Justice League of America #26 review

The saga of Angor comes to a close in the final chapter of “New Life and Death,” which surprisingly ends up being one of the more satisfying installments of Justice League of America in some time.

I say “surprisingly” because I haven’t been invested in this story, but I still found myself moved by the measures taken to save Angor.  It’s strange, too, because that turn comes relatively late in the issue, but it almost makes this entire story worth the telling, if not this issue in itself.

A lot of my initial apprehension this week was due to the pacing of the story.  A good half of the issue is devoted to a fist fight between Batman, Black Canary, and Dreamslayer against Lord Havok.  Under the watchful gaze of the Adjudicator, the quartet duke it out for the fate of Angor, hoping to reach their own individual ends to save the doomed world.  The fight itself is fine, competently penciled by Miguel Mendonça and colored by the inimitable Chris Sotomayor.  It occasionally looks a bit sterile, as the darker hues of the characters don’t pop against the backgrounds, but it’s easy enough to follow.  I particularly like how Havok’s dialogue stands out against the others, its jagged red border around the black balloon appropriately reflecting his rough menace.  An inspired choice by letterer Clayton Cowles, to be sure.

Yet as I said, at first, it’s pretty much a standard fight.  The pacing of it is fine, and the choreography is relatively engaging, but duking it out for the fate of an entire world is… kind of anticlimactic.

But then Batman steps up with a decision that, at its core, captures the nature of his character pretty remarkably.

We like to think of Batman as a grim avenger of the night, a dark detective and opponent of evil.  He is all of those things, to be sure, but he’s also a hero, plain and simple.  He took up his crusade to ensure that nobody else had to suffer the pain and loss he felt when his parents were murdered.  Having Batman get involved with the fate of a world that isn’t his own to begin with is a matter of discussion for another day, along with whether or not he should be on a team of super-beings, but the core motivation still stands: Bruce is Batman to help people.  To save people.  That’s what Batman is, and that’s what he does.

No spoilers that he doesn’t actually end up sacrificing himself, I’m sure.  Instead, the outcome is a bit abrupt, with a last minute heel turn that didn’t have much time to develop.  Any other month, week, or even day and I may have dismissed it and been more critical, but something about it moved me still.  Seeing Batman willing to sacrifice himself to save billions of people, and in turn inspiring others to make that same sacrifice was incredibly powerful.  So much so that, as I alluded to earlier, it retroactively atoned for quite a few of this arc’s weaknesses.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a great arc, but it’s certainly a strong conclusion.

Strong as some of the narrative is, the book still has a problem with balancing each of the different team members.  Batman and Black Canary get the vast majority of the screen time here, though Dinah honestly doesn’t have much to do other than fight.  She came along with Bruce despite his objections, yet she didn’t really serve much of a purpose on the mission anyway.  I like Dinah, don’t get me wrong, but any potential for her to serve this narrative was left unrealized.

Same goes for the rest of the team, most of whom get at most a page or so to do anything here.  I will say that there’s a great scene between Lobo and the Atom that left me with a smile, so there’s that.  Still, even as it approaches its final stretch, this book has never felt like a team book.  The characters are all likable and have individual moments where they shine, but a book called Justice League of America should be about the Justice League of America.  Even if it doesn’t succeed to that end, though, there are some genuinely strong smaller moments that at least make it worth checking out.

Recommended if:

  • You like selfless acts of heroism.
  • You’ve been wanting to know how the Angor story resolves.

Overall: By leaning into some strong character work and solid emotional beats, the finale to “New Life and Death” ends up being one of the better issues of Justice League of America in recent memory.  As the series approaches its finale, it’s become clear that the point and purpose of this team together will likely never be realized, but if you’ve stuck around long enough to see it through there are some strong beats here and there that make it worth it.

SCORE: 7/10