Justice League has been one of DC’s stronger titles even during the hideous mess known as the New 52. This title continues to be a dependable read. Shea Fontana takes over the writing duties with this issue. I am not at all familiar with her writing. I do know that she writes the DC Super Hero Girls. But, I am definitely not the target demo for that comic. So, I will be curious to experience her writing. Hopefully, she brings the goods with Justice League #22. Let’s hit this review.
Words: Shea Fontana
Art: Philippe Briones
Colors: Gabe Eltaeb
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Simon Baz (Lucha! Lucha! Lucha!) and Jessica Cruz intercepting an asteroid heading for Earth. They begin to smash the large asteroid into small pieces. Jessica is worrying about messing up again. Jessica whines about how Wonder Woman looks at her like she is a child. And how Cyborg dumbed down their mission for them when he assigned them the task of taking care of this asteroid. Jessica says that when she asked Batman a question that he looked like he would rather jump off the edge of a skyscraper than talk to her. (Kind of like I would rather jump off the edge of a skyscraper rather than read about Jessica.)
Jessica continues to moan about how every time they show up the other Leaguers just remember that Baz and Jessica are not Hal Jordan. (That’s the damn truth. Can you blame the Leaguers? Going from Hal to Baz and Jessica is like trading in your Ferrari for a Ford and a Chevy.)
Jessica continues to wallow in her self pity like a mopey teen girl. Simon yells out for Jessica to look out Simon blasts a bunch of asteroid bits that were headed straight for her. (Dammit. Simon would have been my favorite GL of all time if he had just let those asteroid clobber Jessica.)
Cyborg radios Simon and asks him how the mission is progressing. Simon says that everything is all good and that no asteroid will be hitting Earth today. Simon tells Jessica that they need to hurry back to the Watchtower so they won’t be late for their interview with Lois Lane. Jessica moans that she wishes Lois could just reprint the lame things that Jessica said in the last interview. (We are only two pages into this issue and Jessica has managed to set a world record on how quickly a character can completely become annoying. Bravo.)
We cut to the Watchtower. Lois is finishing interviewing Wonder Woman. Batman and Cyborg are working away at the Watchtower’s computer. Superman is standing next to Lois. (I cannot emphasis how nice it is to have the real Superman back. Spit curl and all. And with Lois Lane. As it should be.) Jon runs around the room. Superman mentions how he can’t believe how Lois talked Perry into letting her do such a fluff piece. Lois replies that it was a good excuse to come hang out with her favorite person while he is on the job. (I just love these two together. This is like the anti-N52 Superman/Wonder Woman relationship.)
We see Jon run up to Batman with an excited look on his face. Batman just grunts and ignores Jon and continues to work away on the computer. Jon walks away bummed out. Suddenly, Simon and Jessica enter the room. Simon starts doing his best Mojo Rawley imitation as he is HYPED about his successful mission. Simon slaps a big high five with Jon. Then Simon fist bumps Cyborg. Superman high-fives Simon. Simon then puts his hand up and asks for a high five from Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman smiles and says, “I respect your people’s celebratory rituals.” and gives Simon a big high-five. (What is so great about the high five with Jon and Wonder Woman is that Briones gives those panels action lines! Perfect!)
Simon then goes up to Batman and yells “Batman!” and puts up his hand for a high five. Batman just stares at Simon and says nothing. Simon then quietly says, “Sir” and respectfully shakes Batman’s hand. (Damn straight. The goddamn Batman does not engage in such juvenile jocularity! I love it. This scene was great.)
Lois then interviews Simon and Jessica. Simon talks about how the Watchtower is the best headquarters ever built. And that the espresso machine is amazing. Jessica then says that Simon speaks for both of them.
Lois then begins to pack up to leave and take Jon to school. Suddenly, an alert comes across the Watchtower computer. Cyborg says that an unidentified life-form has been detected on the Watchtower. Cyborg scans the Watchtower and says that the life-forms are nearly microscopic and are alien. Simon wonders if it is some of the Contagion that may have survived. Cyborg says no, that these alien bugs are different. Cyborg says that Simon and Jessica are both covered in these alien bugs.
