I wonder, how many of you guys play tabletop games?

Dungeons and Dragons is, of course, the most popular of the bunch, though I’m also partial to Vampire: The Masquerade – if you can find a time to do it, they provide a fun mental exercise that puts you and a group of friends through an adventure that can start small and build into something larger. A lot of effort is put into crafting the world you journey through, and that’s thanks to the Dungeon Master (or Story Teller). Not only do they need to create something everyone is going to enjoy, but they have to leave room for it to continue and grow – even if it ends prematurely, there’s always more show. This is what this run of Justice League feels like so far: a brief, small-scale campaign that could lead to larger stories down the line. My main issue with that, however, is we know that Robert Venditti is leaving Justice League in June. How much room does this run have to grow in that time, and how much more show can we really expect?

As expected, this issue plays out like I figured it would in my last review: a final battle that results in little to no consequence, and an epilogue that would tease the next story. Of course, you can condense most stories like that if you want: suddenly Watchmen becomes a story about nothing happening until everyone dies in the last chapter. The question is, how is that delivered? I have to say, I liked a lot of what the final battle had to offer. Eradicator presents himself as a threat that directly challenges each member of the Justice League in a compelling fistfight, culminating in a few more of those character spotlights I’ve mentioned in each review. They’re often the best parts of this story arc: Batman’s monologue to Xanadu, Flash’s statement to the Daxamites, and now an issue with significant dialogue from both Superman and Wonder Woman. It’s nice to see this – even if you could get a lot of this issue from other, stronger books, it’s also providing what I felt Snyder and Tynion’s Justice League lacked in some moments. Even if it’s only the Earth at stake here, you feel how important that is to these characters, and it helps to ground the story (even if you know they’ll all come out of it okay).

Honestly though, there isn’t much to be said about the writing in this issue that I haven’t said about earlier issues: I’ve made my thoughts on this pleasant yet generic interlude clear by now. What I can definitely talk about is why I think this issue is one of the better ones, and that’s entirely due to Doug Mahnke’s stellar art. I’m SUCH a fan of his work, and I honestly feel that his work on Detective Comics and, now, this issue, has been some of his best content yet. I can’t say I can do a great job of putting a pin on why that is – perhaps it’s his linework, and how he defines faces and the smallest of details with lots of lines and cross hatching. Perhaps it’s because his panel composition is dynamic and impactful, like a film director knowing exactly how best to get across the force of a character’s punches.

What I definitely can say is that he understands weight: the weight of an action scene, the weight of a character, and the weight their expressions can carry. That, along with an inking and colouring team (Richard Friend and David Baron) who compliment Mahnke well, elevates an issue quite a bit for me: I know some people disagree with this assessment, but I often much prefer a substandard story with fantastic art to a great story with poor art. One has the potential to be great but is hindered from what it could be, while another is elevated beyond what you’d expect it to be, becoming better as a direct result.

(Yes, I know the art in The Golden Child was great and I still gave it a 3, shut up.)

All in all, I think the art does a good enough job of making this a more than satisfying conclusion to a story arc that doesn’t provide much incentive to read it, beyond it being Justice League – all the better for me, honestly, because I always like being pleasantly surprised.

Recommended If…

  • Doug Mahnke’s work is a selling point for you!
  • You’d like to see the conclusion of a story that could probably have worked just as well in fewer issues.
  • You like a story that isn’t afraid to take its time to linger on characters that might have been caught up in the action of the previous run.

Overall

Bringing this review back to my initial analogy, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with a writer’s run beginning with something small like this: a DM never knows how much time they really have with their team, and should prioritize a good time over a long time. And this book is a good time! It’s a shame to know that Venditti’s run won’t last long, and that I likely can’t expect much of a larger scale from him – but I’m hoping that he manages to dive a little deeper into the characters while he’s here, so that we can all say that he made the most of the time he had.

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.