Justice League #45
Written by Robert Venditti
Art by Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferriera and Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Lettering by Tom Napolitano
Published by DC
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10
With the Spectre running wild, the Justice League find themselves at each other’s throats, and while that cape-versus-cape action is enough to stimulate the lizard part of any fanboy’s brain, there’s still something about Justice League #45 that comes across as awkward and stiff. Writer Robert Venditti finds some nuggets of character-driven conflict, but something gets lost in translation thanks to a divine antagonist and some big missteps from artist Eddy Barrows.
Given Venditti’s superlative work on Superman: Man of Tomorrow and Barrows pitch-perfect work with James Tynion on Detective Comics, Justice League #45 doesn’t feel like it reaches either creator’s clear potential. But to his credit, Venditti finds some striking counterpoints between the various members of the League 0 while Superman and Batman clashing over Clark revealing his secret identity feels a bit on the nose, Flash and Green Lantern John Stewart each throw some well-considered barbs between one another, while the brawl between Wonder Woman and Aquaman feels like a conflict long in the making. (“The League, your kingdom, your family. You’re present one day, gone the next. I question your commitment.” Ice-cold, Diana.)
But it’s also easy to question the commitment to the bit here – while Venditti does solid work rooting these conflicts in character, the actual conflict itself lacks teeth. We know that these characters aren’t going to do lasting damage to one another, but the actual choreography here feels half-hearted – while Barrows portrays plenty of impact as these characters trade blows, it’s mostly nondescript punching, running, and blasting. The whole point of a superhero brawl is to see characters get to pull out all the tricks to fight their comrades-in-arms, but we only really get a couple of punches before Venditti pulls the plug.
And unfortunately, things get a bit more awkward from there. Some of this is from Barrows struggling a bit with juggling some of the League’s various character designs – his Flash and Aquaman, for example, feel uniformly bulky, with their facial expressions lacking a lot of nuance besides gritting their teeth. While Barrows’ Wonder Woman is a consistent highlight, even his distinguished track record with the Dark Knight is tarnished, as he can’t quite make the Bat-Fur Coat work. But even Venditti’s main villain – God, with a capital-G – feels like an out-there choice, making the back half of the book feel like a sermon as the Spectre tells the League that “God has chosen you to understand.” But that encapsulates the sort of shaggy dog structure of this whole issue – God might work in mysterious ways, but his plan in this case sounds just bounces between fighting to abrupt exposition to a left-field detour to Paradise Island.
Justice League #45 feels like the epitome of a mixed bag, with its insights into the League’s characters clashing with numerous discordant elements across the storyline. That’s not to say this is a bad comic, but it for sure doesn’t do justice to either Robert Venditti or Eddy Barrows’ skills – if you’re looking for some by-the-numbers superhero action, you could do worse than this book, but this isn’t a highlight for anyone involved, either.