Justice League vs. the Legion of Super-Heroes #3 review

Here we are again with another edition of Justice League vs. the Legion of Super-Heroes. When reviewing the latest issue of a series (especially a mini-series) the question that is really being asked is: “has anything changed since last month?” and in many ways the answer is “No.” Issue #3 is very much in line with the direction Bendis was already taking this book. There is one plot development that shakes things up but I don’t see it significantly impacting the overall tone.

When we last saw our cast of a million characters, they were in the 31st century discussing the best way to deal with the growing threat of the great darkness. Both teams continue to get along remarkably well for a versus book. I still don’t know what to make of the “versus” element. I don’t want to see these characters fight. I’ve had enough of superheroes fighting each other. On the other hand, I feel the title promises me something. If I was a consumer who was reading this based purely on interest, I would feel cheated by what boils down to false advertising. Based on how things are progressing, the chance of these characters fighting is near zero. Unless Black Adam decides he’s not taking any more crap.

Speaking of the humor present in the book, there’s not much to write home about. The humor in the first two issues didn’t land all that well either, I’ll admit, but with the exception of the Black Adam moment mentioned above, the success rate in this issue was frighteningly low.

The following “joke” perfectly illustrates a major problem with Bendis humor.

It’s so awkward. Here we have the Justice League dealing with a possibly universe ending threat. They need the name of a character that they had previously encountered and this is what Green Arrow gives them. Besides being bathos (the lowest form of humor*:  an anticlimax caused by undercutting drama with the ridiculous), it isn’t even well executed. It’s difficult to tell if this is even a joke at first. To be honest, there are dumber names than Pokey in the DC universe. Even if we ignore that, the joke still makes Green Arrow look like an idiot. Either he is telling a joke when he should be helping his friends with useful information, or he legitimately thinks the villain was named Pokey. See what I mean? Either way he comes out looking bad and I didn’t even laugh at the joke. That’s a no-win situation.

*To be clear bathos isn’t an inherently bad technique nor is it always unfunny. My distaste for it is the result of how often it is used to the detriment of a work.

This is a good point to make mention of how well the art supports the writing in this comic. Godlewski isn’t a show off. He really does a great job of bringing the reader all the relevant information and his rather simple page layouts are very important in keeping the book comprehensible to the reader despite Bendis’ tendency to write scattered and slightly confusing dialogue.

Getting back to the main plotline here, there is a frustrating lack of forward movement. Clearly this series is more about the journey than the destination because we don’t have a true narrative hook. Yes, the great darkness is a threat that the cast needs to face but they have absolutely no game plan or direction. So far, they have floundered around hoping an answer will fall into their laps. In this issue we are introduced to a second conflict as Batman discovers the existence of the Gold Lantern and we find the Justice League has been warned to destroy the gold ring if they come across it (by Pokey). Perhaps this is how the League will end up fighting the Legion? A disagreement over destroying the ring? If so…count me out. Hard pass. In no world can Bendis justify that.

Speaking of Gold Lantern, Kala Lour is notably underused this issue. In my previous review I hypothesized that this is a secret Gold Lantern book and I still believe that. Even more than I did before, in fact. The addition of the ring conflict sells me on that idea. I have to chalk up his lack of page space this issue to the large cast. There are too many characters in this book. Full stop. To make matters worse Bendis just keeps adding more.

I mentioned earlier a plot development that changes the book up a bit. I was referring to the characters being split up into small groups and being scattered throughout time (and that means a whole host of new characters). This was the point where I really sat up and took interest. It’s odd because I don’t think this is actually a good direction for the story to take. Nonetheless I am more excited to see what happens next than ever before.

Spoiler

The problem is that this turn redirects us away from the main plotline and will inevitably stall plot progression. It also isn’t necessary. Since there are no character arcs to speak of here (or a discernable theme) I can’t imagine these events having any value. In spite of that, I was getting bored with the book before and this move reinvests me. Now I know that I can expect some Batman Beyond action, some post-apocalyptic Kamandi action, etc. Works for me. When all else fails, give the audience something cool to look at.

This issue really shows off Scott Godlewski’s art ability. He is given the opportunity to draw multiple different environments and he really shines! I particularly liked these panels:

His character work was very strong this issue as well. He draws faces with so much expression but never falls into grotesque or malformed. Each one maintains an appropriate stylization and clearly conveys the emotion it is meant to. I’m looking forward to seeing what projects Godlewski takes on next. He certainly has the versatility needed to get a hold on most anything DC could assign him.

Recommended if…

  • A carefree series of events that you can absorb without much brain power appeals to you
  • You like time travel stories
  • An artist flexing his muscles sounds cool

Overall

I don’t care about this story and I don’t think I ever will. How can you when it’s so slight and there is no effort given to writing anything below surface level. That said, It remains a fun diversion. This is the kind of book you pick up and enjoy, set down and forget. No one will be talking about Justice League vs. the Legion of Super-Heroes at any point in the future. So here’s your chance to experience it while it’s still relevant!

Score: 5/10


DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.