Recent Justice League-related events have demanded a great deal from readers with epics like Metal and Death Metal delivering seemingly endless crossovers and building upon years of lore and retcons. Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes is a breath of fresh air, if only because anyone might pick up this debut and enjoy it. While the story builds upon familiar characters and tropes from writer Brian Michael Bendis' runs on both Justice League and The Legion of Super-Heroes, this issue introduces readers to both rosters and the problem which draws them together in a colorful assemblage of DC Comics fan-favorites.
The story begins with the Legion battling an oddball threat who never leaves the background in the 31st century before being struck by a mysterious "great darkness" – a term which will instantly raise eyebrows amongst longtime Legion fans. It's this unexplained force, denoted only by the warping of Scott Godlewski's artwork and a shift in Ryan Cody's colors, which draws them and the Justice League together. The centerpiece of this issue comes early in a series of 3 spreads laying out the three central elements of this series: the great darkness, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and the Justice League. Reds and blacks provide an eerie void in the first of those three and contrasts heavily with the resplendent gatherings seen in the other two. Whatever this great darkness may be, it's already clear it represents a lack of hope and possibility.
While the plot to come is barely hinted at in this issue, that's not a problem in this showcase of Godlewski and Cody's craft. They excel with overfilled compositions as Godlewski ensures all of the figures in each crowded scene are engaged. Beyond the forefront of each panel, readers will witness Legionnaires and League members alike acting and discussing events. It's not simply that backgrounds are filled, but that they invite readers to seek out details and discover what so many characters are doing. Combine this with a clean sense of design and definitive colorwork to make one of the most inviting crises in DC Comics history.
Those elegant designs only prove problematic when it comes to distinguishing age. The difference between teenagers and adults lies at the heart of this story and that gap is heightened by a surprise age-up for one Legionnaire. However, it's nearly impossible to detect outside of dialogue given the presentation of these characters where a single wrinkle seems to imply decades of progress.
The set up for Justice League vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes is one of the most promising debuts Bendis has made at DC Comics, not least because he circumvents the mandatory superhero teams fight before allying trope. It's a presentation to two of the publisher's most impressive pantheons assembled side-by-side in a fashion that evokes their immense potential. Watching these groups independently and together is a thrill, and that makes the cliffhanger at the end of issue #1 all the more investing. Wherever this is going, readers can expect to see many of DC Comics' best characters presented with a sense of joy even as they combat a new great darkness. Let's just hope the story ahead can meet the expectations set by this bright beginning.
Published by DC Comics
On January 11, 2022
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Scott Godlewski
Colors by Ryan Cody
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Cover by Scott Godlewski and Ryan Cody