THIS WEEK: author Brian Michael Bendis combines his two team titles for Justice League Vs The Legion Of Superheroes, a new six-part miniseries. Plus, every other comic released features the Bat family!
Note: This piece contains spoilers. If you’d like a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation for the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final statements.
Justice League vs. the Legion of Superheroes #1
Author: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Scott Godlewskic
Colorist: Ryan Cody
Letter writer: Dave Sharpe
Justice League vs. the Legion of Superheroes #1 arrives this week, essentially the beginning of the endgame for writer Brian Michael Bendis’ time on both eponymous franchises. Looking six months ahead, Bendis is currently only scheduled to co-write the follow-up to Naomi at DC, a book with the appropriate title Naomi season 2. All that is to say that this new miniseries is a big one, which also has the task of combining the publisher’s most prominent superhero team with its most niche superhero team.
The choice that strikes me most in this first issue is one that has been teased in other Bendis comics. It is the reference to the series of The Great Darkness Saga, arguably the best and most cherished Legion of Super-Heroes story. First published in 1982, it is a rare Legion comic that has remained in constant print. It was written by a very young Paul Levitz with art by Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt, and it’s definitely my personal favorite Legion story. The Levitz-Giffen run is a real gem, with the writer doing a great job mixing Ursula K. Le Guin-esque deep space anthropology with teen superhero drama, all powered by striking Giffen artwork that still holds up well by today’s standards, and in my opinion has a strong influence even on the current era of cosmic superhero visuals.
Anyway, the point is that by alluding to that story, this series inherently takes a pretty big swing. So far, it’s only been an effective way to build anticipation for the rest of the book, at least for those of us familiar with the original story. Although, I bet on the unknown the sentence great darkness is still quite foreboding; it can work well for both groups. Indeed, this might be Bendis’ best edition of the Legion of Superheroes yet. His run with the title thus far has been disjointed, broken first by his departure as head of the Superman comic book family, then throughout the line. Future state event that took over DC Comics around this time last year, and third by the slow relaunch of all DC Comics titles.
In that first series of books, I always felt like whatever Bendis had planned started with the first arc and then was destroyed, leading to a few issues with some of the biggest names in superhero comics making a page each. Those comics were fun, but the run felt a bit fragmented because they were in it. There is almost a re-centering in this book, using the new Gold Lantern character as the reader’s entry point into the world.
Beyond that, the rest of Bendis’s hallmarks are there: the snappy dialogue, the massive spread of rapid-fire banter, and the continuity that hints at superhero in jokes. letterer Dave Sharpe does a really impressive job on one two-page spread in particular, guiding the eye through a chaotic meeting of the two teams where everyone is talking at once. People who don’t tend to enjoy those kinds of Bendis comics probably won’t be won over here (or probably ever at this point, to be honest), but I liked it. And while I missed Ryan Sook’s work I thought Scott Godlewskic and Ryan Cody generally put down strong art in this book.
Still, not much happens in this first issue. We are reacquainted with the new version of the Legion, there is a reference to the great darkness and a mysterious event brings the two teams together. My biggest problem with this one is that there’s not much clarity about what’s happening or why, and that’s scene by scene. For example, this book starts with a legion fighting a giant monster that we can never fully see, and as a result I don’t know what it’s trying to do to the Legion or what they’re doing in return to stop it. This kind of overcrowded, disorienting lack of clarity has been an issue on this run, and while it’s nice to see these two big teams come together, I’m a little skeptical that more characters will make the proceeding in Justice League vs. the Legion of Superheroes feel less overcrowded or jumbled.
But we’ll see! The constant teasing of the Great Darkness—plus my long-standing love for these characters and Bendis’ appreciation for great swings—is enough to keep me coming back.
verdict: To leaf through
The Round Up
- My favorite DC comic of this week was actually Batman Urban Legends #11, with three truly memorable stories. This monthly Gotham anthology has been a real delight, with nearly every issue featuring a great mix of stories pushing overarching plot threads for the Bat family with smaller, mostly standalone stories. This month we get a Batman and Zatana team-up from Vita Ayala and Nikola Čižmesija (of Nick Filardic and Steve Wands), a fantastic story from the veteran indie comics team of ram v. and Anand Radhakrishnan (of John Pearson and Aditya Bidika), and the ever-welcome appearance of Ace the Bat-dog, in a surprisingly gripping story by Mark Russell and Karl Mostert (of Trish Mulvihll and again, wands). So yeah, another great Bat anthology this month, one that you can usually pick up and enjoy outside of the other Bat titles.
- In other Bat comics (and the whole rest of the week fits that bill), I continue to enjoy Shadow of the bat, the weekly story currently set in Detective Strips. There’s a lot to like about this one – the interesting take on Arkham, the new status quo for Arkham, and the way the book focuses on Gotham characters who aren’t Batman – but what I like the most is the artwork. Ivan Reis always evolves to the next level and evolves his work to fit every new character he works on at DC (and he’s done a lot), and he’s inked by this Danny Miki and colored by Brad Anderson. The coloring works very well with Reis’ lines, and I hope we see more of this combination inside or outside Gotham’s city limits.
- oh hey, a Mother Panic reference in Future State of Gotham #9! Plus also a backup story from Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko! All good things.
- I’m Batman #5 was a bit disjointed, putting together work from Christian Duce, Juan Ferreyra, and Laura Braga. I love all those artists, but I still prefer one here. Anyway, this issue was the most drastic yet for the series, with development at the end being pretty excellent.
- Finally, The Joker #11 continues to tell a story that combines its titular villain with Texas Chainsaw Massacre with Jim and Barbara Gordon who remain our heroes. It just works, and this is arguably my favorite Batman comic overall.
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