Jessica begins to spaz out and says that she has to get them off of her. Jessica says that she needs to go home. Cyborg says that no one can leave. That the creatures are multiplying at an unprecedented rate. Cyborg says that the alien bugs are all across the Watchtower already.
Batman says that the alien bugs migrated from the asteroid to the Green Lanterns. Cyborg says that if the alien bugs can survive the vacuum of space then they are incredibly tough. Lois says that they should fumigate the Watchtower. Superman replies that the bugs may be a sentient species so they can’t risk fumigating the Watchtower. Wonder Woman points out that if the alien bugs get to Earth then they could carry diseases or feed on crops.
We then see a holo-video of Aquaman saying that the ocean’s biosphere is particularly susceptible to pathogens. (This was an incredibly awkward transition from panel to panel.) Flash says that Earth is officially a no-go zone for the alien bugs. Superman says that the choice is obvious. Cyborg says they can’t risk another alien contagion threatening Earth. Cyborg then pushes a button on the Watchtower that officially quarantines the Watchtower.
We cut to Batman, Superman and Lois all in the Watchtower lab. Batman says he will search the interplanetary zoological database while Superman runs tests on the alien bugs. Lois says that she wills tart “investigating.” Batman replies to Lois “You?” Lois claims that she spent three years on the science and medical beat and won the Bingham prize.“ Before Lois can continue Batman shuts her up by saying :All right. You investigate.” (Vintage Batman. Sometimes the fastest way to stop someone from talking and wasting their time is to just agree with them.)
Lois then says that she may have found something. Lois says that the alien bugs are reminiscent of Euphausia Superba, also known as Antarctic Krill. The live in schools called “swarms.” Batman replies “Price-worthy, Lois” with a slight trace of a smile. (Absolutely perfect. Again.)
We cut to Simon alone in his room. Simon thinks how Jessica was right. That they are the Green Lantern amateur hour. (Look, they said it. Not me. I’m just agreeing to their statement.) Simon says that the League is trapped on the Watchtower because the two Green Lanterns did even consider checking for microbes. (Like I said, I’m just agreeing that Simon and Jessica are morons.)
Wonder Woman then enters Simon’s room and says, “Get up. Come with me.” (How is every single male Leaguer not trying to get with Wonder Woman like every single possible minute? Is there a single more desirable woman in the DCU? I say no.)
We cut to Jessica in the shower. She is still freaking out about having the alien bugs on her. We see one tiny alien bug at the back of her neck. The bug burrows into her skin. (Gross. Seriously. There are few things in all of existence worse than parasites.)
We cut to Jessica all dried off and dressed. She thinks about how she brought back the plague to the Justice League. Jessica thinks, “Typical Jessica.” (Jessica is one of those characters that you just wish would die in a hilariously moronic and gruesome manner.)
Wonder Woman suddenly enters the bathroom. (Damn, girl! You gotta at least knock first!) Wonder Woman says, “Green Lantern. I hope you are ready.” (I dig that Wonder Woman calls Jessica “Green Lantern” here. It is a nice emphasis on how Jessica’s teammates view her versus how Jessica views herself. And it also puts Jessica on notice that Wondy ain’t messing around.)
We shift to Jon playing video games. Cyborg enters and yells “Herrrre’s Johnny!” (Does anyone under 45 years old get that reference at all? And I wonder if more people remember it from this or from this.)
Jon looks bummed out. Cyborg asks what’s up. Jon says “Nothing.” Cyborg says that he recognizes Jon’s video game and that it is a great game. Cyborg then asks if Jon wants to see something really cool. Cyborg then creates a hologram version of the game that Jon was playing. Jon is all excited that both he and Cyborg love the same video game characters. Cyborg says that they have lots in common including mad gaming, quick thinking and both being one-of-a-kind. Jon then says that Cyborg probably didn’t have a dad that was always on his ase about screen time. Cyborg replies that dads are gonna be dad. Cyborg says, “You just gotta be cool being you.” Jon smiles. (Another great scene. I like the big brother role Cyborg is playing to Jon.)
