Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Review: Justice League #70

Justice League #70 came out last week, a continuation of a story where the Royal Flush Gang actually give an extremely powerful version of the League. The Royal Flush Gang ... you know ... those bank robbers that fly around on giant playing cards?

Writer Brian Michael Bendis seems to be wrapping up some of his Event Leviathan storylines here in his version of the League. Indeed, Mark Shaw Leviathan plays a big role in this arc despite us knowing he is already dead in the Checkmate mini-series. I have been a big fan of the Shaw character and I think this story shows how he can be charismatic and cunning while also irritating and polarizing. 

Here, I think the Royal Flush Gang are using one of Shaw's ideas to do a snatch and grab against Superman. They seem to be punching out of their weight class here, stealing the Fortress of Solitude and taking on our heroes. I wonder if this was some ploy within a ploy from the mind of Shaw.

I'll add that Bendis flair for dialogue and comic history are also on display here. As is his nonlinear story-telling as we flip back and forth from the Gang prepping to steal the Fortress to the aftermath.

Phil Hester remains on art here and brings his angular, singular style to the story. He is put to his paces here as the script flips between scenes of people arguing to a brutal knock-down brawl in the streets of an abandoned town. 

I freely admit my fondness for Leviathan probably will pump my grade up a letter. On to the book.

The book starts just the way I like it.

Leviathan blips into the Royal Flush Gang hideout. 

Remember when he had an armada of teleporting spaceships and was talking down to Superman? 

For some reason he has very high respect for the Royal Flush Gang. He call them Justice League level powerhouses. He knows they could have a place in his new world order. And he has a task for them. 

Now I don't think the Gang deserves this much air pumped into their tires. 

So I wonder if this was all a feint by Shaw. Was he buttering them up so he can send them out on a foolish mission. Did Shaw need them distracting the League so he can do something even more nefarious?

That sounds like the guy who almost singlehandedly rewrote the DCU. 

Last issue the Gang stole the Fortress of Solitude.

Superman is more than a bit irked by this even if he isn't wearing his heart on his sleeve.

The addition of Black Adam and Hippolyta to the League has been my favorite part of Bendis' run as they add a little grist for the mill. Here I like Adam teasing Superman about how the Man of Steel holds his emotions in. That is, until Adam needles Superman enough to get through.

Imagine getting advice about mental health and resiliency from Black Adam! That's hysterical.

What is in the Fortress that is dangerous in the wrong hands? Or worth something?

I like Bendis' peek into the place. Bay sun eaters from All Star Superman. Kryptonian armor from the animated series and beyond. The steel diary (written on in heat vision) from Action Comics #241. The interplanetary zoo with at least one animal I remember from the famous Alan Moore Superman Annual #11. And the Titanic!

But it is more than these things. Remember, the Fortress is the last bastion of Kryptonian culture, a testimony to Superman's people. Superman being in the shadows shows his level of concern here. Nice artistic touch.

Great page! Wish I owned it.

It is 2022.

So of course the stealing of the Fortress will be televised and posted.

I love how we see the Gang taking selfies and making sure everyone knows how legendary they are.

And yet, it also shows how these criminals really don't belong here doing this. I mean posting on Insta your robbing Superman? Not exactly a boss move.

Am I wrong? Maybe these days, this is the boss move.

But we flash back to the Gang talking about the offer Shaw has made them. None of them like or respect Shaw. In fact, the King is thinking of back-stabbing Shaw, using this Fortress plan as a part of a bigger plan no one will ever see. 

They won't take on Shaw. Instead, they'll use Shaw to take what they want and more.

I mean, the King talks a good fight. He talks about scheming in a way that the Gang will be one step ahead of everyone while taking all they want. 

I suppose this is the problem with the Leviathan character. The very name should invoke dread in everyone. He took down the espionage world in one day and was a hair away from creating a new world order. So what does it mean when D-listers like the King have no respect? Either they are idiots or a good mirror for the DCU.

The League can't find the Fortress anywhere on Earth or even in other dimensions. Suddenly, the League sees that the old school key to the Fortress is suddenly in the middle of a deserted down. 

Everyone .. and I mean everyone ... know this is a distraction. The League knows the Gang wants Superman to head to this place and confront. But Superman decides to take the bait.

He gets into a brawl with Ace. I don't know if Superman is letting himself be thrown around as part of his assessing the situation. But I didn't know Ace was on this power level.

At the very least, I get to see him use the key as a bludgeoning weapon, something I have wanted to see since I was a very little Anj.

But we flash back again.

The Gang wants to steal the Fortress as a feint to get the 'real score'. Once they have their actual booty, they'll simply give the Fortress back. No need to tick off Superman more than they will have. 

They seem to know the layout of the Fortress. They know the tech of the Fortress. Jack has 'a guy' who has hooked him up.

So what is the ultimate prize? What are they trying to get? And why do they actually need to be in the Fortress as part of this gambit.

I don't know if I know what the hell is going on ... but that is the joy of a good mystery. Where is the Fortress? What is the Gang's real score? Who is the informant who fed them their info? And is that guy on the up and up? And what does this have to do with those fake Deathstrokes? 

Hope all this comes together!

Ace is too enmeshed in his fistfight to listen to the Gang and retreat as planned.

Meanwhile, the Jack decides it is finally time to turn the power on in the Fortress. His informant told him how to handle the crystal tech. But whatever he was told was wrong. The portal doors to the Fortress open up.

Where is the Fortress? And why is Batman so worried?

I hope we get more of Leviathan. I hope we see behind the curtain more. And I hope we get satisfactory answers to all of my questions. But the Gang being a threat, the key as a bat, the dialogue, it works for me.

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

I'm baffled by when Shaw approached the gang and moreover why. He recruited good guys to his cause, not criminals. Now, is Bendis going to clarify what Shaw's goals were? By the time this story takes place, Shaw is dead. I have as much confidence that we'll find out what's going on here as that we'll find out who Lois's brother is and what, really, happened with Rogol Zaar. (I guess that was explained but I will never really get it.)

It's time to just let Bendis thrive over at Dark Horse, and hope that JL vs. the Legion isn't awful. The title itself is a bad start,sadly.


Martin Gray said...

‘I don't know if I know what the hell is going on ... but that is the joy of a good mystery.’

I’m with TN, I don’t believe for a minute that Bendis will supply a satisfactory solution, it’s just more entertaining vamping.

Actually, this issue wasn’t even that entertaining, what with all the JLA-ers standing around making cracks rather than doing anything; I’ve hated this sort of thing since Bendis gave us Disassembled in Avengers, with literally dozens of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes hanging around Avengers Mansion and doing precisely nothing as the Scarlet Witch went mad and tore members apart, one by one. The Royal Flush Gang are among the League’s oldest villains, so what if they’ve struck at Superman, the entire A team should be on the case.

I couldn’t face reviewing this issue because it was so very, very bad. Even the usually reliable JLA Dark back-up was just dull plate spinning.

Anj said...

I DID say I was going to be more forgiving because of the Leviathan twist.

Thanks for comments!