Robot 6

Grumpy Old Fan | Justice League brings its A-game to ‘Throne’

Billy Tucci's variant cover for Justice League #15

Geoff Johns always starts strong, and “Throne of Atlantis” is no exception. The only two New 52 books DC Comics put out this week were the first two parts of this crossover, in the 15th issues of Justice League and Aquaman. That suggests something significant, so they dare not disappoint.

Ivan Reis and Joe Prado take over JL’s art with this issue, while Paul Pelletier and Art Thibert (with an inking assist from Karl Kesel) start on Aquaman. I’ve liked Pelletier’s work for years, but his characters aren’t as lean as Reis’s, and I wondered how well the styles would mesh. In fact, here they mesh pretty well, since Pelletier and company seem to have adapted to blend more seamlessly with Reis and Prado. Giving a big assist is colorist Rod Reis, who handles both books with the same basic blue-green palette.

I mention the art upfront because these two issues combine to establish “Throne of Atlantis” as a big crossover, both in terms of its implications and its threat level. While the plot so far is pretty straightforward, Johns and company hang on it a few impressive set-pieces, and a couple of nice bits of characterization. It’s the kind of high-stakes story I expect from the Justice League, and I hope it bodes well for the book’s future.

So without further ado, SPOILERS FOLLOW:

4

3

2

1

Essentially, the collective plot of these two issues involves a sneak attack on Atlantis using hijacked missiles from a Navy warship. Naturally, this provokes the Atlanteans (led by Ocean Master, aka Aquaman’s brother Orm) into attacking the East Coast with tidal waves. They swamp Metropolis, Boston and Gotham City before heading north to Maine, and Aquaman’s confidant Dr. Shin. Moreover, they’re designed specifically to a) wear down population centers so the Atlantean forces can conquer the surface more easily, and b) take out certain surface-dwellers, including key members of the Justice League. Aquaman knows all this because … (gasp!) he drew up the plans!!!

Now, admittedly, this sounds like the plot of “Tower of Babel,” Mark Waid’s first arc as regular JLA writer from about 12 years ago, in which Rā’s al Ghūl steals Batman’s JLA-gone-bad contingency plans. (The late Dwayne McDuffie adapted “Babel” into Justice League: Doom, an animated direct-to-video feature currently, and serendipitously, streaming on Netflix, where I watched it over the weekend.) That adds a layer of irony to the scenes with Batman where Aquaman reveals his indirect role in the attacks. However, the similarities stop there. In “Babel” (which, of course, is no longer in continuity), Batman’s “JLA protocols” were designed to thwart otherwise-corrupted Leaguers. Here, when Aquaman says he was “in a different frame of mind” when he and Orm drew up these tactics, it sounds like he was coming from a less forgiving place than the Dark Knight who just wanted to immobilize his wayward colleagues.

Naturally, this fits into Johns’ overarching vision of Aquaman as More Dangerous Than You Think, which (so far) seems to have peaked in the shoutier portions of the Sea King’s “Others” arc. However, it’s more subtle — if trying to drown three major cities can be called “subtle” — because it comes at a point where Aquaman’s not trying to prove himself. Indeed, he reminds Batman they’ve been discussing how best to lead the Justice League, whereupon Batman reminds him of the cleansing power of sunlight (or words to that effect). These two issues reminded me of the Sub-Mariner’s reintroduction waaay back in Fantastic Four #4 (and, for that matter, of his epic Golden Age battle with the original Human Torch), not least because Atlantis itself is threatened — but here, as haughty as he may be, Aquaman doesn’t have Namor’s aloof attitude. He wants to work with his colleagues, not browbeat them; and (echoes of Flashpoint’s “Emperor Aquaman” aside) it helps mitigate all the quien es mas macho? attempts.

Another effective character-building sequence involves Superman teaching Wonder Woman the value of a pair of glasses. Starting in the old Kent home in Smallville and ending at a Metropolis seafood restaurant, it too is more subtle than the couple’s first kiss back in Issue 12. In fact, because it feels more like the pair’s pre-relaunch friendship, it helps lay a foundation for whatever they end up becoming. If the looming “Trinity War” ends up separating them somehow, this sequence will most likely figure into that as well.

It helps that Ivan Reis’ style is fairly naturalistic, and his storytelling is flexible enough to accommodate large and small scales, sometimes both on the same page. The Smallville page (helpfully included at the bottom of CBR’s Geoff Johns interview) opens with an establishing shot of the Kent farm, then a tier of panels showing “Clark” getting into character, a medium shot of Clark extending a pair of glasses to Diana, and a reverse angle showing her through one lens of those glasses. It’s efficient and intimate at the same time. Later, as Superman and Wonder Woman try to keep Metropolis safe, Reis does essentially the same thing, with a row of character-focused panels running along the bottom of a nifty two-page spread, alternating among folks needing rescue, Superman, and Wonder Woman.

