Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE VS THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #3
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Scott Godlewski
Colors: Ryan Cody
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Justice League Vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes #3: The Justice League is trapped in the 31st century with the Legion of Super-Heroes, while the looming terror of the Great Darkness hovers over both time period simultaneously. Even as the great heroes of the 21st century get to experience the fantastic far-flung future, the mysteries behind the Gold Lantern and the Great Darkness threaten all of existence. What is the secret behind the Great Darkness? And will the greatest heroes of two ages be able to stop it before it’s too late?
Matthew: Much like the previous two issues, there are some interesting ideas in Justice League vs. the Legion of Super-Heroes #3. Pulling pairs of characters to different time periods is neat concept with a lot of potential. We don’t get more than an introduction to it, but it certainly seems like it could be interesting. The inclusion of Kamandi is a great choice in particular.
Derek: I totally agree. There are some great ideas in that story that just beg to be explored further. I loved the idea of the smaller groups lost in different eras. And the guest appearance the Batman of the future, Terry McGinnis was also a great idea. I wonder if there will be more guest-stars from other eras next issue.
Matthew: Out of the pairings we get, there’s a moment with Aquaman and Jo Nah that is quite nice in the beginning. It doesn’t last long as Aquaman’s characterization hasn’t been stable since the beginning of “Rebirth.” We’ve all of a sudden got angry mid ’90’s Aquaman again. Maybe he got time travelled in as well. There are moments where I really want to like this Legion of Super-Heroes, I’ve been a fan for a long time. There are moments that almost shine, but it never really coalesces. Brainy’s characterization seems right on for the most point, but few of the other Legionnaires feel right.
Derek: I actually liked the angry 90s Aquaman, but I have to agree that DC needs to establish a solid characterization for Arthur – and then stick to it. However, Bendis has a general problem with writing characters that actually stay in character. So, even if Aquaman was clearly defined, Bendis still might have had Arthur acting strangely.
Matthew: Scott Godlewski does his best to keep the issue looking interesting. The scenes inside the Darkness when they are forcibly time travelled look cool and he’s able to provide a lot of dynamic poses despite a lack of action during a lot of the issue.
Derek: I have to agree with this. Scott Godlewski’s art is honestly the best part of this book. But great art can only do so much. It can’t really save a flawed story. This series has a lot of potential. It features two of DC’s premier teams with fantastic art. And Bendis has some great ideas with lot of potential – but Bendis isn’t using that potential.
Matthew: After another two-month gap and a storyline that should’ve wrapped up before the death of the Justice League in Justice League #75, one has to wonder if anyone even cares about this series anymore outside of Bendis. It always felt like this “darkness” had some sort of tie in to the upcoming Dark Crisis. But, one fears that series will be half over when this one finally wraps up. One can only wonder if Dark Crisis will manage to spoil the end of Justice League vs. the Legion of Super-Heroes. It wouldn’t be the first time Bendis has given away an ending in advance.
Derek: Justice League #75 did vaguely spoil the ending. Black Adam states, “We already fought the Great Darkness and defeated it”, referring to this story. It’s debatable how much of a spoiler that is, as their victory would have been inevitable anyway. But the book’s lateness does upset the flow of the overarching story leading up to Dark Crisis. The buildup to that event has been carefully planned. But I don’t think it will effect that story very much, if at all.
Matthew: It shouldn’t be a surprise that Bendis’s dialogue is again a detriment to the issue. Everyone just seems too quippy. Not everyone talks like Spider-Man. Bendis makes Green Arrow sound like an idiot, and not in a good , endearing way. At least two times I found myself skipping ahead because the dialogue was just cumbersome and uninteresting. The further along this goes with references to this event as “the great darkness,” the less significant it seems. It’s certainly not anything like the original “Great Darkness Saga,” and to continue using that phrasing feels more and more misplaced in this series.
