Justice League #1
“The Totality, Part 1”
Writer: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Jim Cheung
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Cover artists: Cheung (regular)/Jim Lee & Scott Williams (variant)
Editor: Rebecca Taylor
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US
I’ve been a fan of Scott Snyder’s writing, and no one can resist the attractive linework of artist Jim Cheung, so picking up this new relaunch of DC’s premier super-hero team was a no-brainer. And there’s a lot to like here. Snyder embraces a return to traditions, to moments of lightness and fun, and to a team of dark reflections of the titular heroes. He also offers some strong interplay among the Leaguers and some poignant characterization for a figure that’s been sadly overlooked in DC’s comics for years. But despite those strengths, Justice League #1 is something of an awkward read. Snyder has offered a quick succession of cosmic Justice League stories in the past year, and it’s starting to look as though cosmic fare such as this might not be in his wheelhouse.
The breach in the Source Wall, wrought by the heroes of Earth as they fought back against the interdimensional invasion of the demonic Barbatos, has loosed a mysterious new power into the universe. A complex energy construct dubbed the Totality by the Martian Manhunter, the Justice League’s new chairman, is barrelling toward the Earth, and the Justice League has only minutes to decide if it’s a threat or a potential solution to the cosmic woes plaguing the Multiverse. Little do they know, that some familiar and malevolent figures already know some of the Totality’s secrets, and they’re moving to take advantage of that knowledge before the heroes know what’s going on.
I absolutely loved seeing Jim Cheung’s work on DC’s iconic characters. His smooth linework (embellished flawlessly by inker Mark Morales) brings such grace and presence to this god-like collection of heroes. The reasons for his popularity in super-hero comics shines through on every page, in every panel. He conveys the immense scope of the story easily, but he still instills so much humanity and softness in the protagonists’ faces as well. And that’s what so disappointing about the art here.
I just did a quick search of the creators lined up for the subsequent five issues of this series, and Cheung’s name doesn’t appear one. As was the case with Marvel Two-in-One, it feels as though Cheung’s initial presence is played as a bait-and-switch. That does a disservice to readers, and to the artists who will follow him. Pencillers Jorge Jimenez and Doug Mahnke will offer work in the next five issues, according to DC’s website, and they’re talented. But DC, as Marvel did before it with Two-in-One, has made it so even their strong work will mark a disappointment. Furthermore, a story arc always benefits from having a consistent visual approach, and that’s just not going to be the case with “The Totality.” DC either needs to give artists enough time to bank a few issues or task the right creative teams to hit consistent deadlines.
The opening action scene, with J’Onn J’Onzz co-ordinating a huge team telepathically, is incredibly fun. It embraces the tradition of the team breaking up into smaller groups to tackle simultaneous problems globally, but what really shines is the telepathic dialogue among the heroes. They’re portrayed as close friends and allies, and they’re having fun with one another. They’re razzing one another while respecting and trusting one another. That they all tease Batman mercilessly is gloriously entertaining.
It appears that while there will be a central roster of the most recognized super-heroes in the DC stable, this new incarnation of the Justice League also includes just about all of the B-listers and maybe some C-listers as well. We glimpse Mr. Terrific, Plastic Man, Green Arrow, Animal Man, Adam Strange and many more characters here, and I like that approach, reminiscent of the Justice League Unlimited cartoon. Of course, that means there will be continuity glitches galore here. For example, we see Terrific and Plas fighting evil on different points on the globe, which would be a breach of the cosmic link that supposed to keep them (and Metamorpho and the new Phantom Girl) within a mile of one another (as per The Terrifics). Of course, rectifying the Joker who appears as part of the Legion of Doom in this issue with Tom King’s interpretation of the character in this week’s issue of Batman is next to impossible as well. So as for the continuity… screw it. As long as the stories are entertaining.
Unfortunately, the central plot here, about a new cosmic event in the DC Universe (they seem to happen more often than full moons), is muddled. Snyder aims for an air of mystery, destiny and a reality-altering crisis, but it just doesn’t quite add up. Luthor’s greater knowledge comes from nowhere, and the heroes react far too calmly and casually about what they acknowledge to be a possible cataclysmic event. After reading Snyder’s work on Dark Knights: Metal and Justice League: No Justice (which he co-wrote), it’s starting to look as though these universe-spanning sagas aren’t really playing to his strengths. His memorable tenure on the New 52 stint of Batman demonstrated he’s much more comfortable closer to earth, so to speak.
What redeems the story here is the focus on the Martian Manhunter. Speaking of the New 52 era at DC, for some reason, the higher-ups at the publisher removed him from the Justice League family and plunked him alongside Wildstorm characters, and it never worked. The Martian Manhunter has often been referred to as the heart and soul of the Justice League, and Snyder is clearly embracing that concept and bringing it back. I like it, and it also opens up the potential for stories about how J’Onn came to join the League originally, why he left and what mysteries he explored before this return. 6/10