It’s the 25th issue of the current Justice League book, complete with shiny new logo, and it’s feels like the 400th. The Source Wall is still broken, the threat of Perpetua yet looms, Lex Luthor and the Legion of Doom are once more up to all kinds of shenanigans and, frankly, it’s rather exhausting. Which isn’t to say this extra-sized anniversary issue doesn’t have plenty of enjoyable moments.
They mainly occur in the opening story, which concludes the mini-arc which has much of the team resisting the machinations of the World Forger in the Sixth Dimension. I’d sum it up but it’s mostly a lot of showy, fun nonsense. The Forger, who comes from writer Scott Snyder’s Dark Knights: Metal series, wants Batman to convince his teammates to choose something or other… the overarching Source storyline is so full of noodling detail that I simply can’t retain it from page to page, never mind issue to issue – it’s like a neverending game of Mouse Trap designed by Rube Goldberg. For some reason, Batman has trapped Superman in a Very Dark Place and all the solar radiation has gone from his body, leaving him not just non-powered, but hideously shrivelled.
That’s not how his powers work, but we’re in a dimension beyond the magical Fifth one that birthed Mr Mxyzptlk, so I can go with it. Nearing death, he’s flashing back to a particular day with his father Jonathan Kent.
Outside the dark, his teammates are trash-talking versions of themselves from a supposedly shining future.
Back in the dark, Superman inspires himself, the lanterns of memory segueing into real suns that restore him.
Again, no idea. But turn your brain off and enjoy the really nice couple of pages it motivates.
The superhero geometry business ties into Snyder’s framing sequence over the last few issues, and it’s an interesting idea, well expressed.
Look at those Kent boys go! Partnering Snyder, as co-plotter and artist, Jorge Jimenez brings huge visual energy to proceedings, his artistic talent and sheer cheek selling the breakneck nuttiness. Regular colourist Alejandro Sanchez tops up the visual verve, while Tom Napolitano’s letters are unobtrusively attractive – this is a very good-looking story. My favourite panel is a classic Man and Superman moment.
The League and the Forger come to an understanding in time for the issue’s second story, a prelude to DC’s Year of the Villain event. That would be a second prelude, last month’s YotV special having contained one too. This one, written by James Tynion IV, picks up where that left off, with a recently dead Luthor being reborn into a Brainiac-built body just as the League catch up on the offer he recently made to the people of the world.
It sounds like he’s crowdsourcing salvation but it’s not the regular folk who will benefit from Luthor’s wealth, it’s the super-criminals. This is… Underworld Unleashed.
Sorry, sorry, couldn’t resist. It’s Year of the Villain. Luthor even calls it that in his broadcast, the cheesy old git.
If you’ve read the YotV special story, this is inessential, though it looks amazing, thanks to illustrator Javier Fernandez and colourist Hi-Fi, there’s a starkness to the images I like a lot, and the storytelling is first rate.
Is that pic of Luthor leaning forward a homage? It looks very familiar. Whatever the case, it works very well within the page. We also get our first look at what DC is calling the Apex Luthor, who turns out to be yet another dank-robed spooky type a la the Time Trapper, Destiny and Mr Oz. Then again, maybe he’ll rip off the cloak and look FABULOUS darling
This isn’t a classic anniversary issue, such as Justice League of America #200, a done-in-one that springboards from the team’s proud history, but if you’re invested in the ongoing Source Wall storyline, you’ll likely be happy with the pay-off of the Sixth Dimension arc. And if you like events, it’s the Year of the Villain. Shall we throw a party?