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.