Justice League #67 review

And once again we have a cover that seems to belong to a different month. Nowhere in this issue do Black Canary and Green Arrow fight a gang of Deathstroke cosplayers. They show up at the end, but meet only Lois Lane’s supposed brother, who we now learn goes by the rather hilarious ‘Leonardo Lane’, when he’s not using his codename of The Daemon Rose. Even the recap page is the same as last issue’s, bar a few words, as if no one could be bothered to update it. The cliffhanger it refers to is hopelessly out of date. If this book came out monthly as the indicia claims – it seems to appear every two or three weeks – perhaps the editorial team would have time to finesse the scripts and keep their issues straight.

I sound grumpy, but these comics are expensive. I don’t get them for free, like DC staff, or some reviewers. It’s expensive entertainment and should maintain a certain quality. I’ve praised this series since Brian Bendis came on as writer, and David Marquez joined as artist – he now seems to be gone for good – but lately it’s been a bit of a mess.

The main storyline involves deeply dull Superman villain The Synmar Utopica smashing League HQ the Hall of Justice because he wants to upset Superman or take over Earth or… something. The B story with Leonardo (either Lois’ just-popped-into-existence twin, or a visitor from that gender-flipped Earth) belongs in another book, Checkmate, but after a recent publishing announcement it seems clear it’s setting up the coming Deathstroke Inc series in which longtime Leaguer Black Canary will co-star.

After brief appearances in previous issues, we finally get proper introductions to the members of the United Planets’ new United Order team, the Justice League of space. Over several pages, they pop up one-by-one, giving their spiel as they enter the battle like reality show contestants grabbing their moment before the lens.

Which is fine, but maybe a coordinated effort would be better.

And I look forward to meeting Princess Namflow.

What did have me excited for this issue was the promise of the JL Reserves – Firestorm, Vixen, Captain Atom and more – helping out against old Tapioca.

Writer Brian Bendis presents them as useless – skilled, experienced heroes who have worked as a team for years are here utterly bemused by an obvious threat. There’s a single panel in which the heroes attack.

A bit of blasting. Not one of these unique characters does anything specific. And they’re utterly ineffective.

Which perhaps isn’t surprising – Superman, Black Adam and co were also of little use, but surely the extra numbers should have made some difference, beyond giving Batman a chance to save the day with a classic piece of DC Universe kit.

Good move. Superman’s reaction is surprising.

The moment was set up earlier in the issue.

‘$@#%* it’, Clark!’ Ladies and gentlemen, I give you DC Comics, 2021.

What I want in a team book is comradeship. Interesting power combinations. Tactics. Foes no single superhero could withstand. This issue offers something else – out-of-nowhere fall-outs, a lack of teamwork, general stupidity and an ill-defined bad guy.

Positives: I like Firestorm’s incredulity that the heroes are following Black Adam into battle. Superman’s speech to the defeated SU is good. Hawkslayer of the United Order demanding the Phantom Zone projector makes sense. Colourist Hi-Fi and Josh Reed do a nice job.

Last issue’s art team of penciller Phil Hester and inker Eric Gapstur are back, and while some of the figurework is awkward and faces sparse, Ive always enjoyed Hester’s studied wonkiness. My favourite image in the book is this group shot.

Oh, and one-eared Batman never fails to make me laugh.

Overall though, not a great story.

The back-up is better, as Aquaman leads Justice League Dark against an army of undersea zombie magicians and John Constantine confronts the mad Merlin.

I love that Merlin’s question echoes that of the alien races in classic DC crossover Invasion – why is Earth so blooming important in the cosmic scheme of things? And it’s brilliant to see Aquaman so confident in battle.

Writer Ram V’s carefully honed script continues the argument that JLD should be back in their own book, while the art of illustrator Sumit Kumar and colourist Romulo Fajardo Jr is a treat for the eyes. Letterer Rob Leigh contributes another fine title treatment, along with the expected sharp dialogue and narration. Brittany Holzherr’s edits deserve appreciation too.

This isn’t a great issue, if not for the Justice League Dark strip I’d almost write it off completely. What did you think?

