Scott Snyder’s truly epic run on the Justice League franchise has officially come to an end. Snyder hands the crown over to Robert Venditti as the new boss of the Justice League franchise. Venditti has some massive shoes to fill. I do not envy any writer who has to follow Snyder’s incredible run on Justice League. Having said that, Venditti is extremely talented and one of the few gem writers that DC still has in their employ. I am confident that Venditti will deliver an equally entertaining read as to what we got under Snyder. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Justice League #40.
Words: Robert Venditti
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Richard Friend
Colors: David Baron
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with an alien crash-landing on Earth. The Justice League arrive on the scene. Superman scans the alien’s body with his X-ray vision and says that the alien appears to be humanoid. John Stewart rolls the alien over and immediately recognizes him as Sodam Yat. (Hey! Yat is back! Very cool!)
Yat regains consciousness and immediately attacks the Justice Leaguers with his heat vision. During the battle, Batman tells Flash to attack Yat with super-speed punches to distract him. However, Flash appears unable to kick it into high gear. John Stewart creates some green goggles on Yat’s face to contain his heat vision. John orders Yat to stand down.
Yat then suddenly regains his senses and recognizes John. John removes the goggles and tells Yat that everyone is friends here. Yat apologizes for instinctively lashing out once he woke up. Yat says that an enemy is coming and they are going to invade Earth. Yat then passes out. John says that Yat’s body is adjusting to the different elements on Earth that are not on Daxam.
We shift to the Hall of Justice. The Leaguers have placed Yat in one of Superman’s healing chambers to help him adapt to Earth’s environment. Yat introduces himself to the Justice Leaguers. Yat says that he is a Senator and leader of the Isolationist Party on Daxam.
Yat talks about how Daxamites are descended from ancient Kryptonian colonists. That Daxam has always feared contact with other races and forbidden it. However, there is a new breed of Daxamites which have been manipulated by genetics and cloning in order to create a Daxamite with all of their strengths and none of their weaknesses. These newly created Daxamites swear loyalty to the person who created them: The Eradicator. (Yeah! The Eradicator is back, baby!)
Yat says that the Eradicator is leading a team of these newly created Daxamites. Yat says that he formed the Isolationist Party not because he thanks Daxam needs to be protected from alien threats. But because Daxam is a threat to the rest of the universe.
Batman says that Daxamites had Superman’s Kryptonian vulnerability bread out of them. Batman asks what else Superman hates. Superman responds that he tries not to hate things. But, Superman says that he does not really like magic. John chimes in that he does not trust magic.
Wonder Woman says that the Justice League Dark is busy but they could try and contact Madame Xanadu. Batman says that he will go meet Madame Xanadu. John says that Wonder Woman, Superman, and Flash will stay with him and monitor for the approaching Eradicator led Daxamite invaders.
We cut to Batman flying into London. Batman engages the Bat-jet’s autopilot to return back to the cave. Alfred appears on the video screen and asks if Batman is planning on swimming back home. Batman tells Alfred to remote-pilot the Bat-Jet back to the cave. Batman responds that if everything goes right then he will be hitching a ride. (Wait, is this panel real? Is Batman imagining this? Is this a flashback? This is not so well constructed.) We then see autopilot engage. We then see Batman exit the Bat-jet and arrive outside of Madame Xanadu’s hidden lair.
We shift to John Stewart and Superman levitating in the sky and looking for Eradicator and his army. John tells Superman that it too guts to reveal his secret identity to the world. (Oh, thanks. Thanks for reminding me of Bendis’ completely moronic idea.)
John points out that Batman seems to be in a bad mood. Superman replies that now that Alfred has passed away that Superman knows Batman longer than anyone alive. Superman says that Batman is not accustomed to someone else making the plans.
John says that Superman has no problem with John being in calling the shots for the Justice League. John says that ego has no place on the battlefield. Superman replies that Batman’s problem is not ego. That Batman’s problem is trust.
We cut to Wonder Woman and Flash at the Hall of Justice. They have Eradicator and the Daxam soldiers on the radar. Wonder Woman radios John and Superman and tells them that the invading force is coming in fast and headed for Metropolis. Superman blasts off for Metropolis.
