I've had a lot of fun mocking Justice League for its stumbling out of the gate when it was supposed to be a flagship title for the New 52. Sure, it sells well, but it has not been very good. *koffFartofDarknesskoff* You know something is amiss when the most high-profile superheroes ever are gathered in one place, and the most interesting character is Wonder Woman's ex-paramour Steve Trevor.
However, building on the improvement from last issue, Justice League #11 gives us some hope that maybe I can stop being the kvetchy voice in the wind that doesn't like this book. Every time I return from a comic convention, I always feel like I'm in the vast minority when I have a negative opinion, and everybody else just loves everything the creators do (except for the consistent Stephanie Brown complaints). Thus, I'm hoping that this latest issue has turned a corner, and I can start liking this book. I do like liking things.
While it's still a bit troubling that the strength of the issue lies in the imaginative creepiness of the new villain Graves and the fact that it centers around the fate of Trevor, the guy we like, this manages to be a watershed issue because it's the first time I didn't hate Hal Jordan pretty much since Green Lantern: Rebirth.
Graves is an author who once celebrated the Justice League for saving the world and his family from the Apokolips invasion, but after losing his family and nearly himself to a mysterious disease he believes to be a side effect of Darkseid's attack, he is now blaming the team for not doing enough. He's sold his soul to some forgotten gods, and he's been reunited with the spectres of his loved ones, and they hover around him like a cozy nuclear family while he sits there looking like a cross between Skeletor and Hordak. It's that unsettling contrast that makes him intriguing. He seems like the most reluctant of supervillains, but he's still set on the course of trying to discredit and destroy the "false gods" that superheroes are.
After being bested by their own horrors brought to bear, the team tracks Graves to the home of Tracy Trevor, Steve's sister, who quickly berates Wonder Woman for ruining her brother's life. "You already broke his heart. You crushed his self-worth. And he still dedicated his life to you," she snaps, bold lettering included. That summation keeps Steve Trevor as the most compelling character in the book, and that cut to the core sends Diana off, determined to take Graves out alone to rescue Steve. That's when Jordan actually does something that doesn't involve being a douchebag for once – bringing the green wall down to force her to accept their backup. Of course, you don't out-stubborn an Amazon, and thus a short but nasty fight ensues – one which Graves broadcasts to the world somehow. A problem for a later date.
The next stop is Mount Sumeru, the Valley of Souls where Graves got his power, and once again, each member of the team is confronted with their lives' greatest tragedies – and a fresh one greets Diana that better not stick, lest I be angry. Although that's a sign I'm starting to become invested in Geoff Johns' story. Jim Lee is who he always is – the standard bearer of the industry's artwork. When one imagines in the abstract what a modern comic book should look like, the default setting is Jim Lee.
Then there's the Shazam backup story that I've been hating on quite a bit, because I strongly disagree with Geoff Johns' notion that Billy Batson was "too perfect" and that he had to turn him into a brat in order to make him compelling. At least the worst of that might be over, because he's now being a jerk to even bigger (and one-dimensional) jerks, even going so far as to protect his foster brother Freddy Freeman from harm. He's still not a character I'm rooting for yet (which is supremely sad to say), but at least the edge is off. That, plus the fact that Black Adam still seems to be the ruthless bastard we remember, with Gary Frank bringing that presence of his to bear with a dark strength, helps make this one of the better issues of Justice League in quite some time.