STORY: Geoff Johns
ART: Jim Lee and Scott Williams (et al)
I’m going to start this review off by saying that the kiss between Superman and Wonder Woman is a lot less ‘awe-inspiring’ than DC let on. In fact, one could argue that the reasons behind the titular tongue-tying should have been raised years ago, even decades. But more on that later. Justice League #12 wraps up not only the first year of the title, but also “The Villain’s Journey”, the second arc for the series that dealt with new villain Graves who was out to destroy the League and remake the world in his own way. The thing is, that phrase holds a significantly different meaning for Graves in the pages of Justice League than it normally ever does. While even I’ll admit that using spectres of long-lost loved ones is a bit cliche, Johns employs this narrative strategy to get to the heart of the main issue with the team as a whole: the Justice League is not and cannot be held accountable for their actions.
The fight with climactic battle that opens the issue is only significant for Graves’ vocalized thoughts. While having the team come face-to-face with dead loved ones sounds emotionally relevant, the whole ordeal comes off as trite after Graves weighs in. “I’ve destroyed the Justice League, but I’m not here to destroy each one of you,” laments Graves as he watches them, a twinkle of glee in his eyes. The whole point of the League was for the sum to be greater than it’s individual parts. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. When you gather seven god-like beings together, it’s a good idea to have someone around to ground them once in a while. While Steve Trevor was supposed to fill this void, his prior relationship with Wonder Woman hindered his ability to see the unbiased truths when it came to the League. However twisted and painful, Graves assumes the role of ‘moral conscience’, making the team question themselves for the first time since they banded together.
And that, dear readers, is where the real meat of this issue lies. The truth of the matter is, superheroes are not held accountable for their actions – they can’t be if they hope to do their jobs well. The Justice League is an organization unlike any other on the planet, especially now that the ‘New 52’ rebooted most of the fringe teams out of existence. And while it might be cool to see costumed heroes battling aliens for a while, eventually, the novelty wears off and people want the truth over everything else.
They’re not wrong for wanting it.
Johns does a fantastic job, this month, delving into philosophically-charged territory. And with the ‘New 52’ freedom under his belt, the characters get an interesting take on the subject – Flash insists that the League has to be better, while Batman sees the subjectivity of their situation. Green Lantern is the one who gets to the answer first: even though the League might not be perfect, it still has to try because the world needs the League. Because bad news always accompanies deed of sacrifice such as these, Hal Jordan resigns from the League. Citing his instigation of the fight between the Leaguers that aired across the world, Hal offers himself up as a scapegoat. The people of Earth get someone to blame, while the League gets to continue doing what they do, even though they know that the world could turn on them at any moment if they slip up again, even a little bit.
Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor (technically) break up again, sending Steve into fits of angry muttering and a final demand for Diana to leave, and a preview for the next year of stories looks like the League will have their hands full with Steve Trevor’s A.R.G.U.S.-operated Justice League of America, a team that looks to be in direct conflict with the League proper, for more reasons than one.
Justice League #12 does an excellent job capping off a first year that saw the team come together and face more than just villains. Geoff Johns is slowly figuring out the team’s voice and how they honestly fit into the greater DC universe. It’s a difficult task, no doubt, but Johns has a long history with Teen Titans, and his pre-‘New 52’ work on Green Lantern included some of the characters best stories in years. Now, after taking the time to give us readers the basic stuff, it’s time to go into new territory. Obviously, Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship is leading this trend, and coupled with Hal Jordan’s resignation, we’re sure to be in for an exciting 2013.