REVIEW: Justice League of America #8
With Forever Evil now in full swing in the DC Universe, the biggest question asked has been, “What happened to the Justice League?” With their defeat taking place off screen, Justice League of America #8 by Matt Kindt and Doug Mahnke looks to answer how the team is currently incapacitated. The result is an interesting yet flawed experience that kickstarts the certain-to-be-slow but sure return of the Justice League.
Martian Manhunter’s journey through the “circles” of the prison complex do mirror Dante’s journey in the Inferno, with the levels representing different fears or weaknesses that constantly haunt each member of the League. Most of these moments are very effective, with the most harrowing having to be Flash’s need to always be on the move, using his power for good. The page, which shows his constant acts while in super speed, is well constructed and a visual treat. Having Superman continue to be guilty about his part in the death of Dr. Light is also true to the character, and it is great to see a weakness of emotion in Superman rather than the use of a Kryptonite device. The reference to the first 1978 Superman movie is also a nice little touch, as one of his most famous “powers” is in use. Wonder Woman having to fight for nothing and seeing Simon Baz give in to the hatred and fear that others have for him are also interesting looks at these character’s psyches. This is a compelling way for the team to be incapacitated, as they are defeated by their own mental problems.
However, there are a lot of questions brought up by this issue. The prison itself is a cool idea, but whether the Crime Syndicate did this to the League or why they did it is not tackled. While Batman and Cyborg have been shown in Forever Evil #2 as alive and not incapacitated, Manhunter and Stargirl do not question their absence. Jason Rusch’s appearance in the mental prison is a potentially compelling subject, as his Firestorm character is two different personalities in one, but nothing is done with him psychologically. No reason is given why he can travel through the different layers, and yet he is the exposition vehicle that guides Manhunter at first. He even disappears after Manhunter encounters Superman and is never shown again. No explanation is given for why Stargirl is the one who got shielded with Manhunter out of all the rest, and her “revelation” at the end of the issue has no setup and feels abrupt. Her sidelined role throughout the issue feels like a lost chance at giving the character a much-needed spotlight since Justice League of America began. Finally, on one page, Manhunter spots a shadowed figure far away and remarks on him being there, but that character never comes up in conversation or makes an appearance ever again.
Doug Manhke does the duty in this issue on pencils, and he has a few great scenes. His double page spread portraying the supposedly dead Justice League laid out in the rubble is a haunting image of the good guys defeated. Manhke also handles Flash very well, as he showcases the vibrational moments of Flash effectively on page, with a close-up of Flash’s bloodshot eyes as a creepy reminder of the adverse effects of the mental prison. Diana’s weary face and Baz’s stone cold look also are highlights, but Mahnke’s weakness is in characters that are farther away from the reader’s view. In a panel where Wonder Woman is running away from Manhunter, her representation does not make sense body wise and there is no red on her body for her costume. Gabe Eltaeb and Hi-Fi handle colors, and they do a good job using a somewhat muted style to not overwhelm the reader with bright coloring. They are especially effective with the reddened sky in Wonder Woman’s layer that conveys the reigning sense of doom and despair for these characters.
Justice League of America #8 is the first look at what happened to the Justice League in Forever Evil, and it is a decent start to the proceedings. The mental prison idea is a great way to look at the psyche of the fallen heroes, but the execution could have been better handled. With a jailbreak promised in the next issue, hopefully more answers will be given and a clearer picture of the Justice League’s demise will be shown.
Justice League of America #8 gets a 3/5