Derek: Bendis is too overly impressed with his ability to write clever dialogue. He doesn’t realize that it works better when used sparingly, rather than cramming as much as possible into every single character interaction in the story. And it only sounds right if coming out of mouths of certain characters. If it were more judiciously applied, his dialogue could be an asset to the story, but he overdoes it.
Matthew: Bendis also manages to spoil a reveal in the issue. We are told that Epoch warned the League about a Gold Lantern and then we get to see the flashback. Besides being redundant and wasting page space, it’s done in a way that spoils the more dramatic second time it’s revealed. It’s very awkward, and if you remember this happening, it’s got to feel even more wasteful.
Derek: I get the feeling that Bendis couldn’t decide whether to reveal this in the flashback or when Batman dramatically realizes one of the Legionnaires is a Gold Lantern. I’m guessing that he thought either was a good way to make the reveal. And then he leapt to the conclusion that using both would be even better. This is really a rookie writing mistake that a professional writer should be able to avoid making.
Matthew: The Justice League roster itself is a concern in Justice League Vs The Legion of Super-Heroes #3 as well. Black Adam and Naomi were always head scratchers, and it becomes more clear this issue. Crossovers like this are usually exciting because a Leaguer meets a Legionnaire and it’s interesting. Brainiac and Batman fit that bill mostly, but Black Adam is completely out of place here. He’s not League material and hold no cache for a meetup with the Legion. Even Brainiac can see he’s useless when he tells him to not shoot any ore lighting bolts into the darkness. Of course Black Adam can only come back with a meaningless quip. Quip, quip, quip.
Derek: Actually, I think Black Adam’s presence on the Justice League has a lot of potential. And I think Bendis may have not been given a choice about his being on the team. With a Black Adam movie imminent, DC is trying to force a redemption arc for the character, so that Adam lines up with his movie counterpart. The problem is that Bendis doesn’t really seem to know what to do with the character beyond having him be brash and arrogant. We really need to see some character growth for Adam, but Bendis has yet to show any.
Matthew: Naomi wanders around like “little girl lost” in the issue. Not only is she not a bona fide legend from the Age of Heroes, creating zero excitement when she encounters a Legionnaire, she repeats whatever Brainy and Mon-El say to her. Even Bendis’s nepotism can’t save her from an embarrassing appearance. Bendis even throws in an appearance of the forgettable Leviathan. No cared about it then, no one cares about it now. It’s laughable that this is supposed to make the characters quake in their boots when the Leviathan sigil is displayed on a door in Kamandi’s era.
Derek: Naomi… sigh! Honestly, I have no idea why she’s even in the League, other than Bendis trying like crazy to make her a huge breakout star. She’s a good enough character to merit her own miniseries or two, but she’s not as special as Bendis wants us to think. She might make for a good member on another team. But the League is DC’s premier team and usually features their biggest stars. She has a long way to go before she’s Justice League material.
Matthew: Lastly, from a storytelling perspective, we are half way through this series and we don’t understand what the stakes are yet. we don’t know what the darkness is, why it needs to be stopped or anything really. We can infer of course that it will destroy reality with these temporal events, but it just doesn’t come across as dangerous and exciting as it should for a crossover between these two teams.
Derek: I don’t think we even really care what the stakes are. Thanks to the delays in the title, we already know that the League and Legion will overcome the Great Darkness in this series. And we know that the Great Darkness returns almost immediately and is not the least bit diminished as a threat. That knowledge seems to indicate that the stakes in this encounter are irrelevant. The Justice League avoided being killed along with the Legion, just to die with the Justice League Incarnate instead.
Matthew: If you’re buying this series, ask yourself why. Based on this issue, it’s not going to get any better and like Event Leviathan before it, it’s impact will be obsolete before it’s completed. At the current rate, that’s November.
Derek: It’s impact is already obsolete thanks to the events told in Justice League #75. I doubt anyone’s buying this for the writing. Perhaps for the art. Or perhaps in the belief that this series is required for fully understanding Dark Crisis. However, I suspect it could be easily skipped without impacting their enjoyment of that event.