Now there’s a grabber of a cover from Francis Manapul – I can even forgive the logo being Jack Knight’s rather than Will Payton’s, as the letterer has done such a great job extending it to take in ‘?’ and ‘!’ It’s the little things! As a fan of the Eighties Starman who has enjoyed his recent re-emergence in Justice League, I was delighted by the promise of him at the centre of an issue.
I really should not get my hopes up – Will barely appears and there’s no imminent prospect of death.
He’s in a few other panels, but there’s no progression. He’s in a cosmic coma or something, as useful as early Bronze Age Dream Girl. Hawkgirl shows zero concern, leaving him on the floor as she wanders off with Mera to continue her bad-tempered consideration of the current pickle the Justice League is in.
The Source Wall is broken. The Multiverse is decaying. The supposedly dead Lex Luthor is spreading the Gospel of Doom to help the infinitely powerful Perpetua return to life and eat reality.
Absent League leader J’onn J’onzz is trying to track down Luthor, whom he recently discovered – or ‘discovered’, I’m not necessarily buying it – was a childhood friend. Luthor is said to be making devilish deals with ordinary people.
Tackling the bigger picture are Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman; they’re at the multiversal House of Heroes where parallel universe Leagues meet to share war stories.
When I saw this was a James Tynion IV-written issue I expected another side story focusing on the Legion of Doom – always entertaining in an overly wordy way, but taking page time away from the actual title characters. Here, though, the bad guys are absent, it’s JLA interaction all the way, as we see how Hawkgirl deals with being forced to step up while J’onn ignores her pleas to get back to the Hall of Justice and take the reins. I can see her being cranky at his abandonment, but surely she’s known him long enough to give him the benefit of the doubt? Instead, she strides through League HQ barking at people who are doing their best to help. Thank goodness Mera offers to take on more responsibility.
The Hall of Heroes scene is my favourite in the issue, as Flash Barry Allen tries to convince Green Lantern John Stewart that he’s not remotely awed by the bonkers Elseworlds Leaguers surrounding him.
As for J’onn using his neglected detective identity of John Jones to follow the trail of Luthor, I was surprised by just how powerful his mental powers are these days, allowing him to ‘drop in’ on randoms across the US. And can he really telepathically download fighting skills into every person on the planet? Regardless of the mechanics, that’s lighting a touchpaper – the would-be mass killer on page one may not need those guns after all…
Speaking of which, that’s a nicely written scene, with Tynion channeling his inner Alan Moore to good effect. Conflating Lex Luthor with the devil at the crossroads in that famous urban legend is a neat touch. Commendations, too, for the slick, witty dialogue between Barry and John, and the business about inter-dimensional vibrations forming a symphony. And having Green Arrow and Plastic Man in the detectives’ room is a useful link to Brian Bendis’ Event Leviathan. The issue is a good read all-round, with pretty decent art from Javier Fernandez – it looks a tad rushed in parts, and the very young-looking John Stewart is terribly off-model, but there’s nothing horribly jarring and the storytelling is good. I must single out the excellent one-panel appearance by Kingdom Come Flash, he looks brilliant. That’s partly due to Hi-Fi, who do a stellar job with the colouring, while Tom Napolitano’s lettering is sharp – I especially like the title treatment.
The big problem with this Justice League run masterminded by regular writer Scott Snyder is that there’s no sense of the massive multiversal danger we’re told is affecting worlds right now – heroes have meetings, brush up on fighting skills, fret about their love lives… surely we should be seeing scenes reminiscent of Crisis on Infinite Earths, with populaces panicked and heroes desperate as worlds are erased.
Perhaps this book’s upcoming reversion to monthly, after a long period of fortnightly, publishing will concentrate some minds and we’ll get to the point a little faster. I hope so, because intriguing and ambitious as this series is, a tighter focus and snappier pace would work wonders.