REVIEW: ‘Justice League,’ Issue #59

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Justice League #59 - But Why Tho?

Justice League #59 is a DC published comic. Written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by David Marquez. Colours are by Tamra Bonvillain and the letterer is Josh Reed. There is also a backup story featuring the Justice League Dark, written by Ram V. The artist is Xermanico, colours are from Romulo Fajardo Jr., and the letters are provided by Rob Leigh.

Thus begins a new era of Justice League with Bendis and Marquez taking over the series. Black Adam is visiting the Kahndaq cemetery. Whilst he converses with a citizen, a new and strange visitor attacks him. Black Adam fights the newcomer, starting to lose ground before the Justice League arrives to provide assistance. After the battle, the group return to Watchtower, where some members of the team decide a recruitment drive is in order.

In the second story, there is a merging of the past and future. An ancient magician is traveling between his time and the present day. Elsewhere, John Constantine and Zatanna investigate strange mysteries in New Mexico. When they arrive, they witness a riot and burning meetings. When they intervene, they discover an old friend in the middle of it.

The plot of the first story is brilliant, part of a continuing series but also going in a new direction. Whilst this does have a new concept with new directions, much of the team has been established. It moves at a quick pace, the main threat of this current act introduced early on. The same can be said for the central characters of the team and series. The opening battle is well structured and exciting, offering a great example of how they will look throughout Bendis’ run. It is refreshing that the enemy is new, and some of the new members to the team are surprising. 

One of the aspects that will be fascinating to explore further is how this roster is utilised by Bendis. The lineup within the first issue is huge, with many classic members included. Superman, Flash, Batman, and Aquaman are members that serve as the soul of the League, with Hawkgirl, Green Arrow, and Black Canary also having large roles. 

A small insight into how these numbers will be managed is provided within the first battle. Only four of the heroes travel to Kahndaq. This suggests that there will be a revolving field team with characters alternating whether they appear in the team or not. This is something that is prevalent within this particular writer’s team books, alongside his ability to really build a team dynamic. 

Black Adam’s appearance in Justice League #59 suggests that he will be a central figure to this particular arc. He is superbly written. One of the best moments of the comic is how he interacts with the people of Kahndaq. There is a young boy is at the cemetery paying his respects to his own departed relative. Black Adam treats the child with courtesy and respect, speaking to him as an equal. This is very touching and revealing, showing how he cares for his own people. When Superman and the other Justice League members arrive, he cooperates with them. While he doesn’t like them, he is able to recognise what they are there for and use them as allies.

What is clear within the dialogue is that these characters all know each other well. The way they speak to each other implies how long they have worked together and how connected they are. Superman and Black Adam’s mutual respect for each other is brilliant to read, even if they have opposing ideologies. There is also a constant jovial tone, with snarky comments and jokes being made that fills each conversation with energy.

The art is fantastic and perfectly suited to this book. Marquez’s lines are always clear and well-defined. Most of the first story is a fight and it is beautifully constructed. The speed at which everything is moving is displayed well. The enemy of the issue is bounced between each hero like a volleyball. All of the characters have different postures and movements and every ability is visually enjoyable. The panel layouts get much more dynamic during the battle, indicating a change of pace and introduction of chaos. All of the character designs are simple, recognisable, and effective, with very few unnecessary details or lines on the costumes. This tops each panel from being too overcrowded. 

The colours are vibrant and stunning. Bonvillain uses gorgeous tones that change in each panel. This means that every time the reader moves their eyes they are gifted with something new and individual. A large part of the lovely simplicity that is seen in the costumes comes from their colours: iconic and eye-catching. Every time the location changes there is a different atmosphere, with shifts in background colours happening often.

The letters by Reed are smaller than in other comics, but this provides more space on the page. For the most part, they are easy to read and their placement never gets confusing. The only time when dialogue does get hard to process is due to the word balloon selected for a robotic character. The white, thin lettering on a blue background makes it difficult to see in places, especially when the colours around those balloons are similar. 

SFX is used very sporadically and blends behind the foreground events. This is a nice touch, as it allows the art to tell the story without getting in the way.

The plot of the second story, entitled “Return to Caledonia” sets up a fascinating mystery and new team. V is the perfect pick to tell this story, as they have a brilliant understanding of gothic horror and how to merge that with superhero comics. The narrative bounces between locations and times, the slow pace allowing the reader to process what is happening. At the same time, they are confused to the point where they want to read more, with surprising character entrances and endings.

Constantine and Zatanna’s relationship has been explored for years, and Justice League #59 follows on without missing a beat. Their flirting isn’t so full-on that it is obnoxious. Instead, they know how they feel about one another, and will tease the other at points. They are a perfect double act, juxtaposing each other in numerous ways. 

There is still potential for conflict between the two magicians. John’s abrasive attitude will always endanger his relationships, and both appear to be hiding something that may prove dangerous. 

The art within this second story is constantly changing, the style adapting between the timelines and areas. Xermanico’s techniques and lines evolve as the issue progresses. What may be considered standard comic art has inserts that look like they have been painted onto the page around them. The sequence in the past feels like a totally different comic to the one in the present. This is brilliant as they should be like this until they overlap. The character designs are magnificent, capturing the personalities of each person through what they are wearing and their facial expressions. 

Another aspect Xermanico achieves expertly is hiding reveals from the reader, as if parts of the page move like a flipbook. Something a character is holding or casting may be obscured until shockingly unveiled just below. In a comic involving magic and sorcery, this is a clever tactic.

The colours are stunning, also varying in style to match the line art. There are moments when the flames stand out so visually against what they are burning near, and this is because a different technique has been used to render them. The reader does get the impression that the story travels in time because each point has a unique atmosphere. Fajardo Jr. adds texture to every brick, then allows the glow of flame or spells to fall on their surroundings gorgeously. 

The lettering adapts as well. There are numerous caption boxes with different characters and colour palettes attributed to particular ones. But thankfully they are introduced one after another instead of all at the same time. This makes it much easier to follow and keep track of. 

Justice League #59 features the start of two very different stories. Each one has polarising tones and characters. Bendis is perfectly suited to write a Justice League comic, as he manages ensemble casts and large concepts well. Each character will be given a chance to shine, with newcomers like Black Adam there to shake the balance of the team-up. Bendis and Marquez are a partnership that brings the best out of one another, and Bonvillain’s colours are just the icing on the cake.  

As for the Justice League Dark story, V and Xermanico are building their own new team as well. The fantasy story blended with time travel creates very different dynamics and structure, setting it apart from the tale that proceeds it. The ingenious art makes it a visual delight, the reader losing themselves within the medieval atmosphere.

What damages both stories is that they are in the same comic. They half the amount of time the reader gets with the other one, restricting how much of the plot can be told every issue. Some of the audience may only be interested in one of the teams, but it might be frustrating to only get part of a book containing them, especially when their name is in the title. Each one is fantastic, but it’s difficult to truly get invested because they end too quickly. They don’t have the pages to explore each chapter fully. Justice League and Justice League Dark deserve to thrive on their own.

Justice League #59 is available where comics are sold.

Justice League #59
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TL;DR

Justice League #59 features the start of two very different stories. Each one has polarising tones and characters. Each one is fantastic, but it’s difficult to truly get invested because they end too quickly. They don’t have the pages to explore each chapter fully. Justice League and Justice League Dark deserve to thrive on their own.