Art by Nick Bradshaw and Alex Sinclair

The Justice League tussles with its most fearsome foe yet—distasteful ideology! When a technologically enhanced caricature tries to swat a Nomalian city with ties to terrorism, Batman, Wonder Woman and Lantern Cruz aren’t having it. It’s the League vs. The Black Shield, in Justice League #23.

A bit heavy-handed at the start

After one trip through, I pretty much hated this issue. The Black Shield is far too on-the-nose in our current political climate, and while De Falco is welcome to criticize the far right, I would appreciate a more artful criticism. It’s a single-issue story, so I understand the impossibility of building anything sophisticated, but maybe tackling this particular topic wasn’t the best plan for a short format.

But still a bit of comic book fun

After giving it another shot, however, I found the book much more enjoyable. Black Shield looks and feels like the kind of crazy villain that could show up in Gotham; and, as much as I love profound, nuanced epics, sometimes it’s nice to have a short story where the bad guys are clearly bad and the good guys are clearly good. I couldn’t take this sort of thing all the time, but it’s a welcome extension of the diversion from this title’s usual fare.

Some kooky panels, but the artwork works

Derenick really helps to sell the mood here, too. His exaggerated poses and simple action don’t demand any profundity from the writing,  so it’s easy to sit back and enjoy the basic elements of the plot. He has the occasional super-strange face or perspective, but ultimately proves the perfect pairing for De Falco’s script. He also happens to draw a pretty sweet Batman—one that probably doesn’t entirely fit with the feel of his other characters, but that is awesome enough to distract me from that visual dissonance. Lucas colors Batman and the other characters wonderfully, but I especially admire his work on the town and other background elements. Stuff like this is pretty awesome, too:

Not much that’s memorable, but fun

You would expect that I’d be tired of reading stories examining Jessica Cruz’s insecurities, but yet again, we have a worthwhile take. It is natural and normal for someone like Jess to assume that the externally confident people around them have no struggles with fear or doubt, and De Falco brings this out nicely. I particularly like how his Jessica points out that Batman uses fear as a weapon.

Ultimately, the impact is reduced by a context that’s difficult to take seriously, but I still like it. And the fun that I ended up having with the simple story is enough for me to call this a success, even if only a moderate one.

Recommended if…

  • You don’t mind taking a break from long arcs and enjoying a simple—even simplistic—one-off.
  • You like dramatic, exaggerated character poses, and over-dramatic, over-exaggerated villains.

Overall

I’m not sure I’ll ever read this again, but as short-term entertainment, I enjoyed it. The political overtones are about as subtle as Nightwing’s disco duds, but the almost abstract contrast between good and bad here makes it easy to follow and digest. Great artwork fits the story perfectly, and almost makes me wish for the dramatic anatomy and poses of yesteryear. Almost…

SCORE: 6.5/10