Justice League #62 review

Most of the active Justice League roster are on the parallel Earth that was once home to ‘mega power’ Naomi McDuffie. Flash, though, is back at the Hall of Justice, in charge of the technology which allowed his friends to cross dimensions. Then, another hero arrives.

An interesting conversation ensues between the Flash and Hippolyta, but it’s nipped in the bud as Barry Allen realises that he didn’t get his calculations quite right. Which may explain why Aquaman ended up apart from Naomi, Batman, Black Canary, Hawkwoman, Superman, Black Adam and Green Arrow.

The rest of the team, meanwhile, are battling Brutus, a massively powerful bully who sees the League as the only obstacle to his taking over their Earth. On the one hand, given the hundreds of heroes of Earth 0, hardly. And on the other, Justice League resistance is far from futile.

Now that’s a sonic scream. Something about this world has supercharged the powers of Black Canary and Hawkwoman, while making Black Adam and Superman respectively weaker, and out of control. Naomi is having problems staying physically focused. As non-metahumans, Green Arrow and Batman may be aces in the hole…

Fun and surprises abound in the latest chapter of Prisms by writer Brian Michael Bendis, artist David Marquez, colourist Ivan Plascencia and letterer Josh Reed. From Hippolyta’s touching vulnerability to a final page that amps up the threat level, this is a riveting read. Bendis has fun with a panel or two of ‘who’s on first?’ style banter by Aquaman’s reluctant hosts, while Marquez cuts loose with multiple spreads of visually arresting action.

I’m not too enchanted by Brutus, who’s a pretty one-dimensional sort so far, but the characterisations of the League members make up for it – who says heroes are only as good as their villains? As regards baddies, I wish Bendis would have confidence in the melodrama – even the Bigger, Scarier Last Page Guy manages just one line of doom-laden dialogue before getting folksy.

As usual, I’m wondering how we define Naomi’s abilities, and the idea that she’s a ‘mega power’ is now supplemented, on the much-appreciated recap page, by the classification of Superman and Black Adam as ‘uber powers’. Do they drive pimped-up cabs? I could see Brian Bendis bringing in the old Supermobile – seen recently in Super Sons. I suppose ‘uber’ makes sense for Superman, but unless someone is going to spell out the differences, it seems a wee bit pointless.

The art of Marquez and Plascencia is once again a treat, with my favourite visual being the point at which Dinah lets loose – talk about a Canary yeller. The (much) quieter moments are also worth a nod, such as Hippolyta’s chat with Barry – the immortal Amazon Queen, openly questioning her life, is so believable. And the six battle spreads, punctuated by circular panels, work together to convey the scale and power of the conflict.

Josh Reed’s lettering adds to the visual appeal, though I’d still like the Asgardian font given to Hippolyta to disappear – Diana doesn’t have it, why would she? It makes her dialogue look like it belongs in a fairytale.

I don’t know if this first arc wraps next time, indications are it does, and I look forward to the official unveiling of the new League line-up. Give me a proper, old-fashioned roll call, guys.

The ten-page Justice League Dark back-up continues to make a convincing argument for DC to give the team its own book again. Honestly, couldn’t the series have been this compelling when it was a standalone? The art was always excellent, and Xermanico keeps up the standard, but Ram V’s writing just gets better. This time, as Constantine, Beppo and co try to survive in the Library of Babel long enough to learn what evil Merlin is up, the wizard himself is, frankly, showing off.

Back at the library, Ragman Rory Regan learns that he may be the hero of his own story.

It’s a fascinating fun ride, with Xermanico’s expansive artwork given a glorious extra dimension by colourist Romulo Fajardo Jr. The illustrator adds extra value to the library-set pages by placing the panels on a border of books, and adding images of the JLD crew, like the mounted heads of animals. And the paper doll stylings of the librarian – a terrific cameo character – are so right for him. I’d love to see this fella, who always talks so much sense, brought to life on screen.

Letterer Rob Leigh gives the librarian a fun font, and doesn’t get a letter wrong when it comes to Zatanna’s backward spells.

