Justice League #39 cover

Review – Justice League #39: Cyborg in Command

Comic Books DC This Week
Justice League #39 variant cover
Cyborg is the new leader of the JL. Image via DC Comics

Justice League #39 – Priest, Writer; Ian Churchill, Artist; Alex Sollazzo, Colorist


Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Everybody Guest-Stars


Ray: One of the best things in Priest’s comics – in Justice League, Deathstroke, and Black Panther alike – is the way he manages to seamlessly work in so many elements into a coherent narrative when a lesser writer could have let them all collapse into a confusing mess. That’s probably why he’s the first Justice League writer in years – even including Geoff Johns himself – to overcome the limitations of the Justice League as a book where the writer doesn’t actually control the destiny of anyone in the book. This issue seamlessly shifts from action to character-driven drama, to social commentary in only pages. From the start, Ian Churchill turns in the best work he’s done in years as Aquaman is trapped in some sort of Mad Max desert, going up against the deranged Fan, who has upgraded since we last saw him. Fantastic visual, and it sets the issue off in a dramatic way before we shift to deeper matters.

Cyborg’s debut on the scene as the leader of the Justice League takes him back to Congress, where he testifies about the increased scrutiny on the League. The bit involving Batman cosplayers outside is one of my favorite sight gags in comics in a while. Meanwhile, we get a surprise guest appearance as Batman’s Justice League of America enters the picture (Batman took his leave from one League, but not the other, apparently) and the two teams join forces to stop an industrial disaster from poisoning a small town. However, Priest rightly hits on the concept that superhero relief efforts tend to be focused on the central hubs of towns, while the outskirts where poor people live often get left behind. He also makes savvy use of social media in this issue to illustrate how the League is viewed by the public. Add in a Martian Manhunter surprise cameo, and this was another excellent issue. Shame this run will only be twelve issues – it’s one of the all-time best Justice League runs.

Justice League #39 page 6
Aquaman confers. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: Priest is pulling out all the stops to write as many characters as possible and it’s kinda glorious. I will note that Priest is the creator of this new version of the Ray, in a self-tilted short series from 1994. It was a fantastic series back then and Orlando has kept most of the Ray’s history for his version, though this Ray is gay, it changes little of the basics of Priest’s revamp. (This comics trivia was brought to you by someone who is, well, old. 🙂

What Priest is doing in this run is using a doppelganger to showcase the strengths and weaknesses of each hero. It’s not a new trick but he does it well, especially since the insights into each character are so valuable and ground the series in emotion, rather than spectacle. Look at how he writes Aquaman, and then Cyborg during his questioning by the committee. (Add Cyborg and Aquaman to the list of things Priest should write, which already included Teen Titans, Green Lanterns, the Ray, and, of course, Batman.)  I also agree with Ray that this is the best Churchill’s art has looked in years.

Because the story juggles so many elements, I sometimes re-read the earlier issues, to keep track of them but that’s hardly a burden, given the quality of the story.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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