We cut to Wonder Woman whipping out her sword. (More action lines! Yeah!) Wonder Woman tells Simon and Jessica to attack. Simon immediately plucks Wonder Woman’s sword out of her hand. Wonder Woman gets distracted by that and leaves her open to Jessica blasting her and knocking Wonder Woman on her butt.
Wondy says, “You felled me.” (Line of the issue!) Simon says, “Good fight.” Jessica says, “That was intense.” Suddenly, Wonder Woman punches Simon in the stomach and kicks Jessica at the same time. Wonder Woman tells the moron Green Lanterns that she did not say the excise was complete. That they should never let their guard down until the battle is over. Wonder Woman says that they shall go at it again.
We see Wonder Woman taking out Jessica and Simon, again. (I could watch this for an entire issue. Wonder Woman just beating up Jessica and Simon. Fantastic.) Suddenly, we see a swarm of the alien bugs traveling through the air ducts. The alien bugs then pour out into the room where Wonder Woman and the Green Lanterns are sparring.
The bugs then form a sort of humanoid form. Wonder Woman attacks it. The distress signal goes off and the rest of the Justice Leaguers bust into the room to help. Superman tells Jon and Lois to stay back. Our heroes encircle the alien bug humanoid form. Cyborg says that he cannot scan any apparent weaknesses.
The bugs then reform into a female form in front of Jessica. Batman says that the bugs have found their queen: Jessica. Batman say that the bugs are mirroring Jessica’s movements. Superman and Batman swoop in to put themselves in between Jessica and the bugs.
The bugs then get angry and swarm all over Jessica and begin to cover her body. Superman says that the bugs are reacting to Jessica. Batman tells Jessica to control herself and, therefore, control the bugs. Jessica screams and then suddenly gains control of the swarming bugs. Jessica guides all of the bugs into a large green container created by Simon.
Cyborg says that he is picking up a unique pheromone originating from Jessica. It is the Queen. That somehow the queen has fused with Jessica and tapped into her brain waves. We see Jessica reach to the back of her neck and pull out the queen that we saw in the bathroom scene.
We cut to Simon and Jessica setting the bugs free on a nicer cozy asteroid that will serve as their new home. Jessica says that she thinks that they did well today. (As in you helped clean up the mess that you created? Yes. In that sense you did do well.)
We hop back to the Watchtower. Simon exclaims that the Watchtower is bug free and better than ever. Jessica exclaims “Yeah!” and then high five each other. (I kind of wish that Simon missed and slapped Jessica in the face instead.) Jessica then thanked Wonder Woman for training her today. Wonder Woman replies that she wasn’t training Jessica. That she was training with Jessica. Wonder Woman says that steel sharpens steel and that Jessica and Simon were worthy opponents.
Jessica looks surprised and says, “Excuse me, just one moment.” and flies out of the Watchtower. We see Jessica zooming upward yelling out “WOOOOOOO!” End of issue.
The Good: Justice League #22 was a solid read. This is exactly the type of issue that is desperately needed in the world of modern mainstream super hero comics. Justice League #22 demonstrates why one shot issues are still a vital aspect of modern super hero comics.
Fontana delivers a simple and straight forward story that checks off all the boxes for what a one shot issue is supposed to achieve. The one shot issue should, ideally, be focused mainly on one character while still including the entire team as important integral parts to the story. The one shot should offer a one and done “monster of the week” style villain that offers the physical conflict for the story. The one shot should also deliver a properly compressed story arc that takes the main character on some sort of character building journey. Justice League #22 achieves all of these goals.
I love how no-nonsense Fontana is with this issue. Justice League #22 hits all of the classic super hero elements. Fontana delivers a story that takes care of the basics and does so in a fine fashion. There is something to be said for a “nuts and bolts” styled story that focuses on just delivering straight up super hero fun and action. Not every issue needs to be something grand and complex. Not every issues has to be dark and moody.
Many current writers for both Marvel and DC lack any passion or basic understanding of what a mainstream super hero comic should deliver. Therefore, the result is that there are numerous mainstream super hero comics that read like niche indie style comics. Mainstream super hero comics should place a priority on action and adventure first and foremost. And excitement and fun should always be elements that are emphasized. And that is exactly what Fontana does with Justice League #22.
