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Billed as a prelude, “Justice League” #35 is a buffer issue between Lex Luthor joining the Justice League and the upcoming “The Amazo Virus” storyline. Geoff Johns tells the tale of the partnership forged between Luthor and Bruce Wayne, spending the better portion of this issue with Lex and Bruce engaged in a mental chess match, each one trying to out-maneuver and one-up the other as their tenuous alliance takes its first wobbly steps.

That alliance has reached beyond “Justice League” #35 already, with Lex and Bruce appearing in the latest “Green Arrow,” but here the duo is engaged in a thinly-veiled philanthropic pissing match at the press conference announcing the merger. Both companies maintain their autonomy, but Luthor is flinging wide open the doors to LexCorp, and Batman seeks to put his role as World’s Greatest Detective to the test. Johns clearly has fun writing Wayne versus Luthor, but the Justice League is strategically placed during the conference.

Cyborg is given his biggest role since before “Trinity War,” acting as a field general, coordinating surveillance and defense, a role that is fitting Motown’s mechanized hero, especially as Johns uses Shazam for comedic effect at Cyborg’s side. Aquaman is perched lookout over the scene, a seemingly odd choice, but one that Johns cashes in for dramatic effect. The end result is the greatest amount of coordination this “new” League has experienced since the dawn of the New 52.

Carlos M. Mangual nails the lettering, stitching the action and dialog together smoothly. He gives Cyborg mechanical, but not robotic, caption boxes and puts an echo on Neutron’s word balloons. The letterer dials the exclamations up to eleven and balances with the visuals nicely, whether Ivan Reis or Doug Mahnke draws those images.

A smart match for the tent pole hero team of the DC Universe, Brad Anderson’s confident coloring helps tie the story together, despite the pair of pencilers and handful of inkers. If you look for it, you can see the subtle differences as Mahnke and Reis tag team the art, but there truly are only minute differences in inking styles which is surprising given the number of inkers present. Mahnke handles the majority of the issue, which works nicely given Mahnke’s versatility. Two men talking in business suits works just as well under Mahnke’s pencils as dozens of heroes beating the snot out of each other. Mahnke’s knack for subtle expression — both facial and gestural — sells the conversation between Bruce and Lex, as Luthor adjusts the knot of his tie or Bruce fights back tears when he remembers Sun Yen’s valiant fight for her life.

“Justice League” #35 is a decent story that does a phenomenal job setting the table. Johns punctuates this issue with action, giving readers just enough to remember the Justice League is more than two guys in suits. From here, however, Johns needs to deliver on the potential “The Amazo Virus” brings, a task that will be further scrutinized, given the recent real-world epidemic concerns.