Monday, 16 June 2014

Justice League Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis (DC) Review

Justice League Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis (The New 52)

Aquaman in the center of a JL picture...
Hell''s frozen over.
Writers: Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire

Artists: Ivan Reis, Paul Pelletier and Tony S. Daniel

Collects: Justice League 13-17 and Aquaman 13-17

Background Information:

The biggest success story of the New 52 has to be Geoff Johns’ Aquaman. The reboot was just what the King of Atlantis needed to kick that “useless hero” stigma he’d been suffering from for years. Thanks to the rebooted character (and, Aquaman’s character in Injustice didn’t hurt him either), Aquaman has been kicked back into the A-list. It’s the reason the guy now has two books devoted to him.

Justice League, though, hasn’t had the same positive reception. The first volume was fine, but not well received due to its popcorn-munching simplicity. The second volume wasn’t worse, but not necessarily better. That’s a concern for a book that’s meant to be the central title for the New 52.


Three characters nobody cares aboout in this volume...
 and Aquaman
Not all crossovers work. More often than not, it’s a desperate cry for help from a series that’s failing, and their cause isn’t always helped by connecting it to a more popular title. Thankfully, connecting a lukewarm-running title like Justice League to an out-of-nowhere success like Aquaman has paid off in spades for DC, finally giving us a Justice League story that feels like a title that’s been going on for a year, instead of being perpetually in its first two months.

So, after a tough battle with the Cheetah, a Justice League-sized crisis has hit earth. Atlantis has invaded the surface world, and the surface world is ill-prepared for it. But who’s the mastermind behind the attack, and what have Atlantis or the surface world to gain from the battle?

This volume does a lot of things that fixes the problems from the last volume. For starters, the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship finally comes across as something natural. In the last volume, the relationship just seemed to be a matter of Wonder Woman finding the alpha male (and no, sorry, it isn’t Batman). Now there’s some meat to those previously shallow bones. Superman’s a nice guy now, and he actually looks like he deserves the affections of the Amazon princess. Likewise, Wonder Woman clearly has something to learn from Superman; creating a very Pretty Woman-style vibe to the relationship.
Then there’s the focus of the volume, a Aquaman-centred story this early in the New 52 is a stroke of genius, and Aquaman is at his best here, loaded with that well-developed character that Johns has been establishing in previous Aquaman stories. He’s been driving the story and it’s been great to see someone other than the trinity or Green Lantern heading a League story.

But by far the best thing about this volume is the fact that Johns has somehow sneaked quite a lot of character development into the last two volumes without anyone really noticing it. Batman and Aquaman are quarreling over leadership. Wonder Woman and Superman are dating. Green Lantern has left the league through a show of responsibility. Cyborg wonders if he is human anymore, but has Flash to be the nice uncle to him. It’s a status quo that you really never see happening, and it’s a great surprise when you find out that these characters has actually come a fair ways.

My only real problem with Throne of Atlantis is the fact that in a Justice League collection, the best titles are the Aquaman ones. It’s weird when you consider that the central New 52 title is kinda the forgotten kid brother of the title that everyone probably thought would fizzle out when announced.

Y'know, I still have no idea what the trident does....
The art duties are taken over by Ivan Reis, whose work is so close to Jim Lee's, that there doesn’t feel like there’s a lack of consistency in the series. What makes it better for this volume is that Reis just knows how to capture Aquaman perfectly. Considering that Aquaman is the central character here, that’s a very good thing. And it’s an excellent thing that Tony S. Daniel is sticking to art here; putting it lightly, it’s definitely putting his best foot forward (because the best example of Daniel’s writing is still like calling someone the friendliest Nazi).

Throne of Atlantis finally gave the Justice League the story they deserve. It gets a four and a half out of five friendly Nazis.

**** ½

+ Superman’s/Wonder Woman’s relationship finally makes sense

+ Aquaman at the centre of the story.

+ Where did this character development come from?

- Justice League issues play second fiddle to Aquaman ones.

Alternate Option: Aquaman: Throne of Atlantis

It’s the same story, just has a couple more Aquaman issues.

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