“Justice League” #33 has several boxes to check off on its agenda. The introduction of the new Doom Patrol (after the fake-out line-up in “Forever Evil”), the question of Lex Luthor’s membership in the Justice League, and the fate of the new Power Ring. With all of those plot points in mind, Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke do a pretty good job of hitting all the bases. Some areas feel like they could be fleshed out more than others, but on the whole it’s a nice job.
The centerpiece of this issue is Power Ring, as Jessica Cruz continues to be yanked around on a proverbial chain by the sentient, fear-mongering ring. What’s important here is that Jessica comes across as someone who’s simply in over her head. She’s not a bad person, or nasty, or even particularly weak. Rather, she’s been plunged into a spot where it’s (for now) beyond her ability to cope with. The end result is that Johns helps the reader feel sorrow or pity for Jessica, not disdain or anger. More importantly, the way in which Batman successfully shuts down Power Ring is a good solution; it’s one that reminds us that Batman’s more than just fancy gadgets or brute strength, but that he’s supposed to be incredibly smart to boot. His analysis of the situation and figuring out how to solve it is perfectly in character.
The other storylines get a little less panel time, but they’re mostly satisfactory. The Doom Patrol unfortunately falls a little to the wayside here, aside from getting to see Rita’s lack-of-confidence issue in action. It ties a bit of a bow onto what Johns set up last issue, with how Rita could be considered a “freak,” and Mahnke’s pencils for that moment carry the idea through well. On the other hand, the lack of focus on most of the team (the confrontation between Element Girl and her former teammates is notably truncated and more than a little disappointing) is a shame; this two-parter is presumably going to be used to eventually launch a new title for the Doom Patrol, so it would’ve been nice to get a bit more focus on the characters. On the other hand, there is still a lot to juggle here, and Johns uses some of that remaining space to instead reveal more on Lex Luthor and his attempt to become a full member of the League. The reasoning on what to do with him is sound, and Lex will certainly prove to be a good foil for our heroes as they have to deal with his continued presence. It’s a fun addition to the title, one that definitely gives it an extra burst of energy.
While the book will be in good hands with the arrival of Jason Fabok in a few months, it is a little sad to see Mahnke leaving the title soon. His art here looks particularly clean and smooth, and Mahnke can draw emerald-energy nightmare creations like no one’s business. There’s more than just detail being provided here; he and Keith Champagne have given us genuinely monstrous creations that H.P. Lovecraft would have been proud to know. The final scenes with Batman and Power Ring also hold a nice punch thanks to the body language of the pair; Batman as protector, Jessica as someone who’s been successfully rescued from a hideous situation.
“Justice League” #33 continues to help the title feel like it’s on a good path, post-“Forever Evil.” With the changes to the team, there’s a lot of promise for what’s in store. I’d like to see a few less storylines per issue down the line (if only to keep from feeling like some of the stories are getting short-changed like we had here), but overall, a nice installment.