The delayed “Justice League” #29 sets up the also-delayed conclusion of DC Comics’ “Forever Evil” event, but Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke deliver enough excitement to make it worth the wait. It’s a turning point of sorts, as the highlight of the issue is Cyborg’s showdown with his Earth-3 counterpart Grid, although the recently resurrected Metal Men get their first opportunity to go into battle as well.
Cyborg and Grid’s confrontation is infused with oft-used elements from “The Matrix” (living simultaneously virtual and actual realities) and classic sci-fi (soulless robot wants to feel emotion). Although the pieces might be derivative, they’re used to build up a conflict that’s tense and engaging, heightened by Johns’ pacing of the story and Mahnke’s moody rendering of the dark and rainy battle, which takes place in the now-decimated area once ironically known as Happy Harbor. Colorist Rod Reis goes a long way towards establishing this mood as well, with a somber and grey real world setting contrasted by the silhouetted, shaded tones of the digital world.
While this battle rages on two different fronts, the Metal Men face off against the Secret Society, and apparently hands the Society’s collective backsides to them, because — well, because Johns says so. This conflict is largely skipped over in favor of Cyborg’s battle, and is a letdown to anyone itching to see the Metal Men get involved in some real action. It’s a rather strange execution after the focus given to the team last issue, and such a buildup almost would have justified a standalone tie-in somewhere, and it’s kind of surprising that it didn’t, given publishers’ usual penchant for additional tie-in series expanding on the main event.
Johns’ Metal Men are lighthearted and jovial, but not corny or campy, and bring just enough light to a world that’s become dark and dreary under the Crime Syndicate’s rule. Johns applies the same tricks that he used to recharge Green Lantern years ago and Aquaman more recently, by staying true to the characters’ essence while tweaking them just enough to attract new readers without alienating the old ones. Aside from their blacked-out inaugural battle, Johns’ take on the Metal Men delivers what past incarnations did for their loyal fan base, without the quirkiness that kept others away.
“Forever Evil” has a provided a presumed reason why Cyborg was included in the New 52 relaunch of The Justice League, and while the character’s inclusion took some getting used to, after nearly three years, Cyborg seems right at home on this team just as he did in “New Teen Titans” for all those years. Johns set up quite the challenge for himself by taking the Justice League out of commission for the duration of “Forever Evil,” and forced himself to use secondary characters to fill the void. In this particular issue, Cyborg has done just that.
Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis’ cover adds to the Metal Men deceit a little bit, by showing the new team impersonating The Justice League, but it’s a nicely constructed piece that’s just too cool to care. “Justice League” #29 suffers a little bit for trying to pack in too much and then having to decide what to leave out, but what is presented is plenty enjoyable and actually moves the story along.