It’s fun to see Cyborg literally drop in to team up with Superman and Batman as he does in “Justice League” #9, but it seems to me that could have been done without a relaunch. This issue, featuring the return of Jim Lee to art chores, is more about the smaller team-ups “Justice League of America” so famously utilized back in the Silver Age than it is about the League as a more cohesive, larger team.
Steve Trevor factors highly into the action and drama of this issue as the emerging villain, Graves (detail-focused readers will make the connection), seeks to leverage Trevor’s relationship with the League as a means to attack the League. Coupled with the fear Graves induces in the Key and Weapons Master, Graves’ interaction with Trevor helps establish him as a frightening foe for the League, despite his undefined powers. Those powers and the reason they’re so frightening is a tale waiting to be told and will certainly blossom in the forthcoming chapters of “The Villain’s Journey.”
As mentioned, Jim Lee returns in this issue, but his work seems unfinished and rather rushed throughout the issue. His figures are scrawnier than I’ve come to expect from him and the detail and shading just isn’t quite crisp. Add to that a trio of color artists, including one panel where Graves is inflicting pain upon Trevor that literally appears to have had a color effect added in with crayon, and the lead story is just not as impressive as the backup.
In that “Shazam” backup tale, Johns and artist Gary Frank continue to construct the environs around Billy Batson, defining the Vasquez family and Billy’s new “siblings” in the framework of the Vasquez home as well as at school. Billy gets further defined and Freddy Freeman also has some panel time to shine before the story joins Sivana on a dig near Baghdad. There’s a lot going on in this segment, but the action and adventure stops just short of delivering any true magic. It’s a fun story, with spiffy Frank art and equally nice color work by Brad Anderson, but it is quite obvious that this story has more impactful chapters in the future. After I closed the back cover, I realized I actually enjoyed the Shazam segment of this issue more than the feature tale. Personally, I find the characters and events in the Shazam story to be much more interesting than the lead, but that can be attributed to the asynchronous timetables the two stories are currently on with Shazam in its third stanza and “The Villain’s Journey” only getting started.
“Justice League” #9 is an enjoyable enough fun story, but it is also very much an opening chapter in the next grand case for the Justice League. We learn of a new foe, but only through the equivalent of fish stories — no direct exposure of the Justice League against this new foe, but rather a gauge of fearsomeness offered to the League from other recognizable foes.