The Justice League Watchtower has landed in an African nation in the middle of a civil war. The League has established a ceasefire around the wreckage until they can have it extracted, and refugees have taken shelter in and around the Watchtower. However, a rebel faction wants the refugees, and, worse yet, the leader of the nation, Matthew Bland, wants the technology through salvage rights. Bland also has a high-tech suit and uses the moniker Red Lion. An international incident is a heartbeat away. Elsewhere, Aquaman and Batman are in pursuit of the Fan.
This is a comic that left me saying “holy shit” to myself many times in the process of reading it. Christopher Priest writing Black Panther into Justice League as a genocidal warlord aside—we’ll definitely get back to that—this comic is another vicious takedown of the superhero genre courtesy of Priest.
Priest has introduced a depressingly real and common scenario into his JL comic and has forced the team to confront it. Civil strife, ethnic cleansing, vicious warlords—these are things both real and prevalent throughout the world. The Justice League finds themselves in the middle of one of these conflicts with no understanding of the politics are what’s really going on. Superman, the Flash, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg are left absolutely impotent. It’s shocking. It’s depressing. It’s damn compelling. As has often been the case with Priest’s take on this book, it only gets worse from there too.
The revelations made about the Fan are almost an afterthought. Frankly, it’s not nearly as interesting as the Red Lion plot.
Back to the Red Lion—he comes off as a mixture of parody and bitter recreation of Priest’s Black Panther from years back. He’s a ruthless dictator with an interest in technology, making a show of power and confrontation, and he cops to killing countless with almost a sense of pride. He’s power hungry and hostile to foreigners. Consequently, he’s left feeling less interesting than my beloved T’Challa. However, it’s still a highly memorable element of the comic and something a nerd like me is left wanting to talk to anyone who will listen about.
Philippe Briones’ artwork is up to the task this bonkers book presents. It’s fluid, highly-detailed, and just looks damn good on the whole. Aquaman’s face looks oddly under-detailed at times, but those are brief moments in the comic. Jeromy Cox’s color work is the right mixture of brown grittiness and superhero colorfulness to fit the line art too.
Justice League #41 is an insane, compelling, and oddly beautiful comic. This might be the most audacious and fascinating superhero comic on the stands or at least from the Big Two. If you’re not reading it, you’re missing out on some of the most notable comics of the minute. Read it.
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