If you’re looking for a more traditional Justice League story, fear not, as DC Comics has this annual issue ready for your reading pleasure. Dark Nights: Death Metal has taken over the main title, but that doesn’t mean Robert Venditti and Aaron Lopresti can’t deliver a great one-shot tale. This Annual features teamwork, surprises, and good attention to character as the heroes are trapped in the Hall of Justice and can’t escape. It’s a murder mystery and a good team book.
This is a solid example of how a team book should be written. Great care is taken by Venditti and Lopresti to show us how each character fits into the team and how they are stronger when they work together. So often with superhero comics the focus falls on one character and shows off the powers of each as they take things into their own hands in action scenes. That’s not the case here, as Lopresti and Venditti have each character offer solutions, ponder what could be going on, and actively ask each other for help.
The conflict in this issue revolves around a mysterious dead body found in the Hall of Justice. The entire team finds the body and are confused as to how such a thing could happen in their own headquarters. Soon they are being attacked and thwarted by the Hall of Justice security systems. One problem we soon realize is how a superhero headquarters is particularly retrofitted for attacks by villains who have similar powers to the heroes themselves. These defense systems work just as well against our heroes who can’t control the system itself.
Lopresti draws a great superhero book in the traditional hyper-realistic style. Each hero is drawn accurately with good details in their costumes — check out the preview to see for yourself. Batman’s cowl is particularly good, and Green Lantern’s constructs are well rendered too. Colors by David Baron help define said constructs, but there’s a brightness that’s not too over-the-top in the costumes that keeps it looking realistic and not cartoony. Considering much of this book takes place in a single room, the art team keeps the action interesting and the focus moving so it’s never boring.
It’s hard to get bored, though, when the narrative keeps throwing new threats and dangers at the heroes. Venditti stuffs this book with threats, twists and turns, and great moments between each character to connect in some way. If there was a theme to the book, it’s how these heroes never give up and stay hopeful even when there seems to be no solution in sight. It’s a reminder these heroes can never lose because they never give up.
Of course, this isn’t a character study or a deeply meaningful tale, so if you’re expecting more in that regard you’ve come to the wrong place. That’s okay, of course, because sometimes you want a little superhero escapism, especially when it comes to comics of this nature, and it does the rare thing of spending extra time to make sure every character is involved.
Justice League Annual #2 is an exceptional team book doing the extra work to remind us how these characters can sue their powers together. If you like your superheroes working together you’ll love this. Justice League Annual #2 earns its place as one of the best one-shot team books ever created.