Alright, that’s it. Justice League and its backup, Justice League Dark, do not belong in the same comic book.

Both of these books have their merits (though those who have read my reviews until now know which of the two I prefer), but they do not compliment each other well at all. Bendis’ Justice League is a middling story about Naomi, sprinkled with the ocassional tie to other characters in the DCU. Justice League Dark, meanwhile, is a sprawling fantastical mystery, continuing on the foundations set by the previous run but building on it in new and interesting ways. They do not work well in the same collection.

Interviews have spoken of the two stories eventually using their format to cross over with one another, but we’re now seven issues in and we haven’t seen a hint of that. I don’t think it’s worth the wait – if these books wanted to cross over with one another, they could always just do it like every other comic book does. As it stands, all this creates is a comic where Justice League Dark fans are paying a higher price for less of the comic they like. JLD can and should stand on its own, because I’m enjoying it far more than the main title. As such, I’m going to be driving this home by leading my reviews with the Justice League Dark content, followed by Justice League – and I’m only changing this when DC wises up and gives Ram V and co. the full comic they deserve. If you have a problem with this, let me know.

Justice League Dark: The Eternal Knight

For several consecutive issues, I’ve been praising the work of Xermanico on this book – so it’s great to see that his successor, Sumit Kumar, brings the heat just as much as his predecessor does. Kumar really sets the tone for this book in a fantastic way! While not all of his pages are as abstract or mystical as Xermanico’s, Kumar’s characters feel more expressive and dynamic. Never mind how he portrays action, like how Batman leaps onto frame in the above image: look at how he brings to life even tiny character interactions, like the back-and-forth between the Dark Knight and the Eternal Knight!

Elnara Roshtu is one of my favourite new characters from DC’s recent releases. She’s brave, inquisitive and with a very unique backstory that feels like it belongs right at home in the DCU: almost a Captain America of classic myths and legends. She’ll do wonderfully in the world of the JLD, but there’s a part of me that really wants her to stick with Batman for a while longer. There’s something that really appeals to me when I see the technology of Batman’s surrounded by a world of magic, and it’s only improved when he’s accompanied by a woman quite literally out of time.

Other characters take a backseat in this story, but even then they manage to get a good scene snuck in. Ragman seems like he’s going to be key to the upcoming entries in this saga, and he creates a welcome addition – a wrench in the works who could both assist and harm Zatanna, given the right circumstances. This, more than anyother chapter, makes reading Tynion and V’s previous issues essential. Considering V and Kumar manage to pack all of this in half the space of a regular comic is an absolute feat, and a delightful read from start to finish. But it is only half a comic.

Spoiler

Homework assignment! The final panel of this instalment reintroduces one of DC’s oldest Indian characters, Randhir Singh. But what other books has he appeared in? Ram V’s Twitter might provide you with a hint.

Score:  8/10

Justice League: United Order

And then there’s this.

I actually think this comic starts off well enough. When you begin your story with a big, otherworldly smattering of heroes and aliens against some strange, creepy cosmic threat barelling towards Earth, you’ve got a pretty good premise right in your lap. It reminded me of how I felt when I read a chapter of Grant Morrison’s The Green Lantern – and like The Green Lantern, I’m a little concerned about the inclusion of the Dominators, who have a problematic history at best.

As with previous issues, this is another example of dialogue that’s presented in a hard-to-read order. To me, it’s really unclear as to the sequence in which I read this dialogue, and I’m beginning to suspect this will be a complaint in every upcoming issue of Justice League. Still, this and a tender scene between Green Arrow and Black Canary set a good tone for the story… until the next scene happens.

After a short intermission where we cut to a different area of the Hall of Justice, we come back to the scene – presumably just after the attack had landed.

The dialogue we’re seeing here – and after these panels – makes it seem like Naomi lost her temper, which is something she mentions in the previous issue as well. To me, I haven’t seen a single hint of that, even in these pages here! Do these facial expresions look like those of truly concerned people, or of a young woman who’s genuinely lost control? It’s strange, because I felt that artist Steve Pugh’s illustrations were very strong in the first few pages, and completely fell off when it came to portraying this domestic scene. Aside from a nice final page, I never feel like that level of quality returns to the issue from then on. I don’t really want to talk about this issue much more, but I need to put this out there yet again: Bendis writes a terrible Black Adam.

The only nice thing I can say about this sequence is that it really speaks for itself. I don’t think I need to tell anyone looking at this that it doesn’t seem like the ruler of Kahndaq we’ve come to know through stories like 52, and even Doomsday Clock. It begs the question as to why Bendis thought that Black Adam was a good idea for the Justice League – because so far, he’s added next to nothing to this book. I could talk more about how the book still hasn’t provided a central hook beyond “Naomi Season 2”, or how Bendis seems to be trying to shoehorn in a Checkmate subplot – but this is the kind of comic I really want to be over and done with. If I had to ask one thing of this book, it’d be for the story to focus up.

Score: 4/10

Recommended If:

  • You’re a fan of cool alien Justice Leagues and fun space visuals!
  • Justice League Dark is your favourite series and you have a very expendable income.
  • You have been waiting for the next season of Naomi, because this looks like it’s gonna be it for a while.

Overall

This is getting frustrating. I can’t keep spending every second week telling you to wait on a story that I genuinely think is really good… but how can I recommend you buy this when I don’t think the main comic is worth the time? That might be a question you have to answer for yourselves. As for me, I’m going to keep making a fuss until Justice League Dark goes back to being the solo title it has a right to be. Just make sure to buy it, if and when that happens.

Score: 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