What’s amazing about comics is the way art and writing come together, like two Buddy Cop genre detectives, and like the movies, when the chemistry isn’t there, the end product. suffers from it. It is unfortunate that “Justice League: Last Ride” # 5, which continues the cosmic of Chip Zdarsky and Miguel Mendonca Midnight race-esque adventure through the DC universe, is one of those books where art and writing do not combine.
Problem arises with the League crouching in the ruins of Apokolips, as they find themselves besieged by an array of DC villains, including a Cyborg Superman assimilated by Brainiac. The team splits up as Batman and Hal Jordan scramble to gain access to the Apokolips Boom Tube systems, while The Flash and Superman battle Brainiac’s army, and Wonder Woman and John Stewart send Mongul. The issue then reverts to the aftermath of Martian Manhunter’s death, highlighting the rifts in the League and Darkseid’s attempts to acquire the power of the Lantern’s central battery.
Five issues in this series, it’s unclear who the book is for, as an amalgamation of the Snyderverse and the animated series. It sounds like a book trying to be evergreen for new readers leaving the cinema, but it’s more of a mess of characterization and design. It’s only in the moments when Zdarsky breaks with the pitfalls of various Justice League adaptations and pushes the relationships between the characters that the book comes to life. The tension between the Trinity is the clearest example of this, with Batman’s loathing doing more damage than Superman’s guilt trip ever could. Wonder Woman is the backbone of these two, having to force them to put aside their guilt and trauma to continue fighting, but it’s not hard to imagine at the end of the flashbacks seeing Diana cracking down on the senseless death.
Dramatic tension surges off the page and making Martian Manhunter the heart of the burning League, literally, is a fascinating concept. This is the case with Zdarsky taking the best bits of continuity and characterization and tweaking them into something new and compelling. In a world where Zdarsky has proven himself time and time again with this trick, it seems odd that the book has synergies with the various TV / movie incarnations of the League.
What keeps the book from propelling greatness is art. There is nothing on the surface that offends, looks terrible, or even bad. Mendonca’s pencils and inks are solid and colorist Enrica Angiolini does a great job matching the mood of the story to the pictures, but it’s something indescribable that doesn’t click. One has the impression that the art does not correspond to the level of writing, creating a disparity in the narration. This book would click to another level with another artist with the same scope of Zdarsky’s writing. What also hinders this relationship between history and art is the consistency of the two chronologies in history. A pair of artists dealing with the during and the post-war period with Darkseid would instantly improve the fluidity of the book. Instead, the consistency of art in the past and present highlights the mundane feeling of the series. Zdarsky recounts the last hurray of the Justice League, in what could have been the next DCeased or Injustice, but rather looks like a lost arc from the New 52 era.