Back at the Hall of Justice, Wonder Woman asks Barry if he is up of this mission. Wonder Woman points out that earlier when dealing with Yat, it appeared that Flash could not use his speed. Barry replies that he hesitated. Wonder Woman retorts that Barry does not hesitate. Barry asks if Wonder Woman is doubting him. Flash then races off and tells Wondy to try and keep up.
We cut to John Stewart flying to Metropolis. John contacts Batman and asks him when is E.T.A. is with Madame Xanadu. We cut to Madame Xanadu’s place. We see Madame Xanadu has Batman trapped in some magical tentacles. Batman replies that this is going to take more convincing that Wonder Woman suggested. Batman tells John to hold.
We hop back to Metropolis. We see Superman, Flash, Wonder Woman, and John standing there. John tells Batman that they will hold but for Batman to hurry. We see Eradicator and his army of Daxamites arriving in front of the Justice Leaguers. Eradicator says for the heroes to submit to eradication. Eradicator says that the new age of Krypton’s legacy has begun. End of issue.
The Good: Justice League #40 is a solid start to the Venditti era of the Justice League. Venditti is a writer who has strong technical skills. This is evident in the fact that Venditti checks all the necessary boxes for the first issue of a new creative team. Venditti delivers a quickly paced and well-plotted story with Justice League #40. Venditti wastes zero time quickly installing the main villain for this opening story arc. Venditti also swiftly installs several sub-plots to support the main plotline of the Daxamite invasion of Earth. There is really nothing more that a reader could ask from a debut issue of a new creative team than what Justice League #40 delivers.
I love the selection of the Eradicator as the big bad for this opening story arc. The Eradicator infuses me with plenty of 1990s nostalgia. However, Venditti has far more going on here than just a nostalgia play. Venditti reinvents the Eradicator as the leader of a new breed of Daxamites hellbent on conquering the universe and restarting the Kryptonian Empire. This is a great new twist on both Eradicator and Daxam. Venditti’s new direction with Eradicator is completely consistent with the Eradicator’s core character traits. This new direction also honors the Kryptonian roots of the Daxamites. This is such excellent use of DC continuity and taking it in a new direction.
Being a long-time Legion of Super-Heroes fan, and a big Mon-El fan, I have always loved Daxam. So, I am thrilled to see the Daxamites involved in this story arc. The concept of a new breed of Daxamites free from their well-known weakness to lead is a brilliant idea. This makes Eradicator’s Daxamite force truly terrifying and seemingly unstoppable.
Venditti then smartly introduces magic as the last-ditch defense against the Eradicator’s Daxamite army. Along with Kryptonite, magic is a well-known vulnerability of Superman. The introduction of magic to the story arc will allow Venditti to expand this story into yet another realm of the DCU.
Venditti delivers plenty of quality character work and well-written dialogue in Justice League #40. All of the characters have their own unique external voices. The characters are all well developed and Venditti is able to create some good chemistry between the Justice Leaguers.
I love the introduction of Sodam Yat into this opening story arc. Yat is an excellent character. I have missed seeing him. Again, this is Venditti doing a great job pulling in various characters from different corners of the DCU in order to flesh out this story. Yat’s new role as Senator and leader of the Isolationist Party is also consistent with Yat’s core character traits.
I also like Venditti’s unique twist to Yat’s motivation to lead the Isolationist Party. The reader reflexively would view the Isolationist Party as a xenophobic movement. However, Venditti turns the concept on its head and has Yat states that his goal with the Isolationist Party is to protect the rest of the universe from the danger of the Daxamites. Not only will Yat introduce some quality drama to the story, but Yat also provides the Justice League with some serious additional firepower in taking on a seemingly unstoppable force in the Eradicator and his Daxamite army.
Venditti also introduces Madame Xanadu into the story. This is another example of Venditti pulling in characters from all different areas of the DCU. This will help to make Venditti’s story even grander in scope. At any rate, Venditti does a nice job with Madame Xanadu by making her appropriately mysterious and unpredictable. The reader knows that Madame Xanadu will eventually help the Justice Leaguers, but I dig that Venditti is making it difficult for Batman to recruit her. Madame Xanadu is more interesting when kept as a wildcard.
Venditti also does a nice job with the various Justice Leaguers. I like the new wrinkle of having John Stewart as the leader of the Justice League. I am sure DC is eager to earn bonus points by having a minority character in the position of leader of the Justice League. But, it is also a logical choice given John’s military background. John has the proper level-headed and calm demeanor befitting a leader of a super team.
