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Synopsis "The Villain's Journey Chapter One: The Call for Adventure" (20-pages)
David Graves wrote the definitive account of the Justice League’s origin, but in the year following their first appearance his health deteriorated significantly. His family and he had been the only civilian survivors of the Justice League’s battle with Darkseid. Graves’ wife and two children died of a mystery disease. It also affected Graves, leaving the once healthy writer virtually wheelchair bound and looking fifty years older than he actually was. At his cabin in Maine, Graves’ physician tells him that he has exhausted his medical options. David Graves declares “then my journey must begin” and shoots the doctor. He then vanishes from his home leaving his wheelchair behind.
Four years later, Colonel Steve Trevor – the Justice League’s A.R.G.U.S. liaison – is accosted by a TV crew as he is leaving a liquor store. They bug him for gossip on the Justice League and tease him about his failed romance with Wonder Woman. He and she had been involved in a relationship shortly after the Amazon princess came to America, but she ended it and Trevor has had to deal with the stigma of being Wonder Woman’s ex-boyfriend. He reacts angrily to the camera crew and pushes past them. Steve had gone at the store to buy a bottle of wine for dinner with his sister. Even she asks him when he’s going to move on and find somebody to bring to dinner.
Batman is brooding in the Batcave when he receives a call that the Key has broken into Arkham Asylum. Clark Kent is eating his lunch alone in the Daily Planet after being forgotten by Lois Lane’s lunch round-up so he’s grateful for Batman’s call to arms. They are joined at Arkham by Cyborg whose sensors make sense of the Asylum’s labyrinthine tunnels and corridors. The Key is heading deeper into the Asylum. When they eventually find him they discover that he’s looking for the deepest cell to hide in. The Key is trying to hide from a man who he says stole everything he knew about the Justice League. He names the man as Graves.
The Flash and Green Lantern have brought a prison break at Iron Heights under control, but they have no idea who wanted to spring the Weapons Master from his captivity. They try questioning him, but the Flash’s attempt at “bad cop” doesn’t really impress. They then call in Wonder Woman and her Lasso of Truth. Under its influence, the Weapons Master reveals that the man who broke in wanted to know everything he knew about hurting the Justice League. He also names the man as Graves.
Steve Trevor becomes suspicious upon returning to his apartment and discovering that the TV is on. It’s showing a report from the TV crew he countered earlier. They are trying to spin his visit to the liquor store into a story about his resentment towards Wonder Woman. Trevor pulls his gun, but is surprised before he can properly react. Later, the bloodied Steve awakes to find himself shackled to a concrete chair. His torturer tells him that he will die today, but that his sister and her children will be left alone if he reveals how to reach the Justice League’s satellite. Trevor hangs his head and says he’ll tell him want he wants to know.
- The Flashpoint Batman (Thomas Wayne of an alternative timeline) is displayed in the Batcave, ergo the events at the end of Flashpoint #5 are still part of continuity and have not simply faded way.
- Aquaman does not appear in this issue.
“The Call for Adventure” is an apt name for the opening chapter to the “Villain’s Journey”. The chapter is book-ended by two sequences with the villain, first before he begins that Journey and then one at the end as he show’s he’s a fully formed badguys by torturing Steve Trevor. In between those two blocks are a series of vignettes where we see the Justice Leaguers in small groups and in incredibly short individual flashbacks. These serve to give just a taste of who the Justice League members are and who have they become. Details are hinted at, but nothing is covered in any depth.
Stylistically this Justice League series has been all over the place. The first six issue arc bordered on 1980s cartoon in its shallowness, but hid a lot of references and background material. Issues #7 and #8 alternated between goofy-comedy around the League and genuine pathos without them. It had almost gotten to the point that the Justice League’s book was best when they weren’t in it. That continues to a degree in this issue where the sequences with Steve Trevor and/or Graves carry more interest that the pure superheroics.
The Flash/Green Lantern sequence is certainly fun and shows the real affinity that Geoff Johns has for Hal and Barry. I can’t say the same for the Superman sequence, but I haven’t decided whether it’s Geoff’s Superman or the New 52 Superman that doesn’t feel right for me. It’s ironic that the only person who knows the truth about Steve Trevor – that he’s the person who keeps the world off the Justice League’s back so that they can get on with their job — is the villain Graves.
