This issue concludes the two-part collaboration of writer Geoff Johns and artist Tony Daniel, which features the first appearance of Wonder Woman’s arch enemy, Cheetah, whose origin was somewhat retooled for the New 52 DC Universe. This issue was a particularly strong entry of the series, which played upon many strengths of each team member, as well as Johns’ dynamic writing style. The word “dynamic” is used a lot in many comic book reviews, but it truly does apply here.
The whole crux of this story involves Wonder Woman’s trust in old foe and former best friend, Barbara Minerva, a.k.a. The Cheetah, to overcome her bestial tendencies and return to her former human self, which Wonder Woman intends to see through to the end. We learn a lot about the legacy and heritage of Cheetah and the tribe which relied on the spirit of the Cheetah – who they worshiped as a god – to protect and guard over them. Turns out, it wasn’t the spirit of the Cheetah that corrupted Barbara. Rather, it’s the reverse. It was Barbara, in fact, who corrupted the Cheetah. This gives Wonder Woman much to ponder, as well as a chance to reevaluate who she should put her trust in. It is Superman who shows Wonder Woman the way, as he introduces her to his world a bit and gives them both a chance to get to know each other, as all couples do. It is Wonder Woman’s capacity to look for the good in humanity that has always made her an exceptional hero. This is something that she and Superman have always had in common, which Superman points out. I thought it was a nice touch to show this aspect of their relationship. The last page of the main story also reveals something about Batman and how much he trusts his fellow teammates. I’m not sure where Johns is going with this, but it will leave you intrigued, as it did me.
What I really loved about this issue is how it shows the League as a family, as well as a team. They are so closely-knit, in fact, that it’s no wonder they haven’t expanded their roster in the five years they’ve been together (in the New 52 Universe). Trust doesn’t come easy to this team, but they do trust one another… which is a bit ironic, since they started out with a lot of mistrust among them. I’m sure this is something that will be addressed in the near future, with the founding of a separate new Justice League of America team, as well as Shazam scheduled to join the roster soon. There is also the upcoming Throne of Atlantis crossover story, which should be interesting, as it seems Aquaman will be put at odds with his teammates. In many ways, this seems like the end of an era, with Jim Lee’s departure, and substitute artist Tony Daniel briefly handling the art duties. While Lee’s pencils are surely missed, Daniel is no slouch. In fact, his style is very similar to Lee’s and this is actually some of his best work. I wish he could stick around for a few more issues, actually. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of Ivan Reis, but I’m also a fan of Daniel’s. He doesn’t get nearly enough exposure.
The backup Shazam story also deserves high praise. It’s been a real treat to read Billy Batson’s reintroduction to the DC Universe in these issues… and this one is no exception. In this story, we mostly get to see more of Black Adam and what his intentions are since returning to the land of the living. Johns’ take on him here is very similar to his handling of him, back when he was writing JSA. Here, he’s not really a villain out to be evil for evil’s sake. He just has his ideas of how to right the wrongs of the world. Ideas which conflict heavily with the moral code of Shazam and the other superheroes of the world. He’s as frighteningly menacing as ever, though. I really like the black cape, too. Shazam, himself, isn’t given much to do in this issue, but his scenes with Freddy Freeman are noticeably more lighthearted than the ones with Black Adam and Sivana. It’s still taking a while to warm up to Shazam’s more child-like, mischievous persona, but he’s still a likable hero, nonetheless. Gary Frank’s art, as always, is a genuine pleasure to look at, as well.
It’s been over a year since the New 52 relaunch and, while the title has had its critics, it’s been consistently delivering, as far as I’m concerned. Justice League has led the way in quality storytelling and art and I’m glad to say that it’s still doing just that. Now bring on Throne of Atlantis! 10/10