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 The cliffhanger it refers to is hopelessly out of date.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?