17 thoughts on “Justice League #67 review

  1. This book is a bit of a challenge. It may be best read not as the latest Justice League but as a continuation of what Bendis was doing over on Superman/Action Comics. And I don’t mean that as a criticism of him. There are plenty of writers who spend time at DC/Marvel on various titles and bring characters/storylines from one book to another. It bugged me initially w/ Bendis on the League but he is hardly alone in doing this. For example, I’m enjoying Jason Aaron’s Avengers run, and it clearly is touching on some of his past work at that company. But, back to Bendis’ League. Maybe just compartmentalize a bit in your head. Don’t compare it to other runs. Don’t worry about whether characters actions are consistent w/ years of continuity/how they have been handled by other writers. If you enjoyed Bendis’ Supes, this is happening in “that” universe and stands as a related work. For example, Superman DID meet his Dad and DID learn that he was a bit of a mad scientist type – though a well-meaning one. So I can see how, in Bendis’ Supes run, he sent Rogol Zaar into the Zone without a second thought, but maybe now is reconsidering. That, at least, is Bendis being consistent with his own works. As a long-time DC fan it’s easier for me to take this approach because they have rebooted so often that it is best just to enjoy how creators tackle particular series and not think of them as the latest episodes of a decades-long saga .So there is Morrison’s JLA, Brad Melter’s JLA, Bendis’ League, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see what you’re saying, Brian (not Bendis, presumably), but I’ve been with the JLA since I was a little kid, reading the early Silver Age stuff (about a decade later, admittedly), and the Justice League name carries weight. Dashed-off stories are hugely disappointing, when compared to the ornately plotted epics of Garden Fox, or richly characterised tales of Steve Englehart. I’d so much rather see Brian Bendis back on a Supeman book, preferably one with lots of Daily Planet stuff. As it is, I’m expecting Red Cloud to join the League any day now!

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  2. Martin, first I’d note that Mike Cotton; not Jessica Chen; edited this issue. Bendis needs a good editor.
    Brian, I agree that this issue flows from Bendis’ Superman/Action books, but to Martin’s salient point utterly fails as an actual team book. This does not even qualify as a Superman/Batman book.
    Like Bendis’ Legion of Super Heroes book, we are presented with a bundle of different heroes, but the activity of the issue is resolved by a couple of guys.
    For me, there’s enough here to like, but I agree with Martin that this cover has absolutely nothing to do with the issue and obviously it takes more than simply throwing money at a book to make it actually good.
    Losing David Marquez and lacking any consistent artist has resulted in failing to develop the subplots, the internal consistency, even the rationale for this super hero team.
    I just hope that the talent is healthy, personally 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It doesn’t matter who’s editing, they should have enough talent, and character, to shape the scripts and wrangle the writer into shape. I assume DC no longer has those weekly sessions in which experience, maybe retired editors pass on the lessons they’ve learned to the younger guys. I think Paul Levitz and Julie Schwartz were involved.

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      1. Martin, you know that In August 2020 about 1/3rd of DC Comics’ editorial staff was laid off. Obviously, old timey editorial campfires with 17-years-gone Julius Schwartz and retired-a-decade-ago Paul Levitz making s’mores are no longer taking place. The very-fresh loss of editorial talent at DC Comics would be catastrophic if not for a global pandemic lowering expectations about the comic book industry in general, let alone on a title-by-title basis. AT&T cannot possibly be trusted to care about the DC Comics editorial department which their own accounting assassins devastated. Less-experienced editors unfamiliar with what’s under the hood of legacy titles such as Justice League are now running the DC Comics’ garage. Bendis has only been at DC Comics for four years. Mike Cotton has been a full DC Comics editor for eight years. Expecting excellent results from this delicate situation; by digital or by print; is unrealistic 😀

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      2. I wasn’t saying they should get Schwartz and Levitz in – one is dead, one is many miles away, they were examples. And yes, I know it’s a weird time, but DC had a buffer period when few books were coming out. In my job we moved from producing a national newspaper in the office one day, to working from home the next, with a significant loss of staff due to furlough, with no interruption. There was a huge amount of upheaval again when, a couple of months later, a new editorial and production system stalled by Covid was finally introduced, but we just got on with it, and we didn’t hike prices massively. It’s tough all over. By now DC should be running more smoothly again (heck, it announced a batch of new series this very week), they don’t have to produce JL more than once a month.

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  3. I agree with your criticisms, but still I managed to smile at this book. I liked that Bendis brought in so many characters, even if they proved powerless. Many are rarely seen and I didn’t even know they still existed. It felt a lot like his Legion – which I know for many people is a reason to hate it!

    I liked Hester’s art more than I have at times. There’s a terrific little panel where he draws a dozen characters in silhouette and you can tell who most of them are.

    Perhaps Marquez gets bored, because he never seems to do more than a single arc.

