Monday, January 31, 2022

Review: Justice League #71

Justice League #71 came out last week, concluding the Royal Flush story.

The issue comes out at an odd time. The Death of the JLA has been announced for Justice League #75. We know that in many ways this book is in some decaying orbit. We have barely got to know this team and I feel like we never will. It's a shame. The addition of Black Adam and Hippolyta added some edge to the team. Bringing in Naomi added some youth and another way to spur the plot along. 

We still get a few more issues with Brian Michael Bendis as writer. Last issue we had the Royal Flush Gang steal the Fortress of Solitude. The issue also felt like a side-sequel to the Checkmate mini-series. This issue finishes that story, the whole plot of how the Fortress was stolen left to our imagination. But there are the usual great moments in the book. As always the character beats are what make a Bendis book sizzle.

Phil Hester is on art and really gets to stretch his legs here. We get three back to back to back double page spreads of interdimensional super-battles. But there is a quiet Superman moment in the middle of this book which is presented so perfectly, so memorably. The art somehow fits the story.

I don't know if I am up for another dead JLA story. So I will enjoy this mini-run while I can.

On to the specifics.

One thing specifically about the art that works extremely well in this issue is the use of blacks and negative space.

Here Jack  realizes the Gang has messed up again and he should get out. As he uses the crystal to shed some light, Superman is suddenly there. 

It's a small thing. But it feels very cinematic.

Superman tells Jack that in the middle of the Fortress heist, the Gang opened up all the transdimensional portals resulting in a flood of beings coming into our Earth that the League needed to send back.

We get three straight double splashes of the League fighting the Crime Syndicate, a Cthulhu looking thing, and demons. And not just the current League but some friends. They called in some friends.

We see Robotman, Fire, The Great Seven, Justice League Dark, Steel ...

Oh yeah ...

And Supergirl!

That's right! Supergirl, helping her family and friends, belonging to a group, and pitching in!

I am thankful that she was included here. 

Jack spills the beans about what this was all about.

Some giant meteor, laden with precious metals and minerals, worth more than the entirety of the Earth, is flying near the Earth. And using the tech in the Fortress, they could shrink it and steal it. 

It feels a little like Gru stealing the moon in Despicable Me. 

And this meteor is a bit of a feint. Certainly just selling the Fortress would get them enough money to set them up for life without having to do the whole second phase.

Jack gets taken away.

And then this moment, my favorite in the book.

This was the Fortress that was stolen, Superman's legacy and inheritance. And he has to rise above and talk to this Jack calmly. When it is over, you see just how hard it was for him to remain composed. He leans in shadow, exhausted. How hard it must be to be Superman and not pulp the heads of all those who tick you off. But that is why he is Superman.

But even better than that top panel, masterfully done by Hester, we get an acknowledgment by Naomi. She sees that Superman held back and she appreciates it. That is what having a newbie on the League brings to the table.

The League catches up with the rest of the Gang. You think they would stand down.

I will miss Bendis on Superman. 

Here is another great mix of story and art.

The only thing the Gang should be seeing and hearing is Superman telling them to not engage. So put him off to the side and put nothing else in the panel. Perfect panel. 

The Gang gets defeated. The League part of the story is basically done. 

There's nothing left but the Checkmate end of things.

The Checkmate group asks Oliver to invite the Daemon Rose into the group.

And the League actually takes the time to thank Oliver for forming Checkmate and doing all he is doing.

Batman thanking him? Might have sounded more natural coming from Aquaman?

But it definitely sets up Checkmate as something that isn't going away.

As I said at the beginning, the make up of this team was just off enough to have lots of character potential.

Even though the League thanked Oliver, Black Adam isn't so sure. He knows that people with power and influence can be corrupted. And Oliver better not do that. 

How fantastic that Oliver doesn't back down, standing toe to toe and basically telling Adam that he can't 100% trust him either.  

It is moments like this and the one above with Naomi that shows how this lineup could have been a fun one to keep around. 

So as sometimes happen, I have to let the plot sort of wash over me and instead concentrate on the character beats that really hit home. I have to think of the fantastic art, the way it perfectly complemented the words. And I have to remember we saw Supergirl in a DC book acting as a compatriot. 

Overall grade: B


Martin Gray said...

Thanks for the review. I agree, Superman was the highlight of this issue, Bendis really does get Clark. And while I enjoyed Naomi’s reaction to his patience, I still think that in a world with Young Justice and the Titans, she has no business being on the team. There’s also no in-story reason for Hippolyta (queens don’t get to take sabbaticals) and Black Adam (unrepentant super-villain) to be there. Look at all those great heroes on the spread who could be in the A-team.

Speaking of the three action spreads, it was too much for me; stick some dialogue in there and it could’ve been great - superheroes you don’t usually see interaction is one of the reasons to have a team book - but dialogue-free fighting? Not even a Stan Lee-style ‘Happy Hester has done such an amazing job with this big battle that any dialogue would only slow down the fun’ to justify the lack of words. it was a real missed opportunity, and felt like filled.

I liked the Gang’s (no, not THAT Gang) space rock plan, and was intrigued by the Royal Flush effect, but could all have done without the Checkmate business. They know Lois Lane’s supposed brother is an assassin, but bugger all else, so want to recruit him?

Amazing cover

Anonymous said...

Bendis and Kennedy have written Supergirl well, but her role has generally been minor. Sometimes a cameo or a panel or two. A few times with significantly more substance, but still in just a few panels as a supporting character, not central to the stories.

The problem is that DC has been floundering at figuring out how to use her as the *star* of a book. King wanted to write 12 issues, and DC told him no, it wouldn't sell.

Well as long as DC puts out stuff like the Infected arc, or the depressing Future State, or King's tale, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy - these treatments don't work.

The double page spreads in this issue were pretty fantastic, and I spent some time trying to spot all the characters, but needed help. DC wikia page to the rescue:

https: // dc . fandom . com/wiki/Justice_League_Vol_4_71

They list the "Reserves" - I didn't spot Ambush Bug or some others in the spreads, and barely know the names of a few. Fire is obvious, but Ice had me confused. That's her, quite small, at the top left of the first spread, but I think emanating energy that is miscolored as flames. It's the flames that through me off.

Tom King is writing and moreover Greg Smallwood is drawing Ice as quite the flirtatious femme fatale in Human Target right now, so she's recently become a person of, um, some interest.


Professor Feetlebaum said...

"King wanted to write 12 issues, and DC told him no, it wouldn't sell."

I think DC made the right decision (but for a different reason). Can you imagine FOUR MORE ISSUES of Ruthye droning on and on?

I've got a feeling that DC will never learn from their mistakes regarding Supergirl. Didio's leaving hasn't changed anything. It WAS nice to see her make a quick cameo in this issue. I wonder if her inclusion was Bendis's idea or Hester"s?

The Death of the JLA sounds like just another gimmick. This is comics. They'll be back. Will there be a substitute JLA? If there is, I bet Superman's replacement will be Jon, not Kara.

Anonymous said...

Look at what we are reduced to, mere glimpses of Supergirl in the background of a single panel, admittedly being aggressive & heroic but done-in-one all the same. I'm led to the same conclusion week after week, DC's Editorial Spaces Hates Supergirl & Her Fans...there is no other explanation for this level of abuse.


Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

Interesting take on all this Martin. Odd for us to feel so off on things.

As for that silent Supergirl panel, keep it in your head. It might unfortunately be #1 on next year's top moments list.