"Justice League" #15 brings about a sea change to what should be DC's flagship title. With the opening salvo of "Throne of Atlantis," Geoff Johns and the incoming art crew of Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Rod Reis and Dave Sharpe have done what hasn't been done for a few months now: make the lead story in "Justice League" more enjoyable and more gorgeous than the Shazam backup by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. It may have been sinking fast, but "Justice League" appears to have regained its seaworthiness with just one issue.
Although Flash and Green Lantern aren't present for this adventure, this book feels more like what I expected when I picked up "Justice League" #1 almost a year-and-a-half ago. The opening scene is dramatic and ominous. The members of the League are introduced in vignettes that highlight personal interactions, individual personalities or powers. Bits of supporting casts or settings from each hero's life spill into the grander DC Universe, making "Justice League" truly become a comic book featuring the greatest DC has to offer. Through it all, Johns balances character and action, leading Superman and Wonder Woman into action before they've even had a chance to finish their date as Clark and Diana. While the writer still plays dramatic Aquaman moments against jokes and Aquaman-based humor, there is no mistaking his love for the character and his faith that Aquaman can be just as compelling as Batman or Superman, especially with a plot that puts Aquaman in a dubious position as Batman was back in the modern classic "Tower of Babel" story.
Comic books with fish, gorillas or other wildlife always benefit from artists who can actually draw that wildlife well. Reis and Prado proved their mettle on "Aquaman" and bring that magic here, delivering imagery of seahorse mounts and fleeing schools of fish. Rod Reis' colors make those images pop and shine, adding a magical shimmer to the underwater denizens and their charges. Of course, working on "Justice League" it helps that Ivan Reis is pretty darn good drawing superheroes as well. Aquaman's shiny scale armor makes for a striking visual contrast to Batman's heavy shadows and minute highlights, reflecting the personalities of both as they make an effort to work towards a common, massive threat. Weighing in at twenty-two pages, the lead story in "Justice League" #15 is hopefully a wonderful sample of what this art team will do alongside Johns.
In its eighth chapter, the backup tale continues the story of magically-powered Billy Batson and Freddy Freeman continuing their investigation of Shazam's powers and abilities. The scale of this tale is smaller than the lead adventure, but the revelations are just as poignant. As Shazam, Batson discovers some facets of the newfound power he wields and tries to determine how best to cope with it, often driving through results any teenager would realize in the same situation. Naturally, Gary Frank's art is still a very big draw for this story, which is right on the edge of kicking into high gear.
Comic fans hitting the shops this week might be disappointed in the narrow range of available new comics, but with gems like "Justice League" #15, those same fans are sure to enjoy the books they do pick up. This is what "Justice League" should and can be: heroic adventures, world-threatening calamities and human interaction. Johns has found his stride on this book and it certainly helps that the art team of Reis, Prado and Reis have come along for the adventure. So if you find yourself with a little extra cash on this slow new comic week, do yourself a favor: grab "Justice League" #15 and dive into the "Throne of Atlantis" storyline. You might even want to snag a copy of "Aquaman" #15 as that is part two following "Justice League," but the art, characters and action in "Justice League" #15 are exactly what Justice League titles should deliver.