Review: Justice League: Prisms (#59-#63)

 Also Featuring Justice League Dark!

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis & Ram V (backups) Art by: David Marquez & Xermanico (backups).

Justice League: Prisms is the first JLA story from the mind of Brian Michael Bendis, creator of Miles Morales AKA Spider-Man. Bendis's work since he went from the House of Ideas to DC Comics has been mixed. Naomi: Season 1 is stellar and still at my personal top of Superhero stories. His Superman runs though, hasn't been that well-received which I do understand.

So, how does he fare on Justice League, a book where he combined both alongside other DC staples like Batman and Aquaman? And how is the Justice League Dark story that has been this book's backup? Justice League: Prisms is an enjoyable, but doubtlessly mixed effort.

Let's dive in.

Justice League: Prisms

It's a normal day in Kahndaq, the nation ruled by Black Adam until a hulking brute jumps out of a portal and attacks. It isn't before long that the fight between the two draws the attention of the Justice League. They lay the smackdown on the interloper, who decides it's best to retreat back to his own dimension. Back at HQ, the League analyses the data of the fight and matches the interdimensional visitor's unique energy signature to that of Naomi. Black Adam has figured this out as well and would like to have a word with her.

Right of the bat, you have to know this: Brian Michael Bendis’s Justice League takes a much lighter approach to the Justice League than his predecessor. The tone of the Justice League animated series is a good comparison. There are important developments and emotional moments the story tone prioritizes a humourful and playful tone. I know that many feel that a ‘big’ title such as Justice League should be much more impactful but comic books are, first and foremost, entertainment and I can’t deny that this story is entertaining to read. I don’t find any issue with the more ‘fast food approach of Bendis’s storytelling for Justice League.

The general style of writing is very good. The structure and pacing of the story are nicely done and the book has some neat twists and turns as well. In short: nothing to really complain about. The dialogue isn’t heavy by any stretch of the imagination so even when there’s a lot of dialogue it reads away without a problem. The humour is a bit hit or miss, there’s one moment with Batman in particular that I rolled my eyes but I never went as far as to cringe about it. Mileage will vary from person to person but for my money, the humour and winks are entertaining.

Where Bendis really shines to me is in his character work. This version of the Justice League has ten members, which is a lot and together with the villains and side-casting you’ve got a pretty sizeable cast. I never felt that the book was bloated with characters. They acted out of character (in my eyes at least) and the character moments between the league were some of the best interactions I’ve seen.

An example of the art.

I’m not particularly fond of some of the members of the League here though, mainly Hippolyta’s. I just don’t understand why DC would bring Diana’s sister Nubia back to the fold and then immediately throw her to the side again and give the Wonder Woman position (within the Justice League) to Hippolyta. It’s a decision that was more of an editorial thing than Bendis’s and the story does hint at a deeper connection between her and Black Adam but I can’t help but be disappointed by Nubia’s absence.

As you can read, most of my critiques with these issues have been minor and stuff that didn’t impact my enjoyment too much. The book’s poor ending is another story, however. I don’t mind reading a book that’s, for the lack of a better them again, fast food but I still want to feel satisfied by the end. That continued engagement was worth it. I did not get this feeling at the end of this story. #62 ended on a cliff-hanger, the promise of a big battle. The issue even starts out with a flashforward showing fallout to further build up the intrigue, but the fight itself is a mess. It's not clear at all what's going on, much of it is due to the way it's drawn.

The art is really good for the entirety of it all, I like the colouring and expressions especially, and technically it still is but the entire composition of this final fight is just chaotic. Double page spreads with small panels scattered over it and lots of big sound effects and splashy effects. It’s just too much for a disappointingly short fight. End it with a lot of dialogue in moments that feel drawn out and some of the worse humour in the entire story and the final left me hanging.

Conclusion

Justice League: Prisms is a solid opening for Brian Michael Bendis on Justice League. There’s definitely lots to critique and with the style of writing and tone, Bendis has chosen someone’s millage will vary. Yet, the writing is solid, the art is pleasant to look at and it's undoubtedly enjoyable. I was seriously let down by the final issue but if you want more Justice League or are just looking for a very entertaining series then give Justice League Prisms, #59 to #63 of the current run, a serious consideration.

But wait, there's more!

The current line of DC Comics all include a backup story and for Justice League, it's a continuation of the most recent Justice League Dark series. The first arc of that story has concluded (or at the very least, that's my understanding)and since its' actually quite good, I can't just leave it out.

Let's dive in (again).

Justice League Dark: Return to Caledonia

In Wales, England, a mysterious figure approaches the ruins of an old castle. Conjuring op a doorway using ancient magic he enters an underground room where an ancient knight stands guard over Excalibur. The mysterious figure kills the night and takes Excalibur away. Meanwhile, over in New Mexico, John Constantine and Zatanna are on a road trip of sorts when they encounter a massacre at a farm. They are surprised to find Jason Blood, the human host of Etrigan the Demon, at the centre of the chaos with a dire warning. Merlin, from Arthurian legend, has returned and threatens everything there is.

As these are just the backup stories, I’ll be brief with my review of them. The Justice League Dark backup story is a well-crafted tale of magic, intrigue and personal drama. The writing is good, the art is even better and the mystery is intriguing that keeps you engaged and wanting more.

Justice League Dark meets with the Justice League proper.

There are only two real critiques I have with the backups. Firstly, the pacing isn’t the best. Because it’s a backup story, each segment only has a few pages to tell its story. This makes it so that some of the segments (not all of them, but the majority) ends before much momentum can be gained. This, and the constant cliff-hangers, got tiresome quickly.

My second and final critique is more subjective. Just like practically every DC title at the moment, the story is leading up to the one told in Future State which I don’t like for a multitude of reasons. It’s not just this dislike for this direction but also the fact that knowing where the story leads takes away above all else tension. I know that character X won’t die here, so there’s no reason for me to get afraid. It also takes away some intrigue, but the book has introduced more than enough new twists and turns that they make up for what the set ending has made it lose.

Conclusion

What I’ve heard a lot of people say is that the Justice League Dark backup is what carried these issues. I disagree with this sentiment as I feel that the main story (except for #63) can stand on its own. Yet, the Justice League Dark story is indeed a well-crafted and interesting story that’s worth a read and, dare I say it, its own book.

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