Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE #71
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Colours: Romulo Farjardo Jr.
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Justice League #71: The Royal Flush Gang hatched one of the most elaborate plans in the history of the DC Universe, and now we know that all of it was a prelude to the crime of this and maybe even the next century. How does it connect to the trial of Black Adam?
When all seems lost, hope can still be found! With Wonder Woman now by their side, the Justice League Dark have survived to fight another day. Merlin is only getting started-can the team still prove they have the magic within to defeat the medieval mage?
The conclusion to the “Biggest Score Ever” is a big improvement over Brian Michael Bendis’ previous stories for Justice League. This confrontation with the Royal Flush Gang is the sort of thing he should have been writing from the start. Up to now, he has been using DC’s premier team book to rehash storylines from his previous titles for DC. But finally, we see the team tackling someone other than Leviathan or the Synmar Utopica: the Royal Flush Gang – a team that nearly every incarnation of the League has faced at some point.
And Bendis finally seems to have finally realized that this is not a Naomi title that the League is guest-starring in. While it’s acceptable to bring a character to the forefront, no single member of the League should continually overshadow the rest. In this issue, however, while Naomi plays an important role in the story, she is not the main focus.
There are also some great guest-stars in the story. The League calls in reserve members and other teams such as the Justice Society and the Doom Patrol to help deal with the extra-dimensional threats the Royal Flush Gang has inadvertently unleashed on the world. The brawl between some of DC’s greatest heroes and villains is beautifully illustrated by Phil Hester and Eric Gapstur.
However, despite the improvement, Bendis’ main story is still upstaged by Ram V’s Justice League Dark backup. Unfortunately, this story not only marks the departure of Ram V from Justice League Dark, but also the departure of the team from the title.
In this final chapter, Doctor Fate visits each of his teammates, using his knowledge of coming events to give each some advice or comfort. What he tells them offers tantalizing hints for future writers to pick up on if they wish. Two of these encounters are especially noteworthy.
First is his conversation with John Constantine. Constantine is the only member to refuse to hear what Khalid has to tell him. He explains, ‘…telling me the future would be foolish. And I don’t need to carry the weight of knowing. Nothing good ever comes out of telling ol’ John anything. You should know this by now chief… I’m a nasty piece of work”. This says a lot about Constantine. He’s savvy enough about the rules of magic to know that a prophecy can be a burden that limits one’s free will.
And it also shows that Ram V understands the John Constantine’s core contradiction. John displays a devil-may-care bravado that actually covers a deep-seated self-loathing. And Khalid has no words capable of granting Constantine any comfort.
Khalid’s words for Detective Chimp are, “You are at the heart of us, Bobo. You possess within you a sort of magic that no helm, nor backward spell, nor suit of rags can reproduce”. This indicates Bobo’s crucial role to the team. He is the soul of the team. And it also hints that he has some sort of inherent magic despite not having any apparent magical abilities. This could be meant metaphorically, but perhaps it be true in a literal sense. Perhaps Bobo has mystical abilities that are as yet untapped.
This, and the words Fate has for the other members of the team are somewhat vague. Ram V is dropping enticing hints, but their vagueness leaves the next writer plenty of room to add their own interpretation.
It’s unfortunate that Ram V is departing without resolving the team’s conflict with Merlin. His story has clearly been building towards a major battle with the legendary wizard, but he’s leaving it to future writers to resolve the story. However, this does leave the possibility that the story will never be finished if the next writer decides to go in an entirely different direction. Hopefully, the story will get completed. And I hope Ram V’s successor is capable of delivering a conclusion worthy of the build-up he’s given it.
While Bendis’ story this issue is a big improvement, it still has some problems. While much of Bendis’ nonsense from other titles is absent, there is still too much time being spent of Checkmate and Daemon Rose. Giving Lois Lane a long-lost secret brother is a pointless addition to the Superman mythos. However, pointless additions to the Superman mythos is the hallmark of Bendis’ work for DC.
While I understand what Bendis’ was trying to do by having the League thanking Green Arrow for taking charge and funding the Hall of Justice and Checkmate. However, it was rather clumsily written. Does he expect us to believe that the Batman would openly declare, “We just wanted to thank you”. Bruce might grudgingly make a gruff expression of gratitude, but not a gushing statement like that.
However, the exchange between Black Adam and Ollie was rather good. Adam expresses distrust and Ollie acknowledges the value in having Adam serving as a check and balance on him. However, I think this would have been more effective and in character for this exchange to be between Ollie and Bruce. But at least Ollie recognizes that Batman will also be keeping an eye on him.
Justice League #71 shows a distinct improvement in the main feature. Hopefully, Bendis will continue to improve, as he won’t have Ram V’s Justice League Dark backup to carry the series anymore. On the other hand, now that the series’ cancellation has been announced, perhaps the point is moot. Ram V’s last Justice League Dark story merits a full 5 out of 5, but the main story’s writing brings the overall rating down.