Justice League #18

Guilty pleasure admission: one of the main reasons I love team comics is because of the inevitable "Old order changes/recruitment drive" issues. "Avengers" #181 is one of my all-time favorite comics. Grant Morrison's "JLA" #5 is a story I go back to time and again. Heck, I even love "Justice League of America Annual" #2 from 1984. Kurt Busiek and George Perez returning the Avengers to the Marvel Universe is also fun and exciting, even all these years later. Those issues offer change and new faces, old friends coming home and new concepts and characters and reactions to all of the above. These should be filled with fresh beginnings that are metaphoric open arms for new lapsed readers. "Justice League" #18 by Geoff Johns, Jesus Saiz and Gary Frank follows the spirit and form of those stories, right down to the inevitable threat that is quickly vanquished by the assembled might of the heroes.

Coupling a story of some much needed "down time" filled with nice character interplay with the story-driven recognition that a Justice League of only seven characters is rather thin, Johns opens up the minds and mouths of Batman, Cyborg, Superman and Flash with the end goal of expanding the team. To the best of my recollection, this is the first time readers see Superman actually standing when in the presence of his teammates, symbolic of Clark accepting this small group of allies and friends. The recruitment drive brings in Black Canary, Blue Devil, Black Lightning, Element Woman, Firestorm, Goldrush, Nightwing, Platinum, Vixen and Zatanna, many of whom fought alongside the League in the "Throne of Atlantis" story. We don't get a whole lot of depth or detail on any one of the characters, but every one of them at least has a balloon of dialog or a panel of action.

Couched in this introduction is a ho-hum struggle against a would-be ally that immediately sows seeds of doubt following the recruitment drive. While three new Leaguers appear ready to join on a full-time basis, one of the visitors had more nefarious intentions.

Through it all, "Justice League" #18 gives some stellar art from Jesus Saiz, who is welcome back on this title any time. His lines are so strong and clean that it livens up the story, visually establishes the characters and packs in the detail without ever making the story feel crowded or overwhelming. While I was disappointed that Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis weren't drawing this issue, Jesus Saiz and Jeromy Cox demolished that disappointment from the first page where Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond -- who actually look like teenagers in a school! -- discuss the particulars of finding a college they can both attend to maintain their Firestorm persona.

Following the brilliantly drawn, entertaining opening to this issue, we are given the tenth ten-page chapter in the gorgeously drawn Shazam adventure. Gary Frank has been delivering stunning artwork for this story and Brad Anderson's colors are every bit as glorious as Frank's lines. This installment is a transitional chapter as Billy Batson and his foster siblings return to the subway where Billy was granted powers while Black Adam's rampage continues. I'm not sure what the future holds for these characters once their backup adventure concludes, but I certainly hope it includes Frank and Anderson on the art.

"Justice League" #18 is an exciting and refreshing interlude between "Throne of Atlantis" and whatever multi-part adventure awaits the League next. Johns and Saiz contribute some much needed character development and interaction while allowing the League to evolve organically. Capped with a fine chapter of Shazam, this issue of "Justice League" provides a much-needed break and delivers stunning artwork worthy of an instant classic. I'm certainly going to add this to my pile of frequently read, much-enjoyed team adventures.

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