Marquez’ beautiful cover drawing, coloured by Alejandro Sanchez, is perfect for a first issue, or the one in which individual heroes declare themselves a unit. So, not this book. Still, it’ll look great on the collection for this arc, I like it more than the shadowed figures of this run’s debut issue.

Of all the DC books that have recently added back-ups, Justice League is the most successful. The main story is a blast, while the secondary strip is thematically connected but different enough in tone to add something extra.

If you’re a fan of DC superheroes, you can’t go wrong with this book as talented creators take captivating characters and make magic.

8 thoughts on “Justice League #62 review

  1. I think this is the first time I don’t feel like there was a single misstep in either Bendis or Ram V’s scripts. Marquez art looks rushed at times but overall this is the best any Justice League has been in years!

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  2. I really liked the pages upon pages of two-page spreads with the circular panels. Bendis has included unusual designs more than once in his time at DC, so I think this was in his script. It’s not an approach that Marquez would likely have drawn otherwise.

    I think Barry’s math might have not just caused the team to arrive separately – it may be responsible for how scrambled everyone’s powers are.

    Bendis is continuing his straightforward recap page, and DC is giving him an extra page to do it. His story is getting 20 pages + 1 extra, with the backup still getting 10 pages. That’s one more story page than any of the other 2-story books are getting.

    As for JLD, I thought the recent run had 2 extraordinary main artists: for most of the first 20 issues, Alvaro Eduardo Martinez Bueno, who really spoiled us. The other artist whose work I loved was Amancay Nahuelpan, who drew the final arc, and for me, his work might even have topped Martinez Bueno’s. They are hard shows to follow.

    Nahuelpan is now drawing Crush & Lobo, and I haven’t read it yet, but just flipped through it, and he used a completely different style than he did on JLD. Very cartoonish. It probably suits the story – I think of Lobo as a crude and amoral but ultimately comical character. But his art here is not lush like his JLD work was.

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    1. You’re likely right that the spreads idea came from Bendis, though the does try to write to his artists strengths, so it’s almost a chicken and egg thing.

      I’m glad you reminded me of the brilliant JLD artists, now, if only someone would draw Zatanna properly. You know what I mean!

