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Justice League #67 – Review

Justice League #67

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis (Justice League), Ram V (Justice League Dark)

Art: Phil Hester – Pencils, Eric Gapstur – Inks (Justice League), Sumit Kumar (J.L.D.)
Colours: Hi-Fi (Justice League),
Romulo Fajardo Jr. (Justice League Dark)

Letters: Josh Reed (Justice League), Rob Leigh (Justice League Dark)
Pubished by DC Comics
Released 14/9/21

Green Arrow and Black Canary facing overwhelming odds in the form of multiple (!?) Deathstrokes is exactly the sort of high-concept, action packed, crowd pleasing scene we might expect from Justice League. David Marquez and Alejandro Sanchez really deliver with this kinetically charged cover; it’s a crazy piece of choreography and the sort of thing that can only really work in comics.

‘United Order: Part Four’ opens on two contrasting scenes: a moody, Bourne-esque sequence as Leonardo Lane/The Daemon Rose nurses his wounds and gathers his thoughts following his near-deadly encounter with a Deathstroke imposter; meanwhile, the Justice League and The United Order are locked in a mighty battle with the nigh-incalculable might of Synmar Utopica (a Superman analog gone awry from the farthest reaches of the Galaxy).

Even with the recent addition of Black Adam and a new ‘mega power’ from another world, Naomi, the Justice League has been struggling to contain the mighty alien threat. Following his escape from the United Order, he raced to attack Earth and draw out Superman. In the process, the Hall of Justice has fallen. Incredibly, Synmar Utopica seems indomitable, even with the added might of various alien heroes from across the galaxy. His power grows ever stronger, feeding off the might of his opponents. This leads to Batman and Superman resorting to drastic measures…

This Justice League story has been quite high concept and high impact so far, and this chapter is no exception. Just as with the previous story written by Brian Michael Bendis, there are a large number of characters in play, and each gets their own ‘title card’ introduction. This is a great idea for those not familiar with all characters and certainly comes into its own when dealing with members of the United Order. There’s a fair amount to keep track of as more characters enter the fray and yet this remains a title which seems geared toward accessibility, inclusion and popcorn entertainment.

It’s occurred to me while reading previous issues that perhaps Bendis is writing for a younger, or at least newer audience, one accessing comics by way of the DC cinema and TV offerings. Certainly Justice League has been working on this level thus far and has even had tie-in covers with the recent ‘Zach Snyder’ cut of the Justice League film. With an approach that courts mass appeal, Bendis writes huge battles and set-pieces punctuated with classic, comic book style dialogue throughout this action packed issue.

His words are paired with some high intensity art from Phil Hester and Eric Gapstur, coloured here by ‘Hi-Fi’. There’s a bold, slightly angular style which calls to mind some of the DC animated series while also having a tone all its own. Hester’s distinctive renderings are emphasised with sure-handed inks and high-saturation colours. Each art team working on this title thus far has brought its own stamp, and these guys are no exception. It’s a busy story, with some crowded sequences, but they convey proceedings with confidence and skill.

Moving from the high octane, interstellar antics of the main Justice League story to this issue’s instalment of Justice League Dark, we find an entirely different proposition. This story has been phenomenal, so far; lurking in the shadows of the main title, waiting for the unsuspecting reader…

Any comic story that opens on a wide black panel, empty aside from a quote from Algernon Blackwood (a British writer of supernatural stories, admired by many, including H.P. Lovecraft, for those looking to delve further!), is looking to do things a little differently. The JLD are in pursuit of Merlin (yes, the Merlin of Arthurian legend) and hope to stop him from achieving his goal of tapping into some ancient dark power.

We join the action in Atlantis, a city under siege. While John Constantine plays for time with Merlin, Aquaman, Zatana, Etrigan and company fight to defend Atlantis’ borders from multiple sinister threats raised or summoned by Merlin. It’s an action packed episode for this run, almost atypically so, having been at times more cerebral and deeply atmospheric in the past. No matter the pace, however; Justice League Dark delivers on every page, every issue.

With Ram V, at the helm, this run has been immensely enjoyable. Often clever and surprising and unfailingly engaging, Ram V’s story has been a joy to follow. With a motley crew facing down one of the greatest magical beings in this or any other existence, there have been many memorable moments. I’m happy to report that this time out is no exception. Further, Ram V seems to collaborate with some outstanding teams, and the guys working on the art and lettering this issue (as with all previous ones) provide some truly excellent, jaw dropping panels.


Verdict:

Justice League is a title to be enjoyed either by jumping right in and embracing the feeling of not knowing entirely what’s going on, or you can choose to backpedal through a few back issues and play ‘catch-up’. It pretty much works either way, and chances are good you’ll find things to enjoy, as Bendis and the team bring some big-moment super hero story beats to the page. Justice League Dark, meanwhile, can similarly be enjoyed either way but almost certainly would reveal its best version when read in its entirety. It’s a really special title, and one I hope gets a collected edition in the future.


(Recommended by DC for readers 13+)

Review by Andy Flood, 09/11/21

The Swamp Thing #4 Review


The Swamp Thing #4 Reviewer: Andy Flood

Written by: Ram V

Art: Mike Perkins
Colours: Mike Spicer
Letters: Aditya Bidikar



Released 2/6/21Published by DC Comics

Grasping hands, plant cells and dark ambiguity fill the cover of ‘My Green Amaranthine Part 2’.  It’s a wonderfully atmospheric piece of art which mirrors the tone of the comic within.

We are led further through The Green by guides both fair and shady as the sense of mystery and revelation deepens.  There is a feeling of experiencing this strange journey of discovery alongside Levi and Jennifer as they come to understand more about this elemental realm and the peril within.  With characters appearing which will be familiar to both long time Swamp Thing fans and fans of DC as a whole, this is an interesting an exciting chapter.

It’s a story on a cosmic scale and I am astounded at the ease with which Ram V guides us through it.  Themes of collective consciousness, memory and the interconnectedness of living things are explored.  The dialogue and narration are convincing and enthralling throughout, and Ram V deftly uses these as tools to inform and entertain us.  It would be so easy to become lost in The Green along with the protagonists and yet we emerge thrilled and enlightened.

‘The line work is detailed and inventive while the colours are lush and immersive’

A big part of translating such epic concepts and events to the page falls to the artists, and once again, the team of Mike Perkins and Mike Spicer exceed expectations.  Each page gives us art which manages to not only recall echoes of Swamp Thing past but also surprise us with visuals which are new and fresh.  The line work is detailed and inventive while the colours are lush and immersive.  There are so many details and subtle colour cues here that it really invites the reader to linger and enjoy the spectacle.

Further immersion is provided by Aditya Bidikar’s lettering, which not only uses cleverly differentiated bubbles but also brings us a brilliant way to represent a fading voice.  His work on this series so far has really enhanced the story and our experience of it.

As this issue draws to a close, we have not only a teaser of things to come but are also left with a sense of having enjoyed something rather special.  It’s sometimes easy to overlook the elements comprising a comic and just take it all in.  And that’s great; but maybe, just maybe, stay a while… look a little closer… read between the lines… you’ll be happy you did.


Verdict

The Swamp Thing #4 continues to impress and amaze.  The creators are doing something incredible here and I hope people sit up and take notice.  It’s a comic to pore over; to show your friends so you can talk about it afterward; a comic to treasure.  Track it down, find a good place to read, and get ready for one memorable ride.


(Recommended by DC for readers 13+)

Reviewed by Andy Flood – 13/7/21