I'll admit it: picking up "Justice League" #13, I couldn't recall who was the last foe the League fought. Reading the issue, I was reminded that the most recent (and, actually only second) foe was David Graves. That makes Cheetah, featured on the cover and in this issue, the third baddie the combined might of the new Magnificent Seven have faced. Darkseid, Graves, Cheetah. Hardly the epitome of awesome competition. I guess after Darkseid, a bit of a drop-off can be expected, but to go from the scourge of Apokolips to a character who doesn't even have a codename sure makes Cheetah seem like more of a challenge.
Geoff Johns does indeed make Cheetah a challenge for the League, having her get the best of Batman, Flash, Superman and Wonder Woman in the ten pages of action Barbara Minerva's less reserved alter ego is given in "Justice League" #13. And, yes, the members of the League do bicker about whether or not Wonder Woman needs or should have help fighting "her" foe. Johns also provides some follow-up in this issue regarding "the kiss" and continues to make Superman not so super. The highlight for the issue was the pair of pages where Cyborg and Flash discuss Vic's freetime activities and Barry's anxiety about the League. It wasn't especially deep, but it does open the door for Cyborg to get a little more development and panel time. I just hope Johns figures out how to make that happen in a good way.
With Jim Lee taking leave of "Justice League" to begin work on "Man of Steel" with Scott Snyder, the art team on this issue is more aerodynamic than it has been in recent months (excepting the #0 issue) with only one-third the number of inkers Lee's last issue touted. That, unfortunately, doesn't guarantee better art or even more consistent interiors. Tony S. Daniel's art is erratic throughout. The double-page spread of Diana fighting Cheetah with the background transforming into stars is flat out excellent, right on the heels of a mediocre page that depicts Wonder Woman and Superman standing in the air, looking like their feet are actually on a flat surface. That's the story of this issue: great art in spots, needlessly titillating in others, hopelessly unbalanced later on. Steve Trevor's face changes more than Plastic Man's and Wonder Woman simply needs to go see a chiropractor before her back gets any worse.
As for the story itself, it was surprisingly not bad. While I like seeing heroes fight foes of other heroes, I'm also the guy who doesn't like to see an entire team try to take on a foe that one hero has defeated regularly. The plot is fairly pedestrian, especially at the end of the issue, which triggered some flashbacks in my brain to Hyena appearances in "Fury of Firestorm" comics from my youth. Maybe the next issue will provide a little separation, but for now, that's the connection I'm making.
As has become the standard in "Justice League," this issue has a backup story. The Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire written Steve Trevor backup has decent, but somewhat goofy, artwork from Brad Walker and leads into "Justice League America" #1, which hasn't even been solicited yet. At least Walker's rendition of Trevor is consistent.
"Justice League" #13 seemed to be treading water and I think there might be some kind of beasties hiding within. Luckily Aquaman's around, so maybe he can coax those critters to help this title find some solid footing once again. Until that happens, "Justice League" is a title that I really should be more enthusiastic about, but can't find the rationale.