Review: Justice League #59
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Colours: Tamra Bonvillain, Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letters: Josh Reed, Rob Leigh
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Justice League #59: Writer Brian Michael Bendis reunites with artist David Marquez (Miles Morales, Iron Man, Batman/Superman) for a new, star-studded Justice League featuring Superman, Batman, the Flash, Hawkgirl, Aquaman, Hippolyta, new DC powerhouse Naomi, and…is that Black Adam?! Superman is leading the charge to reinvent the Justice League-and at the same time, a new, cosmic-powered threat arrives from Naomi’s homeworld to rule the Earth!
And in the backup story, dark days lie ahead for the new Justice League Dark. Zatanna and John Constantine take a road trip, only to discover horror around the bend as a friend-and sometime foe-is reborn in fire! A legend is destroyed, and another takes a terrible turn, as Merlin reveals the beginning of a new, blood-drenched plot for all humankind. So begins writer Ram V’s new journey into the abyss with the Justice League Dark and artist Xermanico!
With Death Metal, Endless Winter, and Future State behind us, we now have Justice League #59, the first regular issue in months. With this new issue comes a new regular writer, Brian Michael Bendis. For a while that DC’s flagship team book has lacked a regular writer. Since Scott Snyder’s run ended, no writer has stuck around for an extended period. Personally, I was hoping Joshua Williamson would get the job, but Bendis is an acceptable choice.
I’ve had some issues with Bendis’ run on the Superman titles, but I loved his Young Justice series. Bendis is a good writer, or at least he can be, although his work for DC so far has been hit-and-miss. The main problem with Bendis’ work at DC is some of the changes he’s introduced (i.e. aging Jon Kent several years). So, I think a team book like Justice League is the best place for him. Unlike Legion of Super-Heroes, most of the characters also star in their own titles, so Bendis isn’t free to introduce sweeping changes to their status quo unchecked. For example, any changes to Batman would have to be cleared with James Tynion IV and Mariko Tamaki, the current writers of Batman and Detective Comics.
On the subject of changes, there’s been a rumour going around that Bendis was changing Black Adam’s name to “Shazadam”. That name appeared in the Justice League preview in Infinite Frontier #0, which some have taken as confirmation of the change. However, I took that as humorous misunderstanding, not as an official renaming. I was pleased to see that Black Adam was not referred as “Shazadam” as once this issue. This isn’t conclusive, but I think that if the name pops up again, it will be as a running gag on Bendis’ part.
In this issue, we see the biggest shakeup in the team’s membership than we have seen in a while. The core team has mostly been the Trinity, the Flash, a Green Lantern, and Aquaman, with a few others coming and going (mainly Martian Manhunter and Hawkgirl). In the wake of Death Metal, Superman, Batman, Flash, and Aquaman remain, but Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter are gone.
In their place, Hawkgirl, Green Arrow, and Black Canary return to the League, plus Bendis introduces some newcomers to the team: Naomi and Black Adam – with Wonder Woman’s mother, Hippolyta set to appear soon. Naomi is Bendis’ own recent creation, and as such, I don’t mind any changes he makes with this character. However, I suspect that Bendis intends much of the focus of the title to centre on her, which I am wary of. But there was a lot left hanging in her debut series, and Bendis will finally get the chance to properly flesh out the character.
Black Adam, on the other hand, is an interesting choice. This is not the first time DC has toyed with Adam in a heroic role. DC has portrayed him as an anti-hero in recent years, and he has even served as a member of the Justice Society in the past (which may or may not be back in canon now). In fact, his origin story is that he’s a fallen hero. The recent Shazam series has implied that Adam will someday fully redeem himself and will become the seventh member of the Shazam family. So, I expect that Adam’s time in the League will be an important part of his redemption arc.
While the Justice League Dark series has ended, the team returns as a backup feature in Justice League #59. The power team of Ram V as writer and Xermanico as artist bring us a story that sets up the team’s next arc. Like the main League, the membership will have some changes, especially given the absence of Wonder Woman and the recent changes in status of some of the other members.
However, we don’t know the full extent of the changes yet, as only Zatanna and sometimes member John Constantine appear in this introductory story. However, one other potential member, Jason Blood, shows up at the very end. And if Jason Blood is present, can the Demon be far behind? But it’s unclear if Jason is making a guest-appearance or if he will join the team.
The threat that Ram V teases for the story ties into Jason and Etrigan’s own backstory – the wizard Merlin. The story shows Merlin destroying the sword Excalibur to retrieve the jewel set in its hilt – presumably an artifact of great power. Merlin declares, “I know now the destiny of this mortal realm and I trust it to mortal hands no longer. I will do at last what I could not all those years ago. I will drag this world toward its destiny, kicking and screaming if I must”.
It’s unclear what Merlin is planning, but it sounds apocalyptic in scale. And Merlin is quite literally the foremost wizard in fiction. So, he’s likely the most powerful magic-user in the DCU. He may be the biggest threat that Justice League Dark will ever face. This is going to be a killer story.
As I’ve said above, Bendis’ work has been hit-and-miss at DC so far. I would put this issue’s story in the hit column, but I hope that he’s bringing his ‘A’ game to this title and will maintain a consistent level of quality.
Both stories in Justice League #59 are both setting up their upcoming story arcs, and there’s a lot of potential on display in this issue. I have no doubt that Ram V and Xermanico have a fantastic story arc prepared for us. And Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez’s story shows promise as well. Regardless of which story holds more interest for you, this is an auspicious start for the Infinite Frontier era of Justice League.