In the lead story of Future State: Justice League #1, Josh Williamson takes the concept of a team of legacy heroes and runs wild with it. Not only is this team made up of characters that are carrying on the work of the previous generation, but the Legion of Doom is full of legacy characters, as well — which is pointedly ran by a couple of angry geezers who despise the younger generation. This is a story bursting with fun ideas and tributes to the past, which should make it an enjoyable read for longtime Justice League fans and newer readers alike.
On the downside, so much of this issue is taken up with introductions to the various characters. It’s a necessary evil, but it ends up feeling like some of the bigger story beats don’t have as much room to breathe. This includes the big reveal at the end. While I love that the tussle between the League and its true enemy is as quick and disorienting for the reader as it is for our heroes, it does feel like we’ve just barely gotten to meet these characters before we’re being asked to question their motives and loyalties.
The best moments in this issue come when the story slows down for a moment for the characters to talk about their lives and the weight of their responsibilities. In particular, the squabbling between the members of the Legion of Doom is pretty fun, with the exposition from each member feeling like they’re patting themselves on the back — it’s a super amusing character beat, made even more darkly comical by the following scene.
The character designs are a joy to look at, and it’s nice to see these new heroes in more human situations. While there’s certainly plenty of posing and heroics going on, the quieter moments also benefit from the body language Robson Rocha gives each character. There’s a kind of shyness and familiarity on display that makes these characters instantly likable.
The opening of the book also sheds some light on the accomplishments of this Justice League. The villains used and the battles fought in this scene are only glimpsed briefly, but the sequence acts as brilliant shorthand. Readers get to see not only how weird this future gets for our heroes, but seeing the kinds of baddies that have been vanquished immediately lets the reader know that these young heroes mean business. These moments are dynamically posed by Robson Rocha, while Daniel Henriques’ inks and Romulo Fajardo Jr.’s colors make everything pop. It’s a short but bombastic sequence that makes you want to see the rest of this League’s stories.
In fact, one of my favorite aspects of this story is the fact that it picks up after the League has essentially saved the world. Everything is almost too chill, which is of course when the League’s newest threat emerges.
Of course, another thing that this issue gives its readers is variety. In the Justice League Dark half of the book, things are considerably more dire for the Earth. Merlin and his knights have destroyed the world in a quest for all of its magical artifacts, and the only heroes remaining seem to be a small contingent of the JLD. Ram V introduces readers to a world where the lines between good and evil don’t seem to be so black and white — making this story line up tonally with his Future State: Swamp Thing miniseries.
Like the first story in this issue, the new status quo faced by Justice League Dark requires a good bit of exposition. Luckily, it feels rather natural here, as many members of the team are seeing each other for the first time in a while.
In stark contrast to the Justice League’s peaceful existence, the JLD have failed entirely. Zatanna’s stated mission is to just help where she can, which gives the whole issue a very different feel. The book explores how these characters would react in a world without hope, and Ram V’s script may surprise fans with just how differently some characters behave. In particular, John Constantine is seen to be in relatively good spirits, all things considered.
But not everyone has taken things in stride. Bobo now plays host to Etrigan the Demon, who is something of a pariah among the magic community. As always, Eteigan is full of pomp and bluster, but it’s a notable moment when the rhyming goes out the window. Little character moments like this serve as handy cues to the reader that something is amiss with these characters that we know so well.
Marcio Takara makes some interesting choices with the characters that perfectly complements the story. Everyone seems to be beaten down, but they haven’t given up. It’s wonderful to see some of these characters literally seem perk up and prepare to fight again, just because they’re seeing Zatanna again. You can almost feel the hope radiating off the page — which is no mean feat in an “end times” storyline. The character designs are also fresh and interesting, playing off of what we know of these characters from the past. In particular, Ragman gets the most surprising action sequence of the issue, which I won’t spoil here. It’s wild.
In the same vein, Rob Leigh is clearly having a blast with the lettering in this issue. Every character has their own unique flavor, particularly Etrigan and Ragman. They feel appropriately otherworldly. Ragman, in particular, seems to be more “off” than usual — it makes that the soldiers Ragman goes up against are terrified by him.
All of it is brought together by Marcelo Maiolo’s colors. The sickly flames rising from Etrigan between transformations is one of my favorite bits of imagery associated with the character, and it’s given just the right amount of heat here. The backgrounds also benefit from shades of purple, which enhances the feeling of dark magic seeping into every corner of this world.
The final page brings with it a few interesting reveals, setting the stage for a magical showdown that I can’t wait to read.
Overall, Future State: Justice League is a lot of comic book, and it might not be the most friendly to new readers. However, fans of these characters will probably be excited to see callbacks to the history of the Justice League, as well as an interesting peak at a possible future for Justice League Dark.
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