Justice League #7, which hit stores today, is a great jumping-on point for new readers -- giving us not only a snapshot of the present-day League status-quo (after origin issues 1-6), but introducing an all-new (and somewhat all-bratty) Billy Batson/Shazam. For those who were impatient with the at-times decompressed nature of the first arc, this issue has really picked up the pace. Spoilers ahead!
Well, all that Darkseid business is over (for now), the League are set up in the Watchtower, and they are quickly becoming the public's darlings. Fed up with what is perceived as the inability of the government (and S.H.I.E.L.D.-like govt. agency A.R.G.U.S.) to adequately protect the planet, the People have spoken, and they want the super-team to take a more active role in public affairs. Conveniently, the Justice League also wants to take a more active role in public affairs...which carries with it the whiff of hubris and makes us feel as if we're entering Watchmen/Authority/Ultimates/Elite type territory.
For instance, Batman tells Colonel Trevor that if the United Nations doesn't shut down "kill" the Justice League International, they will have to. Of course, Bats doesn't mean actually kill the JLI (right?). Trevor, when questioned by Congress about the Justice League, expresses the fear that if the League senses they are distrusted, they will get aggressive...or simply "take over."
This is all a far cry from the Justice League we knew before. Lest I make it seem like the story was too dark, the team members are still likable and heroic...and that is what really produces the sense of foreboding. There are no obvious "edgy" heroes on the team, but the League's quite guileless sense of authority and even privilege very rightly disturbs Trevor...as well as the author of "Justice League: Gods Among Men," David Graves, who helped bring the group to public attention and adoration. At the end of this issue, Graves plots the death of the League.
What made Graves take a total 180-degree-turn from his initial assessment? Was it all those crazy conspiracy theory books (including those referring to Atlantis, the Fatima Prophecies, Tunguska, and more) in his office? The Orb of Ra in his possession? Stay tuned!
The back-up story features the debut of the new Billy Batson, who is, simply put, such a little s**t that he makes Damian from "Batman" look like one of the Jonas Brothers.
Like the Justice League story, this also involves a shadowy background of "conspiracy theory" type issues. For example, the sudden disappearances of various candidates for the "Shazam power" are referred to as unsolved alien "mystical" abductions. The new (somewhat beefy) Dr. Silvana is very much like Graves from the other story, poking his nose into books and referring back to old myths and legends that might portend much more.
Writer Geoff Johns (along with artists Gene Ha and Gary Frank) does a good job teasing these intriguing notions and possibilities, and the main story and its back-up parallel each other nicely. We have a certain low-key distrust of the Justice League at the end of this issue, and a definite distrust of "Bratson". How will the team overcome their hubris and gain humility? How will Batson prove himself worthy of the power of Shazam? All the talk of myths, legends, and conspiracies aside, these are the real issues here -- the human ones.