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Location: Lancashire
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Subj: Justice League #39 - Uncontagious.
Posted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 at 06:02:35 pm CST (Viewed 817 times)

Here's a question for you readers out there - How often over its last 38 issues has Geoff (JSA) Johns' Justice League delivered top drawer entertainment value? Honestly now.
If asked I myself would hold up Throne of Atlantis as standing out, so too the Metal Men story which filled space during the Forever Evil sabattical. Apart from those however Geoff Johns' Justice League has been a meandering, plodding affair. Devoid of the warmth and sense of integrity of his seminal reinvention of the Justice Society this is a series which has only ever felt like a spectator sport, a book that is readable yet totally exclusive.

From its wince inducing opening storyline with Darkseid, to the more recent filler of Forever Evil crossovers the Justice League is a title which seems to be existing on a combination of creator hype and crossover. The will to innovate and tell a story that looks forward rather than backward has repeatedly eluded writer Geoff Johns, satisfied to write functional but open ended stories Johns' attentions often seem to be focused elsewhere where his modernday writing is concerned.
Functional. Open ended. And utterly lacking in point, This is an apt description for the now completed five part 'Amazo Virus'. Owing its debt to any other contagion storyline you care to name The Amazo Virus concerns the release of a deadly agent from Lex Luthors lab which attacks human and metahuman alike, the race is on to both contain it and find Patient Zero - the initial victim exposed to it. Along the way we learn Luthor himself developed this virus four years ago as a weapon to stop Superman, it failed and was relgated to the outer fringes of Luthors attention. So with an out of control and highly contagious virus threatening the world the remaining League must isolate Patient Zero and with Luthor find a solution to the crisis...
The plot is therefore not an original one, neither is it clear what the purpose of the story actually is other than a crib of The Walking Dead and other apocalyptic end-of-days scenarios. The Amazo Virus is not a character piece - with the possible exception of Captain Cold no one involved here benefits from this experience. Luthor is as free as ever. And most tellingly the sought after Patient Zero, the innocent figure who should have been emblemic of the tragedy, is only given any backstory in the closing pages of this last chapter, where we find out his name and that he was an assistant to Luthor in his original research. However this detail comes too late for the audience to care, nor does it seem as if Geoff Johns wanted us to care, for this cipher it seems is to be his new incarnation of vintage League foe Amazo. But really, there is nothing there to care for.

Luthor is suggested as having engineered the release of the Virus intentionally as by story's end the cure has had the unseen side effect of imbuing around three percent of the cured with super-powers, quite why Luthor would want this to happen is anyones guess. Such is the vacuous non-commital nature of this final chapter it is hard to divine what the point of any of it was about. Luthor despite being responsible for much of the events is allowed to exit it with a clean slate, no consequences. Captain Cold proves himself as a capable ally to the League, in his case at least rehabilitation is a credible and achievable aim as Cold has always maintained a strict code in his years of villainy of not killing. A Working class villain Leonard Snart's goal in life is quite simple, getting money. Lots of it. And if he can get money from a source other than robbery and criminality one can see a path where Snart could be redeemed as a valued force for good. Hence his place on the League is not so far fetched and unworkable, quite unlike that of Lex Luthor.

But Justice League #39 again... Hrmm. What to say.

The art is excellent. Credit where it is due, Jason Fabok arrives on the title after work for Darkhorse, and with his detailed clean cut style he impresses a sense of reality to Geoff Johns' doomsday scenario. Aided with subdued and slightly washed out hues from colourist Brad Anderson the tone is grim, indeed for much of the last years worth of this book the tone has been resolutely grim, but Jason Fabok's kineticism and tight panel composition manages to just about overcome these factors to deliver a book and a League that looks good. As with much of Geoff Johns work in recent times he owes much to the quality of artist assigned to him, such is the quality of a Jason Fabok or John Romita they are the ones who lift Johns' slight material above its actual worth and allow for a book that is visually stunning to look at. For the final page of the issue Johns' return of a much missed Leaguer and old favourite is a genuine puch-the-air moment, gloriously rendered by Fabok all seems well in the make-up of the League for a moment. But with the wildly unstable Power Ring, the mercenary Captain Cold, and the devil himself in Lex Luthor, the very concept of the Justice League is one which seems ever more frayed and redundant in Geoff Johns hands. What it says about the likes of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman that they allow for three such dubious characters to be allied with reflects badly on the strength of will and character the three are meant to embody... In many ways one might even see this weakness and lack of direction as symbolic of the lapse in Geoff Johns' own writing, for in the end result The Amazo Virus is a story which is about nothing at all. Not morality, not survival, nothing. A moral vacuum.

Justice League #39 - In Brief:

What began as a contagion is revealed here in the final chapter as being a sentient virus. Potentially interesting, what does it want? But the significance of this reveal is never developed and one is left with the impression it was put in purely to keep the story moving along and eventful. This scene is not an isolated example of this technique from Geoff Johns however...

There is precious little I can applaud where Geoff Johns' treatment of Wonder Woman is concerned, but despite the extreme nature of her personality under his pen this scene where she confronts the ego of Lex Luthor deserves some praise. Trust is the issue - a simple plea for faith and trust and unlike Superman Diana is possibly the one Leaguer Luthor would intuitively respond to in this context. The moment is well judged by Johns and puts Wonder Woman's place in the team into a worthy context.

Does Superman try hard enough? The question is one that is asked regularly throughout the decades, yet here, coming from Luthor, it is one which grabs the attention as the point seems legitmate - is Superman really doing as much as he could? Has he truly explored all of his potential options?
Luthor's speech about the nature of disease and its effect on the course of world history hints at something which Geoff Johns never seems able to realise. Hand in hand with his reveal on the sentient nature of the Amazo virus there seems to be almost a greatr hidden message in Johns plot, but as with Luthor's challenge to Superman above none of it goes anywhere. It amounts to absolutely nothing, other than being a stray thought which is instantly forgotten by Johns. As if he has these ideas, but no idea what to actually do with them in terms of development...

The scene with Captain Cold musing on heroism and the last panel with Wonder Woman and Superman smiling(?) is an odd page, what is it the two are smiling about? ARE they smiling?!
On the face of it the scene is unclear but upon study the intention appears to be to show the two amused as Cold's sense of wonder at life in the Justice League. As he eagerly fumbles to snap a picture of The Flash the intention is likely one of humour, but the execution is clumsy and inadequate. Humoour has never been a strongpoint of Johns work...

There is a nice inversion in the idea that despite his having got off the hook once more for any blame from this now contained pandemic Lex Luthors life is not wholly without its downside. As Patient Zero delivers a threat and goes on to annoounce his name is now Amazo one also recieves a cutaway to old League foe Amos Fortune in a one-panel cameo shot, all well and good for the oldtime fan perhaps but given there is already an Amazo out there what is the significance of this vaguely defined Patient Zero?
The lack of any pay-off to the storyline is summed up by this unwarranted pointless revision of an old enemy, now apparently replaced by a dull and equally one-dimensional upstart - rather than name him Amazo, and link to Amos Fortune, why could Johns not go for something original? Because as it stands this new and completely forgettable Amazo is a very poor reward indeed for these five issues of running around in a circle with the League. Here is a story with no point to it whatsoever...

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