Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE #66
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis, Ram V
Artists: Phil Hester, Eric Gapstur, Sumit Kumar
Colours: Trish Mulvihill, Hi-Fi, Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letters: Josh Reed, Rob Leigh
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Justice League #66: The Hall of Justice has been invaded by the cosmic threat of the Synmar Utopica, and it will take the full force of the United Planets, led by Superman, to defeat it without destroying Earth in the process. Meanwhile, the secrets of Checkmate are being whispered among the Justice League, and that spells trouble for Green Arrow and Black Canary. All this, and guest star Deathstroke!
Meanwhile in Gotham, Batman stands watch as the Eternal Knight continues her quest through the maze of Randir Singh’s mind. And she’s not the only one lost within it! But where is the Justice League Dark in all of this? Under the sea in the lost city of Atlantis! Merlin is ready to rule, and it’s up to Aquaman and this band of magical misfits to save the entire kingdom!
This month’s issue of Naomi was great. I’m really loving this current story that guest-stars the Justice League. And it has a great cover this month. Hold on a minute… why does the cover say Justice League #66? Oh, it’s supposed to be a Justice League comic! I never would have guessed. This seems like an odd point to lead off the positives section with. However, it actually isn’t a bad story. If this were an issue of Naomi, this would be a fantastic story. But it’s only an okay Justice League story.
So what stands out about Brian Michael Bendis’ main story? Well, it’s got some cool guest stars in it. A number of reserve members show up to help out, including Plastic Man, Firestorm, Captain Atom, and even Booster Gold. Unfortunately, they only appear for a couple of panels. Instead of showing us any action with, Bendis then wastes an entire page exploring Naomi’s feelings, before introducing his newly created United Order team in the story’s cliffhanger ending.
And the art by Phil Hester and Eric Gapstur was great. The story was pure meh, but at least it’s pretty to look at. And Sumit Kumar’s art in the backup story is fantastic too.
The backup Justice League Dark story, on the other hand, is fantastic. We get to see Ram V’s new character help Randu Singh regain full control of his mind. At first, I had thought Singh was a new character, but it turns out he’s a side character from The Demon by Jack Kirby.
The dominant facet of Singh’s mind left after the encounter is that of a young boy. This gives the character an interesting twist. As the Eternal Knight states, “He is just a small child… trapped now in an old body”. It would be interesting to see him meet up with the hero Shazam, who has a similar dynamic.
Meanwhile, we see the Justice League Dark team facing off against Merlin in Atlantis. I love that even underwater, John is still the same old irreverent scouser. He’s never put off-balance, even in the most bizarre settings or situations.
And I was quite pleased to see Tempest appear. It’s only fitting for him to be present to defend Atlantis. Also, he’s quite the adept mage himself. Perhaps he might be a worthy addition to the team.
After their encounter with Daemon Rose, Green Arrow and Black Canary call up Lois Lane. Now is she surprised by his claims to be her brother? Or does Lois hint that there’s an interesting story why no one has heard of him before? No, her reaction is pretty much, “You met my brother, cool”, as if it’s an ordinary occurrence. At times, Bendis can deliver some amazing writing. Justice League #66 is not one of those times.
There is one point in the battle, where the Flash saves Batman. It’s unclear exactly how, but I don’t have an issue with that. With his super-speed, Barry has saved Batman and other Leaguers many times in similar situations. What I don’t understand is Batman’s reaction. Bruce starts to thank Barry, “You saved my life again Barry. I’ll never forget–“. This is tremendously out of character for the gruff, taciturn Dark Knight. The most gratitude Bruce would typically give is maybe a nod and a “Hnh”. The only situation in which it is believable for Batman to talk like this is when he’s being played by Adam West.
And I am beginning to believe that Bendis gets royalties for how many time his own creations appear in each issue. Between Naomi, the Synmar Utopica, and the United Order, there’s barely any room for the Justice League in the book. Despite this supposedly being the Justice League’s book, Bendis spends most of his time on forwarding Naomi‘s story, continuing his Synmar Utopica storyline from Superman, setting up Daemon Rose for his Checkmate title, and introducing his United Order team.
Bendis is just too preoccupied with focussing on his own creations and forwarding storylines from his previous titles. I don’t mind him putting Naomi on the team, or occasionally brining a character or plotline in from one of his other titles. But he’s cramming so much in, that he’s squeezing the stars of the book out.
DC, I have a suggestion. Hand the entire book over to Ram V and allow him to balance the page count between the two teams as he sees fit. Instead, give Bendis his own anthology title called Naomi and Her Amazing Friends. Set it outside the normal continuity and then let Bendis write whatever the Hell he wants, separate from the canon DCU.
Finally, as a cat person, I have to correct a bit of dialogue that Bendis put in Green Arrow’s mouth. Ollie states, “…I hate dogs. It’s a character flaw”. No Ollie, as long as you’re not actually advocating animal abuse, it’s a perfectly reasonable viewpoint to have.
The two stories in Justice League #66 are wildly different in terms of quality. Ram V’s Justice League Dark backup is fully deserving of a 5/5. However, I’d only give Bendis’ main story a 2/5. I hope that Bendis’ story starts to improve soon, but at least the backup story is a great read.