When I reviewed the first issue of the new Justice League series, one of my biggest complaints was that it was a team book with all action and no actual team-ups. With Justice League #2, the team is finally back together but that doesn’t necessarily mean the book’s problems are solved. The DC world is still in crisis! Cities are flooding, weird bugs are attacking. Even the ominous red-dialog-bubbles are still ambling around and being ominous. But the Justice League is getting this under control—things are winding down and they finally regroup to catch each other up. Cyborg’s even determined the source of this activity when suddenly weird, giant bug missiles start dropping from outer space onto major cities.
This is a summary that screams “comic book” but ends up getting served in a completely underwhelming fashion. The action here feels sterile and the story beats and dialogue is either spent providing pure exposition or building up the villain that was already built up much better in the previous issue. If Justice League #1 felt like ten pages spread over twenty, this one took two out of those ten pages and spread it over twenty.
However, there’s an absolute nugget of promise nestled at the end of this issue. The Justice League is in over their heads. They need a Superman. Only there’s a problem—their Superman is dead. That guy in the blue suit flying around the world, saving people from crumbling cities? He’s a Superman from another universe. An older Clark Kent who has been living in secret on their world and spying on every member of the league. Batman, with hesitation, finally reaches out to this new Superman.
This could have been the bedrock for a strong, emotional tension throughout this story arc—a Justice League in mourning is forced to accept their dead friend’s successor. Instead, however, the exchange is a page long and feels gagged. This relationship—this distrust and eventual acceptance of the new Superman could make for a great emotional core to this Justice League run but that’ll make two issues in a row of me saying, “Well maybe the next one will stick the landing.”
Emotional stakes feel like the most glaringly absent thing from this current Justice League run. A super hero story can have the scariest villains, the biggest stakes and high-levels of destructions, but without emotional stakes, all those other things mean nothing. They’re super heroes in a comic book—we know they’ll never really get hurt or even ever at risk of dying. We come back to these characters because we’re invested in them, invested in their lives and seeing them struggle and succeed. Any story can have a scary villain but only a few will have Batman or Superman.
Those characters are here but for now they’re stopping disasters like it’s their job. And not even a job they like but a really boring office job they’re just trudging through until five o’clock. This is a Justice League that’s all sternness and gloom without any emotional heart.
Superman, the Justice League needs you now more than ever.
[su_box title="Score: 2/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]