An earlier version of this review mixed up artists Frazer Irving and Bruno Redondo. We regret the error, and it has been corrected.

Aquaman has been spearedtridented by Poseidon! Why would the decrepit old sea god do such a thing? Not cool, bro! See if Wonder Woman beats the bags out from under his eyes, in Justice League #12!

A great story

I’ve been loving Drowned Earth—it’s the best event DC Comics has published since Darkseid War. The stakes are high, the characters many and varied, and the drama deep. Justice League #12 takes up the third installment of the event proper, and it has all of those ingredients that have made the big picture so entertaining.

The book is somewhat framed by Black Manta—a formative experience with his father in the past, and an expression of that formation in the present. We’ve seen this sort of bookending all throughout this run of Justice League, and I’ve always enjoyed it. And even though this issue is not written by Scott Snyder—a fact that I believe plays into its problems with dialogue—the framing works very well.

Beyond that, the war-on-many-fronts that we’ve been enjoying in past installments comes to a head, and it is very exciting. There are some really great moments for Aquaman, Mera, Batman, and the Joker. There is much to like in the story here, and some of the dialogue is quite good, too.

But a lot of the dialogue is not quite good, too.

Unfortunately, the lion’s share of the dialogue is a mixture of so-so and varying degrees of poor. Sometimes, it seems like a page never got a second pass during writing or editing—if it had, it might have had one or two words tweaked and read a lot better. At other times, it’s convoluted “head-speak” that no person would ever utter aloud. And throughout, there are moments where established characters speak out-of-character—particularly one very egregious example at the end. I’m no expert on the historical interpretations of the character in question, but Tynion’s dialogue in that moment goes against what we’ve seen in Justice League and the early days of Rebirth. In fact, it goes against earlier characterization in this very issue.

It’s unfortunate. Aquaman #42 is also out this week, and Dan Abnett’s dialogue there is much better. I wish DC had given this issue—Justice League #12—to him.

Great artwork, oddly divided

There are pages in this issue from Bruno Redondo and Sunny Gho, and pages from Frazer Irving. Both aesthetics look great, and the visual storytelling is good throughout. But, instead of a logical division of the work—maybe give Irving everything in the Graveyard of Gods and the rest to Redondo and Gho—we get a hodgepodge, with Irving taking the first scene in the Graveyard, but then the last eight pages straight, regardless of context. It doesn’t wreck my experience of the book, but it’s such an odd choice, and I wish they’d worked it out so that the divide could have made some sense.

Recommended if…

  • You’re reading Drowned Earth. This one doesn’t have the greatest dialogue, but it’s still strong in the story.
  • You’re a Black Manta fan—this one is more about him than any prior issue of Justice League in this run.
  • You don’t mind a mixture of artists in a single issue. Irving, Gho, and Redondo are all quite good, even though the two styles in play are not complimentary.

Overall

The dialogue in Justice League #12 is not great, but it works well enough. The story is still very intriguing, and as the Drowned Earth conflict comes to a head, the excitement is high, and I’m desperate to read the conclusion.

SCORE: 8/10