Justice League #68 – Review

Justice League offers two stories with marked contrast, each bringing its own strengths to the mix.  Both teams share a base of operations but their stories are pleasantly divergent in tone.

Justice League #68

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis (Justice League), Ram V (Justice League Dark)
Art: Scott Godlewski (Justice League), Sumit Kumar (J.L.D.)
Colours: Gabe Eltaeb (Justice League), Nick Filardi (Justice League Dark)
Letters: Josh Reed (Justice League), Rob Leigh (Justice League Dark)

Published by DC Comics
November 2021

Justice League #68 seems to be rolling out the red carpet for DC fans and newcomers alike with its cover from David Marquez and Alejandro Sanchez, depicting a huge gathering of heroes outside the newly rebuilt Hall of Justice.  There’s Superman offering a welcoming gesture in the foreground and, behind him, members of not only the League but also nods to JLD and other cameos besides.  Perhaps even more notably, Batman is smiling.  If that doesn’t invite you to read on, then what will? 

It’s a really warm piece of art, which depicts the aftermath of recent events in Justice League in just the right way.  Comics don’t always have to be full of drama and pathos, after all (at this point, readers of the Justice League Dark backup story will admittedly not connect the vibe of the cover to their favored content!).

As before, the issue opens with Brian Michael Bendis giving readers an ‘in case you missed it’ synopsis page, with mugshots of the prominent heroes within.  This is a nice touch for comic fans who might either be taking their first ride with Justice League or are more inclined/able to dip a toe in only every now and again.  It also helps younger readers keep track of events; a wise move, in light of the pacing of this title in recent times.  In essence, though, it levels the playing field each time and broadens the appeal.

Rejoining our heroes in the aftermath of their battle with Synmar Utopica (think alien Superman gone awry), we find them in a surprising face-off with the United Order (an intergalactic JL).  They are debating proper use and control of the Phantom Zone and, even in the wake of such a harrowing battle, tensions are mounting.  The resolution of this is interesting and gives a nice insight into Superman’s intergalactic standing.

We then move to a much-needed light relief scene involving Doctor Fate’s mild panic over John Constantine’s transgressions – both real and imagined – while he was in the Tower of Fate looking after Naomi’s parents.  These pages serve not only to amuse but also act as a further ‘catch-me-up’ for those needing it (another sign this comic is trying to include newcomers).  Meanwhile, the Justice league debrief and set about rebuilding the Hall of Justice (at least, two of them do…).


The second half of the Justice League story involves Checkmate, Green Arrow’s ‘other team’, a group tasked with covert operations/spycraft.  We join them as they watch footage of Leo Lane, aka. Daemon Rose, fight multiple Deathstroke’s.  This fight follows on from the ambush at the end of the last issue and shows some of Leo’s prowess.  The group makeup of Checkmate is interesting, with a particular highlight being The Question (a Steve Ditko creation thought widely to have influenced Alan Moore’s Rorschach).  Checkmate seems to be interested in Daemon Rose, be it as a potential threat or ally.

Hints of another shadowy group emerge, one intent on killing the Justice League.  Before more can be revealed, all hell breaks loose once again, leaving us wondering what comes next.  Until the next issue…

‘United Order’ part 5 brings the intergalactic threat storyline seemingly to a close while expanding on plot seeds planted in recent issues.  There’s now a sense that perhaps the mega threat of Synmar Utopica was in fact Bendis’ ‘magician’s assistant’; while we were watching the spectacle, hands were busy at work, building the true threat. 

Certainly, his approach to writing Justice League seems to be focused on delivering entertainment with variety, almost in the style of the Saturday morning cartoons.  We have big headline characters, with impressive action set pieces, drama, comedy, and cliff-hangers.  What new peril will the League face down next?

While the sheer volume of characters involved in his stories might seem off-putting to some, he is careful to offer some guidance for those not fully immersed in the series.  This is a commendable approach and is one that might further appeal to a younger audience too.

The writing is supported not only by some fine lettering from Josh Reed but also by a different art team this time, with Scott Godlewski and Gabe Eltaeb working hard to bring us well-defined and dynamic superheroes.  Panels are always laid out thoughtfully to enhance the narrative: wide and cinematic when suitable; closer, more intimate for dialogue.  Their art is eye-catching and atmospheric throughout and delivers some cool moments.

