3/18/20 Bat-Comics Reviews (JL #43 & NIGHTWING #70)

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JUSTICE LEAGUE #43 Review by Garret Grev

SYNOPSIS: All secrets revealed! Caught in the Justice League’s trap, the Eradicator reveals the truth hidden in his circuits.  And as Superman confronts his past defeat, it’s up to Wonder Woman to make a decision that will divide the team. The no-holds-barred war between the League and a murder machine with Superman’s face concludes!

There is another reality where “The Invasion of the Supermen” is a storyline that spans a year’s worth of Justice League issues, complete with crossover issues from other titles, holographic collector’s covers, and various one-shot publications. It was hyped up for months as the “next big event.” I kind of want to spend some time in that reality.

Then again, the fairly simplistic 3-issue event is something to be appreciated. It’s admirable that a narrative that owes quite a bit to 90’s comic event history managed to be so digestible and accessible to the audience. 3 issues to tell a fun and exciting story, that’s not something we see too often in modern comic publication.

“The Invasion of the Supermen” concludes in Justice League #43, written by Robert Venditti and drawn by Doug Mahnke. I say concludes because that’s really what this issue does, it completes a refreshingly brief JL story that could have easily sprawled into the same tired space that writers and publishers feel the need to fill, the mega-event. I’m not even going to get into the details of the issue because honestly there it isn’t super dense. It feels more like something we would get in the 70’s and 80’s and less like what we’ve experienced in the long format, long-run stories of the more recent past.

Instead, what we get serves to be what I hope is a taste of what Venditti has in store for his time on the title. It has a fun hook, big action, interesting team dynamics, and a solid (if understated) resolution. Venditti seems to understand the appeal of a legacy team title like Justice League. We want to see these heroes in action together. The stories can, and should, tie in when necessary to their larger universe, but not every story told here should require an intimate knowledge of everything going on in each of the character’s solo titles and they don’t need to have every story beat reflect a grander narrative. If Venditti continues to deliver quality mini-arcs nestled within, but not reliant on, everything else going on at DC I will be one very happy reader.

Overall, this is a satisfying end to the storyline that didn’t go as deep or as far as I thought I wanted it to, which I appreciate in an entirely different way that I was prepared for. It has all the stuff you want and none of the extra. The same can be said for the art by Mahnke; the work is solid, well designed from pacing aspects to character detail, but in a way that is accessible while not generic. Don’t miss this issue. – Garret Grev

GRADE: A-


NIGHTWING #70 Review by James Armstrong


SYNOPSIS:
How many Nightwings does it take for one Joker to strike to get to the real one? Four Nightwings. And that’s not even the punchline-how will Ric interact with the Joker when he’s not quite sure which one of his two memories is the real one…and exactly how dangerous this clown standing before him is?

So there’s a Joker War story arc in the making. While I’d prefer other villains have a chance to shine, like the Duela Dent character they used in NIGHTWING #57 & #58, this issue was somewhat satisfying.

The Joker in this Dan Jurgens script feels like one with Mark Hamill’s attitude and a Cesar Romero aesthetic.

Like Hamill, it’s the territorial things that set him off. This whole story began with him enraged that someone other than the former Robin that he’s known and fought with is wearing the Nightwing outfit. Think back to “The Man Who Killed Batman” and “Mad Love” from the animated series as examples of Joker placing more priority on him being the A-Number-One antagonist than actually defeating Batman and Robin. That’s the perspective I’m coming from on this.

Joker also forgoes elaborate plans and long conversations in favor of explosive gags and brutal fighting. Even a guy like me who thinks the Joker is overused had his Grinch-like heart grow a few extra sizes reading this issue.

Just as heartwarming was noticing that eternal smartass Nightwing had way more wisecracks in this issue than the Joker! Why so serious, Clown Prince?

Team Nightwing is still reeling from Talon and a brainwashed Dick Grayson beating them to a pulp. I really appreciate that since its inception this team has been welcoming toward Grayson but still wary of him due to the first-class combat skills this random cab driver possesses. This fight/betrayal has only heightened the team conflict and I’m all for it!

Instead of Ronan Cliquet (who did most of the issues from NIGHTWING #61 onward) the art team for NIGHTWING #70 consisted of pencils done by Ryan Benjamin, ink by Scott Hanna and colors by Rain Beredo.

As I said, Joker is drawn very retro, Cesar Romero-like. No argument with how he looks in NIGHTWING #70. Ditto for Grayson’s girlfriend Bea. Grayson and the other Nightwings look older in this issue, in some panels even a little wrinkly, and it threw me off. When we see Grayson early on in the story I actually assumed it was Detective Sap (Nightwing Prime) based on how he looked.

Since we’re heading into a new story arc there are flashbacks to recent events to catch-up new readers or those who took a break. I know this is a ready-friendly move but if you’re a regular Nightwing subscriber it feels like filler. A necessary evil, I suppose.

With the Joker being brought in as the lead bad guy, the art not being my cup of tea and a lot of flashback stuff weighing down this issue I expected to give it a lower grade. However, after sleeping on it I dig how brutal Mr. J is being written and appreciate prior events having real consequences for the Nightwings. – James Armstrong

GRADE: B