You know, realistically I should be grateful for this arc.
Contrary to what I expected, this was not a continuation of the story told in the Justice League Dark backups: a story which, while I loved, ended on a cliffhanger that currently has no planned resolution. Bendis seems to almost completely ignore that – instead focusing his efforts on a tale involving Black Adam and a villain he created for his Superman comics. As a result, we’re getting a story where Bendis can do his own thing. I should honestly be glad for that, because I really wanted the JLD backup to stand on its own!
…But what we have instead feels so profoundly bland.
“Leagues of Chaos” is going to be a three-part story that ends just before everyone in the Justice League dies – though you’d best believe there’s going to be zero buildup to it. While Black Adam being on the League still makes barely any sense (crazy that the best JL story featuring Black Adam is Endless Winter, not written by Bendis), it’s nice to see he’s finally given some love in this issue. The issue is centered around the League and the JLD coming together, when Zatanna senses something to be amiss with the leader of Kahndaq. It’s a cool premise that begins with a wonderfully ominous vision, presented to great effect by Szymon Kudranski.
It helps that the man does his own colouring: every page he works on is smattered with deep, ominous tones, characters covered in shadows while key elements are lit up with splashes of vibrance. The characters occasionally look odd, the lighting isn’t always flattering, and the environments are inconsistent – but these aren’t serious critiques so much as they are comments on side effects of the style. Shame he’s not the only artist on this book.
Emanuela Lupacchino and Wade Von Grawbadger also illustrate this book, and there’s no denying their art is quite good! I enjoy the softer tones of their work, and there’s some interesting visual storytelling on display with how Black Adam passively reacts to events around him. There are hints of some development lurking under the surface of Adam’s face, even if Bendis doesn’t seem to care enough to show it.
It’s the discrepancy between artstyles that bothers me more than anything else. How can you go from something like this…
To something like this (and yes, this is the immediate next panel):
And not expect a level of whiplash on the part of the readers? This is an issue that the comic book industry will never truly get over, but whenever it’s relevant to mention, I think there’s an obligation to mention it.
I’d comment more on the story, but… I mean, really, how vacuous is this? While I admire Bendis’ efforts to make the League feel like a fleshed-out extended family, with different characters across the DCU coming into play at different times… well, when the conflict of each issue doesn’t feel more important than a “villain of the week” scheme, I find no reason to see myself all that invested. Black Adam may be the focus of the story, but he barely gets any character here: he’s merely the centre of a weak plot device, with little to no input or personal stakes in the matter.
It felt like, at the beginning of the story, Bendis had some sort of vision for Justice League beyond being an interim between Naomi seasons 1 and 2. Maybe that vision is now what he sees for his Justice League/Legion book, because I’m seeing no forward momentum here… and god, isn’t that a shame? That the most interesting thing that the Justice League can do in recent history is die?
- You’ve been excited for a larger crossover between the Justice League and the Justice League Dark.
- Longer issues are more your speed: this issue can afford to take its time a little more, seeing as it’s taken on some of the pages JLD used to have.
- I don’t have much else to add. We’re near the finish line here, folks.
This book plays at elements that make it a little better than previous Bendis arcs, but it suffers from the same problem I’ve had ever since I started reviewing for this comic: why the hell should I care about any of it?
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.
Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch