Justice League #40 review 

Together for the first time, the heroes of the Justice League and Justice League of America have saved a city from a chemical fire. They’ve extinguished it and dealt with the accompanying cloud of poison gas. Cyborg, just-named leader of the Justice League Regular, tries to take control of the aftermath in a spiffy new illusion suit. 

Embarrassing. Worse, the local people are convinced the superheroes didn’t care about them, because they went to the richer part of town first... that’s where the need was greatest. Then a dispute breaks out between the heroes after Superman tells Cyborg they should leave the first responders to do the clean-up

Meanwhile, on the satellite, Aquaman has been recovering from dehydration at the hands of the wackadoodle ‘Fan’ who’s been messing with them. He meets the lawyer from last issue who is, it turns out, a female Fan ... it seems the Fan is a Fandom. Soon, though, Aquaman, too, has friends, thanks to the transporter beam bringing both teams aboard.  By this team the female Fan has escaped and the Big League has to worry about her evil handiwork. 

So, do the heroes of two leagues immediately rally to save everyone’s skin? Nope, they start wittering on, and on, about whose life is worth saving. In a bubble of negativity the like of which we’ve never seen, an understanding emerges that not everyone can be saved - so who should be saved?

Batman, having handed over the reins of the satellite team after the Fan began messing with their public image, pretty much refuses to come up with a plan. He just hangs around in the background - maybe it’s to give Cyborg room to save the day, but he really should have chosen a less urgent crisis in which to practise his lurking. 

This superhero balloon game finally ends when Cyborg comes up with a plan combining the abilities of several Leaguers. It’s classic League thinking, and he might have come up with it earlier had most of his peers not become such negative nellies. 

Meanwhile, down on Earth, a politician and his assistant are watching a shyster lawyer try to cash in on the League’s recent troubles. 

Interesting comments in that final panel - did the politician, perhaps, have a costumed identity at one time?

The book ends with the satellite still plunging to Earth, but there’s hope that all the heroes will live. But will they manage to pull together? The two teams have the makings of a terrific Big League to rival the Satellite Era mob of the Bronze Age, but there’s so much bickering here - it’s like the Marvel-style tension of the Bronze Age Steve Englehart run turned up to 11. 

My big problem with this issue is that I find it really hard to believe Superman and Wonder Woman alone couldn’t right the satellite. If Wonder Woman still has that magic elastic lasso she could just grab the thing - heck, the Ray might be able to make such a construct for her. Superman can certainly breathe in space, he’s massively strong, all he needs is some way to get purchase enough to slow, then stop, the satellite. Writer Priest tries to get around this by pretending Superman isn’t as powerful as we know he is. 

Otherwise, it’s a lovely little scene with the Ray. This issue is full of nice moments, from the Atom and Flash’s grasp of the science to Lobo’s concept of ‘one for all’ to Vixen’s knowledge of the most obscure creatures. Caitlin Snow, who’s dropped the ‘Killer’ from her name as she tries to be a hero (whoever wrote the cover copy obviously doesn’t believe her) isn’t so lucky - Frost gets the issue’s one truly cringeworthy moment. 

I really dislike the idea that the other heroes of the DC Universe believe there’s a classic Justice League and that everyone else is a D-lister. It’s too meta. And the mocking crowd’s chant of ‘FER-GUS-SON’ has about as much place in a superhero comic as 9/11 did in Marvel’s Spider-Man - Priest is trying a little too hard to be relevant. 

This issue is billed as part two of Justice Lost, which is a bit confusing as there doesn’t seem any reason not to consider it the continuation of The People Vs the Justice League. It’s still all about the Fans’ manipulation of public opinion to, er, some end - they’re meant to be supporters of the League but are blackening their name at every opportunity. The female Fan has a speech all about their motivations, and it’s nonsense. I do not get why the Justice League hasn’t found the so-called Fans by now and sorted them out... these are not tyro heroes. 

So, the script has interest, but it’s frustrating. No such problems with the art, though, Illustrator Pete Woods and colourist Chris Sotomayor bring Priest’s story to life with real style, making an awful lot of heroes look awfully good. The body language and expressions are especially great, for example, check out Frost’s hands and eyes in that sequence, above. Cyborg’s temporary look should become his default, while his version of the Ray and Atom, especially, are the best they’ve looked in years. Sotomayor keeps the heroes distinct within the scenes, when they could easily be clashing with the backgrounds. And I got a huge kick from the Silver Age JLA logo being incorporated into the art. 

Similarly, the floating heads on David Yardin’s fun cover recall the classic JLA/JSA team-ups; but why are the heads on either side not at the same height? JG Jones’ variant is terrific, right down to little skulking Batman. 

All in all, a pretty good issue of an intriguing storyline. It’ll likely read much better as a collection when we’re not waiting several issues for mysteries to be solved - where DID J’onn J’onzz take the Green Lanterns last issue so they’d be handily absent for a rescue this time? 


