Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Review: Justice League #68

Justice League #68 came out last week and was something of an enigma for me. 

As usual, writer Brian Michael Bendis has a way with dialogue. His heroes are quippy and the banter is crisp. He definitely has a grasp for characters and each has their own voice. Artist Scott Godlewski continues to impress me. His work remains his own but reminds me a little of Jim Cheung in places, a solid compliment. You'd think with very good dialogue and art that I'd be happy.

But this really is two issues.

The front end is a Justice League book. But outside the witty banter, it completely wraps up, almost erases, all the consequences of the Synmar Utopica storyline. In the end, it is as if that story didn't happen. Now maybe some seeds for future stories are tucked in there. But it just ends.

The back half is a Checkmate book, almost a back door pilot. And while I like the team and the concept, you think I'd be thrilled that they are being given a spotlight. But this book takes place after the Checkmate mini-series ended. We are told Leviathan isn't a threat anymore. While I figured Leviathan would 'lose' in the mini, I thought he still might remain a threat. But here we learn it has been dismantled. Also, the team continues to do little more than bicker with each other. Wouldn't it be good to see the Checkmate team actually working like a team, especially if they have actually taken out their biggest enemy.

So I guess it is the plot I found lacking. 

On to the book.

Last issue ended with the United Order demanding that the Phantom Zone projector be handed over to them. Superman refused. A stand off ensued.

Hawkslayer, the leader of the United Order, asked his fellow Thanagarian, Hawkgirl to hear reason. 

Here is a good example of some of the dialogue I enjoyed. Black Canary and Green Arrow are a little snarky, pointing out that maybe the UO can't be trusted with things given they allowed Synmar Utopica to escape. Maybe they should apologize.

And I really like the relationship, current and hinted past, between Black Adam and Hippolyta. When he says 'or what' when Hawkslayer demands the projector, 'Lyta jumps right in saying she'd love to have there be an 'or what'. 

There is even something about the art here, the Leaguers surrounding Superman, protective, that works. 

Then the standoff just melts away. Prince Zerep, the Tamaranean on the UO, tells his teammates they should just leave. After all, Superman is part of the UP and therefore trustworthy.

Hawkslayer agrees and they leave. Just like that.

Now it includes this nice moment were we learn 'WWKOED' exists as a quick phrase to emotionally settle people in the universe. After all, even in this world I sometimes think to myself 'what would Superman do'.

But it all happens so quickly, turning on one panel. It just felt quick.

Naomi asks Dr. Fate to retrieve her parents from his mystic realm, where she left them with Constantine. And Fate is rather upset that John was there.

Bendis again works his verbal magic here. The normally buttoned down Fate (at least this Dr. Fate) becomes a little flabberghasted. And John saying he might have used the facilities was also worthy of a guffaw. 

I mean it makes sense that Fate would have a bathroom but the idea of it is sort of silly.

Naomi's parents have seen enough too. They want her out of the League.

Around the Leaguers, the Hall of Justice is in complete ruins. There is a decent conversation about what the Hall means and should it be reconfigured? Should the League return to the satellite? Or should it be rebuilt in a way to recapture the wonder of it?

It is an interesting conversation, spurred by Hawkgirl. And the thoughts were interesting to read.

But then, off panel, the entirety of the Hall is rebuilt, just as it was, at super-speed by Superman and the Flash. So just like that, one of the major consequences of the Synmar attack is just removed.

I saw the panels of Synmar's destruction. Stones were shattered to dust, pipes bent. Even with super-speed, I don't know if the Hall could just be put together like a puzzle. I suppose if I believe in alien beings who can absorb sunlight and turn it into miraculous powers, I should be able to believe he can fix this wreckage. 

But it is more that the destruction of the Hall was a big deal these last couple of issues. The conversation which proceeded the rebuild was intriguing. To have it just disappear, fixed at superspeed, makes me wonder if I will ever worry about anything that happens here.

Back in the other plot, we see Daemon Rose confronted by fake Deathstrokes again, this time outside a rest stop. 

Checkmate is watching this encounter on video having tracked Rose to his safehouse.

Leo Lane easily dispatches these Terminators with ease. We hear he is 'Nightwing' good. That carries some weight. We also learn, thankfully, that he has no powers. He is street level.

