ART: Jim Lee and Scott Williams
After a few 'interlude' issues, Justice League kicks off it's second story arc written by Geoff Johns and pencilled by Jim Lee. But - as most opening issues tend to be - Justice League #9 feels a bit light on true plot, instead focusing on different small groups of Leaguers that will eventually intersect in a later issue.
I was worried that Johns would feel pressured to feature the entire team together in most issues to satiate the desire for a full ensemble title - and for good reason. DC's pre-New 52 world was plagued with massive crossovers that ended up making no sense or not really affecting anything in the long run. Instead, Johns is writing Justice League like it should be: various squads tackling different situations. Batman, Superman, and Cyborg team up to quell a breakout at Arkham Asylum, while Green Lantern, Flash, and Wonder Woman go after Weapon Master. One of my favorite parts of the entire issue was Hal and Barry's spat about who was going to be the "bad cop" during Weapon Master's interrogation. It's moments like those that ground characters in a little reality and make them more relatable. Too often, writers forget to humanize their characters, and Johns consistently writes in-depth characterization.
By the end of the issue, both teams have subdued their targets and are trying to figure out just what exactly is going on. It all connects with Steve Trevor's disappearance. Both the Key and Weapon Master blame a man named Graves for their criminal outburst. The final pages are used to show Johns and Lee's newest villain hiding in the shadows as he tortures poor Steve and threatens to kill the rest of his family. Graves is not messing around and breaks Steve's hand to prove he's not a lighthearted villain in any sense of the word.
What's actually interesting about this new arc of Justice League is that Graves is a villain who has (supposedly, or at least seemingly) been wronged by the Justice League directly and wants to take his revenge. This is interesting because it's been quite a long while since there was a JLA story that actually connected to the League. More often than not, the League is called upon to handle situations like alien invasions, criminal masterminds, and worldwide catastrophes, all of which have no meaningful connection to the League. Mostly, the League is reserved for massive threats. Giving the team a more personal villain might be a fantastic way to give a little more characterization and depth to a crew that readers haven't yet received.