JUSTICE LEAGUE: The Villain’s Journey by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee (cover artist; all rights to current copyright holder) annoyed the heck out of me. I wasn’t impressed by the first volume of the post-reboot League, but I actively dislike this one.
When DC announced the series way back when, the creators made a point of how little characterization the book had in the Silver Age, and how theirs would be different. I instantly got a sinking feeling: it’s a fair critique of the old days, but those were 40 years ago. Characterization has been part of the League for years, so I’d be much more impressed if Johns thought he could do better on that front than Steve Englehart or Gerry Conway.
Unfortunately, in the five years since the Vol. One origin arc, their interactions don’t seem to change. Everyone talks and acts as if they barely tolerate being on the team together, which is kind of a stretch. Not that they have to be best buds, but I’ve been in places where people who aren’t chums work together and this isn’t anything like that. As the story deals with this possibly being a problem, they may just be doing the decompressed storytelling thing (stretching stuff out over loooooong arcs) but it felt more like bad writing.
Characterization would have helped as the story is pretty thin. A man whose family died from events in the previous volume has decided the League need to be exposed as failures (apparently it’s canon that in the reboot universe, people distrust heroes a la Marvel). A Silver Age story would have finished him off in one issue, but here we get it stretched to six.
The character issue they do focus on is Steve Trevor’s relationship with Wonder Woman. Unfortunately it’s pretty murky whether they once dated or never dated, all we know for sure is that Steve’s in love with her and she doesn’t feel the same way. Which is very, very important because the big finish of the book is Superman and Wonder Woman falling into each other’s arms (DC considers this one of the Great Ideas of the reboot universe) so Steve has to be put in the friend zone (I’m not sure why, actually, as he and Di haven’t been an item since the mid-eighties).
Unfortunately the lack of team interaction makes the romance fall flat. There’s no sign she and Superman have any particular connection, like working together, nothing; after Steve loses his temper with her, she and Superman talk about how lonely they are, then blammo! Which would be fine as a one-night stand, but it doesn’t scream Great Love Story (as the creators seem to think this is a natural match, maybe they assumed the chemistry was obvious).
And I do find it sexist that while we get a lot of focus on Diana’s life and feelings, we get zero on Superman’s until the finish. Maybe it’s because his relationship with Lois has been explored more in the reboot Super-books, but it feels like putting WW front and center requires focusing on her love life (much like XMen Season One)
The League has always been my favorite super-team. But this is one of many periods in which the stories themselves are rotten.