Dear Justice League – Michael Northrop, Writer; Gustavo Duarte, Artist; Marcelo Maiolo, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Ray: The second original book from the DC Zoom (now DC Kids) lineup, Dear Justice League neatly sidesteps all the problems that plagued the Super-Sons graphic novel and comes out of the gate strong as a near-perfect all-ages introduction to the Justice League’s most popular characters.
It has a clever format – a central plot involving an invasion of bug monsters from outer space is framed by a series of segments where ordinary kids write to their favorite heroes in the Justice League with questions about their past and present. That sets up a series of hilarious cutaways as the heroes answer their biggest fans. The team is nicely diversified, featuring Cyborg, a teenage PoC version of Hawkgirl, and in a surprising choice, Green Lantern Simon Baz.
The story is divided into nine segments, first one for each of the Leaguers, followed by a joint one. It gets off to a good start with “Dear Superman”, where the Man of Steel gets a letter from a hapless boy asking if he’s ever screwed up. That leads to a hilarious segment where Superman “texts while flying”, setting off a Looney-Tunes inspired segment of mishaps that turn Metropolis into a chaotic cartoon. This is where the book’s sense of humor is at its best.
“Dear Hawkgirl” is one segment I wish could have been longer, as it seems like this version of Hawkgirl is very different from others we’ve seen. She’s the youngest member of the team, and it would have been interesting to see her grapple with her place on the team as one of the few teenagers to get to the big leagues. Instead, we get a slight segment about if she eats small mammals like other hawks. But hey, it turns out Hawkgirl has an adorable pet hamster!
Similarly, the “Dear Aquaman” segment relies on an old trope – Aquaman and his weird relationship with fish – as a kid writes him asking if he smells like fish. This isn’t much of a story, but the segment features a bold, boisterous Aquaman reminiscent of The Brave and The Bold cartoon’s version, and there’s a hilarious gag involving Aquaman’s pet fish.
The best segment of the book is “Dear Wonder Woman”, as she gets an e-mail – one of countless for the League’s most popular member – asking her if she ever disobeyed her mother as a kid. This leads into a hilarious flashback segment to Diana’s eleventh birthday on Themyscira. Although I quibble with a few details – where did these other girls come from? – it’s a hilarious cake caper that builds to a literally explosive conclusion.
“Dear Flash” is the shortest, fasted segment of the book, involving a pair of pranksters who try to pull one over on Flash and get their comeuppance. I think the character could have been used better, but one clever detail is that most of the kids in this story seem to come from the same school. A nice little bit of shared universe worked in.
The Simon Baz segment, like the Hawkgirl segment, has the job of introducing us to the character. It side-steps a lot of the trickier parts of the character’s backstory – no gun, drag races, or false terrorism accusations here. Instead, he gets a letter from a fashion-forward little girl interested in if Green Lanterns can change their costumes. This leads to a hilarious segment where Simon tries to jazz up his fashion sense. It does its job in helping kids to get to know this highly underrated Lantern.
The one segment in this book that didn’t work at all was “Dear Cyborg”, which just has him responding to some online trolling and then battling the Insectoid invasion. It almost felt like the creative team didn’t know why he was on the team. I must say I agree – the promotion of the character to the big leagues never quite worked, and I’d be interested in seeing a more in-depth segment with him in a “Dear Titans” sequel, maybe.
“Dear Batman” is a tricky one, since Batman is by his nature the least likely to respond to a kids’ email. But the creative team makes it one of the best stories in the volume, as Batman gets a hand-written letter that speaks to him and leads into a story about his struggles right after he became Batman. There’s also some good Alfred content, which is always a must for Bat-excellence. This is an intense Batman who never loses his likability.
The final segment, “Dear Justice League”, mostly deals with the Insectoid invasion and delivers some fun action segments and good team interactions, but it almost feels like the attempt at a central plot here isn’t needed.
The flashbacks and cutaways are the highlight of this book, and do a much better job of establishing the characters. But this is a great introductory comic for the Justice League, and the preview in the backup looks like it’s going to do the same thing for the supervillains – starting with a hilarious Harley Quinn segment where she tries to take up stand-up comedy.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.