With Forever Evil in full swing, Matt Kindt brings Justice League of America into the fray by following Stargirl and Martian Manhunter after the Crime Syndicate takes over the world.
Kindt has had a lot on his plate in recent months, resulting in some of his work being less on-point. Fortunately, it seems as though he’s invested a lot of time into characterizing Martian Manhunter and Stargirl along with revealing the true fate of the Justice Leagues.
While Geoff Johns did an admirable job introducing the revamped idea of the Justice League of America, the first five issues of the series were more of a slow-burning introduction to the Secret Society of Super Villains. Justice League of America #8 is the first glimpse of what happened to the three Leagues post-Crime Syndicate invasion.
The aspect of Justice League of America #8 that stands out the most is how Kindt doesn’t discount the reader. The Crime Syndicate’s claim that the Justice League is dead was a shock tactic, both by DC in terms of marketing and suspense value, and by the Syndicate themselves, hoping the idea of a world without heroes would seed their plans for total domination.
Nobody believed the Leagues were actually dead, purely from a logistical standpoint. Thus, Kindt doesn’t condescend to try and trick his audience into believing the farce. He jumps into the narrative headfirst, knowing readers understand that the Justice Leagues will return because it’s his job to tell us how.
** SPOILERS AHEAD **
Stargirl and Manhunter discover that the Crime Syndicate has locked the various members of the Justice League within an intricate and highly-technologically advanced prison designed to adapt and weaken it’s superhuman prisoners. Though, these are cells designed to weaken the brain as opposed to the brawn. This theme of “mind over matter” is quickly becoming a staple of the New 52.
Scott Lobdell’s “Psi War” is currently running through Superman and Action Comics, Relic’s scientific superiority over the Green Lanterns threatens the very concept of the power of emotional energy in “Lights Out”, and “Death of the Family” proved that psychological battle is often more engaging than punches being thrown.
The Crime Syndicate understands that breaking these heroes mentally is not only easier than trying to dismantle them power-by-power, but also has longer lasting effects that could prove to their advantage at a later time. Kindt beautifully illustrates this by showing readers Wonder Woman, Flash, Shazam, Superman, and Green Lantern Simon Baz all stuck in a hell of their own making. Their worst nightmares are made real and nothing can shake them from the trance.
There’s more to the scenario than what appears on the surface, and Kindt does an excellent job foreshadowing to future issues while simultaneously keeping the focus on Manhunter and Stargirl as they search for a way out of the Syndicate’s prison.
Kindt’s writing of Simon Baz leave a lot to be desired. With every other hero, it feels like Kindt went the extra mile to make sure his or her fears were both palpable and meaningful. Unfortunately, Simon Baz’s worst fears appear to be that others will continue to think he is a terrorist. This sentiment shouldn’t be downplayed, as it’s a serious issue of prejudice in the United States today, but Johns’ introduction story saw Baz move past those fears, as all Lanterns must.
There wasn’t a need to bring back those fears, and even in doing so, Kindt doesn’t make it believable. Johns made a point to show that Baz was not a killer, but he’s so scared of people distrusting him based on his race that he’d just go off and kill a bunch of civilians? That doesn’t sound like Baz at all, even at his worst.
The misstep with Green Lantern Simon Baz aside, Justice League of America #8 is one fun issue that raises the reputation of both the series and Matt Kindt even more. Already Martian Manhunter feels like a more fleshed out character than ever before, and the revelation as to the Justice League’s whereabouts is simply impressive.