Justice League: Last Ride #1

This book doesn’t start off like a typical Justice League adventure. The tone is rather grim, and there’s conflict within the League. I think as a first issue, it’s successful in setting up the plot and the status quo. But, even though all these pieces are in-place so the creative team can get the story moving in the next chapter, I think the execution is rather poor.

The main reason is that a lot of events are referenced in the dialogue without ever showing these events to the readers. For example, Batman and Superman have had a falling out because Batman did something horrible, but since I wasn’t around to witness this horrible thing and I’m only told about it, the impact is entirely lost on me. But it’s not just these character-events that completely happened off-panel. The creative team didn’t even bother to show us the inciting incident, the thing that kicks off the story itself! I’m not going to spoil exactly what it is for those who wish to remain spoiler-free, but it involves Lobo and it’s something big. Granted, maybe what the other characters are saying about Lobo isn’t actually what happened, just like this horrible thing that Batman did probably didn’t happen in the way that Superman believes. But if we’re not going to see any of the referenced events with our own eyes, let alone the inciting incident, then to me this story just isn’t off to a good start.

I need to see these events play out because I need the context. Without this, the impact and meaning is lost on me and it’s hard to care about what’s happening. In other words, the first issue of this miniseries is missing the one thing that it truly needs: a strong hook. This is even more baffling when I look at the opening pages: we see a tender moment between a weary, stressed-out Superman and Lois and we see one of Superman’s nightmares. These scenes do a decent job of establishing Superman’s mood and jadedness, and perhaps they will turn out to be thematically relevant to the story later on, but as it stands none of this hooks me. Had the creative team shown us that inciting incident involving Lobo during the opening pages instead, and if the creative team had executed this well, then that would have been one helluva hook! It would’ve grabbed my interest immediately and I’m sure it would’ve gotten many a fan talking. But even if this Lobo incident can’t be shown for whatever reason, this comic still needs something to get me invested. What we have so far just isn’t enough.

It’s not all bad, though. I think that each of the main characters are written authentically. For example, Superman cares about everyone and wants to save everyone, even when this starts to impact his own (mental) health, and Batman is straight-to-the-point and always thinking about the bigger picture. Furthermore, as much as I dislike the use of exposition in this comic, it does, save for a few instances, somewhat feel like natural conversation. Characters don’t go out of their way to explain things to someone who should already know that stuff, just so the reader can be filled in, and at least the exposition should raise some questions that might give readers more incentive to keep reading. I also like the plot itself: Hal Jordan visiting the Justice League Watchtower to propose the idea of the moon becoming the new Oa, the home of the Green Lantern Corps, and the League essentially becoming GLC deputies. Despite not liking the execution very much, at least I like the general idea that the creative team is going for. I also think that there’s still time for the creative team to course correct and deliver in the upcoming issues. The question that I have right now, however, is whether enough readers will care after this first issue to keep going?

The art is fine for the most part. I particularly like Angiolini’s palette: it’s a colorful book, with lots of variation and many layers, but the aesthetic remains consistent throughout. The colors are somewhat muted as well, so even though there are varying color schemes, this doesn’t clash with the grim tone that Zdarsky is establishing with his writing. The coloring is largely what holds my attention in the visual department.

Mendonça’s pencils are pretty good, too. His page layouts are fairly straightforward, but I don’t mean that as a bad thing. In fact, it makes it easy for the reader to follow the story, which is, of course, what the artwork should do. I also appreciate that the characters don’t constantly strike the most ridiculous, distracting poses, like many other artists have them do, particularly in Justice League books. Here, the heroes still pose on the page, but they look cool in a quite subtle way. I also think that the inking is solid throughout the issue. There are certain scenes that could have benefited from more shadows to add to the story’s grim mood, but overall the inking nicely holds all the artwork—from the pencils to the coloring—together. A nitpick that I have is that the character-work isn’t always consistent. There are panels where, for example, characters’ faces are rendered really well and where anatomy looks good and realistic. But then there are other panels where the faces look slightly off, with the eyes being a bit too low or too high on the face, or where a character suddenly has a really thick leg or a much broader chest. Had this been more consistent, the artwork likely would’ve gone from “good” to “very good.”

Recommended if…

  • A darker type of Justice League story sounds cool.
  • You want to know what’s going on with Lobo.

Overall: It’s an okay issue, but without the proper context, none of the referenced events carry any weight for me. As a result, this first issue doesn’t have a strong hook and if I wasn’t reviewing this series, I likely wouldn’t have continued reading this based on this first issue alone. That said, the concept and general story idea sounds pretty cool. Here’s to hoping that the creative team will manage to course correct with the upcoming issues. For the time being, if you’re on the fence, I recommend waiting for the next reviews before purchasing.

Score: 5.5/10

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