Justice League #66 review

From the cover, it seems the battle with Synmar Utopica is over, the heroes crushed. Not quite – the Hall of Justice has suffered serious damage, the core Justice League team have been knocked out or aside, but it ain’t over ‘til it’s over…

Across the country from Washington DC, Leaguers Black Canary and Green Arrow have also been unconscious, after a tussle with a character called Daemon Rose, and someone posing as Deathstroke. Who ya gonna call?

While Ollie and Dinah head for the US capital, among the rubble, introductions are made.

Synmar punches Wonder Woman’s mother – a new Leaguer – aside and escapes to send a message to his betrothed, revealing why he attacked Earth after escaping a United Planets jail cell.

Arriving on the scene, Superman overhears and appeals to Synmar to put aside his plan. As Superman’s fine words are ignored, another new Leaguer, Black Adam, tries his preferred approach.

Yet another new member, Naomi, was among the first to rise, but she has just one thing on her mind – the safety of her parents, who were visiting when the alien madman attacked. She finds them safe and sound in the League’s safest space.

Rejoining the battle, Naomi gets a look at the true scale of the League.

Action is very much to the fore as writer Brian Michael Bendis continues his latest story, but there’s room for character too. There’s a particularly nicely written page describing Naomi’s feelings as she faces danger on a cosmic scale.

It’s just a shame the art is overwhelmed – is Bendis scripting Marvel style, after Phil Hester drew the page, but he couldn’t stop the words pouring out? Did Hester see the wordy script and just give up? Or was it left to letterer Josh Reed to somehow squeeze words on to image? Whatever the case, editors Bixie Mathieu and Mike Cotton should have stepped in and arranged a balance, ensured that story and art work together.

One caption not on any page that would have been nice would have told us that the many civilians we saw in the Hall prior to the attack were safe. We have to assume the League hasn’t let dozens – hundreds? – of people die due to their inexplicable decision to open their HQ to tourists. There’s a lot to be said for a Secret Sanctuary in an obscure cave – the villains don’t know where to find you, but if they do, only metahumans (and maybe Snapper Carr, but who cares?) are at risk. For now, bring on the class action suit.

It may be due to rotating artists – last time we had Steve Pugh drawing – but Naomi has changed from civvies into her hero outfit between issues. Again, where are the editors?

It’s brilliant to see some League reserves brought in, they should make the difference between the opposing sides, but don’t get a chance before the cliffhanger arrives. Hopefully Captain Atom, Vixen and co will get a chance to strut their funky stuff next time. A downtime meeting of Naomi – get a hero name, kid! – and Firestorm would be especially nice, as he’s also been the mildly overwhelmed teen Leaguer and could offer some advice.

Even better would be for Naomi to get some of the many League scientists to categorise and generally assess her powers – she’s wondering about them in that packed panel, so sort it out. She’d be a lot more useful, and confident, if she knew her strengths and limitations.

So, what’s going on with Lois’ brother/‘brother’! Her lack of surprise when Dinah phones implies that she either does indeed now have a brother – previously unknown, created by the last reality shift, who knows? – or knows Daemon Rose is claiming to be her sibling. The jump between the close of Checkmate #1 and start of Checkmate #2 gets ever more annoying… why is the Leviathan business even jumping over to Justice League, there’s enough going on here already.

While it’s nice to see art from Phil Hester, it’s a shame we couldn’t keep Steve Pugh, who drew the last two issues, for the sake of continuity. The art by Hester, inker Eric Gapstur and colourists Trish Mulvihill and Hi-Fi, is engaging for the most part – a decent establishing shot of Dr Fate’s nightmarish tower would have been helpful, but it’s only that Naomi page that could be described as problematic. Where Hester never lets us down is with facial expressions and body language, people are always easy to read. And major points to all concerned for the super-cute puppy who licks Dinah, maybe she’ll take it back to that ‘Canary Cave’ she mentions. I take it that’s a gag, Dinah would surely have a Canary Cage.

There’s a hugely engaging piece of art in the Justice League Dark back-up strip, after time displaced Arthurian Knight… er, she’s not namechecked and I can’t recall it from previous issues, so… after Whatserface rescues an old pal of the Demon Etrigan from his own mind.

We then see where Merlin, no longer the friendly mentor of Etrigan, is… Atlantis, battling members of Justice League Dark. And they have help.

Not only Aquaman, but Tempest, the former Aqualad. Given that he’s gone from fishboy to sorcerer, JLD is the perfect place for him. I hope he becomes a regular.

I enjoyed the strip as ever, but writer Ram V would do well to remember he’s writing a serial – I’ve read every episode but still need reminders as to what’s going on. The editors could usefully add a paragraph or two to the page recapping the main story

Artist Sumit Kumar produces superb work on every page, I hope to see more of his stuff at DC – I see he’s worked previously with V on the graphic novel These Savage Shores, and I suddenly find myself inclined to buy it. Colourist Romulo Fajardo Jr and letterer Rob Leigh add to the excellence of the experiences.

The cover by illustrator David Marquez and colourist Alejandro Sanchez is all right. Nothing to write home about. I’m not a fan of people-less covers.

While it could have been better, I had fun with this issue. Given Bendis’s biggest strength is character building and interaction, I hope we get a ‘day in the life issue’ soon, with the Leaguers – light and Dark – enjoying some downtime. Except Naomi – get that kid under the microscope and find out what she can do.

7 thoughts on “Justice League #66 review

  1. Martin, a lot of your continuity concerns about the lead story are valid, but that speaks to a larger problem which has hobbled Bendis since he joined DC. Bendis has had four different editors on his Justice League run. In eight issues. Which is the equivalent of not having had an editor. If DC is playing musical chairs with Bendis’ editors on Justice League, then that is a big reason why there have been 3 different artists. That is why there is no coordination between this book and Checkmate. Or any coordination between Justice League and the Justice League Dark backup feature 😀

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    1. What a great point, I’d not noticed the revolving door of editors. That has to hurt. Still, with some exceptions, it really seems that comic book editors today don’t have the sense of story to guide their writers – or are too soft with them.

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  2. Despite some criticisms, I have generally been enjoying Justice League and Checkmate. But, particularly with the former, you need to basically be prepared for good/thoughtful character interactions/characterization and some humor with pretty generic action, but not intricate plotting. This ain’t Grant Morrison’s “big idea” JLA or Kurt Busiek’s skillful mix of old/new writing styles. It’s very Bendis. As such it’s refreshing to see him take on the DCU, but it’s not without its faults.

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  3. Also a very Bendis thing – despite ALL of the massive, universe-shattering events the JLA has faced under other writers, it’s the attack on the Hall of Justice that results in Batman calling in ALL THE RESERVES. There’s no in-universe logic to it. We’ve seen different League rosters take on far worse on their own without a “let’s have a reunion and bring in a bunch of guest stars from other League eras.” But Bendis wants an excuse to have Blue Devil and Plastic Man and whoever else he wants to write/have his artist draw show up, so there you go. Again, fun/good characterization, but the plotting/stories are what they are…

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    1. Bendis having Batman call back up makes a lot more sense than every other writer endangering the planet/universe/multiverse by having the characters not think about it.

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