Justice League: Volume 2: The Villain’s Journey, by Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Others (The New 52!) — a comic book review

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I’m not accusing anyone of bait-and-switch. I should have done my homework.

If you read my review of the first volume of this New 52 iteration of Justice League, it’s pretty clear that the major selling point for this book was the artwork of Jim Lee and Scott Williams, two artists I’ve admired for, well, decades now. No disrespect intended to Geoff Johns, who has earned all of the accolades that have been heaped upon him across all of the DC Comics media. But, we’re talking Jim Lee and Scott Williams here.

There’s a line in the first story in this volume—this would have been Justice League Issue #7 when originally published way back in 2012—that refers to the members of the Justice League as “modern day gods.” In the world of comic book artists, that’s kinda how I think of Jim Lee and Scott Williams.

That’s the major reason I was looking forward to digging into this trade paperback that collects issues #7 – 12 of the New 52 Justice League. Of course, this version has since been replaced by the Rebirth version. And, maybe, the DC Universe version now? I’m guessing here because I can’t be bothered to fact-check, and here in the iPhone Generation the future comes at us too quickly, like a four-seam fastball aimed at our collective face.

While I’m stopping just a sixteenth of an inch away from calling this bait-and-switch, I would like to point out that the cover of this TPB (faithfully reproduced on Amazon, where I purchased it) includes Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and Scott Williams on the credit line. In the interests of full disclosure, the interior pages credits five other pencillers and thirteen other inkers. That would have crowded the cover artwork, to be sure.

That’s enough whining from me. As I said, I should have done my homework. Jim Lee did return to sole penciling duties on issues #9 – 11 (with shared duties on #12), and Williams was at least involved in inking the same issues. So, that’s something. And the Lee/Williams brand is also well represented on the cover artwork of the issues themselves. But, if—-like me—-you go into this volume expecting nothing but another Lee/Williams tour de force like the first volume, you’re going to be disappointed.

That’s where this review begins. From a place of disappointment.

Now, let’s give what’s actually offered here an honest review, shall we?

Full disclosure: I jumped ship from DC to Marvel Comics way back in the late 1970s, because my new junior high school friends were Marvelites, of course, and because I discovered that the Marvel superheroes were more—for lack of a better word—”realistic.” It seemed that most of the DC comics were written for a younger audience at the time, and I was ready to graduate to more adult fare, where superheroes had real-life problems and petty disputes with each other. The Justice League had a lot of work to do—in my mind at least—to shake off the stigma of Super Friends. I couldn’t pick up a DC book in those days without hearing Ted Knight’s voice narrating it.

Obviously, the Justice League has changed since then. The heroes that form its ranks are no longer the smiling PR poster guys and gal that they once were, featured in ads selling fruit pies or whatever they used to be hucksters for. DC has modernized all of its heroes, which includes making them more real people than paragons of virtue.

The first volume in this new cycle gave us an origin story for this version of the Justice League. The second volume allows the reader to get to know the team better and demonstrate their relationship with the outside world, as well as with each other. The US government is afraid of the power that this superhero team wields, and Steve Trevor is appointed as the liaison between the Justice League and the public, including the government. This is complicated by Trevor’s long-established love for Wonder Woman, of course.

Green Arrow makes a guest-starring appearance in this volume. This is obviously the CW version of the Green Arrow, not the Green Arrow of my youth. Oliver Queen provides a little bit of fun, as he tries to make his case as a new member of the Justice League. But, the League is reluctant to admit a new member to their roster. And Arrow becomes just annoying enough in the first half of this volume that I, for one, didn’t want him on the team anyway.

The main villain for this volume is David Graves, the author who tagged the team with the “modern day gods” label, but who now blames them for a disease that killed his family and is now killing him. Graves’s plan for revenge is convoluted, and no villain could possibly measure up to Darkseid in the first volume. The crux of his plan seems to be to expose each team member’s inner demons to each other and to the world, to show that these modern day gods have feet of clay.

That’s all well and good, but then the story becomes about a secret temple and ghosts of loved ones tormenting our superheroes. Plus, Superman and Wonder Woman become a romantic item, which may be okay in fanboy fantasies but what about Lois Lane and Steve Trevor? Are we really going there? The traditionalist in me rails at this development, while the Marvelite in me doesn’t give a damn.

The first volume was all about art and action. And I complained that the story was a little thin. This volume is long on backstory and character development, but the art isn’t nearly up to vol. 1 standards.

As this volume ends, I’m not really sure what’s going on with the story. I may be missing part of the plot with our new love of crossover events. I’m not sure. While this volume was good, it didn’t amaze me. At this point, I don’t think I can justify purchasing the next trade in this run.

Firewater’s Sophomore-Superhero-Slump Report Card: B

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Not a terrible outing, but I can’t recommend it as a must-see. We’re both better off with the Snyder/Capullo Batman run.

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