Heavily loaded with the New Gods, “Justice League” #41 fires the first volley of the “Darkseid War” storyline and brings a new direction for this series, as writer Geoff Johns and artist Jason Fabok present a fast-moving opening chapter. That new direction is big-screen, bombastic action that feels like an event but doesn’t unnecessarily sprawl into other series or come with a preordained seventeen-issue checklist.
Johns and Fabok hit the ground running and deliver a solid start to a story that could prove epic. Their opening scene introduces the Apokoliptian assassin, Kanto, and Lashina of the New Furies as they conduct their search for Myrina Black, who hails from the “Divergence” Free Comic Book Day one-shot. Johns makes it quite clear that, despite their human appearances, Kanto and Lashina are much darker and more lethal than most humans. This bit serves as an opening credits type of scene, slowly urging the readers forward in their seats.
From there, “Justice League” #41 continues its self-contained but wide-ranging exploration and introduction of the DC Universe’s action heroes. Like the “Super Powers” series of the 1980s, which introduced a whole new generation of comic readers to DC’s grandest legends, Johns introduces the League to the readers through Wonder Woman. Batman and Flash work the crime scene like a modernized version of the Silver Age team comics pairing. In their findings, Johns describes the effects the Apokoliptians’ presence has on the world. The rest of the League on site consists of Cyborg, Shazam, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and the new Power Ring, Jessica Cruz. Through Wonder Woman, Johns gives readers slivers of each character and their potential impact on the adventure prior to the attack from Grail.
Johns fills out “Justice League” #41 with an introduction to Mister Miracle in a caption-box-intensive exposition that frames Fabok’s intricately detailed artwork. Letterer Rob Leigh does a great job preserving the details and giving the story room to flow. He also proves indispensible for this adventure, tonally tying Grail to Darkseid and providing commonality to all of the pinging Mother Boxes. Johns, with Leigh’s help, furthers the subplot of who is trying to kill Lex Luthor and finds a way to thread these three tales together, before adding further developments on the final page of the issue.
Fabok’s art is detailed and energetic, which isn’t an easy accomplishment, as most artists trend towards one or the other; however, Fabok clearly thinks every character through in every scene. This thoroughness transforms every panel into a tight interaction, further summoning the readers’ attention. Fabok details the sewers of Apokolips and adds subtle detail to Mister Miracle’s costume. Clearly, Fabok is the right artist for this job and these characters match his ability nicely. He gives readers a wink and a nod in Wonder Woman’s recollections, presenting a League team shot that hearkens back to the Bruce Timm “Justice League” cartoon.
Some minor details prove Fabok’s humanity. The rim of Kanto’s wine glass changes within the four panels of the opening page, but — honestly — if the worst thing I can find is a shapeshifting wine glass, then “Justice League” #41 can still be presented as a smart, tightly-composed project. Fabok keeps this book looking great and colorist Brad Anderson comes along to give it all a signal boost. Gorgeous colors highlight grand effects, from the Kirby crackle to the floating chest emblem for Hal Jordan to the sparks around Miracle’s hands as he picks a lock and the shiny, metallic gold trim of Shazam’s hood. The crowning jewel, however, is when “the Destroyer” from the Crime Syndicate’s world makes an appearance — a very striking, double-page spread appearance.
While I’ve made the comparison (for New Gods’ sake) to “Super Powers,” this new chapter of the Justice League’s adventures truly feels parallel to George Perez’s work, at least visually. Flash leaving a crime scene to check DNA and returning before Batman can finish a question is descendant from Barry leaving Red Tornado’s apartment in New York to check a prison cell in Denver in “Justice League of America” #193. Clearly, Johns and Fabok find inspiration in the League’s storied past, as well as the energy and enthusiasm in their collaboration to create new legends for future generations. We’ll have to wait and see what Fabok can do with a team assembled around a meeting table on the satellite, but “Justice League” #41 feels like a cornerstone of a new era. This is a grand new start, with revelations and jawdroppers aplenty.