The greatest Robin of all time comes into his own! Come see Jarro swing the pendulum for Justice and Batarang Doom in the face, in Justice League #29!
Some so-so recap
Justice League #29 is billed as a Justice/Doom War prelude, and as such, a good chunk of it is dedicated to catching us up on where things have been in Justice League these many issues. This recap is a good thing in principle, but is by far the weakest part of an issue whose highs are some of the highest you could hope for in a comic book. You could argue that the catching up is what this issue needed to be, and that the rest simply helps make it more palatable, but we’ll talk more about that in a moment.
Functionally, it works. New readers should now have some idea how we got here, and those of us who’ve followed along from the start should appreciate the refresher. Unfortunately, there’s also a mountain of text accompanying that refresher, and the text is not always quite as refined as I might like (repetitive word use that might have been cleaned up with a few more reads). And while the recap of the “seven dark energies” initially excited me—we’re finally finishing this topic! yay!—I found myself scratching my head about some of them. I remember the Ultraviolet, the Still Force, and the Tear of Extinction; but, the Void Wind, the Black Apple, and the Sixth Note? I think this might be the first time I’m hearing these words at all. The art in the panel describing the Void Wind suggests that it perhaps surfaced in Justice League: Dark, while the other two feel like post facto explanations of events from the past few months in Justice League.
The thing is, I’m sure they aren’t just tacked on—but they were glossed over in a way that the three initial energies were not. So, as a reader, it feels like we got a fairly well-developed ramp up, followed by a lot of hand-waving and yada yada…ENERGIES. The methods used to introduce the energies went from detailed, real-time narrative to something more hurried and retrospective, and it just feels weird. However:
Who gives a crap? This is Jarro’s book
As I said earlier, you might make the argument that recap is what Justice League #29 needs to do, and you’re probably right. From the perspective of the upcoming Justice/Doom War, Snyder, Tynion and team need to make this a suitable jumping-on point so they aren’t selling people 28 issues of catch-up. But—even for the uninitiated—this book does something far more important than bringing us up to speed on the events of the past year. It reminds us of what Justice League can be—what it has been—on Snyder’s watch: a book where the ridiculously funny can live alongside the grand and epic. This is Jarro’s tale.
Ever since Starro’s turn in No Justice—a turn referenced here in the pages of Justice League #29—there has been a concurrent hilarity and heroism about the once-Conqueror. This dynamic duality was inherited by Jarro, the Starro fragment that calls Batman “dad,” and fights for justice alongside the world’s best heroes. And that duality works very well here in #29, too. Much of the book is (clearly) hilariously-narrated by Jarro, who—not for the first time—fantasizes about being Robin and saving the day. I won’t spoil any of the funnier bits here, but suffice it to say that preview pages sent out by DC don’t even show the best of it, which is saying something when you consider how good those were:
But beyond all of the funny, we also see echoes of the self-sacrificial heroism that made Starro’s story so inspiring in No Justice. That Snyder could take a concept as ludicrous as a mind-controlling space starfish and give it emotional depth—it’s been amazing to watch, and I’m glad that he’s still working it. I don’t know about you, but this is why I read comic books. I look at some of my favorite collections—the first Amazing Spider-Man omnibus, Hickman’s Fantastic Four, Morrison’s Batman run, Kirby’s Mister Miracle—they all feature some of the most outlandish, fantastical ideas; some of the funniest, goofiest moments; and yet, they all manage to pack a mountain of emotional weight (yes, even Mister Miracle if you know where to look).
Most popular media try to present shards of the human experience. Super hero films, for example, are serious, or they’re funny, but seldom both. The best of it—and I would put the best comics in this tier—recognize that real life is an unpredictable mixture of all sorts of experiences, feelings, and tones. Hearty laughter at funerals, real-life gunmen shooting up movie theaters, intimate moments spoiled by rogue flatulence: life is varied and unpredictable, and the best stories embrace life as it is, rather than fragmenting it to establish some false sense of order.
An unfairly short word about Bruno Redondo and Hi-Fi
The artwork in Justice League #29 is lush and exciting. Redondo and Hi-Fi do outstanding work, with clean, delightful textures and excellent visual storytelling. If this is to be Jarro’s finest hour, then he couldn’t have asked for finer representation on the page. It’s wonderful. Here, I’ll let some more of it speak for itself:
Justice League #29’s recapping is, at times, a slog; but the Star of this show is Jarro, and no Starro has ever shone brighter. At its peaks, this book is hilarious, action-packed, and even heartwarming—and that’s more than enough to make up for the valleys. Even if you don’t make a habit of buying Justice League, this one is worth it all by itself.
DISCLAIMER: Batman News received an advance review copy of this book from DC.