Speaking of cool moments, the Justice League Dark story has many.  ‘The Wrong Way Up’ opens on the catastrophic events facing John Constantine and the company as they try to both stop Merlin and save Atlantis.  Matters go from bad to worse as they tackle the many problems and distractions Merlin has left in his wake.  Ram V has written this in such a way that even with characters like Constantine, Detective Chimp and Zattana in the mix, we always have the sense that Merlin is several steps ahead of anything our heroes might fathom.

We’re given page after page of excellent reading here, with no end of superlative art depicting some seriously ‘way-out’ moments.  The closing page for this issue has some serious nightmare fuel, so be warned…

This run of Justice League Dark has been consistently superb, and all credit is due to the team working on it.  It’s clear they’re having great fun with a very cool story and the ‘back-up’ story (as they are sometimes known) stands as a wonderfully contrasting counterpart to the lead.


Verdict

Justice League offers two stories with marked contrast, each bringing its own strengths to the mix.  Both teams share a base of operations but their stories are pleasantly divergent in tone.  This issue gets bonus points for a double dose of Constantine, too. There’s something for everyone here, but I’d mention – perhaps in hushed tones – that Justice League Dark is the show-stealer.  It’s excellent. 


Review by Andy Flood 27/1/22


Venom #1 – Review

Immortal Hulk scribe Al Ewing teams up with fellow British comic veteran Bryan Hitch to weave an all new, exciting saga in VENOM!

Venom #1

Written by: Al Ewing

Artwork by: Bryan Hitch

Published 10/11/21 by Marvel Comics

A NEW ERA OF VENOM STARTS NOW! OR MAYBE IN THE FUTURE!

Immortal Hulk scribe Al Ewing teams up with fellow British comic veteran Bryan Hitch to weave an all new, exciting saga in VENOM!

After the events of King In Black, Eddie Brock is now the god of the symbiotes and is able to transfer is mind through any symbiote he wishes to complete his new intergalactic duties whilst he resides back on earth, ll. In the meantime, Eddie’s son, Dylan has taken up the mantle of Venom aswell as getting into multiple brawls at school: threatening his place there. To make matters worse, Dylan barely sees his father anymore since he’s out saving the universe up in space. So when he finally gets to have some time with his dad again, you’d think it’d be a happy occurrence but instead, Eddie gives Dylan a call after they had a disagreement except that this wasn’t the same Eddie. He tells Dylan that the one in his house is NOT his father and that he should meet the REAL Eddie at a motel some other place in town.

After this we cut to Space. Where our new god of the Klyntar investigates a ship that’s possibly been taken over by some skull looking robbers. Eddie’s got with him a group of four symbiotes (assigned the names John, Paul, George and Ringo [ha ha]). Everything goes just swell until Eddie gets a telepathic message from “George”. Once he traces the message to its source he finds the crew of the ship, Slaughtered, with George stood on top of them with red eyes. He then says he brings a message from the future and that he won’t have a seat on the throne for much longer before crumbling to dust.

Now we return to earth. Dylan packs his things and makes his way to the motel with sleeper (another symbiote that has taken the form of a cat). Eddie sits in his room and questions himself. He thinks that if he can go anyWHERE he wants, why can’t he go anyWHEN? And so in a split second, he slips through time and space, and us faithful readers get some epic glimpses of what’s to come this volume. We see images of Kang the Conqueror, a venom hand where the fingers are…candlesticks? And a new character that looks an awful lot like Toxin called Bedlam. Very cool stuff.

As Dylan approaches the motel it EXPLODES as the police (?) Attack and VENOM IS UNLEASHED. The art in this sequence is really great, when I heard Bryan Hitch was going to be on the book I was worries it wouldn’t be quite a fit but I was totally wrong, it. Is . Awesome! In particular this super-sweet double splash pictured below. As venom continues to battle the police, Eddie is fine as he shifted through time before the room exploded. He ends up in a beautiful place with purple trees and red mountains. A voice appears, it tells Eddie not to talk, it would be impossible whilst his atoms reform and introduces himself as Meridius, welcoming Eddie to his “garden” at the end of time.


VERDICT

So wow, this is a lot to unpack. Dylan Brock is now venom, Eddie is protector of the universe, not only that but he is currently confronted by an unknown being at the end of time itself. When I put it lime that it sounds crazy, which is good because I don’t want to read a venom comic book that isn’t crazy. I had a lot of fun reading this book and I got a certain feeling, it’s like that feeling you get from a movie like fight club or a game like the last of us, you just don’t want to leave! It’s so interesting that you just want more, and unlike those pieces of media, Venom comes out every month. It features solid writing with just the right amount of angst and fantastically intricate artwork. Buy it! It’s good!


Reviewed by Leo Brocklehurst on 20/11/21