Saturday, August 9, 2014

Mini-Review: Justice League Beyond TPB "In Gods We Trust"

I'm a little late with this one, because I only recently discovered that Captain Marvel... yes, I said "Captain Marvel", not "Shazam"... is involved in this spin-off series to Batman Beyond.  I decided to go the trade paperback (TPB) route with this one, because the Justice League Beyond series shares a monthly title with Batman Beyond and Superman Beyond in Batman Beyond Universe. I really just want to read the Justice League Beyond series, so I thought it would save me some money to get the TPBs instead of the monthly comics.  Besides, since this is a series set in the future, it makes sense, since the traditional "pamphlet" format comic book is sure to be phased out over the next decade, leaving digital comics as the main way of getting monthly comics, and the only print options being TPBs and hardcover graphic novels.

Captain Marvel actually appears very little in this particular TPB, which half belongs to Superman Beyond, unlike the previous TPBs, which separated the two features and were half the page count and half the price. Perhaps its because there is a big JLB/Superman Beyond crossover coming.  (Note to DC: Once the crossover ends, re-separate the Justice League Beyond and Superman Beyond TPBs!)

The JLB story introduces Fawcett City as someplace considered old-fashioned. Located in the city is the Academy of Arts and Sciences, a school that is brain washing the kids into drones.  The current (future?) Green Lantern, Kai-Ro, is at the school and the JL is teleported there to get him.  There is an amusing scene where they encounter the Fawcett City locals, who are portrayed like it's Mayberry, complete with a Don Knotts-type deputy.  Kai sneaks around and meets a girl named Mary.  She informs him of the devious agenda of the school.  Both are captured by the headmistress and brainwashed, and then the headmistress and her minions capture the JL. She is about to destroy the JL at a school assembly, when Mary is urged to say the name.  She says "Shazam", and is replaced with Captain Marvel, who sets the JL free.  Captain Marvel phases out to be replaced by Mary Marvel, who punches out the headmistress. But Mary is captured by some minions, and she phases out to be replaced by Black Adam.  Then Captain Marvel phases back in and destroys the villains getaway jet with his magic lightning, turning into Billy Batson, who falls out of the sky, only to be rescued by Kai's power ring.  In an epilogue, Billy explains that some kind of accident caused the Marvel Family to share time together, with only one member allowed to be in reality at a time.  Billy is then invited to join the Justice League.

The story by Derek Fridolfs is good and presents a unique situation for the Marvel Family.  Unless it is specifically noted otherwise, I think this could be the same continuity as Billy Batson & The Magic of Shazam. Sometime after that series ended (ironically with Captain Marvel being introduced to the Justice League), the mentioned accident happened, causing the Shazam characters to share an existence, which could also explain why Billy and Mary haven't aged much in the two or so decades in between BB&TMOS and Justice League Beyond (neither does BB&TMOS contradict Captain Marvel's only other appearance in the so-called Diniverse the Beyond franchise is set in, the Justice League Unlimited episode "Clash").  The art by Ben Caldwell is excellent, and resembles Mike Norton'a art in BB&TMOS,  but with perhaps a slightly more anime look.  He draws an adorable version of Mary.  Billy and Cap are portrayed with more respect here than they are as a Geoff Johns punchline in the main Justice League New52 series.  The Justice League Beyond installment of the TPB earns a solid B+, and I can't wait to read Captain Marvel's further adventures with Justice League Beyond.

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