2 out of 5
Either do this elseworlds Justice League thing or don’t, but artist / writer Juan Gedeon’s and co-writer Daniel Warren Johnson’s Jurassic League is a weird mish-mash of silly and not silly enough; camp but not camp enough; it’s high-concept What If The JLA But Dinosaurs? setup all sorts of entertaining bravado in the first issue that rather deflates into middling due to those seesaw tonality splits, and a nail wholly driven into the middle with a mismatched fill-in artist.
You need a plot, and there’s one here, but there’s an inherent problem when you have alternate-version books like this: you either make it about that alternate version, or you trust your audience gets it – they’re all dino variants of the heroes you know, dig? – and focus on your own story. Gedeon and Johnson don’t exactly split the difference, instead they do both, at the same time, and it’s just cluttered. …And then in keeping with the see-saw, also way over simplified. You want to give us fanservice Bat-dino, Superman-dino, and Wonder Woman-dino origins; you want to second string GL and Flash-dinos to the extent that they may as well not’ve been in the story; you want to build up to a big baddie reveal; and then you want to toss in unique baddies for all of your leads. That is a lot for six issues.
Issue one seems capable, moving fast and furiously through cheeky, self-aware dialogue and art – Gedeon is amazing at this point, crackling with energy and comedy and drama – but as soon as the second issue, when the cast multiplies and the tone supplants cheek with cheese, the project loses some steam. Gedeon is still artistically on point at least, but that takes a toll: a fill-in artist on three (Rafael Garres’ heavy lines probably have their place, but the attempt to ape Gedeon’s look fails: pages lack depth; the colors have no room for nuance) and an ink assist on four sees the art simplified to a degree. The writing on the Garres issue is totally left-field – it’s all very template sounding one-liners and quotes; Johnson’s tendency towards an occasional Hallmark quality in his writing can also be detected, mining surface-level themes of family and teamwork that’ve popped up in his other works.
Things level out a bit once our original team is back in place on five and six, but moreso at the second issue’s level than the first, dealing with the fallout of an overcrowded setup.
Ferran Delgado’s letters shine through this thing, using different fonts and jagged, colored balloons in such a way that they fully illustrate “voice” without distracting (which often happens with stylized lettering). And whether Delgado or Gedeon is doing the sound effects, they’re integrated awesomely.
Mike Spicer’s colors (on Gedeon) are gorgeous and well-balanced.
I get not wanting to do this thing as a joke, but our creative duo start off telling that joke so well, it can’t help but disappoint when they veer toward drama, and then it seems to take some issues to get that under moderate control as well, with both too much and too little going on. In a world where this gets a second arc, perhaps some conceptual heavy-lifting was accomplished here that will allow for a smoother and more consistent second arc.