In many ways, "Justice League" #38 is the strongest chapter of "The Amazo Virus" to date. Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok give us several reveals (appropriate for an issue titled "The Secret"), and those move the story in an interesting direction. At the same time, though, "Justice League" still feels like it's moving a bit slower than necessary.
There are some distinctly good scenes in "Justice League" #38. Having recently added him to the book's roster, Johns shows us how Captain Cold can be a character that can hold his own against high-powered enemies. It's definitely an attempt to slightly redefine a character who is best known for shooting a "cold gun" and wearing a parka; we're getting a much better idea of how dangerous he could be if you crank up his abilities and control over cold. At the same time, Johns continues to portray him as a bit of a mercenary, which is nice. It would be easy to try and soften the character, but this is someone who's ultimately focused on earning his paycheck. Letting Captain Cold still have a proverbial lump of ice for a heart is a good move because it keeps the character standing out and interesting.
On a similar note, Lex Luthor shines here. He's still ruthlessly intelligent, both in how he tries to use his brain to stop whatever is in his path and how he convinces others to come to his line of thinking. His speech to Neutron to try and scare information out of him is chilling in its matter-of-fact, brutal nature. Conversely, his attempt to weasel out what the Amazo Virus had gone through before its release is fun because you can see him scrambling to stay half a step ahead of Superman's wrath.
Still, even with the latest information on how the Amazo Virus is dangerous by the end of this issue, "Justice League" #38 feels a little slower moving than one would like. Maybe it's the lack of most of the cast being present, maybe it's the numerous exposition scenes, but there's a spring in the plot's step that's absent. Hopefully we're now out of all of the information dumping and into a phase where everything moves forward at a faster clip from here on out.
Fabok's art, on the other hand, is never lacking in energy. The fight against Patient Zero is strong, especially the two-page spread where he's taken down and you can almost see the character careen across the pages as he's hit, aided by Brad Anderson's shockwave effects to help track Patient Zero's progress. Captain Cold's battle is also strong, with characters jumping and shooting all over the place. With clean character designs and consistent anatomy, the end result is a book that just looks good from start to finish; Fabok was an excellent choice as the new "Justice League" artist.
"Justice League" #38 feels like it's on a bit of an uptick, but I'm hoping that this isn't the end of the improvements for "The Amazo Virus." This month's cliffhanger holds some real promise for what's still to come, but a lot will depend on if the story keeps coming to a halt in order to explain more facts. For someone who normally likes to see the motivations and hidden veins of information, I'm expositioned-out. Here's hoping for something bursting with energy next month.