Justice League #64 review

This month’s Justice League main strip is a day in the life story. Well, mainly. The first few pages take place off Earth, away from the Justice League, as the United Planets prepare for the trial of a rogue superman, the Synmar Utopica. On the world of Daxam, we meet the team of heroes who helped Superman arrest him after his recent rampage.

They’re an impressive bunch, though not the best jailers.

Meanwhile, on Earth. Black Canary and Green Arrow are having some quiet time.

At the Hall of Justice, new member Naomi is surprised at how hands-on combat training is

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Synmar Utopica when he showed up in Superman. I couldn’t get a handle on him at all. So on the one hand I’m not terribly excited to see him here, I’d like some classic League villains such as Amos Fortune, Kanjar Ro or Hyathis. On the other hand, everyone deserves a second chance. So come on, The Synmar Utopica, impress me.

Mind, next issue is when he’ll have that chance, this month he’s not around much, giving us lots of room for the character stuff writer Brian Michael Bendis does do well. The training scene with Naomi, Aquaman, Hippolyta, Black Adam and Hawkgirl is just delightful, with three warrior royals and a space cop impressing on her the need to get physical.

Bendis also reintroduces us to Naomi’s adoptive parents, who seem quite the suburbanites but actually, as those who read her mini will recall, have a few tricks up their sleeve. They’re thrilled to see their daughter in rather awesome company, and even more excited when one Leaguer gives them quite the compliment.

I can’t get enough of Dinah and Ollie romance scenes, I’ve been that way since the Seventies, and while it’s a shame their break is interrupted, Ollie’s calm is splendid to see. He knows he and Dinah have the reactions to survive should their stalker strike.

And it’s all wonderfully illustrated by guest artist Steve Pugh, whose clean line continues the lovely vibe we’ve had since regular illustrator David Marquez came on board. He does a great job with the extraterrestrials, giving them an appropriate alien-ness, but where he really shines is with the earthbound emotions. The romantic love between Ollie and Dinah is palpable, as is the parental variety that the McDuffies feel for Naomi. And the fun the Leaguers are having while training their youngest member is a treat.

It’s this sequence, though, that is the only problematic one. We see Naomi tense to hit teacher Aquaman, then switch to another scene, and return to everyone shocked at how hard she hit him.

Like, what? Did a page go missing? If not, what’s gained by the storytelling choice to not show Naomi’s big moment? She apologises for her temper, but not having seen the incident, how can the reader appreciate it?

This connects to the seemingly eternal Naomi question – what can she do? We’ve seen she wields strange, powerful energy; she’s described as a ‘megapower’. What does that mean, is a megapower to a DC metahuman what an omega mutant over at Marvel is to a regular mutant? It seems very unlikely the League would commit to training a super-teen without at least trying to categorise her abilities. Bring out those super-scientists, your Palmers, your Holts, your Kords and your Allens. I don’t think her upcoming second series would be wrecked were Bendis to give us a brief look at Naomi’s box of tricks.

Overall, though, the main story in Justice League #64 had me grinning from beginning to end. Heck, I’ve not even got to the contributions of colourist Nick Filardi and letterer Josh Reed; the former provides clarity of mood with his warm palette, while the latter has fun finding ways to differentiate the alien ‘voices’.

This issue’s Justice League Dark story is disappointing – the fascinating team members take a back seat as Batman butts into the story.

Apart from the Justice League Dark Knight (‘I work alone’, oh how we laugh), we get a page of Zatanna being surprised by new member Ragman and an exciting panel of Dr Fate sleeping. It’s a shame, writer Ram V has been doing such a good job with his Merlin serial, but suddenly the JLD are guest stars in their own strip.

While I’m not delighted he’s around, Batman does look great as drawn by Sumit Kumar, there’s a grand Kelley Jones vibe to him, Romulo Fajardo Jr’s colours include some suitably sickly hues, while Rob Leigh is always an asset when it comes to lettering.

The cover by David Marquez and colourist Alejandro Sanchez is glorious, with the United Order descending like gods as bemused Leaguers look on.

All in all, it’s another well worthwhile issue from the creative teams under editors Brittany Holzherr, Bixie Mathieu and Jamie Rich, but let’s hope the Dark side of the book shines again next month.

6 thoughts on “Justice League #64 review

  1. For me, the stars around Arthur’s head after Naomi’s punch was enough: he wasn’t paying attention and she wasn’t playing around. Synmar Utopica is an excellent villain for Naomi to show her usefulness to the group: like Dark Phoenix, Naomi’s powers appear to increase in accordance to the level of threat presented while her power is also tempered by an adolescent temperament reminiscent of a young Kitty Pryde. The introductory text page is not being put to good use by a editorial Past Master like Bendis: maybe a diary page by Naomi about how she knocked-out Aquaman with a single blow at the Hall of Justice? “Dear Diary: Aquaman is all wet.” 😀

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    1. Oh yes indeed, the Synmar Utopica is the perfect punchbag; I just wish he were even remotely interesting! Powers rising with threat level is clever, but it could make finding an actual threat difficult; then again, she could be out-thought. And Brad, now you’re making me miss young Kitty Pryde!

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  2. Martin, Kitty is a creation under Claremont/Byrne who elevated their X-Men run to iconic status. However, Bendis’s JLA is not as spiraling as the Dark Phoenix Saga: Kitty served to cool that narrative down, while Naomi is more like Jean Grey in that she is causing the trouble to increase. We already know that Synmar Utopica can defeat Superman and that Synmar is deranged. My favorite JLA villain was Libra from #111 who formed the Injustice Gang before becoming so powerful that he dissipated into nothing. Hopefully, Bendis is creating cosmic threats for the JLA which can only be managed by this oddball team pooling their resources. It would be great to have a JLA narrative where all the pieces fit together and form a bigger picture. Fingers crossed 😀

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    1. Fingers crossed indeed. I’m good with Kitty’s history, I was buying every issue, she was a hugely refreshing creation. I do wish Claremont and later artists hadn’t super-sexualised her. I remember Libra too, I started buying JLA with 100… those boots!

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  3. I’m always down for a fun, low-key issue of JLA, and this one’s no exception. I loved the Dinah and Ollie stuff, and the scenes at the Hall of Justice. (They have bathrooms!) It’s good to see Zan and Jayna again, and loved the banter between Aquaman, Hyppolyta, and Black Adam. The cut-away from the punch didn’t bug me, until you mentioned it as another diversion from a chance to see how Naomi’s powers works. Good point — I think you’re right, in that Bendis is trying really hard not to get nailed down before her second series debuts.

    I’m a little unclear on the aliens that make up the United, though — one’s labeled as a Gordanian, but he looks human. Another’s labeled as a Daxamite, but she’s blue like a Talok VIII native. And some — like the big spider — aren’t labeled at all (but I suppose he’s from the Spider Guild).

    As for JL Dark, I liked the Eternal Knight a lot… and though he’s using a new first name (maybe not a nickname?), I’m excited to see what the Demon’s old pal, Randu, is doing at the end of the story!

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