Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE #52
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Jeff Loveness
Colours: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Justice League #52: “The Garden of Mercy” part two of two! For the first time, the Justice League explores the planet of the Black Mercy’s origin. One flower is enough to incapacitate even the strongest hero, but with an entire planet full of them, the Justice League must steel their minds or else succumb to the withering effects of the great tree at the core. With Batman unable to cope, can Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Green Lantern survive the horrors of their souls?
Justice League #52 brings us the conclusion of Jeff Loveness’ fill-in story that pits the team against the Black Mercy. While this is a Justice League story, the focus is clearly on Batman. Over the decades, many comic writers have been drawn to exploring workings of the Batman’s psyche. Such stories are often very powerful and reveal some interesting interpretations of the Dark Knight. This issue, it’s Loveness’ turn to tackle this question.
Under the influence of the Black Mercy, Bruce encounters his mother, Martha Wayne. But this is no simple fantasy life where his parents never died. Batman’s psyche is much stronger than the plant’s usual victims, so he remains aware of the Black Mercy’s attempts to manipulate his mind. He realizes that “Martha” is really the guise it is using to speak to him.
The life the Black Mercy offers him is one where he lets go of the Batman identity and becomes a fully realized Bruce Wayne. And in that life, he could accomplish as much or even more than he could as the Batman. She tells him, “With your mind, your devotion, your resources… just look at what you can do. Turn your enemies into friends. Give those friends the help they need. End the game. And make sure the truly dangerous never hurt anyone again”. She offers him a life where he can allow himself to be happy: “I want to give you an ending, Bruce. A happy one. Don’t you deserve that?”.
And when the rest of the team breaks Bruce free from the Mercy, she gives him a parting thought, “… when you wake up, just ask yourself… How do you feel? Do you want to do this forever?”. This leaves Bruce pondering if there is some wisdom in what the plant told him.
This is reinforced in a touching scene where Superman later visits Batman to have a heart-to-heart about their encounter. It says a lot that Superman recognizes how Bruce was affected by this encounter. Batman is a master at hiding his feelings, but Clark knows his friend well enough to see through his stoic façade.
Superman tells him about the original vision that the Black Mercy gave him back in the Superman Annual #11 (1985) story “For the Man Who Has Everything”. The life Clark saw with a wife and a son on Krypton gave him the impetus to start making changes in his own life, which eventually led him to establish a family on Earth. Clark tells Bruce, “I tried to run from it for so long… but it taught me something good. We can change. We’re allowed to change. We can want new things. That means we’re still alive”. For those lucky enough to survive the Black Mercy, the encounter reveals the life they truly desire. And this realization is the first step to
And Superman is living proof of that. His first encounter with the Black Mercy showed him the ideal life he longed for. And this second encounter merely showed him his life as it currently is, proving that he had realized his dream.
This is a powerful story that not only gives us a peek into the Batman’s soul, but also showcases the strong friendship of the World’s Finest team. Loveness has mainly written fill-in issues for DC so far, but I feel this story shows he deserves to have his own regular title. I know that Joshua Williamson is slated to take over Justice League next issue, but I’m not sure if that’s a permanent assignment or just for the duration of the Dark Nights Death Metal crossover storyline. If Williamson isn’t sticking around afterwards, DC should strongly consider giving Loveness the gig. Either way, I’d be extremely happy, as Williamson is also a very talented writer – I especially love his work on The Flash over the past few years.
And perhaps Robson Rocha and Daniel Henriques could return as well. I was quite impressed at their visual interpretation of the League. The team looks their iconic best, especially the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel in the story’s epilogue.
I can’t really find anything to fault in this story. It’s disappointing that we only got a short taste of what this particular creative team could bring to the title. I look forward to seeing what they produce in the future, whether in the pages of Justice League or elsewhere in the DCU.
Justice League #52 is a fantastic issue worthy of DC’s flagship team title. Although, this was a fill-in story, the quality was not in the least bit lacking. Loveness, Rocha, and Henriques should take a bow for this fine story.