When DC launched the New 52 line, in September 2011, it reinvigorated my zeal for reading monthly comics again. For almost a decade, I have picked up and read less and less monthly titles and opted to wait for the graphic novel collection to read those stories. Just prior to the launching of the 52 line, I was down to just five monthly titles. However…

…nine months later that changed once again when DC Comics launched the New 52 graphic novel line where it reprinted the first six issues or more of all 52 First Wave titles between May 2012 to November 2012. I liked this format better and it reads a lot better which is why by October 2012, I opted to quit virtually the entire 52 line of monthly titles and waited for the those issues to be reprinted in HC or TPB format. I currently only get Earth 2, Worlds Finest and the Legion of Super-Heroes monthly titles but that may or may not change by the end of the summer 2013.

My name is Lyle Field. I read comic books and other pop culture phenomenon. And I am not ashamed to admit it. Just ask take a look at my extensive graphic novel collection library in my hobby room where it includes 80% of the New 52 graphic novel line from the First Wave that I have purchased at Dave’s Pop Culture.

This review will focus on Justice League Volume 2: The Villain’s Journey HC (reprinting the monthly series Justice League #7-12) written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Jim Lee & Scott Williams with art assist by Gene Ha, Carlos, D’Anda, Ivan Reis, Ethan Van Sciver & David Finch.

Taking place five years after the events depicted in Justice League Volume 1: Origin (reprinting the first six issues of the Justice League), focusing on the rise of a new Justice League enemy who built up Justice League as the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes but due to a personal tragedy decides to take them down—physically, mentally and symbolically.

David Graves is an author writing books about the fantastic and he (along with his family) were one of the few survivors of Darkseid’s incursion into Earth but was stopped by the Justice League. However, it did not come without consequences as somehow being in the proximity of the ashen fallout between the Justice League and Darkseid, the entire Graves family were afflicted if a mysterious ailment that ate away at their beings with only the David being the survivor. Hence Graves began a journey to deconstruct the Justice League. Graves’ journey to becoming a super-villain from a hopeful individual to a pale shadow of himself is trademark Geoff Johns. A hero is only as good as his villain. I am looking forward to seeing what Graves will do next to the Justice League… maybe the typewriter will indeed be mightier than the fist when Graves’ next novel is released.

The super-villain visual depiction of Graves, by Jim Lee, seems to be very similar to other super-villains since the launching of the New 52. Helspont is the first super-villain that comes to mind when Superman fought the alien tyrant in Superman #7-8 (soon to be reprinted in Superman Volume 2: Secrets & Lies HC set to arrive in late June 2013). The “Metamorpho-like” super-villain called Breakdown who is a big supporter of the 99 movement and responsible for the destruction of the Justice League International as seen in Justice League International Volume 2: Breakdown TPB. The enigmatic Harvest from The Culling: Rise of the Ravagers TPB whose origins may or may not have ties to the Legion of Super-Heroes as he continues to plague the remaining Young Justice line of titles. Each of those villains have parallel menacing visual styles that could make it confusing for readers.

Continuing with the super-villains, I did enjoy the depictions and mentions of various other established Justice League foes (whether group or individual enemies) including Clayface, the Key, Amazo, the Talons and the Weapons Master. The new villain, the Spore, is an intriguing creation by Johns as visually depicted by Gene Ha including how his origins are connected to the theft of the Orb of Ra by an “unknown intruder”, which may or may not be Rex Mason (who in a previous reality was Metamorpho).

What about our heroes? Well for one thing, I see that the Justice League only trust each other only so far as to stopping a menace and they do not really function as a team as the general public is led to believe. We have seen some of the members forming their own coalitions within the team — Green Lantern and Flash, Superman and Batman. Aquaman’s statement regarding that Justice League must be a team not only in perception but in reality as well seems to be an analogy to a similar theme Johns attempted to do during his run on Marvel’s Avengers (2002-2004) where he did not properly complete.

Trust within the Justice League also played a major role in the inclusion of other members all because of the “traitorous” actions of the Martian Manhunter. Green Arrow never had a chance on joining the team despite helping the League out on numerous occasions (although Superman seems to think Oliver would make a great member). I am certain that Volume 3 will revisit the new members scenario with the potential additions of Shazam and Firestorm. It will be interesting to see how this Justice League will react to seeing the Martian Manhunter and Green Arrow being part of the rival Justice League of America in the very near future.

