Well, we knew this was going to happen sooner or later.
Brian Michael Bendis entering the world of DC Comics was one of the biggest creative shakeups that the two companies have had in some time… though I can’t say I’m all for what DC got out of the deal. From Daredevil to Immortal Hulk, from Empyre to X-Men, Marvel has been delivering some pretty good – and consistently good – comics as of late, taking their world in some interesting new directions. Meanwhile, if you’ve been reading our team’s recent reviews, you’d know the sentiment is not exactly shared with DC’s latest endeavors – and Bendis’ contributions to the world of DC haven’t done much to truly allay fears of the brand’s future.
Fortunately for Bendis, he’s starting his run at the safest possible time: no matter how good or bad this comic is, I can guarantee it won’t be the most controversial Justice League thing released this week. As someone who enjoyed his Action Comics run for some time, I’m happy to go into this book with an open mind – so let’s find out where this renowned author will be taking DC’s largest comic! After that, we’ll be getting into Justice League Dark – a shorter but equally important element to this comic and its increased price point.
Justice League: Prisms
For a five-dollar comic, there isn’t much content of real substance in this opening issue – and while I’ll continue to be frustrated by this format, I have a feeling I’m just going to have to accept this going forward. Fortunately, what little we do have isn’t half bad! Bendis positions the League in a much calmer status quo than that of Scott Snyder’s run, and it’s a much-needed reset after the events of Death Metal. There are a lot of characters at play in this comic – and while it’s a genuine shame that Martian Manhunter is no longer on the team, the additions of Green Arrow and Black Canary are very much welcome. A conversation between the two is what sets off the issue, and it appears to be Bendis’ mission statement for his run – an attempt to make the League more involved and closer with the people they swear to protect. I like that angle – it seems like an appropriate topic to address when we live in a world that puts more and more value into accountability and transparency from those in power.
Meanwhile, the issue also introduces three new players to the League: Black Adam, Naomi, and a mysterious horned invader. I’m a big fan of what I’ve read of Naomi so far, so her inclusion gets me pretty excited – I’m going to try reading all of her original series before coming back to the next issue! On the flip side, I have zero enthusiasm for this new villain – their dialogue is peppy and engaging to a point, but reminds me far too much of countless other Bendis characters and provides little design-wise that manages to interest me. Black Adam is seated somewhere in the middle of this. I think his storytelling potential as a League member is honestly quite high, but I don’t have a good gauge on if Bendis is the man for the job. There’s a lot of potential here, and it’s too early to tell if it’ll be squandered or not – but I’m certainly on board for whatever this creative team has to try.
David Marquez handles Justice League’s artwork, and I’m a little mixed on how much I enjoy it – despite knowing it’s a perfect style for Bendis’ writing. On the one hand, it’s obvious Marquez is very good at his craft! Everything in the comic is crisp, clear and distinct: despite being a comic with dialogue coming from everywhere, Marquez manages to never make a panel that feels too bloated with characters. On that note, props to letterer Josh Reed for his work on that front. I imagine he’s going to have his work cut out for him over the coming months, so it’s good to see that Justice League’s opening issue doesn’t feel encumbered by its own prose.
Marquez’s action, meanwhile, leaves something to be desired. On its surface, there’s nothing wrong with it – and I especially adore the way he handles Hawkgirl’s beatdown of this new enemy – but there are elements of his work that feel a little hard to follow. Take this double-page spread, for example:
To me, this action feels just shy of successful. Putting aside that Aquaman’s “uh oh” feels like it comes a little too early, the reader is given no clear guide of how to make their way through the panels. The shot of Aquaman kicking his enemy to the right would lead you to believe that your eyes should continue in that direction; but in actuality, your gaze has to take a hard downward turn to follow the rest of the scene. From there, the flow of the watery borders does guide you the rest of the way – but it’s these little techniques that really add to the immersion of a story, so I hope Marquez continues to consider how to refine these factors as the story progresses.
Finally, some nitpicks. While I really enjoy Marquez’s softer facial features on Superman, the same treatment is given to Black Adam in several panels – and I don’t particularly feel it gels as well for the ruler of Kahndaq. Meanwhile, Tamra Bonvillain’s colouring is mostly great, but makes a few errors I take issue with. Black Adam’s skin tone isn’t much different from the rest of the white members of the League, so I would appreciate a little more distinction there. More importantly, however, Barry Allen (explicitly named in the comic) is coloured in as if he’s Wally West in this story, which doesn’t gel with his outfit or the dialogue in any way. Many of these elements can and might be fixed in a trade, but they help contribute to a lower score for this comic. There’s nothing bad about this opening, but I definitely feel it has room for improvement – and an uphill battle to go through to really impress me.
Justice League Dark: Return to Caledonia
I have to say: as someone who was exceedingly into Arthurian legends in high school, Ram V’s opening to his new run of Justice League Dark ticks all the right boxes to get me hooked. While there’s not too much to dig into here, what is there is enough for now – and it surprised me how it seemed to directly follow up on his Future State story! The return of a darker, more powerful Merlin, the growing companionship between Constantine and Zatanna, and a mysteriously blood-soaked Jason Blood: all of these create a grim image of what’s to come in the book, even if it doesn’t hit the same notes as the horror of the previous saga’s Upside-Down Man. There’s a character in the story who makes a brief appearance – who, for the sake of suspense, I’ll simply label as “the Thirteenth Knight”. They aren’t in the story for much, and I have a worry they won’t be again – but it’s my hope they make a return, as the idea that Ram V presented about them was a really compelling and fascinating one. It’s hard to say exactly where this story will go yet, but I feel good about how it began.
Xermanico is a great choice for a story like this, too. I’ve reviewed the man’s work several times throughout my tenure on Justice League, and perhaps my most common observation is the comparison between his work and what you would find in a mythology book – particularly in the way he frames his comic’s borders. This style is especially relevant here, where the concept of myth and legend is directly being referenced and tackled by the subject matter of the book; lending his artstyle even more credence than it would normally have. He also takes a moment to play with a different style for a page or so, and it’s one that makes a striking impression – adding up to a solid start for the backup’s first entry.
- You’d like a new, relevant jumping-on point to the world of Justice League!
- Naomi and Black Adam fans are itching for more content.
- You’re getting hooked on Ram V’s DC work as of late – and rightly so.
I see a lot of potential in this comic; even if it isn’t realized, it’s nice to be reviewing a comic with an ongoing story again. There’s a cool new angle to the mainline Justice League, and a fun new subject matter for Justice League Dark – and if you can get over the price, both have the makings of a good story. I’m looking forward to talking about each new development as Bendis and Ram V’s visions unravel… whether or not I like what their final picture is.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.
Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch