Justice League #7

With "Justice League" #7, Geoff Johns and guest artist Gene Ha jump the series forward to the present day and I'm sure most readers will be saying, "It's about time." Reading this comic, I can understand why and it makes me wish we'd started at this point all along.

Thanks to a lack of "this is how they all met," we end up with a much zippier pace. A threat raises its head, the Justice League shows up and quickly defeats it. Each plot point is hit quickly and effectively and then the story moves forward. Johns also shows us how the different members are getting along with one another and longtime "Wonder Woman" supporting character Steve Trevor is given a larger role as well. As the new addition to the line-up, Cyborg's position within the League is well-defined, in some ways taking the spot that Oracle had in Grant Morrison's "JLA." It makes more sense to have him on the team now and it's nice to see him working out without either dominating or fading into the background of the comic.

In many ways, "Justice League" #7 is much more about Trevor than the League, highlighting his liaison role with the team as well as his connection with Wonder Woman. I like the way that Johns handles him and Etta Candy here -- Trevor hits just the right emotional notes for me and the nature of his relationship with Wonder Woman in the new continuity feels satisfying.

What we don't get in "Justice League" #7 is a look at the other members who have presumably joined the team since its formation. It's a plot point promised in the solicitation, but Johns keeps those characters off-panel. It's probably a good thing, though; as much as I was looking forward to seeing the rest of the characters finally appear, there's enough going on in this issue to keep from cluttering the story.

Gene Ha steps in to help give Jim Lee a head start on his return in a couple of issues, and it's good but not the greatness I expect from Ha. His figure work, as always, looks marvelous. The spread of the seven members attacking the Spores gives each character their own little moment and I feel like Ha knows how to draw a comic with a lot of detail on the page without it feeling cluttered. While I've always thought of Ha's characters as very lithe, the way he draws Steve Trevor looks great; he's got a solid, full face that reminds me of how artists like Howard Chaykin approach the body. It's a very masculine, real look.

What we're missing in "Justice League" #7 from Ha are his normally detailed backgrounds. They show up sporadically, but they're often faint and almost blurred into the distance. I'm used to Ha taking average rooms and packing them full of all sorts of things to enjoy the second, third and fourth time you read a comic, but it's not present here. Still, this is a man who can make a video-chat look great thanks to the close-ups on faces and the people running around behind Wonder Woman, so ultimately it's a pleasure to have some new Ha art.

Also in "Justice League" #7 is the start of the Shazam back-up by Johns and his frequent collaborator Gary Frank. I'll tackle the easy part here first; the art looks fantastic as ever. Frank can get the little personal moments down pat, like Mrs. Glover tousling Billy's hair at the foster system office or that cold look in Doctor Sivana's eyes. (Where did his glasses go, though?) When we get the glimpse of Philadelphia around Christmas, it's in many ways exactly what I was hoping for from Ha in the main story. From the different types of lights in people's windows to the bystanders on the street, it feels richly detailed and beautiful. Getting a regular dose of Frank art in "Justice League" is reason to celebrate.

Johns' story is going to anger long-time Captain Marvel fans, there's no doubt about that. His take on Billy Batson is distinctly different than what we've had up until now and it's going to rub a lot of people the wrong way. I get that, but at the same time I feel like Johns is setting us up for a hero's journey, where we'll see Billy grow into his new role of Shazam and become someone greater. Of course, it's all supposition right now and going strictly off of what we see in "Justice League" #7, there's certainly reason to dislike the new direction -- but I think it's a good opening, if one deliberately designed to rub readers the wrong way. It made me curious to see where it's going from here. If nothing else, the conflict of magic and science is presented in a way that caught my attention and I'd like to see how Johns handles it in future installments.

"Justice League" #7 is a good issue; there are little points here and there that could have been better, but I feel like I'm getting my money's worth and that there was enough to make me genuinely interested in what's to come. With a build-up for a new villain in the main story of "Justice League" #7 handled well, plus the start of Shazam's origin, things are looking hopeful for "Justice League."

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