ART: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Mark Irwin, and Jonathan Glapion
We're starting to get a little more of the bigger picture of the second major arc of Justice League. "The Villain's Journey" continues this month with some revelations concerning the League's outside lives and the origin of Graves.
A good portion of this month's issue is dedicated to giving readers a bit more insight into the lives of each League member and who knows what about who. Like a what's what of how their personal lives affect them professionally. Graves has been torturing and interrogating villains associated with each League member, learning more and more about them each time. Cyborg is forced to explain to Hal Jordan (who is still consistently thick-headed in Justice League) that the more Graves knows about them, the more he can exploit their weaknesses: Barry's police-influenced desire to work within the boundaries of the law, Wonder Woman's secret rendezvous to a Native American reserve, and that Batman doesn't trust anyone on the team. These little call-outs from Cyborg not only add bricks to the 'New 52' universe, but they also give readers connections between books (Barry Allen is dating Patty Spivot in The Flash, and this relationship is mentioned during the briefing.) The notion that Batman doesn't trust anyone also brings about the revelation that the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel work together outside of the League, something that hasn't been seen or mentioned up until now.
More so than ever before, Justice League is beginning to feel like a launching point for much of what happens throughout the DC universe now. Steve Trevor's consistent presence, Green Arrow's recruitment to some "other team", the Martian Manhunter's apparent sort stint as a member, and the use of Apokolyptian boom tubes as means of teleporting all show potential to affect more than just the adventures of the Justice League. These are the story elements that will have long-term results, possibly years down the road.
By the end of their discussion, the question of trust has been raised between all of them - how can they trust one another while some know more about each other than others? In days long past, the League was a simpler entity that rarely asked questions of this nature, simply because the readership demanded nothing more than superheroes beating up super villains. Today, it's important that a more realistic base be set for the characters we read about. Mistrust amongst a group of demi-gods who don't know each others' names is a very likely scenario.
Graves shows up on the Watchtower at the end of the issue to lay the smack down on the League. From the opening vignette, we gather that David Graves got his powers from some disgraced gods in Pamir Mountains. The closing pages tell us that these powers can somehow be used to harbor other souls and/or life-forces through emotional manipulation. With little more than a mention of her beloved Steve, Wonder Woman attacks Graves and quickly goes down, the life drained out of her both spiritually and physically as he body begins to wither. Soon, the entire League is down and Graves is in control of the Watchtower. A fantastic cliffhanger if I've ever read one.
The "Shazam!" back-up actually picks up a little bit this month as Billy sneaks out of the Vasquez's house late at night. Freddy Freeman follows him to the zoo where Billy is telling a tiger that it's the only real family he's got left. Freddy interrupts and before Billy can blow up, Freddy suggests vandalizing the house of the boys who hassle the other foster kids at school each morning. This bit of bonding between Billy and Freddy provides the seeds to Freddy becoming Captain Marvel Jr., or maybe some new incarnation of hero associated with the wizard Shazam.
And speaking of the wizard, Doctor Sivana continues his archaeological dig, now complete with a fancy magic-seeing eye that helps him see the mystical spells placed on the door to a greater prize than any gold or gems. As he utters a single, "Shazam", Black Adam emerges from the tomb demanding to see the wizard! The final, double-wide pullout pages of The New 52 #1 revealed what looked like Black Adam fighting Vibe, though many posited that it was just the 'New 52' version of Captain Marvel, as Billy Batson is much more mean-spirited than his former self. Obviously, Black Adam is here, which spells trouble for our little trouble maker.