Review: Justice League: Death Metal trade paperback (DC Comics)

November 10, 2021

 ·  1 comment

In comparison to the last time Justice League tied in to a Dark Nights series, Justice League: Death Metal is an improvement, benefitting among other things from a single writer and mostly stable art team, giving the story more coherence of plot. This volume does seem less essential, more skippable among the grand scheme of the Death Metal saga than the first ancillary Death Metal volume I reviewed, Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Darkest Knight. But, though writer Joshua Williamson’s work could still be tightened, this is a good read overall, especially in the ways it circles back to the Scott Snyder Justice League run that started all of this and other related series.

[Review contains spoilers]

Williamson’s five-part “Doom Metal” stars Nightwing, Starfire, Cyborg, Hawkgirl, Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz, and Lex Luthor, and all of them Williamson does well in placing within the context of their own current events. A lot of Nightwing’s action here stems from his recent recovery from his “Ric Grayson” amnesia, a controversial story that Williamson didn’t have to reference but does, and gracefully. Starfire and Cyborg come straight from the end of Justice League Odyssey and Williamson reflects well that they’ve been away a while. I do wish there’d been more of a suggestion of a lead-in to the three New Titans next appearing in Teen Titans Academy together, but I think there’s still more Titans-focused Death Metal tie-ins still to come.

As for Hawkgirl, J’onn, and Luthor, their “love triangle” (with J’onn, if you weren’t there, torn between the angel Hawkgirl and the devil Luthor) was among the cornerstones of Snyder’s Justice League story. Williamson picks up well with the various hard feelings among the three. This makes “Doom Metal” feel not just like a tie-in to Death Metal that happens to take place in Justice League for lack of other available title, but an actual continuation of this book’s events so far.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

The only character who seems unmoored here, surprisingly, is Bobo, the Detective Chimp. Nightwing finds him down on his luck, angry with the League for being defeated by Perpetua, and mourning his own lost team — though the book never explains if this means the Justice League Dark or what happened to them exactly. It’s a strangely pessimistic position for Bobo who, you’ll recall, was a prominent force in the original Dark Nights: Metal and key to the heroes' rescue in the end, rallying the good forces of the Multiverse. To find Bobo here, sullen and disinterested, seems out of step given that Detective Chimp, more than most, should have ideas as to what’s going on and how to solve it.

There are similar missteps, not major but notable. Luthor proffers a boat that he’s christened “Lana,” despite that seemingly as far as Rebirth has been concerned, there’s no overt connection or romance between Lex and Lana Lang (it’s as if Williamson has a weird, fleeting Smallville moment). Nightwing says “dang” at one point; maybe it’s just me, but that seems a regional or out-of-fashion curse that’s dated coming from a superhero. And though this is unquestionably a story destined for trade, Williamson arduously reestablishes a number of points per issue, including the heroes' mistrust of Luthor. There’s a scene Williamson repeats at the end of one issue and the beginning of the next, but with slightly different dialogue, a sloppy transition between the parts.

The art here is just from two sources, Xermanico and Robson Rocha, who look nicely similar enough to give the book a cohesive feel. Xermanico is assuredly the better, between his great depiction of the Justice League from Dick Grayson’s childhood and then the weird urban fantasy world that the characters ultimately find themselves in. Rocha’s art works too, though I’m not sure if Daniel Henriques isn’t inking him too dark, versus Xermanico’s lighter inks on his own work. A special shout-out to the variant cover by Philip Tam, which echoes the first cover of Snyder’s Justice League by Jim Cheung.

2.5

Rating

I struggled with Joshua Williamson’s Flash title, but I’m eager to enjoy his work more given that, among other things, he’s writing both Infinite Frontier and Batman itself. Justice League: Death Metal is good work from Williamson, the characters mostly sounding right, the continuity mostly in check, and all-in-all a story with a good arc to it. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Comments ( 1 )

  1. Yeah, Doom Metal was a nice coda to the post-No Justice-era of the League books.

    Not the best of the tie-ins, but solid stuff. It was interesting to see Williamson come back to Vic and Kory given he was the original JLO custodian before the kerfuffle of his premature departure.

    I've struggled with Williamson's DC stuff too, but it's the inverse. I LOVED his Flash run, but I haven't really been able to get into his other DC stuff.

    Batman/Superman meandered without a long-term direction (that and Jeph Loeb set the bar high for the modern World's Finest).

    And I didn't especially enjoy Infinite Frontier from what I was following. I think I'm just sick of the DC Multiverse stuff after how it's dominated the modern DCU since the original Metal.

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