Intimately Epic – Scott Snyder’s Justice League

Scott Snyder is one of the biggest names currently working in the comic business. Working with longtime collaborator Greg Capullo the pair had a critically acclaimed and beloved run on the Batman title from 2011 to 2016. While maybe most famous for his work on Batman, Snyder has also spear headed a handful of other projects for DC including Swamp Thing and Superman: Unchained. At the end of last year and spinning into this year it was announced that Scott Snyder would be taking over the main Justice League title and bringing in a new age of justice with the “New Justice” initiative. Snyder was setting out to tell a superhero adventure story of epic proportion while bringing back the heart and intimacy the Justice League had been recently lacking.

After the events of Dark Knights: Metal and Justice League: No Justice the DC Universe is left in a pretty precarious position. The source wall has been shattered open and the entire Multiverse is dying. In the opening pages of Justice League #1 we’re made aware of yet another potentially catastrophic threat. A comet of pure cosmic energy fired from outside the Source Wall is rocketing through time and space towards the Earth. This Totality, as the heroes call it, could contain either the salvation or damnation of the entire Multiverse inside itself.

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The hunt for the Totality and the answers locked away within it are the catalyst for Snyder’s first arc on Justice League and it sets forth a compelling path riddled with questions about the mysteries of the Multiverse. Along with the exploration of the Totality our heroes are made aware of 7 hidden forces that drive the Multiverse, with each having a specific connection to a different member of the Justice League. The first two forces we see the Still Force, an opposing force to the Flash’s famous Speed Force, and the Ultraviolet Light Spectrum, a hidden spectrum of emotions on the Lantern light scale which connects itself to John Stewart. It’s nice to see two members of the Justice League focused in on for each arc as it helps balance out the “screen time” of each character. While everyone gets moments to shine and adequate time on the page, the specific focus for each arc helps highlight respective fan favorites.

The introduction of these new hidden forces does a couple of things really well. As already mentioned it immediately draws focus to whichever member of the League a force is connected to; bringing a sense of urgency to the character and their struggle to understand each force. It also adds another unknown layer of mythology to our heroes lore. Our heroes are forced to reevaluate everything they thought they knew about their histories and their role in the Multiverse and by extension we’re thrust into this journey with them.

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Snyder does a fantastic job weaving all of these narrative elements together while also nailing the team dynamic. He appears to have the voices for every member down pretty well and it’ll only get better from here. The interactions between members are also some of the best I can remember in recent years. In interviews Scott Snyder had said he wanted to capture some of the magic from the Justice League animated series, and it’s obvious in the best way that the show was a huge inspiration for this book. Something else fans will notice that is similar to the animated show and this current JL book is the roster. Snyder brought back Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl, and Green Lantern John Stewart and they feel so perfect on the team. I think I speak for a lot of longtime DC fans when I say that it’s an absolute thrill to see them back on the League.

Another change up to the status quo of the Justice League is the headquarters move from the Watchtower to the famous Hall of Justice. The Hall serving as the new base of operations for the main Justice League as well as the Justice League Dark team and a safe haven for any and all superheroes is a really welcome change. The Hall stands as a public symbol (and tourist attraction) for Justice and also goes to show the League as being more closely attached to Earth as opposed to looking down on it from the sky. It’s also awesome to see so many different heroes scattered around the Hall at any given time. This really enhances the sense of connectivity and cohesiveness in the entire DCU and it’s fitting that the main JL book is the hub for this.

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One of the biggest themes running in Snyder’s Justice League is the battle between Justice and Doom. An ideological battle made physical in both the Justice League and the Legion of Doom, respectively. This introduction of the Legion of Doom led by Lex Luthor creates an immediate and consistent threat to the Justice League. Comprised of some of the most infamous villains from each of the League’s rogues galleries the Legion of Doom is on a parallel path to control the Totality and the 7 hidden forces relating to it. Thus far though the Legion has been 1 step ahead of the League at every turn thanks to none other than Lex Luthor.

In a unique creative decision every handful of Justice League issues gives way to a Legion of Doom focused issue (penned by James Tynion IV) which gives us insight into the meddling of the Legion. It’s in these issues that we see part of the journey Lex has started on and get glimpses of just how much more he knows about the Totality than the League does. These issues also offer some compelling character conversations between Legion members such as Black Manta and Cheetah. The Legion of Doom issues are a great change of pace when they come around and heighten the story already being told. They provide context of the villains machinations and create suspense and dread for our heroes by showing us just how ahead the Legion is.

The first 7 issues of Justice League make up the first arc, The Totality, with issue 5 being the first Legion of Doom issue. Issue 8 serves as the second Legion of Doom issue which explores more of the mystery surrounding the Totality and features a conversation between Lex and another villain, who I’ll refrain from spoiling, which is one of the best villain to villain conversations I’ve seen in comics in recent memory. Issue 8 also sets in motion some of what causes the next big arc we’re going to see, Drowned Earth, which started in issue 10. Before I move on to the beginning of Drowned Earth I’ve got to talk about issue 9 which I consider kind of an interlude between the first arc and Drowned Earth.

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Issue 9 is a bit more quiet than previous issues and predominantly features a conversation between Aquaman and Wonder Woman where they discuss each of the personal domains the League members have set up in the Hall and what their spaces say about each character. It’s always fun seeing the living spaces of our favorite heroes so this bit is really cool to see, and each space and description of it perfectly captures the core of each League member. Aquaman and Wonder Woman also talk about their worries of the other hidden forces and what it can mean for them; it’s a really well presented conversation that shines some light on what I consider one of the more underrated friendships on the League.

This leads us to issue 10, the start of Drowned Earth, which kicks off the Aquaman focused tale that looks to completely change what the Sea King thought he knew about the history of Atlantis. Drowned Earth is off to a fantastic start as it introduces more cosmic mysteries and maintains a steady balance between League worthy action and compelling narrative execution. By the end of the issue we feel the very real threat to the entire planet, and it’s nice to see Aquaman and his mythology be the spotlight of such a large scale Justice League story again.

I’d be remiss to write an entire article about Scott Snyder’s Justice League and not mention the outstanding art team that he’s been working with since the book launched. Jim Cheung, Mark Morales, and Tomeu Morey worked on the pencils, inks, and colors respectively for issue 1 and 7. While Jorge Jimenez and Alejandro Sanchez provided the art and colors for issues 2, 3, 4, 6, and 9. Doug Mahnke, Jamie Mendoza, and Wil Quintana tackled pencils, inks, and colors for issue 5, while Mikel Janin and Jeromy Cox handled art and colors for issue 8. And last but certainly not least Francis Manapul took over all art duties for issue 10. Scott Snyder may be the pen behind these stories but each of these artists deserves their due credit because the book simply couldn’t be as incredible as it is without them. Each artist is producing some of their best work on this series and it shows.

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In closing Scott Snyder has worked wonders for the Justice League in the short time he’s been on the title. Introducing and reintroducing fan favorite concepts and characters, bringing in exciting new ideas, and adding new layers to the DCU mythology while still maintaining the core of what makes these characters so beloved is all in a day’s work. Scott Snyder’s Justice League is shaking the DC Multiverse to it’s core. Mixing cosmic mysteries of truly epic proportions and intimate character explorations of our favorite superheroes make this consistently one of the best books on shelves, and the best Justice League book I’ve read in years.