Saving The Best For the End
Especially considering how the last issue went down, I'm 100% convinced that I know the reason DC didn't release this cover until about a week ago. It's not like it really spoils anything. We've known forever that they'd be fighting Darkseid. So why wait? Because Jim Lee didn't want Geoff Johns to see this until it was too late to stop it. I mean, look at it. Batman's front and center! Not only that, Superman is trapped, and the rest of the league is on their knees, completely submissive to Darkseid. EXCEPT BATMAN. BATMAN IS DEFIANT ON HIS ONE KNEE, HAND ON HIS OTHER KNEE TO STOP HIMSELF FROM FULLY BOWING. Contrary to Geoff Johns' shameful handling of the character last issue, this cover says all you need to know about Batman with 100% accuracy to the character. Is not bowing to Darkseid going to let him win? No. But it proves a point. It proves that Darkseid isn't perfect. That he isn't in total control. Batman is defiant to the end, and he has more mental grit than the rest of the League to maintain his defiance the longest. All in all it makes for a damn outstanding cover, easily my favorite of the series thus far.
I never got around to this last issue, but I realized it even when just about everyone else was confused about it. Why did Batman take off his insignia. Well, even though I vehemently hate him taking off his cowl, once he had done that, removing the insignia made the most sense. Now he's just a guy in combat gear. He's not Batman. Nonoe of Darkseid's minions seeing him will recognize him as Batman, he's just 'guy with grey armor-ish clothes.'
Anothing thing people griped about last issue was the portrayal of Darkseid. "He doesn't go out and fight personally," "He's more of a strategist." So let's think about that for a second. Did Darkseid just show up to conquer out of the blue? No. Did Darkseid send Parademons to place Motherboxes across the globe, launch a huge invasion force from those motherboxes all at once to catch the planet by surprise, and then only show up himself once victory seemed assured because he had no reason to suspect competent interference because superheroes are still fairly new to this planet? Yes. Is that the tactics of a strategist? It could easily be, yeah. Did Darkseid come in all guns a blazing? No. Did Darkseid come in like a leader, surveying the scene and waking casually through his 'soon-to-conquered' planet? Yes. Is that completely in character for Darkseid? HELL YES. He only engaged in combat when attacked, barely putting in more effort than he thought was needed. He was overconfident. Totally in character. He continues this trend in this issue, being a badass and perfectly written early Darkseid. The hook in his goal was an interesting big surprise.
EDIT: Because of the well stated counterargument DarthShap made, I concede that the portrayal of Darkseid could be considered out of character. I think there's a thin line he rides between perfectly in and perfectly out of character, so I no longer criticize anyone who hated his characterization. I'm still firm in my opinion, and I'm still keeping everything I said because I at least think its worth thinking about. Some people might change their mind on In Character or Out of Character when they look closely enough at it.
And then the battle. Most of this issue is the battle. And it's just... epic. Darkseid vs. The Justice League, and amazingly enough, each character gets spotlighted, Green Lantern and The Flash actually doing LESS, since they got their spotlight last issue. It doesn't totally forgive last issue, but it softens the blow a bit. Jim Lee still uses a few big full page images and splash pages, but they're actually far more effective than the first 5 issues. And there's some nice teamwork there. Not super smooth, still got kinks to work out. Which also makes sense. Although Cyborg being ultra super important only hope at the end was pretty cliche, and a little contrived. It seemed like it was forced in there to make sure we all understood Cyborg was important. Yeah. I get it. Dial it down a notch a read this chapter about SUBTLETY. It's in a book about great writing.
While you're at it, read the chapter on NOT including ANY cringe worthy dialogue. "You're the world's greatest super-humans!" one citizen screams in the aftermath, sounding painfully unrealistic. The crack about the Super Friends was infinitely better though. Bravo on the joke there. It also highlighted how slight misunderstandings can massively shape the media's tilt on something. Starro was another nice touch.
Tough, what was with the narrator writing that book? Did I miss something there? At first I thought I was going to have to cringe again because I thought it was going to be Geoff Johns, but it was some random guy I've never heard of. Was he the one who wrote some of the books referenced in the supplementary stuff in earlier issues? It seemed like it was supposed to be some big thing coming full circle or something, but it seemed kind of awkward.
Speaking of supplemental material that makes this book cost an extra dollar, this issue was by far the most worth it. I'd almost advise picking it up for that even if you're not reading Justice league because we get some juicy information about mysterious miss Pandora. It's a nice neat little teaser in the form of an actual little side story. Pandora meets with The Phantom Stranger and they discuss things of godly nature and beyond, giving us enough information to whet our appetite without ruining the mystery.
In Conclusion: 4.5/5
Hands down, the best issue of the series thus far. No contest. For once there was very little that actually made me cringe or rage too hard. It was surprisingly less rushed then I had feared, and established the beginning of a bond between Batman and Superman as it should. Someone must have whipped Johns into shape after seeing the script from the last issue but too late to stop it, because GL and Flash function more like any other member of the team, rather than getting all the spotlight. It has a lot more polish to the flow, and feels a little more solid than just being 'awesome and nothing more.'