Okay, so I think I understand what Venditti is going for in this Justice League run.
In this comic’s first 39 issues & change, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV crafted an incredibly detailed mythos involving characters from within the DC Multiverse and beyond; as a result, many of the threats the League faced were of an appropriate scale. From issue to issue, the team fought against nigh-impossible odds that threatened reality itself, and the room they had to breathe between these pages was short. The comic spent its time creating a lot of events for the rest of the DCU to react to, but there wasn’t much time spent reacting: reacting to events in Batman and Superman, reacting to what other writers choose to do with the characters, and reacting to each other, outside of said cosmic conflict.
In Venditti’s first arc, he seems to be making a deliberate effort to pull back on that pacing. The League may be dealing with multiversal threats, but there are also plenty of world-ending issues for them to handle. Tackling problems of a smaller scale is a double-edged sword; while it can feel like a downgrade from the previous story, it also allows for quieter moments, where one can establish the headspace of a character. I don’t think this book does that phenomenally, but it does provide good material for a casual read, giving every character something to do and say, while setting up the Justice Doom War arc that will succeed it in the timeline.
The plot itself is nothing to write home about: what you see is essentially what you get, regarding Eradicator’s invasion of Earth. It’s very standard fare, bad guys attacking and good guys trying to stop them. The intrigue comes from the character moments in between the fights, along with the method they’ll use to defeat this new enemy. As such, I’m going to focus on what Venditti has done with each character so far, what I think of it, and where he might be going with them:
First off, Superman. From what I’ve read, Brian Michael Bendis has so far done a pretty good job of setting the stage for how each of Superman’s allies and enemies have reacted to his unmasking (hard not to when you’re in charge of most every Superman book). Here, though, I appreciate the effort Venditti is making to incorporate that into the team dynamic we can only get in Justice League, along with some interesting commentary from a couple of innocent bystanders. The opening scene is probably my favourite part of the book, with two regular people chatting about Superman before being interrupted by the man himself.
Even if it doesn’t add much to the character’s journey, it feels rewarding to read if you’re keeping up with the rest of the DCU!
Batman, meanwhile, is reeling from what happened in his own book (as I’m sure everyone here is well aware of), though we don’t see much of that this issue. What we do see, however, is a rather interesting monologue from the Caped Crusader, as he manages to convince Madam Xanadu to fight with the League. I don’t know if it’s perfect – it doesn’t really speak to the objections Madam Xanadu had in a previous panel – but I like seeing writers attempting to portray Batman as someone who does have skill in negotiation and empathy, while hinting at self-esteem issues he may have.
On the subject of Madam Xanadu, the decision to make her a significant guest character is an interesting one. It makes sense for plot-related reasons – magic being a significant fighting force against Kryptonians – but I’ll likely need more than that to go on if I’m going to be actively invested in her. Regardless, I’m enjoying her presence! It feels very reminiscent of a Justice League cartoon I might watch as a kid, where the League encounters a new and intriguing combination of heroes and villains in their latest adventure.
My biggest issue right now lies with Eradicator. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t find him particularly interesting? I’m sure there are good stories with him – I’m of the opinion that most every character is capable of a good story – but the concept of a generic evil robot doesn’t jump out to me as particularly compelling, especially in a story that’s relying mainly on its small character moments. One could argue that it gives the other characters more room to shine, but Eradicator has a significant presence in this issue; more so than some of the other League members.
Said other characters definitely don’t have large roles in this issue, but you can tell Venditti is making plans for each of them. Green Lantern is gravitating more and more towards leadership, Flash continues to balk under pressure (is that relevant to his own comic?) and Wonder Woman… gets kidnapped? We’ll see where that one goes. The story is a very quick read and doesn’t have a lot of meat to it; but there’s a benefit to that as well, if you’re looking for a DC book that’s happy to indulge in comfortable, familiar territory.
Then we get to the art, and I start to become a little annoyed. This is not a dig at Aaron Lopresti by any stretch of the imagination, mind you – my issue lies with the biweekly schedule of this book. In my review of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, I spoke about how even a monthly book can force an artist to rush their work, losing some of its quality in the process – a biweekly schedule does much the same, except a rotating artist roster is needed to rush the issues out even faster. Now, not only do I have to compare Lopresti’s work to one of my favourite artists, but I struggle to associate an identity to this story arc. A comic book is in equal parts a collaboration between a writer and an illustrator, and I take issue with forgoing that collaboration in favor of a faster release date. I feel many books would benefit from being monthly instead of biweekly, this issue included, and I can’t help but hope for a return to a monthly schedule once whatever happens in 5G comes to its conclusion.
Part of my reason for saying this is because I don’t want to be too harsh on Lopresti’s work, just because it was preceded by Mahnke’s. While I am certainly not as big of a fan, as I find his style less distinctive than Mahnke’s, it’s clear that no one is slacking on this issue. In particular, I like his work on Madam Xanadu and her magic charms, which really pop on the page, with the help of some well-placed border overlap and David Baron’s colours!
I also don’t think I should understate the effort that goes into an “easy read”, because a lot of that burden falls on Lopresti. An “easy read” isn’t just a short issue with little going on inside it – it’s also an issue that feels effortless on the eyes, guiding your hand from panel to panel, where you don’t know how far you’ve read until the issue is over. When it comes to scenes that are as action-focused as this one, choreography is vital in that respect: like SFX in a movie, some of its best examples are those you barely even register. Look in the following panel, how the Flash’s action guides you from one side of the page to the other, hops into the next panel, and helps to guide your eyes towards Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. There’s a lot of effort going into action that most readers will gloss over in a few seconds, and I appreciate that.
There’s a lot of legwork that goes into every comic, and this issue is a great example of it. Even if it doesn’t have a lot to say on its own (which is fine, it’s issue 2 of a low-stakes story arc), and doesn’t provide anything amazing, there’s still a lot to discuss regarding the character work, the art composition, and what creators have to do to get a story out at such a fast pace!
Plus, there’s this part.
- Classic comic book adventures and Justice League Animated vibes are what you’re looking for in a story.
- You want something that you don’t need to be heavily invested in to enjoy.
- …Again, Eradicator? Seriously, who here is a huge Eradicator fan? I’m not kidding, I genuinely want to know. His goggles are kinda cool.
I think the more of DC you’ve read, the more rewarding this comic might be for you. Not because of the events that take place inside it – it’s nothing new for a superhero comic – but because if you’ve read every other story that takes place before and after it, you know how much each character has been going through. So do these creators, I think, and the issue really feels like they’re giving both the characters and the audience some time to take it in.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.