A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: "The People vs. Justice League - Part 3", Justice League #36 (REVIEW)
Publisher - DC Comics
Story - Priest
Art & Cover - Pete Woods
It's been a long time since I've been back to reading weekly single issues. Case in fact, this is my second effort to get back on the horse after taking several months off to just read trades. So, in DC, I've missed a bunch of Rebirth and whatever it is we are doing now. Justice League #36 starts off a bit rocky for me, but by the end of the issue, it had me smiling. Let's walk through the tale of the tape. A warning that this review is written for audiences who have already read the issue and are looking to engage in discussion on the work. Spoilers follow, so if you have not read the issue, you've been warned.
I am not at all familiar with the works of this creative team. I do know Bradshaw and Sinclair, who collaborated on the variant cover, which I really loved. The main cover is fine, too. In part 3 of The People vs. Justice League, things go sideways right out of the gate as someone impersonating the Bat takes to murder, framing Batman when the League is already in hot water. Bruce spends a large chunk of the issue in civvies, neglecting to suit up until he hears that there is a lead and a location on the impostor. In between, he puts the team through its paces as they search for clues to prove his innocence, while another tactical team of Arthur, Clark, Victor, and Simon tackle a sunken US submarine that is submerged in Chinese waters.
The main thing that set me on edge when I opened this issue up was the art-style. I will not say the "artwork" because the quality of the work itself is good. It is just not my preferred style. Characters, facially, do not look like they do in my mind from a traditionalist standpoint. That guy is not Bruce, and that's not Dick. They all look very cartoony, meaning like Saturday morning action cartoony, bordering on anime, not like Roger Rabbit cartoony. I do love Bruce no-look grabbing Nightwing's baton when he throws it at him, as if it's nothing and Bruce can't be bothered. The impact of the style lessened throughout the issue, so either the jarring edges, brought to the fore by some very sharp jutting inking effects, was softened out, or I just got used to it. I tend to think it was the former. Beyond my problem with the the faces, you get some very classic Justice League action scenes and portraits of the members working together (-ish; more on that later). As capes, they all look pretty decent, except for one pretty horrible Batman pose when he finally suits up. The renders of the evil Batman actually look and articulate much better and the shadow work on those models is superb.
There's some ragged edges in the pictorial storytelling. The impostor Batman is in something akin to the classic 80s and 90s (pre-Miller) costume, with the yellow utility belt and yellow circle behind the bat emblem. Bruce seems to be in some new monstrosity somewhere between that 80s/90s thing and the more urban combat getup of the Snyder / Capullo New 52 era. It is also difficult for me to follow the Simon scene at the end. Who is the girl that approaches him in the bar and does she tell him she has info on the Bat-impostor? Or does he just casually slink off with a girl and let her open his shirt and start random foreplay? Is she Black Canary or a Canary impostor or is the 80s Batman-not-batman using a device to make the Canary call? We don't know because the following panel does not show the impostor holding one. Overall panel work is pretty nice, with lots of alternative layouts, while none of them are particularly edgy.
Priest tells a pretty good story, and that is what held things together for me despite the art, although the story-telling take-aways are kind of on both of them. I really like the emotional conflict between the JL members in the field during the submarine event, and Bats back at the HQ, and how that tug-of-war goes all over the battlefield with regards to the Leaguers and their uncertain positions on whether the League has the right to interfere for the greater good whether asked or not. It's an interesting conundrum and even more interesting tack for Bruce to agree with the accusation that perhaps the League has been overstepping its bounds and try to reign the team in.
Verdict: 7.5 / 10
Despite some of my negative feelings, I walked away from this issue feeling that underneath some smudge on the surface, this truly is the League I have always known and trusted. The knocks and dings keep this issue from reaching a level of goodness that it could have, but for those who have always liked the League, you should stick with it. First-comers looking for something a bit more 21st century may want to wait and check out DC's New Age of Heroes books, simply because this Justice League, for me, feels close to the classics, but not quite there, and so investigation of something new might be warranted.