The last time we saw the Justice League they were wrapping up a neat, one issue story written by Shea Fontana. This issue follows the one issue story trend, only we’re back on Earth, in the Middle East, and dealing with an extremist alt-right-esque vigilante who is hell bent on destroying innocent Muslims in the name of “ending terrorism.”
Yeah. This one is a little more serious than a cute alien bug swarm.
We open with Batman, Wonder Woman, and Jessica Cruz in Nomalia as they take out overly armed men in black uniforms in the middle of the city’s busy bazaar. They’re getting an awful lot of henchmen, but so far they haven’t seen their boss. Then Jessica spots him and just. Ick.
Look, this guy is gross. He’s in a black uniform with a blackened display of the American flag. He and his goons are shooting up innocent people while having the gall to say they’re the good guys and calling themselves true patriots. The first we see of him talking is saying that the city they’re in has “birthed too many terrorists”. So his bright idea is to go in guns a blazing to “end the vicious cycle” by teaching them the true meaning of terror.
If this type of rhetoric sounds familiar, it’s because it’s all over the internet and social media. You can’t throw a rock on Twitter without running into it. This one-shot issue essentially boils down to an Islamophobic bigot deciding to buy weapons of mass destruction, recruit other bigots, and commit genocide to stop terrorism. There’s a hitch with the heroes being able to deal with him. He’s got some handy armor that basically absorbs whatever is thrown at it (think Doomsday in Batman vs. Superman), and it’s Jessica who winds up saving the day with her lantern constructs. First trapping him in an hourglass filled with dirt that will keep him neutralized, and then catching nearly 20 missiles this asshole launched that would have completely annihilated the entire area.
It’s a good issue for Jessica and her growth as a hero, and we get to see her in small group action. When she first runs into the Black Shield, she gets to experience that aforementioned energy shield first hand, and it sends her flying through the city to crash into a family apartment. Her entry terrifies both the little girl and the mother inside, and Jessica grapples with the knowledge that she inspired that fear in someone else and nearly killed them. Wonder Woman and Batman remind her what she’s fighting for before they take another shot at Black Shield before he can launch another round of missiles in Bialya City, the capital of Bialya.
Oh, those missiles I mentioned? They don’t just go boom. They release a poisonous acid mist designed to melt human flesh.
The issue ends with Jessica saving the day and resolving to remember to do better, so she doesn’t cause collateral damage herself. It’s a nice little nod to heroes being mindful of the people they’re trying to protect, and a counter to the movie heroes destroying entire city blocks in their fights.
The scary part of this issue isn’t that Black Shield is ramped up alt-right hyperbolic violence. It’s that his kind of talk is actually happening. It’s a powerful message to see two of DC’s Trinity and Jessica Cruz emphatically rejecting his rhetoric.
But I have a problem.
You see, Jessica Cruz has this totally rad partner named Simon Baz, who is, also, a Muslim.
We had an entire issue about Islamaphobic bigotry, which entirely and completely leaves out the prominent Muslim hero on the team. I can’t help but scratch my head at his exclusion. And yes, maybe the team were trying to get the point across that it’s up to us to push back against violent rhetoric against our Muslim neighbors. Maybe they left Simon out because it shouldn’t have to always be the minority in question fighting and taking a stand against a hate group that wants them dead.
The writing is solid, if not chilling for how accurate Black Shield’s words are (indeed, some of them seem to be lifted directly off hate tweets), and the art is perfectly serviceable in delivering a high action plot.
But something seems weird about leaving out Simon. Maybe I’m wrong. I’d love to hear your opinions on this because this just isn’t my community to make that call.
Fanfinity Rating: 7/10
Justice League #23
Writer: Tom DeFalco
Pencils: Tom Derenick
Inks: Tony Kordos, Andy Owens, Trevor Scott & Batt
Colors: Adriano Lucas
Letters: Josh Reed