Geoff Johns is taking the same route Cartoon Network's Justice League did in 2004 by expanding the roster of the League in anticipation of bigger, more ferocious enemies in the future. Honestly, it would have been nice to see more of the core team's adventures and interpersonal relationships before diving into team expansion. Sure, this is Justice League #18 and the 'New 52' has been around for close to two years, but in the modern age of decompressed storytelling, 18 issues has only produced a handful of conflicts that the League has faced.
Back in the day, 18 issues could have been 18 different stories, a different approach to team building, but one that offered a more robust look at how said team works as a unit. Today, it's still somewhat unclear how the core League members truly work together, how their personalities play off each other, and how that affects their behavior. Johns has done an excellent job delivering character development where possible, but it's still frustrating to see new members coming in at this point. And that's not even mentioning Justice League of America, which also sees Johns bringing lesser known characters into the spotlight. It's just a geyser of new characters, it seems.
** SPOILERS AHEAD! **
Justice League #18 is an exciting issue because we get to see so many faces in one issue. With Hal Jordan out of the picture for the time being, and the near-destruction of Boston in "Throne of Atlantis", Batman and Cyborg decide it's time to reveal the Grid, a circumstantial database of all the world's superheroes. I say circumstantial because the entire Grid was a side-effect of the persistent flow of information into Cyborg's always-connected mainframe. Since he's basically a living supercomputer, Cyborg shares the curse of overabundance with Superman -- they're both continuously aware of almost everything around them. The difference is that Clark hears everyone while Victor processes digital information terabytes at a time. Thus, over the five years of the League's existence, Cyborg inadvertently collected all the known information on every superhero on Earth.
But it's just that: only the known information. Justice League #18 not only showcases established heroes like Black Canary, Zatanna, Firestorm, and Nightwing in a new light, but also gives minor and new characters a chance to shine with a chance at membership in the planet's most exclusive hero club. While the current members of the League all understand the where they are and what the stakes are going forward, most of the invited candidates have no idea what they're in for. It's this juxtaposition that provides a nervous tension that simmers throughout the issue. Even Nightwing and Batman's short interaction reflects their relationship post-"Death of the Family". And how could it not be awkward? Six of the most powerful beings on the planet are judging and choosing new colleagues to patrol everything, not just a city or neighborhood beat.
There's no escaping the fact that Justice League #18 is a good old-fashioned prelude issue. There's so much being set up from beginning to end that it's hard to squeeze a story-proper out of an issue like this. Fortunately, Geoff Johns stands up to the task and makes the entire affair feel completely fluid and natural. My bias for the structure of character development aside, JL #18 hits all the right marks. At the end of the day, it's really hard not to like seeing so many familiar (and some unfamiliar) faces in one issue.