Justice League #40 review, Priest, Pete Woods, Chris Sotomayor, David Yardin, JG Jones


  1. It must seem different outside the USA looking in, but FER-GU-SON is not an issue to continue to ignore, even in comics. The elitist, hierarchy of wealth that has taken over America is a part of daily life here in a way that may not be the same for most of the world. We live in a country, day in and day out, where the police will indeed ignore crimes and emergencies in Black Neighborhoods, or Poor Neighborhoods, in favor of even small crimes in Rich White Neighborhoods.

    Maybe this is a bit ham handed, but it is not at all out of the realm of reality in a country like this. If the Justice League really existed and they responded the way they did here, there would be a clear backlash. Perception is reality, and the people in these neighborhoods have perceived them to be a team responding to the rich rather than the poor, and seeing as the JL seems to have unlimited funds, judging by their equipment and headquarters, they are seen as part of that upper echelon responding to their own. It may be an unfair interpretation of what is actually happening, but the JL also don't make an effort to grow their team to better respond to these kinds of situations. This might not be happening id the JL had 25 members rather than just 7 or 8. Some members with less useful powers could have helped at the ground level, reassuring people and helping them where needed, the powerhouses could have dealt with the actual danger at hand.

    The USA is a really divided country right now, Racially, by Economic Status, Politically, by "Class", Education, etc. We have become a nation of tribes at war with each other, and if a comic book notices and includes it as part of its storytelling, I am perfectly fine with that and even encourage it.

    Sorry for my rant.

    1. That’s no rant, that’s a thoughtful response, and much appreciated. I especially like your point about the usefulness of a Legion-sized League. At the very least the JL should take on a Catherine Cobert to sort out their public image.

      My problem with something as sensitive as Ferguson is that it’s a true tragedy/disgrace being referenced in a ‘funnybook’. I’m OK with allegories in 21st-century relevance pieces but Ferguson just sits oddly with me.

    2. I understand what you mean, but here in the US Ferguson has essentially been forgotten, just as Puerto Rico has. The media moves on to juicier stories, and meanwhile people are still getting sick. If Beverly Hills or the Upper East Side of Manhattan had this issue, the entirety of the government's resources would dive in to fix it.

      People, including writers in comics, comedians, Twitter and Instagram celebrities, etc., are making it their responsibility to not forget. I think that is part of what we are seeing here.

    3. Thanks Hector, it’s good to hear the perspective from over there.

  2. I'm alright with including the issues surrounding Ferguson in comics -- and I thought Priest and Woods did a pretty good job of showing a situation where the JLA could act as first responders, prioritizing in a way that would elicit charges of bias. And yet -- the public image problem was explicitly pointed out to them, and I have a hard time believing that a) the League would just stop helping when they thought the non-powered first response teams had things pretty well in hand, if they had no pressing business elsewhere, and b) that they would flat-out ignore a PR problem that would make their jobs harder in the future. That kind of tone-deafness from the other Leaguers (especially Superman, a member of the media) seemed like a writer just wanting to move the story along into outer space.

    And like you, I thought the satellite problem seemed like something nearly any handful of League members could solve on their own. It's not necessarily the fault of the problem -- the satellite's degrading orbit seems like it was treated more realistically than problems like this usually are. But we're seeing characters that normally come up with unrealistic solutions shackled to real-world physics for once, and it seemed almost like the rules of the universe had suddenly changed. It's a fine problem for the Justice League to tackle, but its complications are contradicted by nearly every other Justice League story ignoring those very issues of friction, tensile strength, and zzzzzzz...I've fallen asleep before I reached the end of the sentence.

    1. Thanks Rob, you put your finger on the satellite issue.

      I do like the ideas Priest is putting into the storyline, but it’s all over the place. I don’t understand why the editors aren’t forcing him to focus.

    2. I am holding out hope that Priest will pull it all together. As it is, I think what he is demonstrating is that the JL doesn't have to deal with just one story at a time. That even as this "Fan" is attacking them, they must also deal with other issues. Their bickering over who "makes the call" though seemed petty to me. I made the point above, but DC needs to make the JL a more substantial organization, like it used to be back in the late 70s and 80s.

  3. I'm of two minds of this sort of thing because it strikes me as more of a *Priest* comic than a JLA comic. It's got all his hallmarks but I do wonder if it'd come across better with characters that weren't supposed to be those rock solid hero types. The one point I'm not so fussed about is Frost-ex-con, facing almost certain death and still plenty of chips on her shoulder. I can buy that she'd be the one to turn snappy AND be insecure enough to believe in some sort of hierarchy. Everyone else, it might have been more interesting if some of them realised they'd unconsciously thought that way without realising they did.

    This is also an example of something else I've wondered about a run I've been enjoying so far (and his work on Deathstroke), but for Priest it's really linear. I'm used to his elaborate flashbacks and timeskips. Not that they'd make the story he's telling in Justice League BETTER, but maybe it's just how straight forward so much of this is. This happens then THIS happens and then THIS happens and so on.

    1. It’s the elaborate flashbacks and timeskips that drive me mad with Priest... I can stick with his books for so long, eg Black Panther, then his apparent need to keep himself interested with admittedly clever structural techniques drives me away. Recent Deathstrokes, for example, have completely lost me... I’ve no idea what the Chinatown business with Rose has to do with the price of peas.


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