In Chip Zdarsky and Miguel Mendonça’s Last Ride, the Justice League is reunited years after a horrible event broke up the team. With the greatest murder trial in the universe about to occur, the League has to learn how to work together, one final time.
Right off the bat, this book looks gorgeous. Miguel Mendonça delivers iconic illustrations of these titanic heroes, reveling in the opportunity to show them performing at their best, even when some of them have clearly lost their love for adventuring. A few standout moments include a brief tussle between Batman and Mr. Freeze, in which Batman is shown descending upon the villain, a flurry of shurikens filling the panel. The speed lines surrounding Batman lend the panel a kinetic energy that makes the shadowy figure feel completely inevitable. Meanwhile, Superman’s arrival shortly thereafter feels regal, almost benevolent, even as he’s shutting the villain down as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The new design for Green Lantern is also interesting. Hal appears with a fiery aura and a suit of armor resembling a Power Battery. For all the world, he looks like the last thing he wants is for anyone to ever touch him again. And yet, he’s more than happy to hug Wonder Woman after not seeing her for so long. Despite the state of the Justice League, some of these characters’ bonds are just as strong as ever. It’s a really lovely bit of visual storytelling that rings true, no matter what dark timeline this story is set in.
In fact, where Zdarsky’s script really sings is in the character interactions, however gruff and unpleasant they can be at times. The main drawback to this tale is the feeling that we’ve seen a story like this on a number of occasions. There have been plenty of “last rides” before this latest miniseries, and the setup feels pretty familiar, even if the specific circumstances are different. Even so, Zdarsky and Mendonça almost perfectly distill these characters’ essences, which makes this story feel like a culmination of their lifelong struggles.
There are still so many questions we don’t have answered, but there’s a familiarity here all the same. Even if we don’t know what has transpired in this version of their history, we know these characters. Zdarsky leans into what we know of the Justice League and their friendships, and the story, while still full of lingering questions, is strengthened by that familiarity. The character work helps elevate this above feeling like just a remix of other stories.
It’s still a bit early to say where Last Ride will stack up against other “final” superhero stories. However, the choice to let the action take a backseat and to mainly root this first issue in smaller character moments has me very intrigued. The strength of the storytelling in this first chapter has ensured that I’ll continue to be along for the ride.
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