Every so often when writing my reviews, I need to take a moment to readjust my way of thinking. Whether or not I like a story, I have to remember the hard work that’s being put into publishing these books for everyone to read: the hours of writing, editing, penciling, inking, colouring, lettering and printing that each book goes through, just so assholes like me can tear it to pieces online. It doesn’t necessarily change my opinion on a book, but it’s a useful method that keeps me from being bogged down in negativity. After all, there are people on the other end of this book, and disrespecting the individuals and their hard work benefits no one, even if you’re critiquing it. With that in mind – understanding that I still don’t like this book – I’m gonna spend a dedicated paragraph talking about the elements of the comic that I enjoyed. My thoughts from the first two books remain as fixed as ever for this third and final issue, but bitching about the same thing gets redundant fast – much like a story that tells you the very obvious moral two issues too early.
Okay, no, that’s more complaining. We’ll get back to that.
For starters, I actually enjoy the villain, Queen Siddinx, quite a bit. I mentioned earlier that the designs of these new aliens are rather cool: while their base forms are not much more than weird yellow blobs, their developing into different “races” depending on the religion they follow (the way of the cell or the way of the spark) is pretty interesting, and the adults look a lot more distinct when covered in purple flesh or wires and machinery. Queen Siddinx is covered in both, and they lay out a decent explanation as to why, tying it in with how she manipulates her people. It’s one of the more interesting elements of the book, even if she eventually devolves into the usual monologuing bad guy by the end.
Writer Simon Spurrier does something else with this issue that I like, involving an antagonistic alien race. Creating a species that operates in the present tense alone, and refuses to acknowledge the past or future tense, is both intriguing from a writing standpoint, and amusing when observing its execution. It doesn’t feel like it would hold up under closer scrutiny, but it adds a comedic element to the book that I think the team could have leaned into more. I also like the way the actual plot comes together! It’s nothing complex, for sure, but there’s always an inherent appeal to the dramatic irony of heroes keeping vital information from the audience, allowing them to pull the rug out from under the villain at the last moment. Watching the heroes in their element and doing what they do best after facing adversity is an easy way to make me smile, no matter the context.
For those reasons, I think I can understand why someone might have a good time with this book, if nothing else. Like most of the Justice League stories I’ve had to review for the website so far, the book is essentially harmless, and when you don’t feel pressured to make a book vitally important to the DC universe, there’s no reason you can’t have a little fun with it. That said, I’d like to make a case for why this is a harmful thought process.
Almost every comic book under DC’s main printing line operates under a strict culture of deadlines. This is, of course, understandable: wheels need to keep turning, and the books have to be released one way or another, if DC wants to keep to its schedule. But if something doesn’t go according to plan – such as, for example, Robert Venditti having to leave Justice League early – then DC needs to tackle that problem as quickly as possible, and find a story that replaces it as soon as they can. Here, we see a company not operating on a desire for good stories, but from a desire to keep Justice League as a popular, bi-monthly book that keeps selling copies. It’s from this place that The Rule is born. I have complained about Aaron Lopresti’s art for the past three issues, and those same complaints remain true here. Does anyone think these complaints would be as significant if Justice League were monthly once again, like it was for the entirety of the New 52? I don’t think so! And we know that Justice League can be monthly, if DC so chooses. Spurrier and Lopresti could have been given the same number of issues to develop their story, but with more time to refine it, and it would most likely have been a change for the better. Would I have liked it more? I can’t say. But by suggesting that a story that comes from a rushed place is acceptable content, we lower our standards and encourage DC to produce more mediocre work in their week-to-week comic books. Lopresti illustrated three of these issues in under a month! Does that sound like a work environment that encourages its artist to deliver a quality product?
The real insult to injury is that DC has the audacity to label this an extra-sized “Anniversary Issue”, as if it’s earned any prestige for churning out another 50 issues under this environment. All this really does is give Lopresti more work to do in such a little timespan, and gives Spurrier an excuse to make this entire arc longer than it needs to be. What are we celebrating? In the final splash of the story, where Wonder Woman once again repeats the obvious lesson we learned at the start of the arc, are we supposed to feel vindicated by the heroes once again conquering an ultimately superfluous adversary? I can’t find it in myself to feel anything positive at all. All I feel is disappointment: disappointment that I’ve had the immense privilege of reviewing one of DC’s flagship books, only to watch it churn out content by necessity instead of legitimate passion. I have reviewed bad books before, but I respect a bad book far more than I do a passionless one.
- Like I have said verbatim for what seems like the past ten issues, “you want a fun, harmless story starring your favorite characters”. I don’t want that so much anymore.
- You enjoy a comic book attempting to take iconic characters into new environments, whether or not you think it works.
- You’re generally unconcerned with any of my grouchy rant, which is totally fair.
I don’t want to invalidate people who enjoy this arc, or any of the content that I dislike. That’s most certainly not my intention when I write my reviews, and I hope the people who do read my content understand this. I can even see why people would like The Rule, despite my three consecutive reviews suggesting otherwise. The reason I am being harsh on this book is because I came into this job from a place of extreme passion and enthusiasm about comic books! I love the format, I love the characters they’ve nurtured, and I adore the interesting places that different creators choose to take them. So, when I see a book that feels like it’s made by mandate rather than creative expression, I in turn feel disheartened. Reviewing one of them is annoying. Reviewing two of them is frustrating. Reviewing three of them is sad. And seeing as this is the tenth issue of Justice League treading water but refusing to swim, I can’t encourage anyone to spend money on taking the dive.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.
Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch