Justice League: Prisms

I remember when I started reading Scott Snyder’s Justice League, fresh off the heels of Dark Nights: Metal and No Justice. Honestly, the beginning of that book was one of the best openings to a team book I’d ever read: it established the team dynamic perfectly, set up an interesting and high-stakes conflict, and sowed the seeds of a deeper, darker threat looming over the characters. It was a near-perfect opening, in my opinion… so I suppose in that sense, I shouldn’t be surprised that the ending of Snyder’s run couldn’t reach the same heights.

(I mean, seriously, Perpetua was never this scary again.)

Brian Michael Bendis seems to be taking a different approach. When you pull back – start your story off slow, leading into something deeper and larger – you have the potential to set a strong groundwork for later content. These first two issues haven’t been particularly interesting so far, but they’ve set a comfortable pace for the book… and may lead to greater things down the line.

This week, Bendis and artist David Marquez focus primarily on the League’s three new additions to the roster: Black Adam, Hippolyta and Naomi McDuffie, whose last name is a really sweet homage to the late Dwayne McDuffie of Milestone fame. I think Bendis makes a wise decision to frame the arc around these new characters, instead of the usual content we get with the same League members again and again. Naomi is definitely one of Bendis’ best additions to the DC Universe, and Hippolyta and Black Adam’s dynamic is a refreshing new angle. It gives some relevance to Endless Winter, an event Matina and I largely felt was something of a slog.

I also see some value to this new villain, Brutus. He doesn’t get much time in this issue, which I imagine is intentional – but you don’t really see many villains treating an alien invasion as if it’s a video game, deciding to back out when you realize you’re too underlevelled for the boss fight. There’s something to be gained there, even if I’m not positive Bendis has a lock on what it is yet. As for the rest of the league, they’re fine – Superman is probably the one with the most to do, which makes sense considering Bendis just finished a long story arc with the Man of Steel.

Aside from little nitpicks – I really feel like Flash’s role in the story befits Barry more than it does Wally, yet he’s clearly written to be the latter – I’m enjoying what is essentially an issue of setup, where the team’s dynamics are tested as they verbally spar over whether or not to let Black Adam help them. Part of this is aided by Marquez’s illustrations, which do a great job of keeping each member of the League distinct in their body language. Look at how he handles a group shot of the team debating with one another:

The whole comic is very easy on the eyes, and it creates for an almost relaxing read. This is aided by Tamra Bonvillain’s colouring, which gives the book a warmth that’s fitting for the tone of the story (so far, at least). Even when the surroundings are cool, the skin of the characters gives off a warmth that makes them feel alive within the pages. The critiques of the art that I had from last issue are still there – but they balk in the face of Justice League’s quality, which so far has remained solid and consistent from both a written and artistic level. Here’s hoping that remains the case!

Score: 7/10

Justice League Dark: Dangerous Things

Look, I’m just gonna say it: I’m not so sure Justice League Dark works as a backup story.

This book isn’t bad, mind you – far from it! Ram V is probably one of my favourite writers in DC right now, and I’ve got no issues with how he’s handling this book so far. The cast of the book isn’t exactly revolutionary, but it’s a solid assortment of supernatural beings working for a greater good. I like the way that it intertwines with the main book, with members of Bendis’ League making cameos in V’s backup, hinting at the possibility for more interlocking narratives.

I very much like how important the Future State book is to this: it sets the premise of the entire conflict and Etrigan’s motivation for assisting the League. Following up from this, I love the exchange between Etrigan and Batman. It’s basic, but it gives my baby brain that dopamine boost it so desperately needs in this day and age.

I also like how Merlin is portrayed! As a villain, he has both a wisdom and gravitas to him that reminds me of a classic Christopher Lee role. A lot of this is thanks to Xermanico, who continues to be fantastic at imbuing the pages of this book with an almost mythic quality. His borders are always something to admire: surrounding your comic with imagery that’s evocative of the book’s tone is a great way of enhancing the book’s mood, and it helps the reader feel that these characters are in too deep with something they can’t face alone. All of this is great stuff.

…But it’s only ten pages.

I mean, really, Justice League Dark? The comic that inspired several animated movies and a live action film that’s been in development hell since before the pyramids were built? You’re putting that book – created by some serious talent, mind you – at the back of Bendis’ Justice League book, just to increase the price? Doesn’t that feel like a waste to you? There’s barely any time to sit in the book and enjoy it before it’s over. I sometimes take issue with the pacing of 22-page comics, but the solution isn’t to cut them in half entirely. This is a problem with DC’s business model more than the book, but I think Justice League Dark is negatively impacted too – I don’t have enough time to really get invested before I’m ripped away from the narrative once again. I’m welcome to be proven wrong, but I reserve the right to remain unhappy about it.

Score: 6.5/10

Recommended If:

  • You trust in both V and Bendis’ creative visions.
  • You’re looking for a comfortable read this week, and you’re willing to stick with said comics for the long haul.
  • Xermanico’s art – and Marquez’s, for that matter – is the kind of stuff you’d want on murals in your bedroom.

Overall

As a consumer, I might not have gained much from this issue – but as a creator, I appreciate that this book can take its time. It’s not in a rush to wow you, and because of this, it allows us to enjoy the ride for what it is. Justice League and Justice League Dark make a great combo package – even if I disagree with them being saddled together in the first place.

Score: 6.5/10

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Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.

Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch