It’s the end of Justice League #39. The team has lost a battle for the soul of the universe, and there looks to be little hope left for the future. In the eleventh hour, they are presented with one final option: a door to the salvation of reality itself. The Justice League, united in their determination to let hope win the day, race into the door…

What do they find? What do they do? What happens next?

I dunno, I was asking you. I guess the conclusion got lost in the mail. Instead, here’s a story arc about the Eradicator!

Don’t get me wrong – I can’t say I mind the change of pace. I enjoyed Scott Snyder’s run on Justice League for the most part, but it’s nice to tone things down from multiverse-ending threats to… well, regular world-ending threats.

(I think DC has a bit of a scaling problem right now.)

Written by Robert Venditti of Hawkman and Green Lantern fame, and illustrated by the illustrious Doug Mahnke, this issue is mostly setup for the rest of the upcoming story: essentially just providing us with what we already know from solicitations. I wasn’t sure if I liked this book at first, but I’ve softened my opinion on it in writing this review; even some of my favorite comics don’t have the time to establish much in the very first issue. Not only that, but Venditti has been known to write stories that improve over time, his Green Lantern stories in particular getting more and more positive reception as he progressed. With this in mind, I feel this issue works as a solid, if a little generic, beginning to a more relaxing arc for the Justice League.

Well, relaxing by DC standards.

We start this tale as all true stories begin: a former Green Lantern crashes into a cornfield, heralding the arrival of an evil Kryptonian robot. I get it, I do – if it worked in To Kill a Mockingbird, then it works just fine here. What I find interesting about this story, however, is that it doesn’t feel like the beginning of a story, but a continuation of something I haven’t read. I mean this as a compliment – even though the comic is easy to pick up and read without knowing anything beforehand, it still gives the feeling of being a kid and finding a random comic on the shelves of a magazine aisle. I think there are a few reasons this issue gives me that vibe. For one, it plays out like an episode of the old Justice League animated series; and much like that show, each episode doesn’t need to be fantastic for the overall product to be entertaining. Here the team are, joining forces with a guest character to face a new (but familiar) threat from the DC rogues gallery; it’s a tried and true formula, and seems to be a similar approach as to what Peter J Tomasi and Mahnke were doing in the pages of Detective Comics.

More than that, though, the issue takes its time with a few quiet moments that are genuinely appreciated.

Instead of jumping into the action, the issue takes a moment to set up plot threads that will likely develop into substantial moments for each character in later issues. Superman is dealing with a small identity crisis (which I didn’t entirely believe, but makes sense in context), Batman is dealing with the loss of Alfred, John Stewart is learning to be more of a leader, and something is going on with Flash that only Wonder Woman took the time to notice. None of these threads go much of anywhere in this issue, but upon reading it a second time, I enjoyed that Venditti took the time to put these pieces in place. Including your setup as early as possible is going to make the feeling of the pieces coming together that much more satisfying. It also helped to see a little more synergy in this comic – characters are now actually dealing with things that have happened to them in their own stories, such as the reveal of Superman’s identity. While the DC canon right now is the literary equivalent of tangled earphones in your pocket, it’s nice to see some writers attempt a semblance of connectivity, before Dr Manhattan: Wally West Edition retcons the world for the umpteenth time.

As for Doug Mahnke, I don’t think his art is at its best in this issue – but Jesus, what I would give to draw like Mahnke on even his worst day. Doug Mahnke is one of my favourite artists in DC’s creative team, his work on Final Crisis being some of my favorite imagery that you’d find in a superhero comic. I know that not everyone likes his style as much as I do, but to me it’s nice to see a little bit of flavor to these superheroes – which, in many cases, can frankly come off as generic musclemen with a different coat of paint.

If there were any flaws, I would primarily contribute them to time – I can’t imagine that Mahnke had much time to finish this issue, with Justice League handling both a rotating artist roster and a…

Sigh.

Bi-weekly schedule.

I have a slight issue with the Alfred cameo – after rereading it and looking at Venditti’s twitter, I understood that it was intended to be a flashback – but upon an initial read, it felt like it was the part of the present day, and it was a little jarring to see Alfred right before Superman and Green Lantern talk about his death. Perhaps that’s more my fault than the creators’, seeing as it was signposted with a different border and filter, but it’s still something to consider going forward with other flashbacks.

Finally, I want to end the compliment sandwich with a shoutout: colorist David Baron does an excellent job of portraying different scenes in drastically different lighting without it ever seeming jarring, a particularly difficult job when some of the characters in this story have some very vibrant colors. I also would feel remiss if I didn’t also take a moment to admire this awesome effect that was added on the Flash, in which his body always looks like it’s vibrating, even when relatively stationary. It’s a great look, and gives the character an energy that separates him from the rest of the cast.

What this results in is a comic that is fairly surface level, but more rewarding the more you think on the issue. I’m glad that Justice League has slowed down, even if it isn’t for long – it gives me a chance to appreciate these things, instead of being wrapped up in the next insane spectacle.

Recommended If…

  • You’re looking for a comic that gives you the feeling you might have had when watching the old Justice League
  • Snyder’s Justice League was a bit too intense for you, and you’re looking for more of a breather.
  • You run a Sodam Yat stan account on Twitter and are looking for more content. I didn’t know who he was before this issue, so I should probably get on that.
  • Eradicator is your… favorite villain? Okay, I’ll be honest, that part hasn’t sold me yet.

Overall

People who know me would know that I’ve been growing more and more concerned about the place that single issues have in the future of comic books; especially when lots of comics I’ve reviewed lately would likely work better in their collected editions. There’s a voice in my head that can’t help but wonder if this will be one of them – but if each issue plays out like this one does, there might be enough to keep me hooked on a bi-weekly basis. I’m not sure if I’ll love this run or not, but I can appreciate a comic that grows on you, and this one certainly did.

Score: 7/10

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Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.