Pros: The decompression at the beginning of this story is fun.
Cons: The writing throughout the book is messy and uninteresting. There are no real villains for the League to go up against. Resolutions to plotlines and story arcs are so unevenly paced that they are over before you even realize they are happening.
Overall: The Justice League series goes from a rocky, yet hopeful, first volume to a boring and messy second volume. A plot that is lackluster at best, characters with varying personalities and power levels, and the lack of any true villain severely hamper this collection. The enjoyable first half of the first issue is not enough to save the rest of this collection. This is not a book we would recommend to anyone, especially if you are a longtime fan of the Justice League.
While Justice League Vol. 1: The Extinction Machines (Review) had its problems, it was overall an alright story at its core. Instead of improving on this and coming back stronger, Justice League Vol. 2: Outbreak proceeds to hold onto all of Vol. 1’s negatives while preserving none of its positives. Shoddy writing, inconsistent pacing, mischaracterization of both heroes and villains, and an overall unappealing story permeate this comic. It would take a lot to redeem all of the nonsense in this collection, and the utter lack of positives mean that redemption is well out of reach.
It is sad to see the Justice League series in such disarray, but this volume does nothing to improve it. Hopefully the next storyline will make some changes.
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This collection starts out with a rather promising decompression story. The League has just dealt with some huge threat and is now disbanding for the day. This leads to various members going off together in their off hours, either to help each other or simply to hang out. It is a fun little story that depicts the Justice League as real friends rather than just coworkers, something which doesn’t seem to be portrayed enough in comics.
However, this is where the positives in this collection come to an end. This decompression story quickly disperses as the League is infected by a mysterious villain, which causes them to go crazy and act out on their worst fears. For some this means a confrontation with other heroes and for others this means going to war with the world’s governments. It is a story that jumps all over the place and then ends as quickly as it began, as Jessica is able to defeat the villain in the same exact way in which she failed to defeat it earlier. Yet even the ending is not consistent, as Batman and Superman are able to shrug off the infection before Jessica destroys it.
The ending is also extremely confusing in terms of consequences. Aquaman and Wonder Woman basically threaten the US Navy with war, yet nothing comes of this. It feels like this whole storyline was a bad elseworld.
The next storyline starts with the Justice League facing off against a cyber-attack on their computer systems. This leads to Batman being assaulted by his own Batmobiles and the Watchtower being sent hurtling towards Earth. Seeing the heroes react and respond to these threats may be the best part of this arc, as the action is actually somewhat entertaining.
Once again though, this interesting premise quickly goes downhill. It devolves when Simon’s ring is hacked and the Justice League have to spend their time fighting him for a while. Once he is able to right himself, the League discovers the real villain is actually a rogue AI which has been orchestrating everything, in accordance with the subconscious desires of a boy whose mother died in Justice League Vol. 1: The Extinction Machines (Review).
Before shutting down the AI for good, the League is forced to deal with its most recent action, sending a bunch of minor villains after them. They defeat them by reprograming the AI into helping them, thus concluding the arc with a minor deus ex machina.
Besides the story being lackluster, as discussed above, one of my biggest overall criticisms is the overall lack of any real villain. The first arc pits the League against a nameless, faceless villain with zero motivations behind him. He is then defeated with little to no fanfare. The second arc has the ultimate enemy turn out to be a random AI who is doing everything without any true ill will. This arc tries to make up for this by throwing a bunch of C-List villains at the League, but they do little more than provide a distraction.
In addition, this book also makes a rather grievous mistake in spoiling two very enticing plotlines from previous Justice League stories. The first was the relationship between Barry and Jessica. It began in Justice League Vol. 6: Injustice League and has been teased slightly since, yet now it has been unceremoniously discarded. The second was the return of Amazo. Amazo was a huge threat to the League in Justice League Vol. 6: Injustice League and that arc ended in a way that made it seem like he would soon return in an epic fashion. Yet this book sees him return, not as the unstoppable threat he was before, but as a mild annoyance. This was a villain fueled by his hatred for Lex Luthor whose motivation is now simply to collect the prize money on the League’s head. Two great plotlines from one of the better recent Justice League stories are ruined in order to make one of the worst recent Justice League stories.
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For the most part, the artwork in this collection is pretty good throughout. Neil Edwards presents a visual style which is very reminiscent of Bryan Hitch’s own artwork. It makes characters and locations appear nice and detailed. Besides a few wonky looking panels, the art is average overall. Meaning that while it is not spectacular, it also is not bad either.
This volume also references stories from other comic books, all of which are detailed below.