If you’ve dipped your toe into the Ink Spots corner of our blog—that’s our series of posts devoted to DC’s Young Adult comics and graphic novels—there’s a good chance you’ve come across my past articles on Mera: Tidebreaker and Teen Titans: Raven. What I’ve really enjoyed about these books are the strong messages our classic superheroes have imparted in each of them.
Dear Justice League, DC’s recently released Middle Grade graphic novel, is no different, I am happy to report!
Writer Michael Northrop makes a genius choice right off the bat by breaking Dear Justice League up into individual chapters. Each member of the team not only gets the opportunity to highlight what makes them unique, but this also gives them each an opportunity to address a concern of one of their young fans.
The questions posed by these young Justice League fans are fun beyond all reason. They’re the very questions each and every one of us would have written to Wonder Woman, Superman or Green Lantern as a child if we lived in a world where we’d had the same opportunity. The queries range from serious to funny to a little bit mean. Don’t worry too much about the mean, though. That particular question goes right to the Flash and the Fastest Man Alive knows exactly how to put two snarky little boys in their place!
While I’m trying my best to avoid spoilers, I do want to applaud Northrop for not only creating a series of standalone stories contained within each individual chapter, but for having an overarching narrative which brings all of Dear Justice League’s story threads together in the closing pages of the graphic novel. It is a delicate balance executed incredibly well.
Growing up, it’s often hard to feel like you are seen, much less heard, so having the heroes of Dear Justice League take the time narratively to address their young audiences’ concerns without judgement is a powerful message. In another (much more cynical) book, superheroes may have looked down their noses at the text messages and emails which come flooding in to them each day. Dear Justice League, in contrast, lets its audience know that there are no such things as dumb questions, only the questions left unasked. As a kid who grew up reading comic books from an early age, I would have loved nothing more than to have written an e-mail and gotten a response from a hero like Aquaman, Hawkgirl or Superman.
…but not Batman. Batman only accepts snail mail.
One of the things I love the most about the DC Universe is all of its legacy characters. Generations of heroes are not only allowed to step into the shadow of the most iconic superheroes of all time, but they are encouraged to! Not only that, but these same characters are allowed to grow up. Over the years, they’ve bloomed and grown and changed and at times outstripped their predecessors. While this phenomenon doesn’t play into Dear Justice League, there’s little doubt this team would embrace it. In fact, they have legacy characters on the team! Simon Baz is the featured Green Lantern, a great choice that adds both diversity to the team while introducing young readers to a lesser known member of the Corps, similar to how the Justice League animated series introduced an entire generation to John Stewart.
As a Simon Baz fan, I was thrilled to see him among Dear Justice League’s roster! I love that Northrop and artist Gustavo Duarte present the readers with a pretty diverse lineup that is not only reflective of DC’s current continuity, but of the multifaceted world we live in!
It’s just one of my favorite details.
Let’s talk about Gustavo Duarte a moment. While it’s aimed at older readers than the ones Dear Justice League is targeting, Duarte’s Bizarro series with writer Heath Corson is one of DC’s most underrated comics in recent years. It’s a very special feat when an artist can put their individual stamp on characters who have been around for the better part of a century and Duarte manages this in a way that feels effortless and endlessly charming. It’s exciting to know that he’ll be continuing his collaboration with Northrop in next year’s Dear Super-Villains.
Dear Justice League is a great Justice League story. Dear Justice League is a spectacular addition to DC’s line of books aimed at kids. Beyond that, though, Dear Justice League is something special all on its own. If you have young superhero fans in your household—or just remember what it was like to be one—you’re not going to want to miss it.
Ashley V. Robinson writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. You can find her on Twitter at @AshleyVRobinson and on the Jawiin YouTube channel.