Review: Justice League Vol. 2: United Order hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)


The great promise of Brian Michael Bendis' Justice League Vol. 2: United Order is that it might have filled in some of the gaps from Bendis' Checkmate. Where Checkmate was full of more questions than answers, it was reasonable to think some explanations might be found in the issues of Justice League collected here, published at the same time and involving some of the same seemingly significant characters.

But as the song goes, Justice League Vol. 2 can’t save Checkmate; it can’t even save itself. United Order is padded to extremes and hardly even quite makes sense at times. Clearly something went wrong, given how far the contents stray from the back-of-the-book description; it is astounding the extent to which Batman: Shadow War makes these events seem cogent after the fact.

Add to that, that United Order doesn’t quite match up with Bendis' own Checkmate, and the upcoming end of Bendis' Justice League run unfortunately begins to seem a mercy. And this ignominious end to Bendis’s inaugural DC run is indeed unfortunate, because I really did like where we started with Man of Steel, and who doesn’t want more Young Justice? But clearly it’s time to move on.

[Review contains spoilers for Justice League, Checkmate, and Naomi]

United Order has so much going on that in the end it doesn’t feel like it’s fully about any one thing. Notably, the Royal Flush Gang steals Superman’s Fortress of Solitude as a cover for filching a particular item within the fortress, but at the same time they’re also leading their own “new world order” cult, a la Leviathan, with a murderous approach to defectors.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

That the Royal Flush Gang should have goals so similar that even the characters recognize they’re like Leviathan seems less an “everybody wants to rule the world” commentary than more base repetition. I thought it a shame just how quickly Bendis took Mark Shaw and Leviathan from espionage masterminds to villainous punching bag; letting the Royal Flush Gang steal their shtick does little to stem the bleeding. And nothing better is found in the gang stealing the entire fortress from the bottom of the ocean; Bendis glosses over the hows and whys, simply alluding to the use of a Leviathan device, far-fetched even by comics standards.

It doesn’t feel like the details are trivial so much as the focus here is mainly on getting to the story’s end, satisfying or not. We see the same thing in the initial story, basically just a five-issue action sequence — Synmar Utopica comes to Earth and is defeated, the United Order’s standoff with the League is resolved peacefully, and barely anything is different at the end of the story than at the beginning. Perhaps this is a symptom of the disconnect between the book description and the book itself (a sign of a change in plans and perhaps the need for a quick wrap-up) — neither does Checkmate break into the Hall of Justice nor are they investigating Black Canary’s secret relationship with TRUST.

For sure, United Order wants to make a big deal of the so-called Daemon Rose, apparently the former ARGUS agent Leonardo Lane, son of Sam Lane and the brother Lois never knew she had. But United Order struggles to make “Leo” any more interesting than Checkmate did; at least under Alex Maleev’s pen, Leo had an air of mystery about him, while here he looks like a wayward teen, albeit one (we’re told more than shown) who has fighting skills akin to Nightwing. Following Checkmate, I hoped Justice League might give us more on where Leo’s been all this time, why Sam Lane kept him hidden, etc., etc., but Bendis seems intent on saving this all for a sequel that may never come, despite the promise of answers on the issue covers.

Among the characters, I thought Bendis did a nice job with Black Adam here; similar as he is in general strength to Superman, Bendis has played them well side-by-side, both Superman appealing to Adam’s valiant side and Adam giving Superman advice on managing his emotions. Black Adam also has a classic scene with Naomi’s parents, though I admit I was befuddled by Bendis' characterization of Naomi’s father as so concerned about Naomi’s interactions with the League. It was as if one of Naomi’s writers himself forgot Naomi’s adopted father isn’t human, but rather a former Rannian soldier.



All of this — and Aquaman talking about an Atlantean ritual when he was 13 years old and … didn’t live in Atlantis, Black Canary pronouncing Paradise Island as “Thermascura,” that not even the destruction of the Hall of Justice lasts longer than a couple issues — combines for a book that at times isn’t that good, at times just seems to be marking time. Again, one imagines there was more intended for Justice League Vol. 2: United Order than ultimately manifested — not in the least, the United Order that Brian Michael Bendis takes pains to introduce but who’ll likely enter limbo not too long after.

Maybe the third and final Justice League volume of this run will surprise us all.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Comments ( 5 )

  1. Was that a Stabbing Westward reference in the second paragraph? Nice.

  2. It's remarkable how much of a flame out Bendis ultimately was at DC. I quite enjoyed some of his action comics work, and liked the idea of Event Leviathan. By the time checkmate rolled around, it was clear he had completely checked out and his Justice League run was amazingly lazy. How is it that the man who revitalised Daredevil and created Miles among other achievements could fall apart so fast?

    My personal theory will always be that Dan Didio's abrupt dismissal largely finished off Bendis. There's a pretty clear difference between Bendis seemingly setting up major long term arcs in his early work, and things like Justice League, where it feels like he's just killing time and not particularly caring.

    I still have no clue what Leviathan even wanted, and Bendis doesn't seem like he has any interest in telling me.

    1. AnonymousJune 06, 2023

      I know, right?

      His defection to DC was treat as the same kind of industry paradigm shift Byrne's defection was 30 years earlier.

      But BMB was gone within 4 years and what's left? Naomi's off the board for the foreseeable future. Nearly all the changes he made to the Superman mythos (save for Jon) have been undone by PKJ, Tom Taylor, and Joshua Williamson.

      I think the core mistake Didio made was that he wanted the Bendis of the 2000s, the one who shaped 21st Century Marvel more than any other creator. The problem was that this Bendis hadn't existed in a decade.

      I still think BMB peaked at Marvel with Secret Invasion and save for Miles and exceptions here and there, his last 10 years at Marvel were pretty lackluster and joyless.

      That said, I thought at least coming to DC and operating outside his sphere of influence would revitalize his creative energies, but it didn't. I'm not sorry he's gone from DC, nor am I gonna miss him.

  3. AnonymousJune 02, 2023

    I know that I read the Bendis Justice League, but I cannot remember a THING that happened in it.


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