Justice League #22 is a one-shot issue that centers on Jessica Cruz. All of the other Justice Leaguers have important roles to play in this issue. However, Justice League #22 is primarily focused on Jessica and her growth as a character. I love this aspect of the one-shot. This is a great format for the writer to focus on a team member who does not have their own solo title and give them the spotlight and plenty of panel space in order to perform some necessary character work. Fontana does a good job methodically and logically showing the reader how the story in Justice League #22 has led to some quality character growth for Jessica.
I may not like Jessica’s character at all but that does not mean this story was not well written. Fontana did a great job dealing with Jessica’s character and the insecurities that plague her. In an era of alpha males and dominant women it is fantastic to see a character who actually displays real world qualities such as the insecurities that Jessica displays.
Many writers these days feel pressured to deliver female super heroes who are overtly masculine or unrealistic idealized versions of “strong” women. Fontana? She does not do that with Jessica. Instead, Fontana gives the reader a character that actually feels like a real-life woman who is trying to adjust to being a super hero and all the power and responsibility that comes with that role.
Fontana does a nice job growing Jessica’s character and giving her some more confidence, but not too much. Jessica does not change to drastically and unrealistically. In real life, people change their personalities in a gradual way over a long period of time. I like that Fontana has Jessica grow enough to reveal in Wonder Woman’s praise, but still being too shy and insecure to reveal in that praise in front of anyone else.
Fontana delivers some excellent character work. The dialogue is also well crafted. All of the characters have their own unique external voices. The result is that Fontana is able to generate some excellent chemistry between all of the characters. The banter between the characters never veers into an unrealistic indie-styled “witty” banter. Instead, the dialogue feels natural and the characters come across as genuine. Unlike some writers, Fontana knows that the characters are the stars of the show, not her, and wisely gets out of their way when it comes to the dialogue and character work.
The chemistry between all of the characters oozes from each page. I love the interaction between Jon and Cyborg. The interplay between Lois Lane and Superman. The way that Batman plays off of the other members. All of the character interaction was just spot on.
You know what is really awesome about Fontana’s handling of the Justice Leaguers in this issue? That we get a team of heroes where the people actually LIKE each other. This is a team of heroes where the characters view each other as family. How refreshing. Take note, Marvel.
I was impressed with how Fontana handled Batman’s character. There is no doubt that this is still the goddmamn Batman. But, Fontana does not make Batman such an over-the-top dick. Instead, Fontana delivers a properly terse and all-business Batman, but also allows Batman to flash an excellent dry sense of humor. This even comes with Batman delivering a line with just a trace of a smile. It works well with Batman’s character and makes his interaction with the other Leaguers more interesting.
Fontana’s take on Wonder Woman was fantastic. I love Wondy’s role in the story as a role model who does not come off as egotistical or superior to her teammates. Wondy has a quiet strength and an air of dignity about her. Yet, Fontana still gives Wonder Woman a nice sense of humor, too. Love her role in the story. I dig that Fontana has Wonder Woman inspire immediate respect from everyone around her without having to resort to a militaristic or masculine personality.
Fontana’s take on Cyborg was great. I will never be able to accept Cyborg not being in his rightful and proper place among his fellow Titans. But, that is a me problem. Cyborg is still a fantastic character and Fontana handles his personality well. I particularly enjoyed Cyborg playing the role of the fun Uncle/big brother to Jon. Fontana’s Cyborg is a character that younger male readers will immediately find appealing.
The best aspect of Justice League #22 is that it is FUN! Imagine that. A super hero comic that focuses on being fun. That is why I loved mainstream super hero comics as a kid and continued to read them as an adult. Fontana displayed a great sense of humor that helped make this such a fun issue to read. Fontana also did a fine job moderating the humor. We got plenty of humorous moments without veering too far into the Bwahahahaha Justice League.
