SPOILER WARNING: The following story contains major spoilers for “Justice League #7, on sale now.
“Justice League” #7 wraps up the two-part “State of Fear” storyline, but don’t think that these issues were just a placeholder before the next larger storyline. Bryan Hitch, Jesus Merino and Andy Owens are doing more than simply exposing some of the cracks within the team. More importantly, one member quits the League entirely.
Some of the pieces of here are a return to older ideas. One intriguing one right off the bat is the pairing up of Aquaman and Wonder Woman, the two members of the League who come from royalty. This is something that we got back in the late ’90s in “Justice League 80-Page Giant” #1, where Christopher Priest teamed the two and Aquaman inadvertently revealed that Wonder Woman’s presence was one of his reasons for sticking around as a member of the then-current Grant Morrison and Howard Porter “JLA” series. It was a fun match-up that sadly never went far, with many readers noting that these two characters would understand the roles and responsibilities they were born into in a way that no other League members could.
Here, Hitch plays on that bond with Aquaman’s fears over both the contamination of the surface world into his realm, coupled with a fear of trusting the air-breathers, and he’s ready to strike against the United States. Interestingly, Wonder Woman is in favor of taking charge too, but Hitch’s script has her ready to form a joint statement with Aquaman as their royal titles are placed side by side. Even under the influence of the fear entity infecting the League after “Justice League” #6, she’s still the even-keeled, thoughtful member of the team.
Isolation and Awkwardness
Similarly, Cyborg’s fears of not being accepted are ones that we’ve seen before. His not fitting in all of these years since his debut crop up again under Hitch’s script, as a return to his old high school turns off-putting as the fear entity’s corruption turns a moment of victory into terror. Less familiar to readers is Simon Baz, a Green Lantern depicted as someone who never feels like he belongs, feeling isolated and apart from both the League and the world at large. It’s a nice pairing of these two characters, with Simon sitting in the bleachers within his own isolated world even as the people around him are running wild with terror.
Likewise, Batman and Superman’s differences of opinion and slight mistrust of one another is an idea that’s been played with in the past, but Hitch is able to amp up the strength of this idea thanks to there already being an uneasy relationship between the pair. This Superman having come from an alternate universe has greatly increased the unease of Batman over his mega-powered teammate, and their conflict is a good reminder of just where these familiar faces stand.
Too Many Green Lanterns?
Then there’s Jessica Cruz, the second of the two Green Lanterns on the roster of “Justice League.” Ever since her introduction during the “Forever Evil” storyline, she’s been a character who’s been afraid of her own skin and the outside world, part of what made the evil Ring of Volthoom entity eager to take her over as a new puppet. She’s done a good job over the past two years of becoming more confident and a hero within her own right — both in “Justice League” as well as the new “Green Lanterns” series — but the fear entity’s corruption in “Justice League” #6-7 seems to have sent her sliding back towards the start.
What’s impressive about this storyline is that Jessica is ultimately strong-willed enough to defeat the fear infection — a reminder that even once she was free of the Ring of Volthoom she was considered worthy of being a real Green Lantern — but at the same time, those doubts are deep within her, enough to have her abruptly quit the team. Not even her burgeoning relationship with Barry Allen, which has been a real pleasure to see continue on from the previous “Justice League” series, is enough to have her stick around. When she leaves, though, she does so with a pointed statement. “All of this, all we’ve felt here, there’s going to be consequences.” For some characters, it was interpersonal (Simon’s isolation, Cyborg’s alienation, Superman and Batman’s clash), but for others (Wonder Woman and Aquaman) it caused a direct clash with the United States government that almost led to war. Hopefully we’ll see more of the repercussions from this before long; this isn’t a moment that’s easily swept under the rug. Could this be the tipping point that causes America to form its own Justice League of America?
“State of Fear” might have looked like a brief two-part sidestep, but with rifts forming within the League, as well as between the League and the United States, it’s far from a simple and forgotten storyline. Dark times are definitely ahead for the League, and for the moment, they’re down one member, too. Not the best time to be under-powered.