There is an old saying that goes, ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. It sounds more like a cliché every time you hear it. But in the case of DC Comics’s latest Justice League collection Volume 6: Injustice League, the cliché holds true. This 10-issue story arc incorporates issues 30 through 39 of Justice League and is written by the great Geoff Johns with artwork from some of the industry’s finest, including Doug Mahnke, Jason Fabok and Ivan Reis just to name a few. So how does this volume hold up with such great talent behind it? Let’s take a look under the cover.
You know it’s an upside down world when Lex Luthor saves the world and appears to be a “member” of the Justice League. Wait what? Yup you read right, but it sounds wrong. When Wonder Woman wraps her lasso of truth around Luthor, she asks him, “Why would you ever want to be a member of the Justice League?” Luthor answers, “Because I’m an egomaniac.” Now that sounds right and what you expect to hear from a super-villain like Lex Luthor. But how exactly did we even get here?
Injustice League is a multiverse story line where an unknown force destroyed the Crime Syndicate’s world and as they try to make our world their own. The Crime Syndicate hey nearly destroy our Earth. Enter Lex Luthor as he leads a group of super villains like Captain Cold to fight against them. This action sways public opinion in favor of Luthor and his band of merry villains. That public opinion rivals – or maybe surpasses — that of Superman, Batman and the rest of the Justice League who have fallen into disfavor for not preventing the Crime Syndicate from entering our world to begin with. Now with a thirst for action and a hero complex to match his ego, Luthor decides he wants to be a full-fledged member of the Justice League. As you would expect, the Leaguers are not too happy about the idea. How could they be happy after all the battles they have waged against him over the years? How can they trust him? Has he really changed sides? If not, then what is Luthor’s end game?
These are the questions posed by writer Geoff Johns. There is a thin line between heroes and villains, enemies and allies told here. Luthor’s logic in wanting to join the league is that there is a greater threat to humanity and our world than someone like Superman and only together can they standup and destroy it. There are two major arcs at work here. The first of course deals with the aforementioned Luthor-Justice League team up as they attempt to retrieve Power Ring’s power ring from a very unwilling participant, named Jessica Cruz. We do know that the Anti-Monitor is involved somehow. We also get our first New 52 look at the Doom Patrol. A conflict of sorts arises between the two-superhero fractions with Luthor being the common denominator.
The pacing here is fast and it’s a quick read with a couple of question marks and little in the way of closure by the time the second story arc begins. Those questions regard a jailed and pregnant Superwoman and the appearance of Nightowl with Luthor beckons the question of what is Luthor up to?
The second major story arc, and the one I found most intriguing, deals with an Amazo Virus created by Luthor. Luthor intends for this virus to take away a meta-human’s power. The problem with that is that it not only takes away from the bad but also took away from the good. It also gives such power to normal human beings with disastrous and deadly results. This prompts Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman into teaming up with Luthor to find a cure before the world Luthor had swore to protect, perishes. The concept is interesting and works on so many levels. Lex Luthor has always been a complex character. Yes he is a super villain but there is a sense of logic to him that we can relate to on some level whether we want to admit it or not. He thinks what he’s doing is for the good of humanity. And if he can make a profit, then that’s an added bonus unlike, say, the Joker who does bad because he can.
Admittedly I haven’t been the biggest New 52 fan. I go back to the Wolfman/Perez days of the New Teen Titans of the early to mid-’80s. I still remember Dick Grayson as Robin long before becoming Nightwing. There was something about continuity and collecting that I enjoyed. But a quality story is still worth its weight in gold no matter when or how it’s told.
Overall, the story telling in Injustice League is first rate, as you would expect and the supporting artwork only matches it. Writer Johns is very good at plotting a course that will take us beyond one story arc, while leading us into another. I especially enjoyed the friction and banter between Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne/Batman. It’s quite refreshing to see and read given how often we’ve seen over the years the friction and dialogue between Luthor and Superman. The fact that there is not much that separates Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne makes it that much more interesting. After all, both are billionaires, both have egos the size of Metropolis and Gotham combined but what separates them is their very different sense and definition of the justice they seek and how they enforce it. It all goes back to that thin line between heroes and villains, enemies and allies. I do look forward to seeing what future stories come of this. Volume 6: Injustice League is very much worth the read for any fan of the Justice League, with a great cover, quality writing and beautiful artwork throughout.