There are a lot of ideas in this series that I like, but I haven’t always been a fan of the execution of those ideas. The previous issue was certainly an improvement, as it had several scenes that I liked a lot, but there were also moments where I had my doubts and concerns. Still, with #2 being an improvement over #1, I’ve been hoping that the story will continue to get better. So let’s check it out.
Honestly, it’s still a bit of a mixed bag. There are things that I like here, such as a scene toward the end, in which a caged Lobo is trying to intimidate Superman. They’re alone in this scene and, reading this, I could just about taste the tense atmosphere. Zdarsky writes solid dialogue for Lobo, and the artwork conveys the tension beautifully. First we see Superman in the foreground and Lobo in the background, and Superman’s eyes are closed as he’s calling Flash. But then Lobo starts talking, and the following panel presents a close-up on Lobo’s red eyes peering through the bars of his cage. The next three panels are from Lobo’s perspective, and we zoom in on Superman’s face until we end on a close-up on Superman’s troubled eyes. The storytelling, in both the writing and the artwork, is subtle, but very effective.
Another great piece where Mendonça gets to flex his artistic chops is the establishing shot with the title card and the credits that you can see above. I dig the attention to detail as the room is filled with all sorts of weapons and torture devices. It truly is a menacing place that the League has entered, and it feels like this panel is setting us up for a really nasty sequence in a future issue. This is another example of subtle but effective storytelling. It is in moments like these that the creative team is at their strongest, where every panel and every illustration and every word has purpose, even when that purpose is still, intentionally, unclear to the audience.
However, there are also sequences that I do not care for at all, because during these moments I don’t feel this sense of purpose. For example, halfway into the issue there’s a campfire scene. While I dig the idea of the Justice League sitting at a campfire, having s’mores and a bonding moment when Diana delivers her speech, it just feels very static to me. None of the characters really change during this scene; the Leaguers who were already onboard with the mission still are, and the ones who have been behaving like jerks still do. Diana’s speech could’ve really been inspiring, thereby injecting this scene with the sort of heartwarming energy that it probably is supposed to have, but I find her speech to be rather standard and bland. That said, I do appreciate that Zdarsky writes Diana as the voice of reason in the party, because that’s exactly the kind of role that I like to see her play.
Furthermore, we see one of Bruce’s dreams as well. This is an okay sequence: even though it uses elements from the standard Crime Alley origin, the creative team mixes this up with elements from this very story. I, for one, am actually rather tired of seeing the Crime Alley origin—it just comes back too often—so I am grateful that this creative team at least puts their own spin on it. That said, there’s a character who appears in this dream to warn Bruce and, much like Diana’s speech, the character’s warning reads like the typical sort of premonition stuff that I’ve seen countless times already, and so it ends up being rather bland as well. What I do like here, though, is that Bruce, on waking, doesn’t ponder the meaning of that cryptic warning, but thinks about the character who gave him the warning instead. I think that’s a good show of character for Bruce, as it shows, on a small level at least, that he cares about his friends as well. This is important because, frankly, Batman is depicted as a bit of a jerk in this comic.
In my previous review I said that the quality of the art went from good (issue #1) to very good (issue #2). I was hoping that it would stay on par with #2 or even continue to improve, but unfortunately I think that it went back to just being good. The reason why I think the artwork took a slight dip in quality is because I find that character proportions and faces are slightly off at times. For example, we see characters with really big arms and hands, and heads that are a bit too small. Then there are odd facial expressions or eyes that are a tad too far apart. But there are also panels where Mendonça nails these things. Moreover, I’m a fan of the overall mood that the art conveys, and that’s perhaps this series’ greatest achievement so far: this sense of foreboding, of something evil coming for our heroes, has remained strong and consistent throughout all three issues.
While Mendonça’s pencils and Zdarsky’s writing are responsible for this strong mood, I think it’s colorist Angiolini who really ties it all together. These colors are rich and deep and heavy. This sense of foreboding is in the oppressive scarlet and crimson skies over Apokolips; it’s in the muted tones during Bruce’s dream sequence; and it’s in Superman’s faded blue eyes when Lobo speaks to him from his cage. And, even though the campfire scene doesn’t work for me, I do think it’s a good moment for Angiolini: the warm colors of the fire and the beautiful aurora in the night-sky offer a bit of relief from the overall oppressiveness of the comic. On an aesthetic level, this stuff really is quite wonderful.
- You are reading this for the mystery: What’s up with Lobo? What’s the “evil” that’s coming for the League?
- You don’t mind that Batman and Superman are bickering like fools.
- You’re just here to stare at Angiolini’s color work.
Overall: This comic is definitely put together professionally, and I really enjoy scenes like the exchange between Superman and Lobo. But then there are scenes that feel too static, like the campfire scene, which loses the heartwarming effect that I think it’s supposed to have. I’m also still resisting the beef between Batman and Superman: I just don’t care for it. At all. On the flipside, the artwork is pretty good and the colors are great. I’m still hopeful that this series will improve in quality now that we’re past the halfway mark—there are plenty of great ideas in this book that this creative team can work with. If you’re still on the fence at this point, I recommend you sit back, check out reviews, and wait for trade (it’ll probably read better in trade anyway).
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.