Often when comic book series goes on a bi-weekly release schedule they run out of steam, or at the very least tend to overstay their welcome. Not so with Justice League, which has not let up on the action, character work, and plot progression. In the latest issue written by Scott Snyder with art by Jim Cheung, the bigger story takes a step back to deliver a character-focused tale with Martian Manhunter at center stage.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
After the disastrous events of the Justice League Annual, Martian Manhunter decides to take matters into his own hands and negotiate a peace with Legion of Doom leader Lex Luthor. Traveling to a distant moon, the two enemies face their intertwined pasts in a showdown for the fate of the Multiverse. However, before either of them can lay claim to the power of the Source Wall once and for all, an unexpected threat forces them to unite…or risk death at the ends of the cosmos.
Why does this matter?
In last week’s Justice League Annual, the heroes did not win. They’re at a place that is quite scary with a hole ripped in the universe that could end all life and a villain who has been trapped for millennia awakened. It’s the perfect time to step away and reevaluate yourself with doomsday knocking on your door. This issue does that and more.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
It’s no mistake Martian Manhunter aka J’onn is the main character of this issue due to the new interest brought to the character with his solo series, but also how he’s been used in this series over the last few issues. The character has been given new knowledge that changes how he thinks about his childhood, and in this issue he aims to understand it even better. Set on Mars, J’onn requires the help of a mysterious foe. We soon discover it’s Lex Luthor, which almost doesn’t add up when you consider he was directly involved in the Justice League’s failure in the annual issue. As the story on Mars unfolds, Snyder reveals key moments in Martian Manhunter’s youth when he was kidnapped by humans and studied. In these scenes we gain a new insight into the character when he was younger, but also a key relationship. To say there is very important information revealed in this issue is an understatement.
Snyder does a good job juxtaposing Lex’s villainous rage with J’onn’s calm resolve. The two mix like oil and water and yet J’onn trusts him enough to hear him out. The character work done on Lex is captivating thanks to the subtlety of Lex calming down and actually hearing J’onn out. I gave this issue a reread simply to focus on Lex due to the solid arc his character goes through.
That’s in part thanks to artist Jim Cheung who relays the mix of emotions felt for Lex and, in the flashbacks, the characters there too. It’s a marvel to see how he uses the creases on Lex’s face to convey so many emotions. In one panel he looks as if he’s cut from wood and has no emotion, in another, you see his doubt, another his regret, and in another his coldness. The character comes off as a real-life human thanks to the art and writing here.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
Even though much of the tension in this issue is between J’onn and Lex, there is a threat to them both that drives a lot of the action and creates immediate tension. Snyder has come up with a clever alien dragon that chases them around Mars. The problem arises in how Lex and J’onn escape and ultimately how they make it out alive. There is an escape made, but it’s unclear how the escape makes sense. I can’t tell if J’onn had a plan all along or if they stumbled into it, but it’s an element of the story that had me scratching my head. At one point Lex asks J’onn how they’ll escape and J’onn says, “I am telling you.” I think his answer is linked to a mental or emotional escape (or maybe how they’ll escape the bigger threat unveiled in Justice League Annual) rather than the danger at hand although Lex means the dragon aliens. That added a bit to that confusion. I flipped back and forth to figure out if I missed something, but it appears they sort of stumble into their escape. This makes the threat of the alien dragons, and the tension it adds, feel a bit hallow. It’s there to serve the story.
Is it good?
The hits keep coming when it comes to Justice League (just listen to our podcast where we talk about how good it is) and this issue is no different. Whether it’s character development, plot development, or all-out fun action, each issue is great entertainment. This issue has changed these characters in a thoughtful way and done so with surprises you won’t see coming. Are we witnessing a golden age for Justice League? In 10 years we’ll probably all agree we most definitely are.