SHAZAM, Lifeboat or Anchor?
This cover could've used more thought and concern in the layout, but the concept is undeniably compelling, so much so that it pretty much makes up for the so-so balance.
So after a hit-and-miss opening arc, and then two absolutely atrocious issues, #9 gave us a nice look at how this series could actually be GOOD again. A HUGE villain with an interesting backstory, and lots of nice buildup. Unfortunately, Geoff Johns takes this balloon of potential he was halfway through inflating, and blows his load early, preparing to start inflating it again. It's like he's doing this in short bursts because he's afraid to pop the balloon, but that's exactly what makes the filling up so satisfying.
Ok, to be fair, the opening scene does create an interesting aspect to Graves' backstory, but his buildup as a credible villain is halted in favor of just using what little buildup we were given last issue. He spent all this time torturing villains, kidnapping them and interrogating them, etc. to learn the 'weaknesses' of the Justice League. So what's he plan to do with this knowledge? Swoop in and knock them all out with some sort of sorrow enhancing attack. Granted, I LIKE that that's his ability, it makes him more than just a powerhouse threat, but it completely nullifies the significance of what he was doing before. Why'd he need to do all that research if he could just sorrow-cripple them?
Just... stop it Geoff. Aquaman is cool now. Stop trying so hard to prove he's a badass, we already know this 10x over, you're beating a dead seahorse here. You beat it, and raised it as a zombie so you could kill it again to beat it again. Move on already.
The team's interactions are ridiculously confusing. Last issue seemed like they were truly a Justice League that had been working together for five years. But now it feels more like three. Suddenly their interactions are awkward and contradictory to other issues. It's still a small part of the big question this series constantly fails to truly answer, "When the hell does this series take place?' Sure it 'says' it's in the present, but there's so much contradiction. The explanation of Barry's relationship with Patty seems like one from several Flash issues ago, Hal is still a Green Lantern, perfectly normal, Batman trusts Superman but NOBODY ELSE, Hal's back to being an extreme tool instead of a lesser more matured one, and Aquaman.... I don't even know.
And then there's the SHAZAM backup. At this point it's feeling a little slow. Four parts in, and while we've really gotten to know Billy as a character, with all his complexities, we're not making much headway on the titular 'SHAZAM' role. He's not any closer to becoming Captain Marvel. (Don't you dare try and correct me, I'll call him Captain Marvel if I damn well please, and I will because that change was stupid.) Freddy Freeman creates a bond with Billy, a truly meaningful one, and the significance of the tiger is made clear. It's a nice emotional moment, I just feel like this story would be better served in its own series, that way we could get more bang for our buck; and I really do want to see Billy develop into a hero, into Captain Marvel, soon.
Not to mention that it is, hands down, the most out of place co-feature of them all in DC right now. All-Star Western's works perfectly as other 'Western' tales since Jonah Hex is the main, but not titular, character. G.I. Combat technically works on the same lines, even Action Comics,' as shameful a cash grab as it is, at least feels vaguely justified by being side stories about Superman in a series where he's not titular. But this is Justice League, and the co-feature is SHAZAM. Absolutely no relation save for the writer. And while it IS good, it's as obvious a cash grab for the series they KNOW people will buy as Action Comics' co-feature is. BUT, at the same time, I have to admire the attempt to create 10 extra pages AND make them just as meaningful, to justify the cost. Marvel will just add an extra dollar and nothing else to comics they know will sell well.
But what I could do without is the complete overhaul being done to Dr. Sivana. It's honestly at least 90% as bad as what they did to The Wall. The Wall's change is actually sexist and offensive, at the very least, Sivana's only awful because he's not recognizable as the same character in any way shape or form. But both were odd shapely characters who's charm came in a surprising percentage from their unique appearance, and quirky behavior that reflected said appearance. I'd be okay with the WIERD twist that he can now 'see' magic, if only he was still that short uncomfortably playfully-sadistic weirdo he used to be. He's now hipster-Lex Luthor with Allen Walker's eye.
In Conclusion: 3.5/5
Not the best issue, but not the worst. Justice League and SHAZAM don't balance each other out too well as series. I want to see more SHAZAM, and that's due heavily in part to the fantastic character and emotional depth. While, yes, this is EXACTLY what's missing from Justice League.... putting it all in SHAZAM doesn't create balance, it just makes Justice League look worse by comparison. Though it did drag my score up from 3 to 3.5, since I have to judge them together, but that's still my point. ALONE, Justice League #10 is a 3/5 issue, and no matter how good SHAZAM is, it won't change how so-so Justice League is alone.
(Mathmatical calculations are based on averages, I didn't give SHAZAM .5 stars and that raised the score, it doesn't compound like that. Justice League was 3/5, SHAZAM was 4/5. Rarely do I think THAT deeply about it on series with co-features though. If the co-feature's bad, score goes down, good, score goes up.)