Darkseid goes toe-to-toe with the Anti-Monitor, with the entire Justice League caught in the eye of the storm. Will any of them survive unscathed? Your Major Spoilers review of Justice League #44 awaits!
Previously in Justice League: Originally formed to combat the threat of Darkseid, the Justice League has expanded (with Captain Cold and Lex Luthor joining, as well as a new Power Ring and Shazam) and fought off their evil duplicates, the Crime Syndicate. The Crime Syndicate’s Earth has been destroyed by the Anti-Monitor, who has channeled that power to battle the lord of Apokalips himself. The League has scattered across the galaxy to try and find a way to survive their battle…
THIS SEEMS FAMILIAR
When the Justice League title relaunched in 2011, it did so with a massive battle against Darkseid, one that was never fully explained. Now, 44 issues and 4 years later, we are once again smack in the middle of a Darkseid battle that is the biggest and most dangerous thing the Leauge has ever encountered. (Of course, every single threat in the history of this book has been the biggest and most dangerous threat they’ve ever encountered, as Justice League suffers from a serious case of “Top This” syndrome.) The team has split up, with Green Lantern and Batman, now in possession of Metron’s Mobius chair, making their way to Qward and snarling at each other the whole time. I complain a lot about Johns’ maverick loudmouth Hal Jordan routine, but this issue actually makes me feel for him, as Bruce Wayne belittles and degrades him. At the same time, Superman and Luthor are on Apokalips, where charging his solar-powered body on fire pit energy has made Superman hyper-aggressive, leading him to attack his teammate. As the battle between mega-gawds rages, The Flash is possessed by the spirit of the Black Racer (Apokaliptian emissary of death), Shazam feels his god-sponsors panicking, and all hell literally breaks loose, ending with a surprising death…
LOTS OF SOUND AND FURY
…which I expect will be reversed next ish. The biggest flaw in the issue for me is a lack of clarity: Shazam appears in two panels before his big scene at the end, Cyborg doesn’t even seem to have a line in the issue, and there’s a second Wonder Woman hanging about that I presume has something to do with the CSA’s alternate universe. There are a LOT of characters in this issue, most of whom don’t get a moment in the sun, leading to several moments of “Wait, has he been in the entire issue?” for me. The whole ‘senses-shattering interstellar war’ has become kind of Johns’ hallmark since 2005 or so, and there are a lot of overtones in this story that are reminiscent of Infinite Crisis, Sinestro Corps War, and even the first arc of this very series, with the final effect being one of general sameness that works against the story. I appreciate that things are all tied together, especially that the interminable ‘Forever Evil’ crossover has had long-lasting ramifications, but the metaphorical volume is turned up so loud that it all sounds like the story equivalent of thundering bass lines. Jason Fabok’s art is very strong this issue, and there are some great sequences, but the issue lacks establishing shots in several key places, causing confusion. I’m also keen to know if he always draws in Jim Lee’s style, or if that’s part and parcel of the Justice League penciling gig.
THE BOTTOM LINE: OVERBLOWN AND OVERLY FAMILIAR
If you’re all about the giant cosmic shmageggi and you desperately want to know the secret of the post-Flashpoint Anti-Monitor, this issue will hold great interest for you, and there are strong sequences to be had (Superman/Luthor, Batman/Jordan) in these pages. But with pacing issues and a couple of confusing narrative devices (the first page being narrated by Wonder Woman, for instance, is something that took me two reading to ascertain) undermine solid art, leaving Justice League #44 a genuine mixed bag, earning a not-unimpressive 3 out of 5 stars overall. It ain’t subtle at all, but there’s good stuff to be had here.