Justice League Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis

justiceleagueatlantisI feel like Meredith Baxter in a Lifetime movie and DC Comics is the spouse I just can’t quit. “Look, baby, I just get so scared sometimes,” DC says to me. “Come back, just once more? I promise to not make Superman a jerk and to stop pretending that Cyborg makes sense as a member the Justice League in a world without the Teen Titans.”

And then DC blacks both my eyes with JUSTICE LEAGUE VOL. 3: THRONE OF ATLANTIS. Call it “barely adequate throne reading.”

This eight-issue collection opens with Superman and Wonder Woman sharing an ill-advised kiss. Later, they will go on a date that spans eating at a Smallville diner while in full costume, visiting Superman’s childhood home and having dinner. Thrill as romance is ham-fistedly forced between two characters who have both had the same love interests for decades!
At dinner, Wonder Woman delights to discover that civilian clothes and glasses will hide her identity from Joe Sixpack! Chill as Wonder Woman becomes genre-savvy!

Combined with the date, a third of this book is centered on Cheetah and a trip to the Amazon rainforest. Stand in amazement as a second-rate Wonder Woman villain is now strong enough to bite Superman (infecting him with — I kid you not — a were-cheetah disease) and is fast enough to claw The Flash to the bone three different times. Not only is the were-cheetah disease and Flash’s implied infection healed essentially off-screen, but this seems like a weird start to a book with the word Atlantis in the title.

Eventually, we do get to the war with Atlantis. There are some interesting ideas here, but none of them are allowed to be more than just vaguely interesting. Cyborg is conflicted about giving up any more of his humanity, like his lung, for more powers. But when he has to save the Justice League underwater, he has the surgery without a second thought. Steve Trevor is apparently out of the Justice League club and everybody is really shocked and/or angry about it, but nobody actually says why.

And then there’s Aquaman.

Aquaman deserves the spotlight. He is cool, no matter what SUPER FRIENDS did to his rep. But even though his issues with Atlantis are the crux of this story, they are either undefined or just don’t make sense. He has not one, but two trusted advisers who we’ve never met before, yet should be trusted. Well, we’ve got two of those, but only one is important. The other is … window dressing, maybe? Aquaman’s got an exiled girlfriend, but they never explain why she’s been exiled other something about her ancestors? He’s got a throne and a brother on it, except that gets resolved because of … punching? I know it’s a superhero book, but it isn’t even particularly exciting punching.

Which leads to the art. I get the feeling this could be a really good-looking book if somebody would lighten the damn color palette about 20 percent. I turned the brightness up on my tablet for this book and it still looked like I was reading it through a full aquarium. Maybe that was for ambience, what with the Atlantis attack.

Basically, DC’s “New 52” experiment continues to underwhelm me, which is especially bad news when you’re talking about the flagship team book. I say, if you want some really high-octane, DayGlo superhero action with breathless action and weirdo plots, pick any one of these four books instead. —Joshua Unruh

Buy it at Amazon.

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Comment by R.K. Robinson
2013-10-01 13:22:21

Why on earth DC ever went the “New 52” route is a mystery to me, but I’ve tried the first trade collection of all the major characters and every one of them has left me, as you put it, underwhelmed. They lost me as a customer, and I know I’m not th only one by far.

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Comment by Joshua Unruh
2013-10-01 13:52:54

I have a few New 52 theories and they all involve some manner of incompetence. For a more in-depth look at what might, in some opinions, still basically boil down to incompetence, I’m a big fan of this article: http://comicsalliance.com/dc-comics-new-52-batwoman-harley-quinn-dan-didio-editorial/

But it’s true regardless about losing interest and customers. I’m hearing nice things about Batman: Zero Year but other than that, all my New 52 interest were in books that didn’t make it past five minutes. Demon Knights was the best idea DC stole from me (not really…but kinda), Frankenstein Agent of SHADE and OMAC were wonderfully insane, and while Blackhawks turned out to be boring, the concept was really interesting. All of them dead, boom boom boom.

And I’m left with an armored Superman, a Batman who is less effective now that we’ve seen a world with Batman Inc in it, more Geoff Johns torture porn in Green Lantern, something snore-inducing in Flash, and a Wonder Woman that is actually pretty good. TOPSY TURVY!

Comment by Jacob A.
2013-10-01 15:55:05

I highly recommend Snyder’s Batman. The Black Mirror was the best Batman book/arc I’ve read in a while. I came across a lot of hype for the Court of Owls and City of Owls arc by Snyder. It wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, but I still liked it and appreciated the depth and history of the Owl organization-great setup for future conflicts. I’m eagerly awaiting the trades for Snyder’s Death of the Family arc as I’m a huge Joker fan.

Beyond Batman, it seems the general DC universe is a boring mess that’s been taken over by Geoff Johns (much like Marvel is basically Bendis plus a few other notable writers, though I do enjoy Bendis when he’s not doing his major crossover crap). I’m with you, Joshua, on The Flash. I bought the first New 52 trade and enjoyed it until around issue 4 or 5 when I realized how bad the dialogue was and tossed it out. I hear Wonder Woman is great, but I honestly just don’t care enough to check it out. I’ll stick with Marvel’s Thor if I want comics tied to mythology.

East of West written by Hickman and put out by Image and The Sixth Gun by Bunn, published by Oni Press, are excellent and highly recommended. I’ve been a comics fan forever and am grateful that the focus has moved off the artists and been placed upon the writers instead.

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Comment by Courtney Cantrell
2013-10-02 08:43:52

Okay, so…new book idea: A superwere-cheetah with the speed and spots of a cheetah, the cunning of a human, and the superpowers of every other superhero combined. BAM.
; )

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Comment by Slade Grayson
2013-10-02 20:54:10

Before the DC relaunch (reboot, revamp, whatever), I was reading a handful of their titles every month. Now? I’m not reading any. I tried all of the new titles and they all left me cold. The few that I thought had promise were either quickly canceled, or the creative team was forced out in favor of less talented individuals who were willing to put up with constant editorial last minute changes (and no, much like Ring Lardner, I will not name names).

If DC’s stable of characters felt stale before, they are completely alien now. I don’t recognize them anymore, and don’t care to. My favorite – Batman – is a pale shadow of his former self. They even managed to neuter (figuratively) my second favorite DC character – John Constantine, all for the sake of trying to sell it as a TV show.

If DC wanted to inject vitality into their characters, they should have done what Marvel does – find creators with an interesting story to tell and let them tell it. An example of this is what writer Nick Spencer is doing on THE SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN, in which he’s taken C-List characters that have been around for decades and made them funny, interesting, and even somewhat sympathetic. It’s currently my favorite monthly book. (Also: see Mark Waid’s work on Daredevil and the Hulk.) No costume redesigns or convoluted continuity. Just good storytelling.

Honestly, I’d like to see DC fall so far behind in the sales charts that someone at Warners decides to license out the characters to other companies like Image, Dynamite, and yes, even Marvel. But I doubt it’ll happen because there’s a core group of fans who will continue to swallow the shit they’re being served every month, much like people line up at McDonald’s to eat that tasteless cardboard patty they dare to call a hamburger.

End of rant.

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