After a prologue setting the storyline up, “The Amazo Virus” officially begins its chapter one in “Justice League” #36, with Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok presenting a quarantined Metropolis where the titular virus is running rampant among humanity. But when the dust settles and you stop to think about this first issue, not much really happens.
I like the concept of “Justice League” #36, with the few members of the League still able to function (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor and Captain Cold) trying to find the Patient Zero who’s spreading Amazo to everyone that he comes into contact with. It’s a timely story with the Ebola panic that ran rampant through the news this fall, and even though Amazo is a very different sort of danger, the overall fear of a highly-transmittable virus killing everyone in its path is one that is relatable.
As you start digging into “Justice League” #36, though, it feels remarkably low on actual plot. 11 of the issue’s 20 pages are used to set the scene, with Batman and Superman encountering three looters who get stricken with Amazo. It’s not a bad sequence, but the problem is that it runs a little too long when it’s used up just over half of the comic. Readers will understand what’s going on as soon as the first looter is stricken, so by the time they’re fighting the fellow with gravity powers, it’s become a bit old hat.
This is a comic that feels like it’s stalling for time. A two-page spread with Justice League members in their hospital beds could have just as easily been a single page (or even part of a page); it doesn’t come across as terribly dramatic and it’s room that could have been used to advance the plot. Ultimately it’s the exposition at the end of the issue that does the most good here, bringing up the question on who engineered the attack on Lex Luthor the previous issue, as well as reminding us about the new subplot involving Lex’s sister that is also lingering in the background.
Fabok’s art is solid as ever, and having him on “Justice League” was a great choice. Fabok draws attractive, well-formed in characters in the realm of creators like Gary Frank. He uses that ability well for the fight against the looter, and he brings the various powers of the three bad guys to life as they assault Superman and Batman. There are some nice touches, too, like Wonder Woman’s armor looking like actual armor when she appears. Fabok’s run on “Detective Comics” looked great, and I’m expecting nothing less than that on “Justice League” too.
In a collected edition, this lingering chapter won’t stand out so much. But judged as a single issue — since that’s what readers are being asked to purchase it as — it’s not up to par. Fabok’s art is great, but Johns’ story is not moving at the pace it should be just yet. Now that the setup is over, hopefully things will kick into high gear. But for now, it’s not the overwhelming blast of excitement that I’d hoped this issue would bring.