Yes, Batman is always going to be the smartest Justice Leaguer and the best tactician. But, Batman is too distrusting and too much of a loner to be an effective leader. I prefer a character like John to be the leader and let Batman be free to do his own thing. Plus, Batman is more entertaining as the loyal opposition to the leader rather than being the leader himself.
This leads me to Venditti’s Batman. I love it. Venditti perfectly nails Batman’s naturally prickly nature. Venditti wastes no time clearly identifying to the reader Batman’s core character trait: his inability to trust others. This is fantastic. This is exactly how I like my Batman. The most naturally distrusting and aloof Batman is the better. I hope Venditti keeps Batman in this position. Batman should always view the Justice League as a tool that he uses for his advantage. Batman should always view his teammates also as tools that he can manipulate for his purposes and keep a close eye on in case any of them become a threat.
Venditti does an excellent job with Superman’s personality. The moment where Superman tells Batman that he tries not to hate anything is perfect. This is an effective way to get across Superman’s core character trait in an organic manner that never interrupts the flow of the story. I love when writers seamlessly weave in strong character work like this into the story. This is Venditti flexing his writing chops.
I also liked how naturally Venditti weaves in the events over in Superman and Action Comics into the story in Justice League #40. This is a nice way to alert readers who do not read Superman or Action Comics to the fact that Superman has revealed his secret identity to the public. This also firmly attaches Venditti’s story with the Justice Leaguers’ own solo titles. I appreciate when events in solo titles are acknowledged and worked into the story of the team title.
Venditti does a similar job in organically folding in the events occurring on the Flash’s solo title into the story in Justice League #40. Again, readers who do not read the Flash’s solo title are appropriately brought up to speed concerning Barry’s issues with his powers. The handling of Superman’s story and Flash’s story never feels forced and is properly introduced into Venditti’s story as a way to show the reader how these outside events are going to impact the story in Justice League.
Venditti’s handling of Barry’s character was spot on. Venditti had Barry bristling at Wonder Woman’s comments of not being in control of his powers. Barry is a control freak and a proud hero and is certainly the type of character that does not ever want to be second-guessed or doubted by anyone.
Wonder Woman does not play a huge role in this issue, but what we got from her is also well done. Venditti shows that he understands Wonder Woman’s character and is going to be able to deliver a good version of her character. I like the friction between Wonder Woman and Flash. What made the friction enjoyable is that Wonder Woman was truly coming from a place of love and concern.
Justice League #40 is certainly not action-packed as Venditti dedicates a large portion of this issue to lay the solid foundation for his story arc. However, Venditti delivered enough action in the opening scene with the Justice Leaguers and Yat. This helped to keep Justice League #40 a lively read.
Doug Mahnke and Richard Friend combine to deliver plenty of nice artwork. I absolutely adore Mahnke’s artwork. Now, Justice League #40 is not the best looking Mahnke art. That is mainly due to Friend’s inks. Mahnke’s artwork looks the best when he inks it himself. Still, Justice League #40 is a good looking issue that is packed full of quality artwork. Mahnke is so talented and is perfectly suited for the superhero genre.
The Bad: My only real criticism of Justice League #40 would be the situation concerning Alfred. Venditti has Batman engaging the auto-pilot to return the Bat-jet to the Batcave. Then we get a panel of Batman telling Alfred to remote-pilot the Bat-jet back to the Batcave. Then we get another panel of the auto-pilot being engaged.
Venditti is trying to show how Batman would usually use Alfred in this situation, but cannot since Alfred’s death. However, the construction of this scene is a bit confusing and I could see how some readers might not pick up on the fact that the one panel is an imaginary panel that takes place in Batman’s mind. There is no real clear signal to the reader that the panel with Alfred is not real. This makes the scene a bit confusing and may completely bewilder some readers.
Overall: Justice League #40 was a fantastic start to a brand new era of the Justice League. Robert Venditti flexes his writing chops by delivering a story that is tightly plotted and paced and quickly slides into place all of the necessary ingredients for the opening story arc. I am confident that we are in store for a fun ride with Venditti at the helm of the Justice League.
Yes, Scott Snyder will be missed. But, the Justice League is in very capable hands with Venditti at the helm. If you were thinking of dropping Justice League with the departure of Snyder then I would urge you to give Justice League #40 a try. This title is well worth your money.
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