    Prince Zerep has an excellent plume of fire for hair. Starfire and Blackfire do have incredible heads of hair, but do Tamaraneans usually sport flames?

    While the cover is a mismatch, so are solicits. I’ve read in many places that comics often are getting changed right up until the deadline when they have to be sent to the printer, which is well after the covers are done. But it’s very unfortunate that the book is being worked on that late.

    The solicit for this one is – off. “It’s the Justice League versus the United Order as the truth that gives power to this new cosmic super team crosses a line that the Justice League cannot allow. Will there even be a United Planets after this thunderous clash of intergalactic superpowers? Also, Green Arrow must come to terms with his responsibilities to both Checkmate and the League. Ollie may have to pick which path to follow, but what does it mean for the future of the League if the guy paying the bills has to bail?”

    That doesn’t describe the issue very well, does it? Was this Green Arrow plot in the book at all?

    Some people speculated that the book was delayed by a week because they were still working on it, but I think it could have been due to the paper shortage, which is causing DC to delay LOTS of books. In fact, it looks like many reviewers got their digital copies a week early, and posted their reviews early as a result. I glanced at some last week. Comicbookroundup eventually moved the reviews, so they got aggregated with this week, but the bylines on 5 reviews still show last week’s date on them.

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    1. Tamaraneans don’t usually sport flames, but then Daxamites aren’t usually blue – we seem to have some mash-ups here. I just assume these guys are throwaways.

      Those solicits are so different it’s ridiculous. I can’t see why they’d be so off, it’s not like we’re in the middle of a company-wide crossover, all of a sudden.

      I’d not heard about the paper problems, I’m all pixel. Well, apart from the ruddy expensive collections I can’t resist!

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      1. Just found the article and though I was speculating I now see JL 67 is indeed one of the books whose delay is blamed on supply chain problems. It’s a long list.

        https :// bleedingcool. com /comics/dc-comics-blames-pandemic-for-delays-and-shortages/

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  4. Martin, I appreciate your experience as a business, but again you gave an apple & oranges comparison. Let us say that DC had 250 staff positions before they were bought by AT&T. After AT&T, DC now has 168 staff positions: entire operational categories have been eliminated. Image Comics has 32 employees. Marvel Comics has 1200 employees. Beyond the buffer period, beyond supply chain delays; unlike your business; beyond Thunderdome, DCs entire business model has been reduced to essential duties only. DC is not rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. DC has replaced their Titanic with a teeny tiny tug boat and they’re up against Disney King Kong. Luckily, ephemera like comic books can still intoxicate with just a wink and a smile 😀

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  5. Martin, feel free to maintain your point of view: it’s a free country.
    I simply believe that DC is experiencing an interruption in their creative supply chain which is disrupting results in their comic book products.
    You state that DC Editorial simply needs to communicate with each other better.
    I suspect that DC Editorial might be terrified of being pink-slipped at a moment’s notice and that this staff-wide job insecurity paranoia creates unforced errors like JL #67.
    I mean, Bendis is taking JinxWorld to Dark Horse Comics.
    It feels to me that DC is fighting with AT&T 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t doubt that there’s loads of pressure to please the investors these days; but, having worked for 35 years in newspaper, comics and book publishing as a reporter, editor, sub editor and production guy, I’ve been in an atmosphere of firefighting more often than not, and no matter what crap is piled on you from above, the responsibility to the readers is paramount. You maintain the quality. I’ve worked to three deadlines a day, not a few per month. Delays in paper supply or whatever actually gives you more time to get such things as recap pages correct.

      And it’s not like I don’t give effusive praise, a lot of the time. I’ve sold a few copies for DC here and there!

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  6. I liked this one more than you.

    But as you say this one wasn’t the best issue of this book. A dullish villain quickly dispatched. Little true action.

    The editorial discussion is an interesting one. At the very least, this is the Justice League, one of the flagship title of the DC line. This should be treated with the best of care. Why not tighten things up. Unless the folks there think Bendis can self-edit enough to free wheel.

    As you and I have pointed out on our sites, there is nothing worse than spelling errors, word balloons pointed to wrong characters, and simple story editors. It pulls me out of the moment. And I can’t imagine AT&T wants to put out a lousy product, even if they have little care for it.

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    1. Much as I like Bendis as the nice guy he obviously is, I’ve noted many times that a lot of his scripts read like first drafts. It’s almost as if he has a ‘light touch’ contract that doesn’t allow much editing.

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