Things are changing. Batman’s crisis of confidence continues, and his team rises to meet it with a crisis of their own. Is a hiatus really in store for the Dark Knight—and who will take his place in the interim? Find out in Justice League #38. Big spoilers ahead

Yuck

I do not like this. After what seemed like a promising Rerebirth when Priest took over for Bryan Hitch, things have come slamming to a halt with Justice League #38. Priest may have slicker dialogue, but it adorns characterizations born of ignorance, contempt, or a mixture of the two.

Beaten over the head with Flash Facts

Priest has followed a broad formula in his run so far: anchor each issue with an urgent conflict, then take advantage of a captive audience and explore the deeper philosophical questions. #38 falls in line with this framework, but whereas the previous issues’ “struggles-of-the-week” had fairly obvious connections to the “real problem,” this one presents as its anchor a (seemingly) disembodied Flash adventure that sees the Scarlet Speedster risk his life for a Lexcorp space pilot. It also sees the Scarlet Speedster talk entirely too much, eroding my interest with page after page of matter-of-fact Flashsplaining.

I’m not cold; I’m Batman

Priest’s Batman has been a weak link all along, but there has been plenty to distract from him before now. Here, though, he’s featured in several scenes, and he’s a different kind of strange in each one. Jessica comes to pick him up in Nepal, and when she asks if he’s cold, his reply strikes me as a bit silly:

It reads more like a caricature of Batman than something we ought to take seriously, but there is no context for that sort of interpretation, so it sticks out.

I also continue to feel that Bruce’s crisis of confidence doesn’t seem quite right. I’m not opposed to him doubting himself or questioning his efficacy as leader of the team, but let’s not forget where this is coming from: a dead nun and a security compromise. If Batman wouldn’t quit after Joker crowbarred and blew up Jason Todd, then why would he think about pulling himself off the board now? So what if he made a mistake several issues ago? The nun’s death is still on the overzealous law enforcement that swooped in and spooked the terrorists. Bats made a mistake in his initial plan, but he’s always been adaptable, and has always needed to be adaptable. Take the lawmen out of the equation, Batman adapts and the team saves that nun. Batman is smart enough to understand that.

I’m not sure I buy the rest of League’s level of concern about Batman’s leadership, either. Priest attempts to use Clark to voice my doubts, but that doesn’t make it any less strange that Wonder Woman just now has a problem with Batman’s operations in Gotham or his second League with Lobo, Frost, and the others. On the latter point, I could see someone retorting that maybe Diana only lately found out about it, but that seems unlikely. And at any rate, we readers have known of the existence of that team for a long time now, so it feels like arbitrary, writer-manufactured conflict instead of something that would actually create tension between these characters.

The last thing Jessica Cruz’s anxiety needs is Catwoman

So this happens:

Why? I don’t know. It feels like it comes completely out of left field, and when you consider that she calls him “sir” pretty much all the time, it feels slightly gross.

Out of the Woods, but not out of the woods yet

We’re still in the first arc, and Priestice League has already fallen victim—twice—to the curse of double-shipping: substitute art teams. Santucci’s layouts work well—especially during Barry’s E.V.A.—but his character proportions are incredibly inconsistent and distracting. Sollazzo’s colors help to smooth it out a little, but not enough, so we end up with a book that is functional, but still largely ugly.

Schu does an admirable job with the ridiculous amount of text thrown his way. This reads long, but only because of the number of words. I’m not crazy about the ugly, graded caption boxes used for Barry, but who knows how much of that is Schu and how much is editorial. Either way, it’s not a good look.

Recommended if…

  • You don’t care about accuracy in characterization.
  • You don’t care about consistency in artwork.
  • You don’t care.

Overall

As if to make it that much harder to wait for Scott Snyder’s run, Priest turns in his first true stinker on Justice League. Batman’s characterization has been poor all along, but it gets more room to breathe this time, and the ship goes down with its captain. Inconsistent artwork and several pages full of ugly Flash captions make it as hard to look at as it is to read. Even if you’re on-board with Priest’s story, I would still suggest skipping this chapter.

SCORE: 4/10