The “regular” art team of Jim Lee and Scott Williams makes a return to the book after a two issue absence. Everything is here and it all looks as slick and as adventure packed as a normal Jim Lee comic. About the only wish I have is for Lee to be a bit more adventurous with his page design and layout (quite frankly, he’s so good there ain’t many places one can really critique the art without nitpicking).
The other interesting thing about Johns’s writing this go-round is the pacing. He and Jim Lee pack a ton onto each page, but what really caught my attention was the hyper-focused bursts of characterization that Johns would riddle across his script. For every present-day bit of action, we also get a handful of flashbacks that show the little bits of irony that define these characters.
The story just did not get me. I have a hard time thinking that a man that used to idolize the heroes fell into wanting to kill them just because it seems he was not noticed by them. And why is it that every single wealthy man in comics is capable of turning himself into a team busting super villain rather than funding someone else to do it for them?
What passes for “character” in regards to the League members themselves amounts to little more than the self-pitying flashbacks that have become a staple of Geoff Johns’ work, as each hero reflects, for no real reason story-wise, on moments in their past that make them feel sad, like Clark Kent getting picked last in dodge ball, and Bruce Wayne repainting his bedroom after his parents deaths.
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Page 1. This is David Graves. We first saw him in person in Justice League (vol. 2) #6 (April 2012) as a writer whose family was saved by the Justice League’s defeat of Darkseid. That issue was set five-years ago when he and his family appeared healthy and well. A shelf of Graves’s books are shown, these match the books listed in a text piece in Justice League (vol. 2) #XX (July 2012) which reproduced his introduction and front matter from his Atlantis book.
Page 5. Steve Trevor’s dinner with his sister was mentioned by this aide Etta Candy in The New 52 Special Edition #1 (June 2012).
Page 6. Panel 1. The letter from Thomas Wayne that Batman is staring at was delivered to him in Flashpoint #5 by the Flash after he visited the alternative Flashpoint timeline where it was Thomas who survived and Bruce who died.
Panel 3. The monitor behind Bruce Wayne is showing the profile of a mowahawked person, probably OMAC. Batman was responsible for creating the Brother Eye satellite which in turn turned Kevin Kho into OMAC. Batman and OMAC served together on the Justice League International.
Panel 4. Are we being prepped for a Metamorpho relaunch? Alfred references a meeting at Stagg Industries. This is the company owned by Simon Stagg the father-in-law of Rex Mason, the elemental hero Metamorpho. The Orb of Ra, which was stolen from the Black Room in Justice League (vol. 2) #7 (May 2012), was the instrument that originally turned Mason into the Element Man.
The Key first appeared in Justice League of America (vol. 1) #41 (Dec 1965). He was a scientist working for Intergang who used the psycho-chemicals they made available to him to transform his mind. He was recreated for JLA #8 (Aug 1997) by Grant Morrison and its that version which appears here.
Page 9. Unanswered questions: why is the key a sore spot for Superman?
Page 10. The first two flashback panels of Victor are from Justice League (vol. 2) #2 (Dec 2011). Cyborg says that the “elevators are out, we can reach the sublevels through the stairwell” which is exactly what happens in the first Batman: Arkham Asylum video-game.
Page 12. In the flashback Hal is shown being arrested outside Broome’s Bar, John Broome was Hal Jordan’s co-creator.
Page 13. The Weapons Master first appeared in Brave and the Bold #29 (May, 1960) and was second super villain that the Justice League faced in their published adventures. The original version was a time traveller called Xotar from 9,000 years into the future who read in a fragmentary document that he once defeated the Justice League.
Page 14. In Justice League (vol. 2) #7 (May 2012) Steve Trevor told Etta Candy that he’d once told Wonder Woman that he loved her, but he never said how she replied. This sequence, or the third panel at least, looks like the fall out from that. From WW being unable or unwilling to say she loves Steve.
Page 18-20. This sequence begins Steve Trevor’s kidnap by Graves that ends with Justice League (vol. 2) #12 (Oct 2012) with his hospitalization at ARGUS. Therefore, this story happens after the events of the “Black Room” and probably the “War for the Books of Magic” arcs in Justice League Dark.