Justice League #68
The League gets involved in some Checkmate shenanigans in Justice League #68, by writer Brian Michael Bendis, artist Scott Godlewski, colorist Gabe Eltaeb, and letterer Josh Reed. Over in the backup, by writer Ram V, artist Sumit Kumar, colorist Nick Filardi, and letterer Rob Leigh, Merlin makes his move against the JLD, and things turn upside down. The main story is okay, but the backup keeps impressing.
In the aftermath of the battle with Synmar, the United Order demands the Phantom Zone projector, but the League stands firm, and eventually, the United Order leaves. As the League talks about building an entirely new base, Superman and Flash just rebuild the Hall of Justice the way it was. Green Arrow is called away on Checkmate business and meets with the other members. They confront Daemon Rose about the Deathstrokes, but he knows little, if anything. They’re attacked, and Green Arrow stops one missile… and Superman stops the other. Zatanna and Merlin battle it out in the backup as John and Ragman stand by, ready to intervene. The rest of the team cleans up his zombie army before coming to help in the temple. Merlin makes his move against Zatanna, but Ragman hits him with a spear… or so he thinks. Merlin is still there, and he unleashes something that Zatanna’s been holding back.
This is probably the most Bendis issue of Justice League, and that’s not always a good thing. The opening pages have some good Bendis jokes, and it seems like the United Order leaving is a little convenient. The Tamaranean member of the team saw something Hawkslayer in his language, and when Superman asks what he said, he tells him it’s basically what would Jesus do, except it’s what would Kal-El would do. This is a fun gag, and hopefully it will lead elsewhere because the whole thing seems a little too easy. The Flash and Superman rebuilding the Hall of Justice while the rest of the team is talking about creating something new is also a really good joke and works better than it should.
The Checkmate portion of the issue is when the whole thing kind of grinds to a halt. Bendis drops a lot of boring exposition on readers in this part, and it kills the jaunty, fun attitude of the issue’s opening pages. It drags and drags, and by the time there’s any action, it’s pretty much too late. Over in the backup, Ram V again just puts on a clinic of doing less with more. It’s short, sweet, and action-packed with a nice twist that doesn’t augur well for the team going forward.
Godlewski’s art is great for the most jaunty beginning of the book. The jokes land better, and his character acting works very well. He’s still good in the later portions of the book, but he’s not given as much to work with there. Kumar keeps impressing in backup, perfectly capturing the pulse-pounding pace and gives the battle an epic feel.
Justice League #68 is a good comic, especially the backup. The main story is uneven. It starts well, but the latter portions of it slow the whole thing down. The art is pretty great, so that helps. The backup is still amazing. There’s really no other way to describe it. It really buoys the whole book.