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  3. Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez have done Miles Morales’ Ultimate Spider-Man, Civil War II and The Defenders, together, over at Marvel: they come to Justice League as a well-oiled creative machine.
    Using Naomi’s homeworld to stage this current League roster (in what I’m guessing might be an 8 part introductory arc) means that Brutus was sent to do recognizance of our Earth but was too much of a thug to leave well enough alone.
    Brutus allows Bendis/Marquez to make Black Adam heroic, something that DC had started to do back in their 52 book (2006) but always set aside for forgettable projects like the Black Adam miniseries (2008) and World War III (2007) which indulge his unsavory side.
    Black Adam has a live action movie in the pipeline with The Rock and deserves a comic book which gives him his dignity: this Justice League is that book.
    Aquaman being isolated from the team allows us to learn more about this Earth, what the stakes actually are and why this population is worth saving despite their heralds (like Brutus) and their despots (like last page bad guy Zumbado).
    Bendis started this storyline in his 2019 Naomi miniseries: this is effectively the Bendisverse which he crafted as a new hire when he came to the DC offices. We are seeing the result of a lot of brainstorming between Bendis and David Marquez: nothing in this Justice League is accidental – these gentlemen are playing the long game.
    Of all the big projects Bendis has taken on in the DCU, Justice League might result in the biggest dividends.
    The conversation in issue #62 between Hippolyta and Flash at the Hall of Justice is a Mission Statement about what Bendis intends to do with this Justice League book.
    Paradise Island has never integrated with Man’s World. That’s attributable to Hippolyta as a leader. Bendis is giving us a queen who is willing to change her ways. This is an enlightened way to depict Paradise Island. Like Wakanda and Attilan and Latveria and The Savage Land, Paradise Island is an imaginary kingdom, so it exists as a projection of utopian principles. William Mouton Marston was a protofeminist but not an expert in how a government should be run.
    In issue #59 Ollie said the Justice League needed to diversify, Superman then tried to understand why Adam was resistant when the Justice League intervened in his country’s affairs. In issue #60, Adam and Naomi are on the Justice League satellite talking strategy, while Hippolyta is horrified when Adam shows up with the League on Paradise Island, unannounced.
    This is a sophisticated clash of ideas staged on fictional governments.
    These are significant discussions in our increasingly globalized world.
    The Justice League book has dealt with social issues during the Denny O’Neil era, with cultural disruptions during the Mike Friedrich era, but neither of these writers were adept at writing characters with superpowers: objectively, they focused on melodrama. Len Wein’s 18 issue run was not topical, but Wein staged three JLA/JSA crossovers, brought Wonder Woman back on the team, and relocated the League onto the satellite. Wein’s Justice League favored action over introspection.
    Bendis is bringing teenager Naomi into Justice League not as a mascot; like Snapper Carr; but as a full member. Bendis has eliminated the scroll designating new membership. Bendis is dismantling the boys’ treehouse ethos which launched the JLA in the Silver Age and opened up qualification as to whom can call themselves a member of the Justice League: obviously, neither Black Adam or Hawkgirl or Hippolyta are projecting American power. These are not accidental choices.
    In issue #62: the big guns (Superman and Adam) are sidelined, yet the bench (Black Canary and Hawkgirl) find their powers amplified. Hippolyta; who is not yet a part of the team; arrives in the middle of battling Brutus with the winning blow.
    Girls rule. Duh.
    What about Batman? Bendis has Batman acting as the voice of reason, coordinating the team, but; as of yet; how Batman fits into this new Justice League is not clear.
    My hope is that Batman is the natural counter to whatever Zumbado is planning.
    Because Zumbado wants Naomi dead. However? Naomi is under Batman’s protection.
    That’s why I think this is an 8 part story. Batman will unravel Naomi’s history since that will secure the Justice League’s victory over Zumbado. Or not.
    Black Canary’s history of replacing Diana on the JLA book during the Diana Prince: Wonder Woman era, that Dinah was romantically linked to all of the members in one cringeworthy scene after another until Ollie finally won her heart, that Black Canary has never been that effective as a leader or in the field of battle – the misogyny that has always been her experience in the Justice League – much of these problems have been addressed in this current run. Amplify her powers. Have her operate as a mentor to Naomi. Make her a fellow warrior with Hawkgirl. This is an intelligent use of Black Canary in Justice League. D***.
    So, hello, when Hippolyta arrives at the Hall of Justice, events like Amazons Attack (2007) become even more regrettable: Wonder Woman was sent to Man’s World to prevent war, not to destroy parochialism. Bendis is saying: Hippolyta has lost her way.
    Bendis is allowing in this Justice League arc: Black Adam has lost his way. Fine. Let’s show Black Adam finding a better way.
    Naomi has lost her homeworld to war. This is the story which Bendis brought with him to DC. This is the entirely new narrative platform; his Fourth World concept; that Bendis has been doling out. Jack Kirby brought his New Gods to Earth in order to wage their war. Bendis took Justice League to Naomi’s homeworld to stop war from coming to Earth.
    It honestly feels like Bendis is just warming up, but David Marquez delivering six (six!) double page spreads in a single story simply screams to me that we are in Jack Kirby territory, here.
    The packaging of Justice League has been so “ho hum nothing to see, here” and apparently the sales have been so mild that DC is allowing this project to fly under the radar. This wobbles my mind.
    Bendis and Marquez deserve better: Justice League is something special.
    Hippolyta was created in 1941 and All-Star Comics #8 showed her defeating Hercules in single combat, but in Justice League #62 she finally gets her superhero badass moment putting down Brutus. This is not nothing, my comic book people, Hippolyta having her gladiator moment. This has been a long time coming and should be celebrated.
    Historically, Wonder Woman was a JLA member before Batman or Superman during the Brave and the Bold days in 1960.
    Hippolyta coming into Justice League as a bona fide all-star is a big deal.
    The way DC is marketing Justice League is confusing. Probably the Justice League book is not selling as strongly as they had hoped. I doubt that Bendis has proven to be the shot in the arm DC had hoped he would be. Marquez is not a fan favorite artist, yet.
    I don’t care.
    Justice League has not been this good since Grant Morrison and Howard Porter launched JLA in 2007. Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez are on fire
    Hola, by Hera:D

