While Dark Nights: Death Metal has largely been told in its main series and several tie-in one-shots there are a few ongoings that have brought into the story. The biggest one is Justice League. That is no big surprise given how Scott Snyder used this run on Justice League to develop all of the groundwork for what Dark Nights: Death Metal became. Using what’s happened already in Dark Nights: Death Metal, writer Joshua Williamson has put together a new Justice League team together with Nightwing and Lex Luthor in the lead. With how things have already gone from bad to worse in Dark Nights: Death Metal what should the new Justice League expect to find? Let’s find out with Justice League #54.
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Colorist: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Cyborg and Starfire Boom Tube back to Earth and are surprised to arrive in a desolate wasteland rather than the Hall of Justice. They don’t get much time to think as they are surrounded by mutated versions Killer Croc and other villains.
Nightwing, Hawkwoman, Detective Chimp, and Lex Luthor quickly arrive to back Cyborg and Starfire up.
After repelling the mutated villains off Lex Luthor tells everyone to follow him. Nightwing tells Lex that he will not let him put everyone in jeopardy because of Lex’s choices. Lex tries to argue why they should follow him but everyone, especially Hawkwoman, tell him that he is not on their team.
Elsewhere, inside a mindscape, Mindhunter talks with Martian Manhunter about why J’onn left the Justice League because he let his guilt over the fall of Totality overcame his better judgement. Mindhunter knows that even now Martian Manhunter is trying to use his powers to connect with the Justice League. Mindhunter goes on to say that he and the Dark Knights are planning to use that connection to discover what Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Justice League are doing.
Suddenly, Hawkwoman senses Martian Manhunter’s mental battle with Mindhunter. She tells the others she sensed Martian Manhunter in pain. The team then decide to go through a field filled with giant Starros to get to Martian Manhunter.
As they through the Starros field Cyborg fills everyone in what he and Starfire went through in the Ghost Sector with the Justice League Odyssey team. When asked about what happened to Justice League Dark, Detective Chimp says he does not want to talk about it.
Nightwing and Starfire then start talking with each other to catch up. Starfire notices that Nightwing has a new scar in his head. Nightwing reveals that he was shot in the head by KGBeast. This pisses Starfire off, who wants to hunt KGBeast down. Nightwing says he is fine and that becoming the Nightwing that others remember is helping him recall memories he is still trying to remember.
As Starfire starts to talk about how much their lives have changed Nightwing suddenly sees her in her old look. Nightwing then hears another voice telling him to wake up.
Nightwing (in his modern costume) wakes up in the Batcave and is elated to see Alfred back. Batgirl (in her Burnside costume) tells Nightwing that he gave them a scare. As Nightwing talks about Batman Who Laughs he and Batgirl go through change into their different looks over the decades. Batgirl tells Nightwing that he is safe now and just getting used to being himself again.
The rest of the Justice League are having similar experiences of their own as they go their own history with those close to them.
Lex wakes Nightwing out of his trance by tackling him out of the way of Starro. As they run Lex reveals that they are in the Valley of Starro that is controlled by a Dark Multiverse Batman who was taken over by Starro. Nightwing mentions that when he was trying to reject what he was seeing his dream turned on him.
It is shown that the other Justice League members are going through a similar thing as they begin fighting their own dreams.
Nightwing wants to help his team but Lex says they have to kill the Starros. Nightwing says they need to save the others first. Lex says that Starro is a conqueror first and foremost so it knows how to defend itself.
Starro then turns Hawkwoman, Starfire, Cyborg, and Detective Chimp against Nightwing and Lex. End of issue.
The Good: Joshua Williamson is making full use of the opportunity provided by Dark Nights: Death Metal to give us a new Justice League team. To his credit Williamson does not miss a beat with creating a fun dynamic between this new team that makes use of the setting they are in. At the same time, the high stakes are there with how we see the Martian Manhunter with the Dark Multiverse’s Mindhunter.
As with the previous issue, having Lex Luthor be part of this Justice League team has been a major wildcard. More than anyone else Lex is fully aware of what they are up against and what one wrong step can do for them and the world. Because he is someone that has made those wrong steps that help usher in what is going on in Dark Nights: Death Metal. Throughout Justice League #54 Williamson does an effective job conveying all of that with how Lex talks with the team.
But even when he is trying to warn everyone about what they should do Lex can’t help but still act superior and talk down to the others. It is just something that is intrinsically part of Lex’s character that will always exist no matter how much he may have been humbled. Which all makes for a strong dynamic with everyone, especially with Nightwing and Hawkwoman. With Nightwing we see this battle between leaders that Lex has going on. While with Hawkwoman there is a more personal battle as she knows what Lex did with Martian Manhunter in the past.
Speaking of, Williamson does a very good job in furthering the connection between Martian Manhunter and Hawkwoman to further drive what is at stake with this storyline. Hawkwoman continuing to sense Martian Manhunter’s pain added to the bond these two have shared since the latest version of the Justice League was created As we see with Mindhunter, Martian Manhunter is someone the Dark Knights are trying to use to get the advantage in this multiverse crisis.
Williamson also did a good job in building up to what we end up seeing go down in the Valley of Starro. He did that by showing us this makeshift Justice League bonding with one another by catching up with what they’ve each been through. We see that with how even though they’ve changed Cyborg and Starfire have good memories of working together in the Ghost Sector. That was balanced out well with how Detective Chimp acted combative when asked about what happened to the Justice League Dark. All of this showed that everyone has been through a lot.
Which made the spotlight on Nightwing even greater as we continue to see how recent experiences of being shot in the head and Joker War have shaped this version of Dick Grayson. Williamson quickly turns all of those events into a positive for the character as we do see how Dick Grayson is actively moving forward by reclaiming who he was as Nightwing. Adding in how being the Nightwing that others remember as a leader and friend helping Dick remember his lost memories was a nice touch.
As was how Starfire reacted to learning about Nightwing being shot in the head. Starfire’s reaction immediately reminds you of how close of a bond these two share. Even if they aren’t together as a couple anymore Starfire will always have Nightwing’s back, and vice versa. It was a cool thing to see as a fan of the New Teen Titans era.
Establishing the Valley of Starro and how it is connected to one of the Dark Multiverse Batmen was a great way to further show how much our heroes are going up against. That and the mutated villains we saw Killer Croc with is a reminder that there are threats around every corner. Which does put into question how this new Justice League team can even overcome what is going on with the multiverse and if they are enough to save Martian Manhunter.
Xermanico once again provides solid artwork throughout Justice League #54. His style fits in well with the post-apocalyptic setting that this version of the Justice League find themselves in. Each member of the Justice League have a Mad Max-style to them that is really cool to see. Those designs made the return to their classic looks from the dreams that Starro made each member of the Justice League go through even more striking.
The Bad: As with the previous issue of this Dark Nights: Death Metal tie-in, Justice League #54 is not a comic book that you can simply pick-up and read. You must be reading other comic books to understand that. This is something that stood out more as Williamson brings in other plot elements from Justice League Odyssey and Dark. Without reading those titles there will be a lot of things like the Ghost Sector adventures Cyborg and Starfire are returning from that will fly over your head. That is something to keep in mind when considering reading this comic book with Justice League in the title.
Overall: Justice League #54 is another effective tie-in to Dark Nights: Death Metal. Joshua Williamson and Xermanico make full use of the setting to give us a Mad Max-style adventure with a unique Justice League team. The sense of history with the team members will be something fans who have followed this group of characters will greatly appreciate.
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