By Patrick Larose
Dear Justice League #6,
It’s been quite the trip, huh?
When I found you, it was my first week writing at Comic Bastards. I was at a pretty bad place in my life then. I wasn’t happy or secure in my day job, I was feeling creatively exhausted and drained. I’d been living in Philadelphia for a year and felt as if I hadn’t moved a step from when I came.
I saw you on a list of titles and chose you for a stupid and selfish reason. You have to understand, I’d never reviewed a comic book before. I’d reviewed books and movies for places but talking critically about comics felt alien. I picked you because you were a name. I knew who the Justice League was, everyone knows who the Justice League was. I saw you as my chance to review what I considered a bonafide “comic”. I’d never been a part of the single-issue reading world. I’d never really thought deeply or read furtively mainstream comics. I picked you because you were an easy and obvious pick.
A thing I want to get across is: I didn’t pick you to hate you.
I started writing reviews in college for my school’s newspaper and I got that spot by mistake. My girlfriend was the news editor and I was visiting her in their underground bunker. One of the life & arts writers was trying to read through this indie published book by some alum. Trying and failing. “I can’t get past page fourteen. I can’t and I refuse.” He was reading out the awkward sex scenes, the total self-awareness in this guy’s earnest words in describing a passionate shower moment. All of us were in tears; a working newsroom was brought to a complete halt in tears. Somewhere in the bravado, I stepped up. I took the challenge to embrace the night. “Let me do it. I’ll do it.”
I read the book but I didn’t review the book, I tortured it. I stuck a knife in and bled out every drop onto the page. Every flaw, every misstep, I chronicled and tore it to shreds.
I was still a stupid kid then and kids are cruel.
I didn’t want to review your book to be cruel. I wanted to have a conversation. I wanted to talk constructively about the flaws of your book, not to hang you out for punishment to have a legitimate discussion about why certain comic book stories work, about narrative and franchises. For a while, it was a good conversation to have because it really felt like that was what we were having.
Every other week I’d touch base with you and each subsequent issue felt like a response. I watched you grow; try to shift the direction of your story in ways that almost focused the drama, focus the characters. Even when I wasn’t satisfied with your decisions I felt like they were at least attempts to address my problems. Maybe that was caused by the flawed structure of your story but maybe, just maybe, I was watched the rough and awkward growth of your writer.
I missed your last issue. I didn’t even mean to. I’m not even sure when Justice League #5 came out. Maybe I just overlooked it on the schedule, maybe my editor just forgot to list it but whatever it was I still missed you. I didn’t notice until this week and…to be honest with you, I didn’t miss you. I think I needed a break, I needed some time to pursue things I was legitimately interested in reading and talking about.
I worried that my reviews to you felt almost like a disappointed lecture. Like in each issue, you tried your best to meet my expectations and all you got in return was a lecture in my disappointment.
So I don’t know what happened in your last issue. Judging by this one you wrapped it up. I can’t imagine how you did that and I can’t imagine it wasn’t rushed. I don’t blame you. I think you needed a fresh start but I wish I could give you the same in return.
When I read this issue I thought you had written this issue for me. Not only was the team finally all together, they were together in their day-to-day lives. They talked about the issues they were having with each other. They even went on dates together.
When I met you, you were interested in big scales. Big action and explosions. You wanted to bask in the glory shots of heroes being heroic. I didn’t want that from you and maybe that was wrong of me. I wanted something intimate, something closer that’d introduce me these characters and their relationships.
This next line will probably be the money shot on the Comic Book Round-Up page because only right now will I actually address what I think you’re trying to do here. Your threat is an abstract concept—fear and it’s this emotion you’re using to cut to the heart of the characters. It’s not the world in danger but the superheroes we love and that makes the conflict so much riper to read. I care about these characters, I care about what they represent and even if they aren’t in real danger—they are still experiencing a legitimate emotion and experience.
While I’m sure the last shot of this shot of the comic is going to make people grown in the wake of Batman v. Superman but I don’t hate it. In many ways, this arc feels like a desperate plea to me, that you’re finally willing to give me what I wanted. That this story is not about the explosive stakes of a world in danger but one that puts the relationships of these characters at risk.
I think that’s smart and I think that has the makings of a much better Justice League story but it won’t bring me back.
I want us to smile and nod for the Comic Book Round-Up people so their cursory glance over this article will convince them it is a review. That we are having a discussion about your quality.
I don’t think I’ve ever believed that, though. I don’t believe my reviews are either read enough or that reviews matter enough on the market for them to be strictly dissections of quality.
I came to you to have a discussion about big superhero stories about why they work and why they were sustained. It’s not that your new story isn’t what I wanted. I appreciate the effort, I really do.
But I think I’m done with our conversation. I think that time we spent apart drove home how many things in comics I want to talk about and how many books I want to review. I appreciate the time we’ve spent together. I loved seeing you grow even if you never became what I really wanted.
I hope you became what you wanted, though. I hope your editors are happy and I hope your creative team is happy. I hope that you become some stupid kid’s favorite run of the Justice League.
For right now, however, I don’t think we’re right for each other.
I’m sorry, Justice League #6, it’s not you. It’s me.
Justice League #6
Writer: Bryan Hitch
Artist: Sean Parsons, Matt Clark
Publisher: DC Comics