Nice panel work by Godlewski here, with angels and points of view matching the intensity of the fight.

In their review, we see how the Checkmate agents recognize different fighting styles. Some Cadmus, some Leviathan.

At this point, it isn't obvious that this is post the Checkmate mini-series. So this was a bit weird to read.

On the roof, Daemon Rose arrives. After all, he is an incredible spy. Not even Checkmate can sneak up on him. 

It is here we learn that Leviathan has been put down.

Remember Leviathan was composed of field agents from any number of agencies which no longer exist. If Leviathan doesn't exist, you have a lot of well-trained field agents who are used to action sitting around. They are like Ronin.

Again, since we know some Leviathan agents were dressed as Deathstroke and since we know they  'lost', it means that Leviathan is truly gone. I had hoped Shaw and Leviathan might remain a ever-present threat like Ra's Al Ghul or Kobra. But I guess not.

Well, in the absence of those agencies, a new unknown person is recruiting. The job is easy: kill the Justice League. The current uniform? Deathstroke's. Rose thinks it is a feint to throw off the scent.

When Rose refused the recruitment, they marked him for death.

Rose suddenly realizes that if the League could find him, the Deathstrokes could as well.

Turns out his instincts are right. Even Checkmate couldn't easily avoid a bunch of RPG's fired their way. 

Out of the blue, Superman and the League arrive. I definitely like Canary being a bit indignant as she asks for introductions. 

I will say that I loved this funny ending. 

These Deathstrokes ain't Deathstroke. What could that blurry Superman shield in their scope be?

So the issues closes with me smiling which is a good thing. There are other parts I also thought funny in this like Firestorm saying he isn't on the roster this year. 

So some good moments. But in the end, the major plots of the last arc were swept under the rug. And the end of Checkmate was revealed. 

Overall grade: C+


Martin Gray said...

I agree, I shared similar confusions and delights. I actually really enjoyed the repair of the Hall of Justice, I thought it was a good gag after all the high-falutin’ talk about what their building should ‘mean’. Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t be happy for the Hall of Justice to go away, I just don’t like the idea of the public being able to wander through a building filled with supervillain tech and mystical portals. The Synmar Tapioca attack motivating the return of the League to a secret HQ would have made the story meaningful.

The Checkmate business was annoying and dumb for all the reasons you give. Some secret organisation reckons one lone operative could take down the League? I hope he’s making the whole thing up, and playing Checkmate. Let’s face it, they’re not that bright.

Anonymous said...

I was going to ask this in the previous SG TV episode:
why couldn't Kara re-build the Ormfell building as well?
Especially if someone she was fighting caused it?
Is there some "comic book code" to prevent this?
It's not like it has to be finished immediately,
diverting her time from more important things?
A JL animated movie had a "complainer" w/an effigy
of Diana, saying that they cause millions of dollars of
taxpayers money? Even the live-action JL movie had Comm
Gordon say to Batman: millions of dollars in damage;
you haven't lost your touch.


Anonymous said...

"since we know some Leviathan agents were dressed as Deathstroke"

I can't remember learning that, though I wouldn't doubt it. I honestly can't follow the logic and timeline of this or the Checkmate series and how they are (or are not) tying together. I hope someone can remind me when that was clarified.

I'd like to mention a funny throwaway moment: when Naomi's parents and Constantine are talking about Tilda Swinton in Dr. Fate's tower. I guess they are reminded of the Dr. Strange film, and why wouldn't they be? You see one inner sanctum, you've seen them all!


Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

Checkmate saying they recognized Leviathan fighting style in some of the Deathstrokes made me think that some were Leviathan agents.

And I thought the Swinton sign was because she was in the Keanu Reeves Constantine movie! Although I suppose it could have been a Strange thing!

Steve said...

DC needs its own version of Damage Control. If the Trinity can fund that place in Heroes In Crisis with its ridiculously super advanced tech, they can fund a nationwide repair crew to fix damage from super-battles.

Anonymous said...

Thanks - I see that Deathstroke/Leviathan reference now.

Screenrant also thinks Tilda Swinton was a shout-out to the Constantine film:

https :// screenrant . com /justice-league-constantine-keanu-reeves-movie-reference/

This time you're right! :)