Justice League, by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, has not been the best of books by a long shot, but seeing as how it's Justice League, I feel compelled to keep reading it out of some sense of pseudo-journalistic duty. I figure that somewhat mirrors the habit many comic readers have of picking up a book they hate just because it has characters they like and they think it has to get better.
Justice League is getting a little better, but the bar is extremely low, as the first six issues were a ridiculous comedy of awful errors, and then the next batch made Steve Trevor a more interesting character than any of DC's marquee superheroes. There's less having to roll your eyes through all the big guns being idiots – now, we just have to endure the desire to throat punch Green Douchebag Hal Jordan every time he gets a word balloon pointing in his direction, and groan a little at the "fun interplay" between him and Boring Barry Allen.
So Justice League #10 features the team, five years in, finally discussing the notion that they should all know each other's personal business, which is hard to believe is an issue at all, considering on Day One, Batman inexplicably unmasked to Green Douchebag, and Green Douchebag blurted out Boring's secrets, and just last issue, Batman and Superman started outing each other's secret lives in front of everybody. Coincidentally, an dying old man named Graves, who wrote all about the Justice League as failed gods and seems to know everything about them, has sold his soul to some low-rent gods, apparently had his dead family embedded into his body, and is now trying to kill the League because he thinks they killed his family. Graves is sort of creepy, but somehow, Justice League can't stop being punishingly dull and lifeless. Johns' dialog makes groans when its trying to go for laughs, and makes us shake our heads when its trying to be serious. We'll just have to be glad it's no longer actively infuriating.
Unless you read the back-up story, where Gary Frank takes over to join Johns on making Billy Batson "edgy and hardassed," which, of course, is really what you want when you think about the former Captain Marvel, right? We get a peek inside the crusty outer shell of Billy Bathole this time around, beginning with his foster parents having a conversation that explains to the reader why we should give a shit about this prickly little asshole brat who's been shitting all over them since they took him in. Then Freddie Freeman secretly follows him to the zoo, where we learn that the only person he confindes in ever is actually Tawny the tiger, to whom he gives hamburgers. The dickface demeanor is slowly starting to melt away, but I still don't want him to ever be a superhero and I can't imagine caring when he does. Oh, and Dr. Sivana – now sporting a Glowing Scarred Liefeld Eye to differentiate him from Lex Luthor – has opened Black Adam's eternal prison and let the guy out. Maybe he'll be interesting. Frank's rendition of him certainly looks pretty sharp, although whether it's intentional or not, he's also really making Billy's snivelling little face something you want to see punched.
The arc is pretty clear – Billy's been mistreated his whole life, so he's mistreating the world, and when he realizes he's found a home, he might open up and stop being a little piece of crap we want to see get kicked in the junk. Much like the main story, where the Justice League stopped being actively annoying now that they're origin is finished, maybe Shazam won't be so frustrating by the time this story plays out. But so far, this story just feels like it's missing the mark in service of some edict suggesting that being earnest isn't cool enough to properly market this property.