As the Batman Who Laugh's Death Metal siege befalls the DCU, all hope seems lost... but recently, a spark was lit, as Wonder Woman and Batman rescued the captured heroes from the prisons of Apokolips (see Death Metal #3). Now, Nightwing, Hawkgirl, and Detective Chimp must band together to free the Legion of Doom from the cruel goddess Perpetua's clutches...
But in a world gone mad, even the noblest heroes will need allies from surprising places. But can they possibly allow themselves to team up with Lex Luthor, the man responsible for Perpetua's rise in the first place?!
Justice League #53 kicks off the five-part “Doom Metal,” the obligatory tie-in arc to the Major Event Comic that the Big 2 seems to let loose like they bought them in a fire sale. Fortunately, “Doom Metal” has sturdy legs to stand on, as Dark Nights: Death Metal has thus far proven to be one heck of a rollicking, metal-up-your-@$$ ride. The promise (because there has to be, because if there weren’t, casual fans might not splurge to pick this arc up) that “Doom Metal” is essential to the overarching Death Metal narrative seems true enough, as Lex Luthor questing to buy his penance by freeing his former (read: betrayed by him) allies in the Legion of Doom from Perpetua’s clutches feels like a pretty crucial piece of the puzzle.
Josh Williamson stands at the helm (this book’s fifth writer in six months, as strong a signal as any that DC is wrestling with what to do with the League post-Scott Snyder), and serves up a cursory story. The highlight for some will undoubtedly be Nightwing – back to his true self, with nary a Ric in sight. Unfortunately, as he notes, his timing was terrible, as his return from amnesiac purgatory coincided with the end of the world. But, hey, at least it’s the real Dick Grayson riding around on a Themysciran horse. Rounding out the heroic trio is Hawkgirl and Detective Chimp, both of whom are always welcome additions to any proceedings.
The plot, though, is fairly rote. More or less a standard quest tale, with vague Arthurian allusions thrown in and plenty of Dark Multiversal wackiness to boot for good measure, we’re essentially treated to a standard “world-gone-mad” story that lacks any of the inventiveness the main Death Metal has wrought so well. Indeed, the quiet, nearly pastoral take on the state of the wider world seems almost at odds with the main narrative “Doom Metal” is spinning out of, so bereft of stakes it is. At this point, a squadron of cackling Creepers riding around on Solomon Grundy beasts of burden just isn’t enough to make it feel like this is anything more than a teeball version of the Bigs.
Yet, it must be. The inclusion of Lex Luthor – determined to buy back his soul after selling it to Perpetua and damning the world – dictates nothing else. It’s a direct through-line to the very beginnings of Scott Snyder’s epic Justice League run that has ultimately lead to this. “Doom Metal” has to be of consequence – yet it just doesn’t feel like it yet. The plot is too by-the-numbers, too threadbare. That’s not for lack of trying, and there’s certainly enough of a basic-entry foundation to build upon, but “Doom Metal” has a considerably long climb ahead of it to reach its intended peak. (That doesn’t even get into the Legion’s guardian, which is a toneless callback to Justice League: No Justice, seemingly for no other reason than to remind us that miniseries exists.)
Damned if it isn’t a pretty book, though. Xermanico and Romulo Fajardo, Jr. deliver the goods – in spades. This world definitely looks like it’s fallen to pieces, and it has a certain Warlord-esque swords and sorcery feel to it. The characters, too, are equally bruised: Nightwing gives off a particular Jon Snow vibe, rugged but weary from battle; Hawkgirl is full of righteous fury; Detective Chimp sags from a few battles too many, harried and close to beaten but never giving in. Lex Luthor, face scarred and hideous, has a distance to his demeanor that reveals a man quietly broken by his own mistakes yet determined to repent. Put it all together, and Justice League #53 is one of the best-looking books on the stands this week (stiff and lifeless cover art aside) – it just needs its story to kick in to the next level to match the stellar art. Williamson is certainly not a bad writer by any stretch of the imagination, but this issue feels like he hit cruise control when he should have been flooring it.
"Doom Metal" kicks off in Justice League #53, and although the art is gorgeous, the plot feels threadbare and by-the-numbers. There's definite potential for growth - due more to overarching narrative promise than anything technically delivered here - but it may take another issue or two to reach it. Turns out, not even death metal can rock at an eleven every time.
Justice League #53: Severed Survival
Writing - 7/107/10
Storyline - 5.5/105.5/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 8.5/108.5/10
Cover Art - 6/106/10
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