At this point, everyone and their mother has a different opinion on Future State – and while I still ultimately like the change of pace, I can’t deny the validity to a lot of people’s complaints. There are a few standouts throughout each time period the event is trying to portray, but the way they all connect is messy; muddled past the point of a coherent timeline, and a little lacking in communication between creators. The second issue of Justice League – and its Justice League Dark backup – is a pretty good example of this. While I didn’t hate either story, they’re emblematic of why it’s so difficult to get a good read on what DC is trying to accomplish over these two months… besides, perhaps, getting their house in order.
Williamson’s story had a pretty good first issue, to my eye – while barebones in some respects, it gave us a decent idea of the team dynamics at play with this new, diverse Justice League, consisting of several newer DC characters that we’ve met over the past few years. The story was more focused on internal relationships, rather than external conflict… but now that the second issue brings the external conflict into play, I don’t think the story manages to hold water anywhere near as well. If I’m honest, my main problem with this comic lies in what I found to be the strong suit of the first issue: the characters.
Perhaps it’s a problem of circumstance. Reading issue #1, I was enjoying the characters working off one another in a more relaxed environment, when they have the time to ponder their nature as members as the biggest superhero team in the world. Here, though, the League are presented with a problem to overcome: trapped on a fiery world, only with a limited time to escape before they succumb to the toxic air. This causes the team to come to blows, on account of… well, this is the problem: whatever issues the teammates have with each other, I honestly don’t believe it. The characters get out of the situation they’re in rather quickly, so the bickering they exchange with each other feels incredibly tacked-on and contrived. While most of the League succumb to this problem, Batman is by far the worst offender.
I’m not going to pretend that Jace is the deepest and most fleshed-out character yet – but as someone who’s been reviewing every issue of The Next Batman, I feel I have some authority in speaking to what feels out of character for him. Unlike the previous issue, Jace plays a specific role in this comic, and Williamson writes him as if he were no different than Bruce Wayne’s Batman in the present day. His attitude is the same, his mannerisms are the same, and if you had replaced his skin color, I’d honestly be convinced this is just Bruce in a different outfit. Jace has no individuality here, which is a problem when this is one of the books trying to convince us that the character (who I actually like!) is worth giving a chance.
The other characters fare better to at least some degree. I wasn’t particularly impressed by anything Superman or Wonder Woman had to offer, and some comments on my review of the first issue said that Green Lantern felt a little out of character. The standouts of Aquawoman and Flash, however, remain standouts here – and their interactions are the saving grace of the book, even if they’re a little basic. The conflict of Issue #2 boils down to a fight filled with incredibly predictable tropes, with the Justice League using what they know about one another to take down the villainous Hyperclan, who have disguised themselves as the group. The Hyperclan are messy and unwieldly antagonists – which shouldn’t really be a surprise, considering Williamson attempts to make an entire team of evildoers seem threatening in the span of a single issue, while also being defeated during the climax. There’s no real weight to the comic, and I think a simpler and less cluttered adversary would have served the book better.
That said, a serious hand to Robson Rocha for handling an honestly difficult script. There are moments here that involve several clones fighting one another in wide, double-page spreads – something that a lesser artist would struggle with, but Rocha handles with grace and efficiency. The fight is meant to be a little disorienting, but Rocha is able to anchor you with the characters you know are the true protagonists of the story. While the Hyperclan designs are overcomplicated and far too numerous – and some facial expressions feel like they were a little rushed, as compared to Rocha’s usual work – he manages to carry the book to a somewhat satisfying end, which includes a nice spread of potential future Justice League members. I really wish we saw more of Rocha’s work on a more significant Justice League arc, so I hope the comics he does in the future are of an even better calibre. As it is, this comic is perfectly satisfactory – but hardly enough to make me wish the Justice League of the future was the Justice League of today.
Justice League Dark: Prophéties
I have less to say about Part Two of “Prophéties”, but that’s only because a little less happens in this issue. Having spent Part One of the story attempting to set up all the dominos of DC’s magical world, Part Two intends to knock them down one after another, in a climax that focuses primarily on Etrigan and Doctor Fate. Zatanna, Detective Chimp, Constantine and even Wonder Woman receive brief moments to shine, but the narrative here ultimately revolves around the rhythmic Demon of Hell and the latest owner of Nabu’s ancient helm. As someone who is tangentially familiar with Etrigan more than anything else, this story did a wonderful job of selling me on the character as a “new reader”. There is a nobility to his sinful nature, and a code he tends to operate by that makes him empathetic to the audience. Khalid as Doctor Fate, meanwhile, is a vessel for the words of wisdom that are imparted on the characters by the end of the two-parter, and while it wasn’t anything we’re not used to, it did invest me in the narrative as much as it could with the story’s limited page count.
Marcio Takara’s artwork is a little less filtered by sinister flashback vignettes in this issue, so the overall product is somwhat clearer and crisper as a result. The work is as wonderful as always, and I want to bring particular attention to how well Takara works with colourist Marcelo Maiolo. While most every character here has a clear silhouette, Merlin and his Knights cast a very jagged, angular shadow, their armour riddled with spikes and hard edges to give these villains a suitably threatening aura. Takara makes their figures sinister enough, but the designs themselves are at risk of becoming bland and unrecognisable – until Maiolo adds some all-important highlights to the armour, allowing it to receive the level of distinction it needs to be visually appealing.
Writer Ram V also does something that I think is important to note, which is that he manages to find an interesting method of tying Future State back to current continuity. It’s not much to go on, but it’s a line delivered by Doctor Face to Etrigan near the end of the story – and it got me wondering about the true impact of these books in the context of the larger DCU. Will they be forgotten to the sands of time? Will some factors stick around? Is this all just a copy of Future’s End? Maybe so – but lines such as this make me wonder if we may yet see a clearer vision of what this event means for the future. It’s a shame that level of planning hasn’t gone into Future State itself.
- Ram V’s Justice League Dark is your jam, and you’re looking for a chapter that just might connect to later issues!
- You’re into the concept of new Justice League members, and less so the execution of how they work in the story.
- You happen to be the one person alive who’s a diehard fan of the Hyperclan.
On the one hand, you have a book that seems to tiptoe the line between Future State and the current DCU – on the other, you have a book that ATTEMPTS to embrace Future State, only to be held back by the same issues that plague mainline continuity. This is a great reminder that, while a change in characters and creators can be good, it doesn’t automatically mean a positive uptick in quality – even though this book could have been a whole lot worse.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.
Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch