Justice League is a book that lets writers explore the team, the characters within it, and how they interact. Writer Jeff Loveness took the bold move to introduce the team to a planet covered in the Black Mercy. First introduced in the iconic Superman Annual #11, this book heavily connects to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ legendary annual issue. This two-part story started in a slightly rocky place, but the finish in Justice League #52 shatters expectations.
It has become clear once you crack this book open that this is Batman’s experience with the Black Mercy. We’ve seen Superman, but now it’s Batman’s turn. As one might expect, the Black Mercy shows Bruce his ideal life and it involves bringing his mother back. Loveness goes even further with the scripting showing us what a happy and healthy Bruce Wayne would be up to. It tracks with the character and it’s, in a way, a happy ending for him. This is of course a lie, but it’s more about what these thoughts mean.
Loveness and artist Robson Rocha close this book out masterfully. I won’t spoil it, but there’s some deep reflection for Bruce and an equally deep connection he makes with another hero. These scenes help flesh out the mental anguish Bruce must be in after seeing what he sees, but it ends up being a teachable moment. The creative team has created a meaningful moment that could be a springboard for even greater stories. Rocha has captured the cool resolve and pain of Batman quite well making you feel his anguish.
This is a horror comic with some fairly graphic visuals and Rocha, with Romulo Fajardo, Jr. on colors, capturing the disturbing nature of the Black Mercy. In Batman’s dream, there’s more disturbing stuff going on, and you get the feeling that horror practically pushes Batman towards the dream. Outside of the dreams, there’s some great action too. Rocha makes you root for the hero who rises up and there are some deeply heroic moments for a character who is rushing to escape.
The weight of this story is so strong I wish DC gave Loveness a full arc to explore other character’s dream futures. That’s probably greedy, but the length would have also helped pad out the escape. This issue shows us Batman’s ideal life and then quite quickly rushes to get things resolved. There’s time spent with Batman thinking deeply about his experience that is totally valid and important, but that escape could have been extended to make the entire ordeal more impactful.
This second issue in “The Garden of Mercy” storyline improves on the setup and hits it out of the park. It’s fairly certain this two-parter will be reread and enjoyed for years to come. It does get hindered by the page count, but I fully enjoyed the entire package that is these two issues. Justice League #52 is contemplative, dark, bravely observational, and a great Batman story.