With the promise of "Justice League" #0 in just a few short weeks, it seems only appropriate that "Justice League" #12 would contain the conclusion of Geoff Johns' and Jim Lee's "The Villain's Journey" story. All the hubbub and bluster around this book lately was focused less on that conclusion and more on the lip-lock between Wonder Woman and Superman.
That moment between Superman and Wonder Woman is just a sliver of what Johns is able to jam into this issue. The villain gets his comeuppance, but not without the Justice League paying a price all their own. That leads to one member quitting while two others (Superman and Wonder Woman) are A.W.O.L. and seeking solace in one another's arms. The remaining quartet is set to squabble amongst themselves, giving this book the feeling of anything but a team book. Johns has put egos in the room and taken away the interpersonal aspect that made the Silver Age such a memorable time in comics for so many fans. The end result in "Justice League" #12 is a story that has action and adventure centered around characters fans love, but those four characters sure don't offer any reasons in this issue for fans to direct any more love their way.
As for the "big moment" between Superman and Wonder Woman, Johns makes the relationship organic, but hurried. To this point in "Justice League" I don't even recall the two characters being friendly, let alone close friends, so for the kiss to happen, the characters' words justify the action, but the action itself appears to be sensationalist in nature.
Jim Lee's storytelling, while still mostly intact suffers from the biggest outbreak of battalion inking I have ever seen in a monthly comic. With over a half dozen inkers, Lee's work is scratchy and polished, rushed and complete, energetic and static. The finished panels vary as widely as the contents of all the grocery carts in a supermarket on a Saturday morning: the contents are relatively similar, but the arrangement and details of those contents varies case by case.
The latter half of the story is the best looking part of "Justice League" #12, and I have to wonder how much of that is Lee really upping his game, playing up the big romantic reveal (spoiled all over the place this week already) and trying to ensure that he doesn't get outshined by the pair of epilogue pages turned in by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado. No artist working for DC has mastered the peek into the future vertical panels that Geoff Johns likes to drop on fans as wonderfully as Ivan Reis has. Reis handles one page of the aftermath of the League's fight with Graves that focuses on the villain, but in four vertical panels Reis delivers more information and excitement than should be possible in panels that aren't even two full inches wide. Seeing Reis and Joe Prado lend a hand in this issue certainly adds credence to the rumors of Reis joining this book on the art side of things.
That teaser is followed up with a set of images that offer another peek into the future, with art by Finch. I'm not spoiling anything that hasn't been all over the Internet for the better half of a week when I tell you that there's a new Justice League America. The team appears in this issue, making a splash with the Finch drawing that has followed the announcement across cyberspace. Finch's art is stylized and well-suited to this group of characters that shade towards the darker side of heroism. I'm not too keen on Vibe hiding behind Catwoman. That design choice is my only gripe for this promo image, but it does have me wondering if Finch hasn't quite figured out Vibe's design. What hasn't followed is the subtitle of that group: "The World's Most Dangerous." It fits, given the propensity towards violence of some of the characters on the team.
"Justice League" as a title has underperformed to my expectations, and this issue is yet another example of that. Johns and Lee are competent in their storytelling, but the adventures and situations just haven't seemed big enough for the League yet and the infighting among the members is getting stale. With the resolutions in this issue, it appears as though some traction might be made towards blending the personal and professional sides of these heroes in a fashion worthy of the title. The zero issue brings a full-length Shazam story, but in October, we'll hopefully see some evolution for "Justice League."