You know, there’s nothing quite so existentially horrifying as hittting 23 years of age, and realizing the first thing you have to do is review an issue of Brian Michael Bendis’ Justice League – which is exactly why this review is late! I’d apologize, but read this panel and then tell me you don’t understand.
Luckily, this issue feels a little less abrasive than the last one – but even with a good entry of Justice League Dark on our hands, my patience has worn thin with this book.
Justice League Dark: The Wrong Way Up
With Ram V announcing he will soon no longer be writing Justice League Dark, I have to wonder how this story is going to conclude. James Tynion IV was replaced by Ram V on the title originally, so unless this is the end of the book, DC has a moral obligation to hand the reins to a writer with “VI” somewhere in their name (Vita Ayala would fit the bill). As it stands, it feels like we should be nearing the climax about now: which appears to be the case, judging by the consistently raising stakes in this issue.
There’s a temptation to almost dismiss Sumit Kumar’s artwork for the exact reason it deserves to be praised: it’s just so damn seamless. V and Kumar are something of a dream team on this book, the two (with the help of Nick Filardi’s vibrant colours!) able to juggle the scale of their Atlantis action with an appropriate mood for a story filled with magic and monsters. One thing in particular I like about Kumar’s work is his depiction of character actions: not only does everyone have a different yet distinct silhouette, but everyone moves differently. Sure, it’s tempting to simply call attention to this wonderful depiction of Etrigan’s firey power, decimating a legion of zombies:
But to me, what’s equally impressive is how you can feel the presence of these characters even when they’re not directly involved in the action of the story. Each of these characters tells us exactly who they are, simply by how Kumar illustrates them.
I do have a couple of critiques about the direction the story is going in – and in fairness, some of it really just comes down to personal preference. I like how this story has been able to seamlessly combine so many corners of the DC Universe, but while it put in the effort to do this, I feel like it lost an element of horror that only now feels like it might return (thanks to a certain moment at the end of the chapter). In addition, Merlin as a villain started off strong, but I still don’t have a great sense of his motivations. I’m sure they’ll expand on that eventually, but the “cool” factor of it being Merlin can only go so far, and I’m hoping for some more meat to his character sooner rather than later.
Still, I’d say this is a solid issue that proves a few things: both that you really should have read the main Justice League Dark title before this one, and that V and Kumar deserve far better than a side story relegated to backups.
Justice League: United Order
…Okay, so, this arc is still going on. Part of me doesn’t want to talk about it at all, seeing as I’m already over the minimum word count for this review.
Let’s start with the art. I do think that Scott Godlewski’s work is an improvement from the previous issue – I appreciate the polish that appears to have gone into these pages, with every character making their own unique presence felt within the story. That’s a difficult thing to accomplish when you’re dealing with as many characters as there are in this issue, which juggles both a story with the Justice League and one with the crew from Bendis’ other series, Checkmate. Godlewski does particularly well with his action, where every character feels like they’re about to leap off of the page: there’s a feeling like the poses in this issue are the kind that people imagine their action figures look like, and that’s definitely a compliment.
(Although, side note: I think it’s important to mention that someone forgot to completely erase Superman’s frown in the final panel on this page.)
If this were an action-oriented issue like the last one, the art would be even more of an asset… but unfortunately, this chapter of United Order is dialogue-based. And when Bendis wants his issue to be about his characters talking…
I’m not saying all of Bendis’ dialogue is bad. In actuality, the page I just put here is one of his more effective examples, where the characters are clearly trying to talk over one another as they try their best to make their voices heard. The problem lies in the quantity of dialogue: every other panel seems to have two characters circling around a topic to discuss how you can say the same redundant thing fifty different ways, like how the League discusses what to do about the Hall of Justice (moments before Flash rebuilds it in the scene’s attempt at a comedic beat).
To me, this reads like… well, let’s grab fellow reviewer Matina to help me replicate Bendis’ style.
So, Matina. You know how, when you’ve got something on your mind…
When I have something on my mind?
Right! Exactly. And there’s a word for the thing you’re thinking about, but it’s just on the tip of your tongue. Is there a word for that?
Hmm, a word for what’s on the tip of your tongue, there should be one.
Yeah. Weird. Anyway, I guess you just sort of make do with the words you can think of, but it means you’re just kind of dancing around–
Yeah! Or the point, or whatever. Because you can’t vocalize what you actually wanna say. What was I gonna say?
I just remembered, the term for having a word on the tip of your tongue is called lethologica.
And just like that, we’ve replicated Brian Michael Bendis’ writing. So much of it is redundant, and it manages to make the issue feel even more bloated than it already does – what with it balancing two completely unconnected plotlines.
And for the record, there’s a reason I’ve barely covered a thing from the Checkmate subplot. I’ll start talking about it when something actually happens – Bendis has been building that subplot since Leviathan Rising, and I’m not expecting the payoff to arrive here of all places. Overall, this is a serviceable issue that does its job – it’s just a shame that the job, apparently, is about as interesting as the night shifts at my grocery store.
- I’m genuinely not sure how to recommend Part Five of a Justice League story I’ve gone on the record as disliking.
- If you’re a fan of Justice League Dark, you’d wait for the trade, so I doubt you’re here either.
- Maybe you’re a die-hard Naomi fan, and need to see every chapter in her saga?
It’s getting difficult finding ways of repeating the same things over and over – give Justice League Dark its own book, pick up the pace, you know the drill. Maybe next issue, something could actually happen? I’m not holding my breath.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.
Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch