Last issue, a new threat appeared in the kingdom of Kahndaq – Brutus, monstrous warrior from the homeworld of new heroine Naomi McDuffie.
Now, having connected the invader’s energy signature to Naomi, Black Adam, Kahndaq’s ruler, wants a word, and turns up in her Oregon hometown with typical bombast. Justice Leaguer Superman, though, isn’t about to leave a known super-villain with the inexperienced teenager.
And that’s as close as we get to the fight shown in David Marquez and Tamra Bonvillain’s eye-catching cover image. Still, if it gets the attention and brings some new readers to the second issue of the new run, I doubt they’d be complaining. On turning the page, they’ll see that writer Brian Michael Bendis has provided a helpful recap/rollcall, setting the scene for another issue of smart superheroics.
One thing I’ve been waiting for after hearing Black Adam was joining the League – Bendis having been told to put him there by higher-ups eyeing his coming movie – was what the in-comic justification would be. As Hawkgirl says, past experience shows that ‘he’s kind of a monster’ but Superman reveals that when answering calls for help recently, he’s bumped into Black Adam a lot, outside his usual bounds of Kahndaq.
Superman’s argument is enough to persuade his teammates to offer the first champion of Shazam a wary welcome. Well played, that man Bendis – I find this all much more convincing than that time Adam was allowed to join the JSA.
I do love Brian Bendis’s Superman, he’s such a good person, always looking for the best in others. He wants to see what’s happening with Adam, give him a chance to blossom – and if the odd thorn appears, the World’s Greatest Superheroes are on hand to deadhead them.
Let’s leave this tortuous metaphor and get back to the story. An alert summons the team to Central City, where they find a massive crater, the result of another insurgence by Brutus. And another potential team member.
OK, no one calls her that, but I’m from the Silver Age, Hippolyta will always be Wonder Queen to me… and maybe Bendis will have Ollie use the obviously awesome name. I could see that.
Green Arrow is being treated very well by Bendis – adding spice without being obnoxious, while partner Black Canary is the tell-it-like-it is straight woman. Heck, all the Leaguers are a delight. The only character I’d tweak would be the Flash, he’s still in that jokey mode Scott Snyder put him in, presumably to match the big screen version. I’d like to see that dialled back, Barry Allen should always be… not humourless, but the team square (I know, I know, what can I tell you – Silver Ager).
Mind, it’s not like Bendis isn’t acknowledging Barry’s brains, with him building a multi-platform Cosmic Treadmill in a, well, flash.
Bless Barry for his branding. And please, someone make the ‘Cosmicer Treadmill’ a toy now.
So where are the heroes heading? Naomi’s homeworld, of course, previously assumed to be an alternate Earth.
I love a mystery. And I love this issue. Bendis is doing a marvellous job of characterisation, with distinct, fitting personalities for all. While the Leaguers are far from po-faced, they’re serious in the face of a real threat to their world. Heck, they even resist making a gag about a baddie Naomi has faced, Zumbado, sounding like a villainous dance craze… I’m not sure I could be so strong.
And while there is some standing around talking, it’s not inane chat – it’s experienced heroes examining the evidence, sharing knowledge and strategising.
Mind, even if it was ‘merely’ entertaining chatter, with a talent like David Marquez drawing, I could happily live with it. His characters are simply lovely to look at – clean lines, subtle expressions – as they move across thoughtfully composed pages that take the story forward. When the treadmill is turned on at the end, for example, the angling, stacking and size of panels combine brilliantly to convey movement and speed.
Plus, Marquez draws splendid fighty bits.
And the work is coloured with verve by Tamra Bonvillain, whose skies I particularly enjoy. Josh Reed’s lettering is smart, though I don’t understand why Hippolyta is suddenly speaking in ‘Asgard font’. And I spotted three typos – we all make mistakes, so I’m not having a go at Reed, it just happens that lettering errors are more obvious to my eyes than artistic ones. But really, someone should have caught them.
Coming up the rear are the members of Justice League Dark, hosting the Justice League Regular (Milk?) as a new leader is chosen, Wonder Woman being dead this week.
Zatanna is a little reticent there, has she forgotten that having debuted in the Silver Age, she’s one of DC’s greatest characters?
I love John Constantine’s pride at Zee’s promotion.
Anyway, the mission at hand involves stopping Merlin – the original, but looking rather the hot hipster – from doing Heaven knows what. Etrigan the Demon just knows it’s going to be bad. Green Arrow isn’t so sure.
There follows from John interesting new facts about Merlin, before we check in with the mage himself.
Writer Ram V, artist Xermanico, colourist Romulo Fajardo Jr and letterer Rob Leigh provide another ten-page treat, full of intriguing plot points, satisfying moments and enticing art. Can we have Justice League Dark back in their own book please? I’d rather buy two regular-sized books than one extra-sized comic whose second story doesn’t have room to breathe. And now Ram V has finally escaped the long, long Upside-Down Man story he inherited on the old series, I want to see what he can do.
Solicitations suggest this book – which is edited by Alex R Carr and Andrea Shea – is going back to fortnightly, at least for the summer. I won’t complain, the Bendis/Marquez strip is the best Justice League I’ve read in a good while – if you’ve not tried it, give it a go!