This new era of the Justice League is off to a great start.
Back in November 2017 came the release of the cinematic Justice League, which I felt it wasn’t going to be the JL movie that I wanted to see long before its theatrical release. When it was finally released, it failed to do justice to the much-maligned DC Extended Universe. If the Zack Snyder film left a bad taste in your mouth, there are always the comics, as well as four excellent seasons of the Bruce Timm animated series. Speaking of comics though, this first volume of Scott Snyder’s current run has given me what I wanted from the publisher’s flagship superhero team… and more.
When a cosmic entity called the Totality crash-lands in the Nevada desert, nine heroes of the Justice League go out to investigate, discovering that everyone and everything that comes into contact with it comes out changed. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor assembles the Justice League’s arch-nemeses into the Legion of Doom, set out to take possession of the Totality and use it for their sinister plans, beginning with a brand-new Lantern Corps.
Despite my love for Snyder that began with Batman: The Black Mirror, Dark Nights: Metal was a huge disappointment; despite its potential for being a good JL story, it suffered from the usual trappings of a crossover event. Now working on an ongoing monthly title, Snyder is able to embrace the full spectrum of the DC universe without having to compress everything as he did with Metal.
In terms of comics influence, the writer is once again looking back at the bibliography of Grant Morrison, who wrote JLA during the late 1990s, which were superhero adventures that explored huge cosmic ideas. No doubt there is a lot going on throughout these seven dialogue-heavy issues (as expected from Snyder), but he never gets bogged down by those ideas as he clearly cares for the characters, both good and evil.
Nine heroes to headline the comic might be too much — and doesn’t even include the countless other members, including Swamp Thing who are used sparingly — but Snyder knows how to use these characters in how they are split up or paired off to achieve their missions, while setting up interesting character dynamics — the most heartfelt of which is Martian Manhunter and the Green Lantern John Stewart. Given how well he writes the Dark Knight as proven during his New 52 run with Greg Capullo, Snyder weirdly sidelines Batman, who doesn’t get much to do and serves as the butt of the joke, much to the delight of his fellow Super Friends.
On the villains’ side, they are not friendly, but they are a delight to read, no matter how nasty things can get. As with the heroes, Snyder also knows how to use all seven members (if you include the baby version of the Flash villain Turtle) of the Legion, whether it is the gleeful horror of the Joker or the monstrous telepathy of Gorilla Grodd.
As the founder of the Legion, Lex Luthor is arguably the most compelling player of this volume as there is a playfulness in his evil puppetry. Written by James Tynion IV and drawn by Doug Mahnke, issue #5 presents Lex’s foundation of the Legion, which is born out of a trip to the future, discovering a world ruled by supervillains inspired by Lex’s tragic downfall. This issue alone shows how egotistical Superman’s arch-nemesis is and wants evil to succeed under his own reign.
It is a strange coincidence that artist Jim Cheung bookends the first story arc as he previously did with the first volume of Chip Zdarsky’s Marvel 2-In-One. From the first issue, Cheung illustrates the epic scale of the DC universe from the newly-designed Hall of Justice to the volcanic atmosphere of the Legion’s lair that closely resembles Darth Vader’s helmet. However, the artistic star of this comic is Jorge Jimenez, who drew most of the issues. With his unique panel layouts and Alejandro Sanchez’s stunning colors, it is impressive seeing these diverse superpowers teaming up or clashing with each other, taking place into unknown territories such as the Totality.
This new era of the Justice League is off to a great start as the creators find a strong balance of characterization, action and sci-fi ideas.