If I’m being honest, there’s not much to say this week. The latest issue of Justice League Dark isn’t a slow one, per se – but I find myself a little less enthralled by it than I am by previous issues thus far. That’s mainly because, despite the exciting action and beautiful visuals on display, it’s mainly setting up for what’s to come: putting pieces in place for the climax that knocks everything down. Nothing wrong with that, of course – for what it is, there’s a lot to like.

Justice League is also here, by the way.

Justice League Dark: Drowned Secrets

This is a very action-oriented issue, and as such, not many characters really get their time to shine – unless you count watching Aquaman stab a sea monster in the background of a fight as a particularly strong character moment. There are two halves to the chapter, with one taking place in Atlantis and the other taking place in the facility where Randhir Singh was imprisoned (as well as his mindscape). Of the two, Singh’s story with Batman and the Eternal Knight is the more interesting. Kumar has managed to do something wonderful with how he portrays a fight across several imaginary worlds, all of them involving two characters defeating a different variation of the same person.

I count fifteen variants of Singh that Kumar has drawn, and most of them feel like they could be a character in their own right – yet all retaining defining characteristics of the man, such as his beard and angular face. This is all connected by the central image of Singh’s mind, branching out into tendril after tendril to reach all corners of his own subconscious. It’s a really beautiful image, and an inspired way to create what would be a long action sequence go by like no time at all has passed – much like the story intended.

This chapter also leans a little further into the connection between the Justice League and the Justice League Dark, with both Batman and Aquaman taking active roles in the story. They don’t do much here, but it’s clear that they’ll have a big role to play as the story concludes – something that could be influenced by the absence of Wonder Woman from the story, though that’s purely a matter of speculation. Other than that, there’s not much to report – and at this point, I don’t think you need me to reiterate why that is. Giving V and Kumar (or whoever will be on art duties for Justice League Dark) their own book is beyond essential, and I hope they realize how ridiculous reducing them to a backup is at this point.

Let the story breathe, for gods sake. It’s a wonder that this team is able to make a quality product every other week despite being given so few pages to work with.

Score: 7/10

Justice League: United Order

This book has fill-in art after two issues of the current arc, and I’m pretty sure one of the pages is out of order. I’m sorely tempted to finish my review there.

There are a few other things that do warrant mentioning, though, and not all of it is bad. While I’m already completely over the Checkmate plot-line going on, Black Canary and Green Arrow remain solidly entertaining in all the right ways – and some of the wrong ones, but that’s par for the course for Bendis at this point. The two being at odds but still clearly loving each other is one of those dynamics that’s simple, but very compelling, and it’s funny to see them try to catch up with the rest of the story that’s been going on outside of their subplot.

The issue also finally attempts to give some context as to what the hell the Synmar Utopica is, and… I mean, I still don’t particularly care, if I’m honest. There are some cool ideas here: a villain presenting the Earth as an offering to regain favor with their superiors, and that coming at odds with the person he loves? That’s not bad! But it feels like too little, too late, especially when I have no reason to believe that this will be any more relevant than one of Venditti’s arcs with Justice League. Doesn’t help that this is all presented with monologue, as opposed to anything visually exciting.

Now, I don’t entirely hate the art. One of my favourite artists is Dustin Nguyen, and there are a lot of superficial similarities between his work and that of penciller Phil Hester in this issue. To me, though, this touches on the same problems I had with The Rule of War a few issues back: the art is far too rushed for me to really be lost in the story that it’s trying to tell. Take this page, for example.

I think, conceptually, this is a strong page. The silhouettes of the Justice League, titans of comic book fiction, take up the majority of the page: acting as legends that Naomi feels like she can’t hope to live up to. In the midst of these men and women is Black Adam – and while he isn’t a legendary hero like the others, he is a great warrior and ruler in his own right, and a beast of rage and power that can feel like it dwarfs anything around him. At the bottom is Naomi, trapped in the middle of all of this with a power she doesn’t understand. It’s a strong premise, and the narrative says as much… but do you believe it? Do the silhouettes feel powerful? Does Black Adam’s rage manifest? Does Naomi look conflicted? This is why I haven’t been sold on Bendis’ League yet: a bunch of pieces that should work, yet none I’ve been successfully sold on.

(This is the page that’s out of order, by the way. It should be before the previous double-page spread, at least on Comixology.)

Score: 4/10

Recommended If:

  • You disagree with pretty much everything I’ve been saying for the past six reviews or so.
  • Randhir Singh’s resurgence is exciting to you on fronts of creativity, history and diversity!
  • Bendis’ style doesn’t wear you down, and you’re very invested in both tales being told here.

Overall

I always say my reviews on these comics won’t be long, and they almost always go over a thousand words anyway. It’s inevitable with two books in one, really – even if I don’t like the comic that headlines this release, there’s still plenty to say about it. At this point, my only hope is that these complaints are heard – because there’s a great book here that’s being paired with one that I don’t think is up to par, and wallets are suffering as a result.

Score: 4.5/10

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

Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch