Half of this issue reminds me of the Geoff Johns writing Green Lantern. The Geoff Johns I remember from JSA and Hawkman. This Geoff Johns was a master of characterization - a comic geek made good. He knew the characters and loved to play them off one another, exploring the relationships between them.
We see this Geoff Johns in the scene where The Justice League - still relative strangers after five years working together - discuss a new villain who is apparently fighting their greatest foes and attempting to learn their weaknesses. The conversation winds up turning to how little they know about one another and how little trust there is between them. This is, at the same time, hilarious and troubling. Hilarious because of Johns' knowledge of the essential core of the characters and troubling because it is hard to believe that any version of The Justice League should be this unfamiliar with one another after five years.
This leads us to the other half of the issue and the writing of the other Geoff Johns. The Geoff Johns writing Aquaman. The Geoff Johns who, I am sad to say, we have seen a lot more of in recent months. The Geoff Johns who is so busy trying to tell more than one story that he makes a muddle of things. Ironically, it is in repressing his usual tendencies to write great dialogue and cater to the strengths of his artist Jim Lee that Johns turns the last few pages of this issue into an unreadable mess.
Jim Lee is a good artist when it comes to detailed covers and action-packed splash pages but he's not - at least in this issue - a greatest visual storyteller. Compounding this is the palette used by the coloring team of four artists, which does little to make the panels that are meant to be a flashback to the origins of new villain Graves and the panels that are set in the here and now distinct.
The back-up story involving the new Shazam continues to plod along. Strangely, we see signs of the first Geoff Johns here in his dialogue between Billy and Freddie. Sadly, even the finest Geoff Johns dialogue cannot hide the fact that - thus far - the new Shazam comic is sadly lacking in magic, both literally and figuratively.
There are no superheroic exploits to be found here - only the tales of a bratty teenager who has been hurt too much by the world and the totally unrelated story of an obsessed mad scientist trying to open a door. There is no correlation between the two halves of the story and it is, to be frank, dull as dishwater. The artwork by Gary Frank is quite good, but I think - on the whole - DC Comics would be better served handing the whole Shazam franchise over to Mike Kunkel or Art Balthazar and letting them restart the series as the kid-friendly power-fantasy it was meant to be.
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