Best Shots Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE #26

Justice League #26
Credit: Javier Fernandez/Hi-Fi/Tom Napolitano (DC)
Credit: Francis Manapul (DC)

Justice League #26
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Javier Fernandez and Hi-Fi
Lettering by Tom Napolitano
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Credit: Javier Fernandez/Hi-Fi/Tom Napolitano (DC)

A new story arc begins in Justice League #26, but this issue kind of feels like nothing is really happening. Most of the League attends the House of Heroes to enlist help from across the Multiverse, Martian Manhunter ignores his teammates to pursue a hunch, while Hawkgirl holds down the fort and prepares the troops at home for the ominous threat that looms over this universe. On top of that, there’s more of the constant threat of Lex Luthor and his Legion of Doom and the sheer scale of the Perpetua saga hanging over everything.

If all that seems like a lot to digest, well... it is. If it seems like that’s a lot to cram into a regular issue, the response is also yes. But perhaps the problem that’s most highlighted most in this issue is that this feeling is starting to feel too normalized across this series as a whole. The famed watershed Morrison-era JLA run did well to create world-shattering events one after the other and still have the read be diverse, entertaining, and engaging. Scott Snyder’s initial run on this series seemed to be following suit with big ideas and an ambitious scope and scale to things. But there aren’t enough new developments here to keep the reader right at the edge of their seats. It’s also lacking for action, as most of this issue centers on discussion and exposition.

What the story has going for it, however, is Easter eggs aplenty. Using the Multiverse backdrop to its advantage, there are neat (but brief) cameos from across the DC landscape. Kingdom Come. Red Rain. Red Son. New Frontier. If you’re an eagle-eyed reader, spotting details like this can give you a great sense of fanboy gratification. Hi-Fi does a great job with the colors, too, taking full advantage of the infinite characters in the back- and foregrounds while maintaining the ominous mood of the book.

Credit: Javier Fernandez/Hi-Fi/Tom Napolitano (DC)

However, the pencils let the promise of the characters and settings down a little. It feels like this book is leaning away from the superstar treatment that it opened with. Not to slight penciler Javier Fernandez, but following the bombastic heels of Jorge Jimenez, Fernandez’s sketchy style leaves a little to be desired when it comes to grandeur, scope, and scale. The sketchy art style and loose character renderings feel a little misplaced in the context of it all. The double-page spread in the House of Heroes, for example, could have benefited from more detailed figures, while a scene where Hawkgirl and Mera react to a damaged Starman is rendered far too loosely to provoke a well-weighted reaction. While there are some creative and well-executed choices with layouts later, such as the Martian Manhunter sequences later in the book, the visuals overall feel somewhat incomplete and don’t stand up to the enormity of what the writer is reaching for.

Credit: Javier Fernandez/Hi-Fi/Tom Napolitano (DC)

James Tynion IV proved he can write a compelling team book with his work on Detective Comics run and Justice League Dark, but it doesn’t feel like these abilities translate well to comic books' premier super-team. The set-ups are simple enough. We know where all the key Leaguers are and what they’re up to. But the balance feels wrong. As we leave the remainder of the League to focus on Hawkgirl’s responsibilities and Martian Manhunter’s quest, the juxtaposition between all three party’s goals becomes a little muddied - particularly that of the Manhunter, whose segments read well at first but starts to ramble, not providing an exciting enough payoff to reward the reader for sticking with it. But given the cover copy posing the question “The Death of Starman?”, it’s hard not to feel like Justice League is spinning its wheels a bit.

There’s a fair bit of prelude to this issue, and each arc has yet to free itself from the larger ongoing arc. To a new reader or a casual fan, though, this is way too overwhelming a read to take on. To a loyal reader who has stuck with the series from its big opening, the jury’s still out on whether the recurring cast and plot threads are still intriguing, or if it’s all starting to feel a little bit tired and too familiar.

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