The Amazo Virus has taken over in Justice League #36 written by Geoff Johns, art by Jason Fabok, colors by Brad Anderson, and lettering by Carlos M. Mangual. And it’s a solid read.
Last month an attempted hit on Lex Luthor’s life unleashed the Amazo Virus from quarantine, infecting the Justice League and Metropolis alike. It’s a nasty case of the metahumans as people manifest powers for a short while, then die about twenty-four hours later. So far everyone but Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman (in a “Bat-Maz” suit), Lex Luthor, and Captain Cold (both Lex and Cap. C are also in face masks) have gotten ill from the disease, and they only have a little more time to live. Even Flash’s body cannot eradicate the virus, which normally should have taken only a few hours to mere minutes. Superman and Batman seek out “Patient Zero”, whom Lex needs in order to come up with a cure.
For once heroes aren’t punching heroes and it is a rare occasion that I’d thank a virus outbreak narrative for shaking it up. What it lacks in core originality this issue does make up for in relative calm and while not original, solid storytelling. Wonder Woman is authoritative and is wearing her pteruges which is always a good sign. Bruce is stubborn but prepared. It’s got all the classic storyline stuff there with pretty consistent characterization. A good rule of thumb for me is if I can imagine a Justice League comic adapted into a Justice League cartoon episode, would it work, and thus far this works rather well. It lacks a certain effervescence or pep that even the darkest of Justice League episodes had to balance it out, but it’s not completely grim. Fabok’s art is surprising, and is growing on me. He puts a lot of effort into backgrounds and giving places depth and weight. It’s good for the “classic” western feel and makes it feel very atmospheric. Other artists are pretty poor at environments. The Lee influence is there in Fabok’s art but otherwise it’s very solid work on it’s own and in my opinion much better. It takes color well, though I’d have liked to see this in a more stylized palette. His Wonder Woman doesn’t look nearly as bad as Lee’s does, she’s a bit pouty and shorter than I’d like (she’s better than Finch on her own book) but otherwise Fabok draws a very, very good Diana, she looks solid and rather broad. Solid is a good word, it sort of exemplifies the entire feeling I’m getting from this current arc; competent, serious, very comic book-y, not really original but well crafted in it’s thriller-esque construction otherwise. Because even after the virus is dealt with, the question remains; “Who wants to kill Lex Luthor (I mean, let’s be real probably a lot of people)?”
I really don’t like that Shazam (Captain Marvel) gets sick. His hero form, while still Billy Batson’s body, is magic based. You’d think he’d possibly be immune if Wonder Woman is immune. It would have allowed Shazam some more spotlight and not used for comedic relief. He’s been made that as of recently and while it does fit with his character being a bit more wacky, it’s not nearly giving him enough credit. Considering Johns does (I think?) like the character it rings strange that he’s always sidelined. But of course the Trinity is immune! Blah. But I guess that would be too many hard hitters. And oh boy this issue uses an absolutely awful utilization and complete misunderstanding of a black hole. I mean it’s cool what happens but don’t call it a black hole, cause the whole planet would be gone.
This is surprisingly restrained in the right ways, same-old same-old in a lot of other ways, and a lot better than what I’d assume it to be at first glance. Johns is no way doing anything new here, virus narratives are a dime a dozen, but the staid approach is working and as such, he’s doing it rather, well, solid. While it’s not completely my cup of tea, I can’t ignore the individual work gone into this, other mainstream comics should aim to be this well rounded if they’re not going to aim for any type of stylization. I prefer super stylized, but if they can’t be, they might as well look like this.