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‘Justice League Annual’ #1 review: It has all led to this

The Justice League face their biggest threat ever.

It is no understatement to say everything has been leading to Justice League Annual #1. From Dark Nights: Metal to Justice League: No Justice, the events of the last year and a half have led to the cataclysmic events of this issue. The Source Wall has loomed for some time now and in this issue, major changes are coming. Buckle up, it’s going to be an epic ride.

So what’s it about?

The official summary reads:

The Source Wall has degraded too much, and the League must patch the hole right now or the whole Multiverse will collapse! Our heroes scramble for a solution and turn to the only thing that might work: the Omega Titans! The only problem? They killed the Entropy Titan back in JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE. Whoops…but never fear! Kyle Rayner, Miss Martian and Steel–from the non-planet-eating Titans team–guest-star with a plan to create a new Entropy Titan…one that’s so crazy it just might work.

Why does this matter?

Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV have plotted quite a story so far with stakes that seem to only get higher with each installment of the story. In the last few issues of Justice League, it has become more clear the threat that the Source Wall is holding back. If you’re impatient, fear not, as this issue delivers on major developments in this area that could change the entire DCU forever.

Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?

This page is epic in so many ways.
Credit: DC Comics

Daniel Sempere’s pencils this issue with inks by Juan Albarran and colors by Adriano Lucas. The art team brings so much talent to this issue I had to check the credits page more than once to make sure it wasn’t drawn by George Perez, Francis Manapul, or some other all-time great artist. Sempere brings the size and scope required to the issue with planet-sized aliens looming, and entire armies going to battle. There are nine double page layouts used to stretch the page and show the size of the villains and armies the Justice League are fighting. There’s also an impressive double page splash early on to remind us how awesome the Source Wall is and what the Justice League face. You never forget how big of a threat and task is at hand for the heroes thanks to the art. The use of color is a reminder of how bright and awe-inspiring the space-faring elements are too with great use of glow and shine to an illustrious realm. Quieter moments between Starman and Hawkgirl are well rendered as well to capture the emotional element.

Story-wise Snyder and Tynion are doing a great job with surprises and maintaining a bigger picture story. It’s fun to see elements referred to calling back to great issues in the overall arc. They’ve done a great job telling a singular comic book story with bigger implications and focus that payoff here.

As this issue goes this is Starman, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkgirl’s story. Superman, Batman, and the rest are along for the ride for the most part and that’s just fine. These characters have had the biggest impact lately and that suits this story. They’re also lesser known and it’s nice to see them getting the most time on page. Martian Manhunter and Hawkgirl share one of the most powerful scenes reminding us of the wonders Manhunter can accomplish, but also the bond they’ve formed. Starman serves as a martyr of sorts, like Jesus, who has swooped in with the answers and the Justice League follow. It’ll be fascinating to see how they change their perspective on him after what happens in this issue.

Well written captions here.
Credit: DC Comics

It can’t be perfect, can it?

Partly due to most of the Justice League not mattering much in this issue, it doesn’t feel like their story. More than once I was hoping to get their take or see them do something. I suppose this battle is bigger than Batman swooping in, but it still seems lacking in this way. On top of this, it’s a bit of a shock they’re following Starman into the plan enacted here. Some groundwork has been made revealing why they’re doing this plan in previous issues, but they’re so absent in this issue they seem ignorant. That aspect could have been explored or at least mentioned helping to convey their take on things. Instead, Batman and Superman play supporting characters in a scheme that surely should have made them pause. The conclusion of the story lacks an emotional weight due to these characters being observers more than fully involved in the plan. To add to this Starman’s hubris is somewhat touched on, but the way it is conveyed here it’s almost like it’s not his fault. There seems to be a missing piece in all this to make the events here a teachable moment. Instead, most of these heroes come off as arrogant, shortsighted, or both.

Is it good?

If you like payoff issues this is a big one. Snyder and Tynion IV have crafted an epic that is not to be missed. So often comic books feel unimportant due to retcons and new writers changing things on a whim. Justice League has served to prove it doesn’t have to be that way. Justice League proves comics can bring long-lasting change that’s exciting and hard to miss.

Justice League Annual #1
Is it good?
Justice League has served to prove it doesn’t have to be that way. Justice League proves comics can bring long-lasting change that’s exciting and hard to miss.
Big answers and developments to shift the narrative in a new and exciting direction
Give the art team and Daniel Sempere an award, hands down knocks it out of the park
The story here pays off those who have been along for the ride from the beginning
Misses the mark in how it underutilizes key Justice League members
The ending lacks an emotional tie to quite a few characters
9
Great
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