One scene that perfectly sums up the great vibe that Fontana creates in Justice League #22 was the one page scene with Simon entering the Watchtower and greeting all of the Leaguers. It showed nice chemistry between the characters. It offered a nice fun moment with some good humor. Yet, it never had any of the characters act outside of their established personalities just to get a joke across.
Justice League #22 was an excellently plotted and paced issue. Seriously, more writers need to learn from Fontana how to properly plot a story and pace it out across a single issue. It was fantastic. Fontana never lost her focus and kept the story moving forward with a clear point and purpose in mind. Each scene logically built upon the prior scene. Justice League #22 had no wasted panels or moments of decompression where the reader feels that the writer is purposefully stalling for time.
Fontana also serves up enough action in order to keep the reader’s attention. Sure, there are quality dialogue heavy scenes in which Fontana performs character work. But, she never goes too long without giving a bit of action to keep the story lively. Fontana also employs good tension once the Watchtower becomes quarantined in order to give the dialogue heavy scenes more emotional impact.
What seriously impressed me about Fontana’s writing was her excellent use of psychology. The writers over at the WWE could stand to learn a few things from Fontana in this area. Good psychology is the ability to get over a character or show some growth and evolution of a character without explicitly telling the reader.
Fontana’s strong psychology is found in all the little touches that she places in each scene. The beginning scene with Simon and Jessica dealing with the asteroid scene was not just a mindless action scene. Fontana uses the action in that scene to employ some quality psychology that gets over Jessica’s lack of confidence and Simon’s brashness. It seems that many writers these days do not realize that action scenes can often provide the best vehicle for establishing character traits with the reader.
The sparring scene with Wonder Woman, Simon and Jessica and then the fight scene with the alien bugs also had good psychology. Fontana is able to show Simon’s over-confidence and contrast it with Jessica’s lack of self-confidence. Fontana demonstrates to the reader how both character traits can be weaknesses during battle. This scene also gets Wonder Woman over with the reader as a quiet badass.
I also like the fact that Fontana uses Wonder Woman to give the rub to Simon and Jessica to try and give them more credibility with the reader. Having Simon and Jessica immediately take down Wonder Woman and then have Wonder Woman sell the shock and amazement at what just happened was perfect. This got over with the reader that Simon and Jessica were legit Leaguers and deserved respect.
However, Fontana wisely then had Simon and Jessica get beaten by Wonder Woman in order to give Wondy her shine back and establish that she is still several tiers higher than Simon and Jessica. This was a good action scene to give Simon and Jessica more credibility while still preserving Wonder Woman as the top dog.
Philippe Briones serves up plenty of enjoyable artwork in Justice League #22. Briones knows what a mainstream super hero comic should look like and delivers it in fine fashion. The artwork is slick and has an appealing look. The art is dynamic and helps to pull the reader into the story.
Briones is equally adept at dialogue heavy scenes as he is at action scenes. Briones is able to create excellent facial expressions for each of the characters. This helps to enhance the already strong character work by Fontana. And let’s talk about the action scenes. What was the best part of them? Action lines! Hell, yeah! I love that Briones pulled out this manga classic technique that always injects additional energy into any panel.
The Bad: I do not have many complaints with Justice League #22 at all. Even thought this issue was well plotted there were some scene transitions that were clunky and awkward.
Personally, I still do not care for either Simon or Jessica. The Justice League is the A-list team. It deserves Hal Jordan. And if it is just a simple matter of having to meet a quota in terms of having more non-white characters on the roster then John Stewart is clearly more big time and a much better fit for the Justice League than Jessica and Simon.
I will say that readers who prefer indie styled super hero comics then not for you. If you like deep and complex storylines as part of multi-issue story arcs then this issue is not for you, either.
My only quibble with the artwork would be with the coloring for Jessica, Simon and Cyborg. You have a Latina, an Arab guy and a black guy. They should not all be colored the same skin tone.
Overall: Justice League #22 is an absolute blast to read from start to finish. Fontana succeeds in tapping into that old classic JLA feel with this issue. This is a tightly plotted and paced issue that puts an emphasis on fun. The reader gets treated with an issue that has great artwork and a classic super hero story. Justice League #22 is certainly worth the price of admission.