Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2014)
Reprints Justice League #13-17 and Aquaman #15-16
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis, Paul Pelletier, and Tony S. Daniel
Justice League: The Grid (2014)
Reprints Justice League #18-20, 22-23
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis, Jesus Saiz, and Joe Prado
Despite its title, the Throne of Atlantis begins with a two-part story, “The Secret of the Cheetah.” It concerns Wonder Woman’s nemesis, The Cheetah. At this point in the New 52, the Wonder Woman ongoing title was written by Brian Azzarello and was primarily concerned with Diana’s relationship with the Olympian gods. Her non-mythic villains were available, so Johns attempted to develop what The Cheetah is like in this reimagined DC Universe. The Cheetah as a solo villain against the Justice League is very unbelievable as she hasn’t quite proven to be a physical powerhouse against Wonder Woman. There’s some extra magic curse MacGuffin added to the story. I get the sense a lot of this story came out of the image of Superman receiving the curse and taking on cheetah features of his own. It’s reminiscent of those Silver Age covers that promised wild transformations of your favorite heroes. I find the constant push to create some sort of love triangle between Superman – Wonder Woman – Steve Trevor, or Batman really annoying and so unnecessary.
The Throne of Atlantis storyline comes from events in Aquaman (also written by Johns at the time). He was interested in exploring Aquaman’s role as a monarch of the largest kingdom on Earth even before the New 52. In Flashpoint, we saw an alternate world where Atlantis and the Amazons were at war. These threads are lightly touched on here as Orm, Aquaman’s half-brother, leads an attack on the surface world. Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) left the team at the last volume’s conclusion, and The Flash is busy with a crisis in Central City. With the League running on low numbers, Cyborg calls in some reserve members. This means we get to see the following people added to the roster, albeit temporarily, for the most part: Black Lightning, Green Arrow, Shazam, Hawkman, Vixen, Zatanna, Black Canary, Firestorm, Goldrush, and Element Woman. Let’s focus on those last two for just a bit.
Goldrush is an entirely new character introduced in this storyline. Her background is a bit odd. She operates out of Dallas, Texas, claiming she got her powers as part of the settlement in her second divorce. Those powers manifest as skin and hair made of gold with superhuman strength and durability. I am sure you’ve picked up on the cringey nature of this character. She is a super-powered “gold digger,” a woman who marries wealthy men only to divorce them for incredible amounts of alimony. Goldrush does not appear to even be liked all that much by Johns, who uses her for a few issues and then forgets about her entirely.
Element Woman is another interesting Johns favorite that he was clearly pushing early on. While this is the first appearance of the New 52 Element Woman, Johns introduced her in Flashpoint as one of the prominent superheroes of that alternate reality. She’s a female variation of Metamorpho the Element Man, a character from the Silver Age who could transmute himself into different elements. Unfortunately, how Johns writes her implies that Element Woman is a little aloof and not altogether there. I think she’s an interesting character but just so in the background for so much of the story that I couldn’t get a great feel for her.
The Throne of Atlantis storyline concludes pretty much how you’d expect. Atlantis does not conquer the surface world, Aquaman gains control of this situation, and the one interesting part is the twist behind who started the conflict. The next storyline, The Grid, is probably one of the better volumes so far in the series. Again, there’s no one main story but a series of smaller stories with ongoing background plot elements.
The first story, “The Grid,” starts with a recruitment drive for the team. Many of the reserves seen in Throne of Atlantis are called back for a possible long-term gig. The guest who gets the most focus is Metal Man Platinum, who malfunctions. It turns out this is a distraction, and Cyborg discovers the League’s files have been hacked during the disturbance. One area I wish Johns has explored more was the reimagining of DC’s artificial intelligence. He introduced Dr. Thomas Morrow as a colleague to Cyborg’s dad Silas Stone early on. During the Throne of Atlantis, we see that Morrow has developed a prototype of The Red Tornado android and wants to send it into battle. Platinum is the creation of Dr. Will Magnus, a protege/colleague of Morrow. One of Johns’ strengths in his earlier writing was pulling together disparate threads of the DC Universe to make it more cohesive, like how Marvel is constantly bleeding plots from one book into another. Later, we’ll see developments with the mimicking android Amazo which hints that Johns had a larger arc in mind.
The following story arc serves as a prelude to the coming Trinity War. New League member The Atom (Rhonda Pineda) is attending her first Watchtower duty to work beside Firestorm. There’s an attack on the Batcave, as a mysterious stranger knocks Alfred unconscious, and some kryptonite Batman holds there is taken. In Khandaq, the ancestral home of Black Adam, the government is at war with a terrorist group, and the world is holding back in order not to violate international law. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman have a philosophical debate where Wonder Woman’s view on things is compared to supervillain thinking in its pragmatism. Then all Hell breaks loose when Despero comes knocking.
I think the tension and conflict in this two-issue story are done very well. Pitting a villain as brutal and ruthless as Despero against green members of the team makes a more interesting story than just having a punch-fest with Superman. It’s also nice to see some lesser-known characters highlighted, one of my favorite aspects of Justice League comics. There are plenty of Superman and Batman stories out there; it’s nice to see Firestorm and The Atom get some screen time.
I won’t be talking about the remaining issues here as they are part of the Trinity War, an event storyline that I will be going into more depth within our next installment.