By Hilton Collins
The Justice League's fight against the new Doom Patrol continues in #33 as both teams struggle to contain Jessica Cruz's destructive new power ring.
The League fights the new Doom Patrol over Jessica Cruz's fate in "The Injustice League's" conclusion, but the storyline's character interactions soon take center stage—and rightfully so—as this issue's real showcase is the interesting relationships between people who were never deeply connected to each other prior to the New 52.
[*Mild spoilers for Justice League #33 below!]
The League engages Jessica Cruz to stop her extra-dimensional power ring's destructive energy and discover its connection to an incoming threat to Earth, but the team clashes violently with the new Doom Patrol, whose leader Niles Caulder has designs on Cruz and her ring as well. Caulder's way of saving Cruz, however, may be just to brainwash and experiment on her. Meanwhile, the ring's energy output during the battle alerts the Anti-Monitor to Earth's presence from space, and he decides to consume it—just like he did to Earth 3, where the Crime Syndicate came from.
A vocal contingent of readers has criticized Justice League for rushed, plot-driven storytelling and strange, sometimes unlikeable characterizations for its team members, but issue #33 showcases one of the good things the book's been doing over the past year or so: the character interplay and new dramatic relationships the New 52 created.
A benefit of DC's line-wide "reboot" has been the way writers and editors have used the fresh start to create new connections between characters who never seemed to have much to do with each other before. It doesn't always work out well, but it's interesting when it does. Case in point: Lex Luthor and Niles Caulder knew each other in the past, and they're enemies and rivals from way back. Series writer Geoff Johns takes two longtime DC characters and uses a common thread between them—their nefarious ambition and genius—and uses Justice League to link their pasts and give them a hostile, adversarial relationship straight out of the gate that adds fuel to the current storyline. It's a practice that integrates previously unrelated aspects of the DC Universe and creates cohesion.
The introduction of the Doom Patrol's newest version also exemplifies the novelty of seeing different takes on established characters. Issue #33 continues our first meeting of the New 52 team-up of old school Doom Patrollers Negative Man, Elasti-Girl, and Robotman. They, along with Caulder, apparently work for A.R.G.U.S. now, which is their link to the DCU's new status quo and gives them a reason to pop up in various books as some kind of government-sanctioned peacekeepers. Granted, it would be nice to see such beloved characters doing more than just showing up to interfere in other teams' storylines, but now that the "real" Doom Patrol is back, it's a sure thing that their fans will see them again later, and it's intriguing to see what DC will do with them.
Dough Mahnke draws memorable facial expressions, and it shows really well on close-up shots. The line work is expressive in Lex Luthor's grin while he holds Caulder in a chokehold on the first page, and this illustrative craftsmanship shows up in other places as well when Mahnke has enough panel space to draw the hell out of faces. The bottom half of Batman's face looks strange below his cowl in some spots, though, so one has to wonder if Mahnke needs a WHOLE face to be at his artistic best.
All in all, Justice League #33 has a solid, action-oriented plot with dashes of intriguing character interplay and nice penciling, so it's definitely one worth watching for longtime DC fans.
Writer and videographer Hilton Collins loves sci-fi and fantasy wherever he finds it, whether it's in comic books, movies, books, short stories, TV shows, or video games. On the video side, he studies filmmaking, motion graphics, and animation; and on the writing side, he covers what he loves for Bleeding Cool and on his own blog, Imagination Unplugged (www.imaginationunplugged.com), a website about entertainment and self-help for creative professionals. He is @HiltonCollins on Twitter.