All this plays out against the spectacle of those tidal waves. The aforementioned spread (in JL #15) features Superman and Wonder Woman catching an aircraft carrier which has been tossed by the sea into the wrecked skyscrapers of Metropolis. Aquaman #15 begins with haunting silent panels of James Gordon and Harvey Bullock engulfed in waters lit only by the sinking Bat-Signal. Unseen except for a couple of pages, but nevertheless influencing the action, are Orm’s Atlantean forces and the deep-sea-dwelling Trench creatures. Ivan Reis has done his share of crowds, from Rann-Thanagar War to “Sinestro Corps” and Blackest Night, and I suspect we’ll see more big-army action as the story goes on.

“Throne of Atlantis” will run for two more months in Justice League and Aquaman. Afterward, presumably readers will have a better idea of Aquaman’s place in both the League and the larger DC Universe (although I’m not sure why Johns is still calling Aquaman a “scrub book,” even jokingly).  Even before “Throne” ends, though, the new Justice League of America, Vibe, and Katana titles will debut, bringing another aspect to the New 52 League(s). Johns told CBR “now I’m just getting to the stuff I wanted to start [the series] with. And I think Justice League #15 feels like a different book.” I would agree with that. Since its central conflict comes from choices a Leaguer made long ago, “Throne” is not the kind of story Justice League can do too often. There are only so many dark secrets lurking in each character’s past, and only so many times a teammate can have such a secret revealed. Also included in these two issues are nice little bits for Cyborg (opting not to install Undersea Service Pack 1.1), Harvey Bullock (believing Atlantis is about as real as the Mad Hatter’s Wonderland), and especially Mera, whose heroics make a good argument for her own League membership. In fact, generally these two issues show the Justice League acting like you’d expect the League to act, saving lives and trying to apprehend wrongdoers. With an appropriately-large threat, and sufficiently engaging characters, Justice League is finally starting to feel like its predecessors.

That said, Geoff Johns always starts strongly. I could very well come back in February muttering about missed opportunities, convenient plotting, etc. Still, for now I choose to keep hope alive. Johns and Reis did pretty well with Green Lantern and Aquaman, so maybe the streak can continue with Justice League.

News From Our Partners

Comments

23 Comments

So Aquaman’s being depicted as someone whose first reaction to Atlantis being attacked is to attack huge cities full of civilians? What an evil asshole.

(At least with Batman’s contingency-plans-gone-wrong, they were plans to neutralize–not immediately kill–individuals with large amounts of personal power, not ordinary innocent people on the street.)

As stated, I will wait and see. Johns always starts strong and rarely ends well. In my opinion Flashpoint was, pointless and Blackest Night only led into a biweekly series that was negated by the 52 reboot, that they knew was going to happen, so they left story lines unfinished. Sinestro Corps though was amazing, so he can finish strong.

The start of this story finally got me excited in this series. I feel like that aside from Aquaman Johns has been declining post-Blackest Night, but Ivan Reis may have something to do with my enjoyment of this title. I don’t dislike Johns’ work; I think he was a brilliant writer of the Flash-Rogues, and his JSA is among one of my favorite comic runs. And pre-Brightest Day Green Lantern is just good ol’ fashioned fun. But his work in the New 52 hasn’t really done much for me.

I dropped JL after issue #12 and I have no intention of picking it back up. In fact, I’ve become so disillusioned with Geoff Johns that I’m fairly certain that I’ll never read anything he writes again.

This was finally a *good* Justice League story. Far better than the previous two arcs. It even had a little of the 70’s JLA feel to it, except of course people actually died which would never have happened then. So what I’m saying is this is not just a good new 52 JL story, it’s a good Justice League story period.

So far, anyway.

‘Johns starts strong and rarely ends well’

That’s the resume of Johns career. ;)

Gotta love that Tucci cover of the Justice League getting ready to punch some big waves. Yeah, that’ll help.

I haven’t gotten my issues yet, but I’m really looking forward to this story. I believe the reason for Johns’ apparent quality decline has a lot to do with the creation of the New 52. What made Johns’ great Pre-New 52 was his ability to take old continuity, wring it, and give the reader something amazing and fresh. Love it or hate it, bringing back Hal in the way he did was a stroke of genius; and the larger tapestry he built from that was breathtaking.

Fast forward to now and the New 52. There’s no more continuity to draw ideas from, he has to create NEW ideas. Furthermore, not only does he have to come up with new stuff, he has to try not to mimic or copy anything from the past or else he’ll be deemed a hack. Yet while doing that, he must stay true to the characters or be accused of mischaracterization.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying pretty much everything I’m reading. But IMHO, the New 52 ended up being a huge Catch-22 to many creators,

Hasn’t stayed true to the characters in the new 52 yet…

I’m not quite ready to give up on JL yet (I’m almost there) but as okay as this first part is, I won’t be picking up Aquaman. It’s not on my pull list and I’m too old to be blackmailed into picking up tie ins.