Out of all of the members of the Justice League, it seems Wonder Woman has grabbed the spotlight. Johns has really fleshed out her character and personality in the New 52 in the pages of the Justice League when it should have been done in her title. However, Brian Azzarello (the current writer of Wonder Woman) has opted to do his own thing with the Amazing Amazon (which he has done a great job with including his own interpretations of the Olympian Gods as depicted in Wonder Woman Volume One: Blood and Wonder Woman Volume Two: Guts) and continuity has no bearing to him.

Steve Trevor has gone from Wonder Woman’s token boyfriend to support cast member and turned into a major heroic character. The New 52 era has turned Steve Trevor into a (flawed) hero in his own right and one of the builders (and potential leader) of the rival Justice League of America. The break-a-way of Steve Trevor from the Wonder Woman mythos is typical of the New 52 era and the right move for this character. Geoff Johns has turned Steve Trevor from a “Ken Doll” like character to Wonder Woman to a hero in his own right. His romantic break up from Wonder Woman gave Trevor the tools to be reborn as something greater than he was before, a hero!

Hero, I have found that Johns’ first twelve issues of the Justice League has been to define the word hero in the New 52 and in attempting to do it, he had to delve into the public perception and reality of what a hero is today.

A lot of people appear to shy away from the thought of being a hero, possibly shunning the responsibility they think it would demand (which has been explored in the first year of the New 52 Justice League). We exist in a culture where would-be heroes are ignored and belittle the ones that are heroes. With perverse appeal, these heroes have their personal lives dissected ploughing for particular crack in their armour and ultimately it is found and if not manufacture one.

Johns’ defines (super)hero as an individual who daringly contributes under even the most difficult conditions. Further, a (super)hero is a person who takes action selflessly and who demands more from himself/herself than others would demand. A (super)hero is someone who challenges hardship by doing what he/she thinks is right in spite of trepidation.

The members of the Justice League shifts past common sense of the advocates of the status quo. The Justice League endeavours to contribute, set an example and lives by the truth of his/her convictions. In the past five years (between Justice League #6 & #7), the Justice League have cultivated tactics to guarantee their results and persevere until it becomes a reality, altering their method as needed and accepting the significance of small actions consistently taken.

Justice League Volume 2: The Villain’s Journey depicts the Justice League as heroes who are not flawless, because no one can be perfect. The graphic novel did reveal that even members of the Justice League can make gaffes and blunders (for example Wonder Woman socking Green Lantern and then Superman in front of the media), but that does not quash the contributions the Justice League have made since they got together to stop Darkseid. In fact humanity = heroism.

The team of Johns, Lee and Williams have concluded their run on the Justice League. Jim Lee and Scott Williams have moved on to join Batman writer Scott Snyder on the yet untitled new Superman series set to debut this June (around the same time the Man of Steel movie debuts). Naturally, the team of Lee and Williams have done a remarkable job in the artistic department; however I have found their panels are tighter and less unnecessarily splashy in this volume than in the first volume. However, the art duo left a parting gift for the fans…

…the liplock between Superman and Wonder Woman. A significant event that is a long time in coming and will make for great story play not only in the Justice League but the budding romance between the two have also started to appear in the pages of Superman (under writer Scott Lobdell). In reading the first two volume of the New 52 Justice League graphic novels (and in knowing the romance now) ….. I have seen how it has subtlety developed.

Geoff Johns, as usual, has done an awesome job in starting the flagship New 52 title off and running. With him ending his near decade long association with the Green Lantern line in a few months, Johns will continue to rebuild tarnished heroes and B listed heroes in the pages of Justice League of America, Vibe and Aquaman. However, I have learned a rumor that Jeff Lemaire will be joining Johns as co-writer on the Justice League which could possibly open up Johns leaving the series after the Trinity War. If true, Lemaire will definitely carry the series as I enjoy his work on Frankenstein, Animal Man, Justice League Dark and the pre-New 52 Superboy series.

Justice League Volume 2: The Villain’s Journey HC is definitely better than Justice League Volume 1: Origin due to the expanded characterization, tighter drawn panels, the guest artists & guest-stars, and more intuitive narratives. It is not perfect but I give it a 4.2 out of 5 rating.

This is Lyle Field.

Until next time… have a good night.

Lyle FieldComicscomics,Dave's Pop Culture,DC superheroes,Justice League Volume 2: The Villain’s Journey,The Hero's Downfall,The New 52,TPB
When DC launched the New 52 line, in September 2011, it reinvigorated my zeal for reading monthly comics again. For almost a decade, I have picked up and read less and less monthly titles and opted to wait for the graphic novel collection to read those stories. Just prior...