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‘Justice League #12’ (review)

Written by James T Tynion IV
Illustrated by Frazer Irving 
Published by DC Comics
 
“I don’t care that he’s Batman. He’s in a wheelchair
for God’s Sake. Find him. Kill him.”

Life and Death. Life and Death. ‘Round and ‘round we go. Renewal and destruction. Hope and despair. Triumph and defeat. Endless cycles. Endless tides…

Last we saw of the mighty Justice League, we left them hard-pressed on three separate fronts – like the three prongs of a trident – and things were looking bleak indeed. Almost hard to believe they could rally from all three of these crises, much less any of them.

Certainly, Luthor doesn’t think so. But then Luthor’s abandoned any faith in the worth of moral principles, so it’s fair to say he’ll never really understand why he always loses. Makes a mean suit of armor though.

Welcome to the fourth installment of the Justice League Drowned Earth saga. And this is the fourth, not the third. If you haven’t yet read Aquaman #42, also out this week, go do that first. Otherwise Aquaman surging back to life to lay into Old Man Poseidon like a man (literally) reborn may not make much sense.

Mind you it may still not make much sense that Aquaman ends up without his powers after all is said and done. After all, the whole point going to the Graveyard of the Gods was to regain his connection to the oceanic Life Force that binds all living creatures.

You’d think that might happen after Aquaman goes to the bother of resurrecting himself in the cleansing waters of the Spring Eternal. But no.

Instead what he gets is a great big sob story from Poseidon about how the old god is the inadvertent architect of this whole crisis, with a reworking of the Arion mythology that casts the ancient Atlantean mage and the alien ocean gods of the Triumvirate in a new, decidedly more tragic light. Thanks a heap Poseidon.

Man, those Greek gods and their tragedies, I tell you.

Thankfully we have James Tynion on the job. Tynion has a flair for doing mythic reworkings and retellings, that are very well suited for comics – scripting that is terse yet epic, peppered with colorful flourishes and evocative imagery. Even if he also enjoys making Batman deliver all those cheesy, over-the-top, macho-man one liners. Maybe that’s for baby Starro’s benefit. (Ok they are kind of fun. Kind of.)

At least now we know what the Tear of Extinction is all about. And why it’s good that Arion’s bones are infused with this dark inversion of Earth’s Life-giving mana waters.

One of my favorite parts of this whole Drowned Earth event has been watching what Snyder and Tynion are doing with Mera. Her Aqua-telekinesis sure has come in handy with all these mutagenic waters swirling around her. And while it certainly seems like Arthur has gone to a lot of trouble to learn that he may never get his powers back at all, at least the dying god does something useful before sending Arthur and Diana back to the mortal world and their team mates.

And so, quite suddenly, Aquaman and Mera find themselves in the possession of twin magical weapons – one, a weapon of Life and the other, a weapon of Death. Seems like a lot of effort went into getting to that point, and it’s not at all clear that’ll be the status quo going forward.

But it’s a pretty nifty moment nonetheless.

Nifty, and powerful. Separately our heroes may not see that the tide has turned, but the Triumvirate seems to, and so do we.

And so does Manta for that matter, and he’s not having it. True to form, he doubles down, by way of response. And he still has those all those awesome Aquaman powers, the connection to the sacred Life force of Earth’s waters.

What he’ll use them for however, is dark indeed. One wonders what the consequences of such a perversion will be.

We’ve all seen what these endless cycles has wrought so far.

And so, as Justice League #12 closes, in breathless anticipation of next week’s final chapter in Scott Snyder and Francis Manapul’s Justice League Aquaman Drowned Earth #1, our story ratchets up to yet one more escalation of Life vs Death, playing out over the watery battlefield that now almost entirely covers the planet Earth.

And all the creatures that dwell in their depths.

Next Week: Up from the depths, where sleeping leviathan lie.

 

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