Despite how good people say it is, I am very hesitant about picking this up again for the following reasons:
1) the first 14 months were horrible, only saved by the Shazam backup
2) the character I am most interested in is portrayed as a dim-witted barbarian whenever she stops being ‘the girl’
3) its about how cool Aquaman is…which I really couldn’t care less about.

Never ever EVER thought I’d pick up an aquaman series but I did on a whim and I’ve been enjoying it thoroughly. Haven’t liked this run of JLA. Stopped after issue 11. Been buying comics for almost 40 years and am sad to see aquaman’s current team being cast away…

It was a great issue. It had everything one could want. Great art, action, romance, drama and suspense! Johns is showing the knee jerk reactionaries he has a story to tell and he’s telling it really well.To me this book got better the moment there was the kiss. It set something in motion and has been driving it. Given that it is a JL book which is kind of a blockbuster book anyway…it is being crafted as well as it can be.

@Rasmus: I guess Johns has never actually bothered to read WW’s solo title. Or perhaps he has and is just blatantly ignoring everything that Azzarello has established about her personality and lifestyle because it would undermine this bullsh*t story he’s trying to tell?

To hell with that pathetic hack.

@the killer

While Azzarello’s WW is story good that seems totally in a bubble There is nothing in the WW title that explains her lifestyle other than she wears nice clothes, seems to be loaded, walks around in the middle of London and fights killer centaurs in the middle of London and no one recognizes her (come on, really?.) she has money, goes to bars to listen to music by herself and interacts with gods etc. If anything that WW has no normal life. She is very much isolated from any real human aspects apart from a dysfunctional family of Gods and the Zola girl who came to her for help.

@fm: You just made my point for me. Azzarello has shown us that she’s emotionally mature and very well-adjusted to “man’s world” and doesn’t need Superlame’s *cough* *cough* Superman’s guidance for anything. Pretty much the same way that she has historically been portrayed. If this were Steve Trevor showing her all of these things five years ago then it wouldn’t be that much of a problem.

I agree that there probably does need to be an explanation for how she can afford an apartment in London and expensive hotels in Manhattan. LOL

I wish people would stop holding Azzarello’s WW up as gospel. That story is dull as dishwater. Someone poke me when WW is the protagonist of her own book again.

JL#12 started back up my interest in DC Comics and so far I’ve enjoyed myself very much. Another great issue in my opinion.

Tower of Babel was 12 years ago?!? shit I been reading comics along time!

I love Paul Pelletier’s art work. I’ve been a fan since his Outsiders days. I would love to see him on those characters again! Hang on, thats even more than 12 years! haha… In fact, his Outsiders series was one of my first comics experiences. Thanks to the Eradicator (sp?) joining after the Reign…. anyway! Him teamed up with Johns means I’m going to skip this. Nothing happens in his comics. He was way off his game with JL and Aquaman has been dragging. The 2nd arc was something like 10 issues!! Fuck me! Learn how to pace! Hell even GL since the #0 issue is just a bore. And that was one series I’ve enjoyed for the most part for years.

And I am loving Azzarello’s WW. For me its one of the highlights of the nu52. Although I would like to see her take on one of her rogues ;-)

@fm: You just made my point for me. Azzarello has shown us that she’s emotionally mature and very well-adjusted to “man’s world” and doesn’t need Superlame’s *cough* *cough* Superman’s guidance for anything. Pretty much the same way that she has historically been portrayed. If this were Steve Trevor showing her all of these things five years ago then it wouldn’t be that much of a problem.

Steve Trevor showed her stuff. Just as Wonder Woman. That’s why they broke up. I don’t see how someone who has been shown to have no friends (but has money and nice clothes) and interacting with Gods is well adjusted. Well adjusted to what? Chasing Gods? Yeah sure, it allows her to do that. She is living in London without having to deal with Londoners. WW is alone. Azzarello is ignoring everything in the past even Diana’s own iconic supporting cast and rogues gallery and yet he is writing a reboot. WW is in danger of becoming this perfect heroine who preaches again only this time it’s Gods. The fact is her supporting cast of Gods are more layered than she is because they get to have some flaws and they seem to be pushing her out of her own book and she has no connection to humanity apart from one girl who came in because Zeus knocked her up. Humanity might as well be this backdrop for WW is this book. Now I can see this is fine enough for the man to tell his story unhampered but unfortunately for the sole WW title it segegates WW from the rest of the DCU, and even as a superhero. If it were not for JL, she would feel like a character that did not belong. And for me I can read Gods only for so long. I want more balance or simply tell DC to give WW a second title where we can have good old fashioned heroics to compliment the God orientated title.

Geoff Johns seems like a nice guy but as a reader I find him frustrating and without depth.

It does bother me to see Johns handle all these important elements of the DC Universe in such simplistic manner.

Leave a Comment

 


Browse the Robot 6 Archives