By Brendan Hodgdon. With a notable, dynamic creative team and a major motion picture to piggyback off of, the natural expectation for this new era of Justice League would be to go huge, bombastic and continuity-shattering. But what makes this debut issue from Priest and Pete Woods so remarkable is how they craft a story that runs completely counter to that expectation altogether, and how their debut issue is a self-contained, grounded piece that almost feels… small?
That being said, it does feel a bit bizarre to describe a story simultaneously featuring an incoming alien armada, a city-destroying earthquake and a dangerous hostage situation as “small”, so perhaps I should revise that to say “intimate”. The script is so laser-focused on the characters, and the threats they are facing are so straightforward, that it seems like an insignificant moment in the League’s history. Because of that, however, Priest is able to highlight the dynamic of the team in action, and allow us to revel in their synchronization without the distraction of some operatic, backstory-heavy antagonist.
Priest is aided in this endeavor by artist Pete Woods, and like a lot of this issue his work is remarkable for what it is not. His style represents a marked difference from what one would expect from an A-list Big Two title, though by no means should that indicate that his art isn’t up to the task. There is a flexibility to Woods’ style that allows him to handle the varied beats that Priest throws his way, while his inking and coloring give the whole enterprise a cartoon-y vibe; you could easily see a new Justice League animated series based on this style, and a whole episode based on this specific issue.
All of this combines for a story that doesn’t just highlight how the League works as a team, but how they work as extensions of Batman’s brain… and what happens when that brain is stretched too thin. It’s a great concept to examine, and I think anytime a writer can really grapple with the ways Batman’s humanity limits him compared to his compatriots is a good thing. What’s a bit odd to me, though, is that ultimately the tragic loss that highlight’s Batman’s fallibility (and therefore sets up the entire arc to follow) doesn’t seem like it had anything to do with the tactical error he makes. There was a much larger and more upsetting consequence that Batman could’ve faced for his mistake, but instead there comes a smaller tragedy that seems like it would’ve happened either way.
While this weird disconnect does undercut the impact of the issue emotionally, I do think that the idea here is a smart one, and that the exploration of the League’s dynamic is well-handled. Overall I’d still say this is a solid first issue of the Priest/Woods era, and I can see them doing a lot of cool things with this team going forward.
Written by Priest.
Art by Pete Woods.
Letters by Willie Schu.
7.5 out of 10
Enjoy this five-page preview of ‘Justice League’ #34, courtesy of DC Comics!