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    1. Thanks so much for the perspective, insight and predictions, Brad. It’ll be interesting to see if what happens lines up with what you’re expecting. I’ve enjoyed Bendis much more at DC than Marvel, but I’m not at all convinced his long-term planning is as detailed as you seem to think. Sure, he has his big picture, but so often the details either don’t marry up, or aren’t presented at all; at this point I have little faith he’s ever going to spell out Naomi’s power set. It’s been two years or something and still we don’t know what she can do. Look at his Legion – loads of great details and ideas, but basically, a sprawling, glorious mess.

      I loved your look back at Dinah’s JLA past, but don’t believe she needs a power upgrade to be recognised as a massive asset to the team – this is the woman who kicked the super-powerful Johnny Thunder out of his own strip with not a power to her name… she needs no upgrade, and I’ll be happy if the super-juiced canary cry is a one-story deal.

      Hippolyta is great, but it always seems weird to have her step into her daughter’s heels; I like her as the wise queen who can outfight pretty much anyone but prefers to delegate to her daughter and sisters – she shouldn’t have a desire to get out into Man’s World, she was glad to see the back of it. Let the Magic Sphere show her the world, let Diana bring back news, let Nubia be Diana’s temporary replacement.

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  4. Martin, I agree that Bendis falls far short on the finer details of his DC oeuvre; his YOUNG JUSTICE run felt entirely improvised; but I prefer it to his last few years at Marvel where he seemed drained of even the smallest ideas.
    Your defense of Black Canary is admirable, but I maintain that Vixen did a better job of leading the JLA than Dinah has ever done. Bendis having Black Canary clear out the bad guys by herself are JLA moments she usually does not have, so I hope that her power upgrade remains beyond this arc.
    Hippolyta can be Bendis’ articulating populations who are always given secondhand status, something which Wonder Woman does fleetingly but not consistently. Diana is an ambassador and a diplomat, Hippolyta is a queen and a warrior. DC has taken Diana off of the superhero front lines at this moment, so having Hippolyta step up for the Amazons in Man’s World; with protests and riots happening on American streets over issues of race and status in our real world; works for me. James Robinson’s JLA run replaced Batman with Dick Grayson, Wonder Woman with Donna Troy and Superman with Supergirl: it was even more of a sprawling mess than Bendis’ LSH proved to be. I acknowledge Hippolyta might end up being yet another snafu move by Bendis, that Bendis has not been perfect while at DC and no longer warrants the benefit of the doubt, however, I see a way that Hippolyta might work surprisingly well in Justice League.
    Naomi’s powers are in fluctuation: you have a legitimate complaint, there. Red Cloud’s powers were also always in flux under Bendis in Action Comics. The Invisible Mafia in Metropolis was never really explained. Naomi might be a sprawling mess of a character whom Bendis can never clean up, whose explanation is so far removed from her initial appearance that obviously Bendis has no d*** idea what he’s doing. This entire Justice League arc might end up being a worse use of an appealing character than was Miles Morales in Civil War II. Zumbado might be even more of a MacGuffin than Rogol Zaar ever was in Superman.
    You have every reason to be upset, Martin. I grew up chasing Steve Englehart’s Celestial Madonna storyline: that ended up being a whole lotta nothing in a forgettable Avengers miniseries after, what, 30 years?
    Bendis might be running the clock, hoping that someone else will make sense of Naomi before he is required to.
    I mean, Jamie S. Rich just left DC, and he was editing this book.
    Maybe there is no “here”, here.
    I believe there is, but, Martin? You could be right about this 😀

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    1. Oh heck, do I seem upset back there? I’ve praised every issue of this run so far! I’m enjoying the new mix of characters and the potential they bring, I just disagree that some of these choices are better than others. I love hearing your thoughts (even if you’re awfully wrong about the merits of Robinson’s League 😉 I thought he did a brilliant job of making lemonade with the lemons DC handed him).

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