Justice League #9
Justice League #9
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Jim Lee

This issue is such a marked improvement over its eight predecessors that I wish the title had debuted with this issue and storyline rather than the seemingly endless and surprisingly dull matchup against Darkseid. While there are still problems with the title, Justice League #9 represents a long awaited Superman style leap in the right direction.

The story begins with a flashback to a character who will immediately be familiar to readers of the first arc. However said character's situation at the beginning of this story is much different than when last we saw him, instantly begging the question what happened to bring him to this moment, a question that I'm sure will be the centerpiece of the coming arc given its title: "The Villain's Journey." We flash forward to the present day, where in the classic tradition of the team, the Justice League splits up to deal with two seemingly unrelated threats. But of course by the time the villains are subdued, the heroes learn of a greater evil just over the horizon.

Geoff Johns really makes a triumphant return this issue, and given how much I've wanted to love this book since day 1, I can't tell you how satisfying it is to see him getting his groove back on the book I've waited years to see him write. The dialogue is crisper, the characters feel more well rounded, and the plot builds organically.

Johns especially shines when highlighting the key relationships. Gone is the awkward grandstanding, bravado, and standoffishness of previous issues. In its place is a group of people who trust each other more than probably anyone else on the planet, and have developed deep lasting friendships. The moment between Clark and Bruce, be it small is both touching and cathartic. The scenes with Hal and Barry are sure to elicit a laugh or two.

My biggest complaint with the writing this time around was the sometimes shoehorned feeling of the flashbacks, as some of them definitely related to the story more organically than others.

Jim Lee returns to the title and his art is looking as polished as ever. There are few artists that can deliver a quieter, more emotionally nuanced scene like the one's with Steve Trevor in the same issue that the deliver an action set piece that is both dynamic and easy to follow like Superman, Batman, and Cyborg facing a riot in Arkham Asylum, or played primarily for humor greatly enhanced by the visuals, like Flash and Green Lantern interrogating a suspect. I have to say though, I'm not sure if Weapons Master is an older character and if that is his classic look, but under Lee's pen he looks Wildstorm generic.

The Shazam backup continues to entertain if I still have no idea why it is being published in this title as other than Johns scripting both stories there seems to be no character or thematic connections. Billy Batson is still adjusting to his new foster home and the lovable band of misfit foster children he has come to live with. However here his surly demeanor is cracked when he comes to the defense of his new friends because he doesn't like to see anyone get picked on. Despite Billy's tough attitude, he is still a good kid at heart. Gary Frank's art is, as always, stunning. I would be ecstatic if following the features conclusion, he and Lee traded off arcs on this title, in order to keep the trains running on time and looking polished.

Finally this series is beginning to live up to the massive potential of its creators and cast. If the first arc turned you off, give this issue a try as it addresses many of the faults that I and many other readers were put off by in the debut arc of the title.

Grade: B+

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