anyone’s take on the Superman of today. He’s supposed to be different, but he bounces around off of so many writers that I don’t get a clear picture of how he’s different. No one seems to be on the same page about it, including Johns here.

There you have it. The big Wonder Woman/Superman hook-up has happened, and it is... confusing in some ways. Has Geoff Johns found a way to make this pairing interesting by portraying it as a bad thing for all involved? I do kind of hope so, because the alternative makes me sleepy. Still, this is possibly the strongest issue of the series so far even beyond the big lip lock. We have the defeat of a new villain who actually does turn out to be interesting and unique in his own right. We have characters interacting with each other with some actual substance fitting their personalities. It may have taken a year to get to this point, but Johns finally seems ready to take this book to some interesting places.


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