If you could ask the iconic members of the Justice League any question, what would it be? That's the underlying premise of the latest DC Zoom original graphic novel Dear Justice League, written by Michael Northrop and illustrated by Gustavo Duarte. As part of the all-ages imprint, the graphic novel is targeted to readers in mid- to late-elementary school, and that tone certainly comes across as the titular team answers timeless questions regarding self-identity from their unique perspectives.
As the members of the Justice League contend with their daily routine of saving the day, they field email questions from school children, asking them everything from whether they still make mistakes to how to prepare for upcoming birthday parties. As familiar faces from throughout the DC Universe crop up in the vignettes, an overarching story develops as an insect-like race attempts to invade Earth, with only the Justice League standing in the way.
As bestselling novelist for both young-adult and middle-grade audiences, Northrop certainly knows how to approach his readership. While the inevitable corny jokes are definitely present, quite a few more land for readers of a wider age range. And Northrop is sure to keep the action moving at a steady clip; no vignette feels particularly superfluous, and no member of the Justice League gets a visible short shrift in how they are written. There are moments when the iconic superheroes may come off as acting out of character, but it is usually in service of setting up a gag, and those moments are generally superficial and few in number.
It is important to point out again that this graphic novel is created primarily for elementary school-age children. It does not set out to stage epic battles or have its characters rocked by emotional, existential soul-searching. Even the alien invasion is played for laughs, with the extraterrestrials themselves more of a nuisance than a viable threat. What elevates the material are the character moments, with the Wonder Woman and Flash vignettes, in particular, perfectly in line with each hero, while the other six stories connect with varying degrees of success.
Bringing all this to life, visually, with the same kid-friendly and sleek, superhero tone as the script is Gustavo Duarte. Joined by colorist Marcelo Maiolo, Duarte brings the team to their most classic, recognizable forms while conveying the charisma and emotion carried by each character effortlessly. This incarnation of Wonder Woman has a commanding presence in every panel in which she appears, while the Simon Baz Green Lantern serving on the team has the juxtaposition of youthful confidence and naïveté that matches his age and relative inexperience. Duarte knows the appeal of each character's personality and renders each in kind while possessing the comic timing to increase the effectiveness of the jokes. For fans of Duarte's previous work on the Bizarro miniseries, there is a lot of the same comedic sensibilities in the visuals here.
Dear Justice League imagines its heroes as flawed, relatable role models with their own distinctive personalities as they save the day alone or as a team. Giving each member a spotlight to answer questions from impressionable schoolchildren, the graphic novel showcases the DC Universe's greatest heroes in action while answering burning questions either with a wink and punchline but also always with an age-appropriate message. Michael Northrop and Gustavo Duarte deliver a lightweight, accessible story that shows the team what they do best while adding a surprising amount of vulnerability to certain characters without the usual drama in the mix as a fun-filled addition to DC Zoom's middle grade line.