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‘Justice League #5’ (review)

Written by James T Tynion IV
Illustrated by Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza,
Published by DC Comics


“Luthor can almost hear them as he pilots Superman forward, step by step. He understands his purpose now, and yours. If he could, he would ask you the question he asked the rest. Why should you be better than your nature? Why should any of us?”

 

Some doors probably just shouldn’t be opened.

But try telling Lex Luthor that. Especially now.

The story of the rise of the Legion of Doom continues in Justice League #5, with a tale that finally gives up the pretense that Lex Luthor is not the main character of this book.

James Tynion IV and Doug Mahnke tag out Scott Snyder with the first of a two-part story that fills in some much-needed backstory about just what, exactly, has set Luthor down the path from disillusioned hero-wannabe to the ruthless-to-the-point-of-psychotic version of his former self who has been creating such glorious chaos for the last four issues.

After so much supposition and guesswork it’s a welcome relief, and it falls more or less into the form you might imagine. With a few twists for dramatic effect. And at least one remaining confusing mysteries. (Where did that funky doorknob come from?)

Revealed for us finally are the consequences of Luthor’s face-to-face with the supposedly fundamental entropic nature of humankind, as laid out at the end of DC’s lead-off summer event, No Justice. In a sequence that calls to mind the uber-fantastic spirit of Grant Morrison’s classic All-Star Superman mini-series, Luthor embarks on a crusade of astonishing ambition to discover the truth – and the truth he finds is much more than he bargained for.

From there it is simply a matter of following a trail of remarkably unlikely breadcrumbs to his destiny… and to the hatching of a plan that has given us all a new vision of Doom.

It’s not clear to what extent James Tynion is following a plot detailed by Scott Snyder already, or how much creative license or collaboration he’s bringing to the effort himself. What is clear is that this episode continues to show a penchant for over-the-top scenarios, dialogue, and storytelling, and to whatever extent it’s Tynion making those choices this time out, I’d say it’s unfortunate.

He just doesn’t carry it off as well as Snyder, who skirts the edges of not carrying it off himself all too often.

Which is frustrating to read. Tynion does just fine telling his own stories, I’m already enamored with his work on Justice League Dark. Trying to one-up Snyder in bombast doesn’t sell quite as well.

That said, the scenarios that are laid out for us, are both dramatically fantastic and dramatically grim. And if nothing else, that provides Tynion and Mahnke splendid opportunities to paint those pictures in all their dark glory.

An opportunity they take full advantage of.

This issue features Luthor approaching the first two of his choices for membership into his new Legion of Doom: Sinestro and Grodd. It’s a smart break in the action we’ve seen so far.

Presumably, in similar fashion, we’ll learn more about Cheetah and Black Manta after we get several more of Snyder’s own issues over the coming weeks.

As for the Joker… well, who the hell knows? Isn’t he always the wild card in these things? (He’s certainly gotten a lot more bloodthirsty.)

I’ll say this about Tynion’s script. It’s more direct. There’s a theme that’s been developing throughout Snyder’s storyline, and it’s a brilliant one, no doubt. And whether by design or happenstance, it’s Tynion who’s articulating it the best here in this issue. He does it with a real dose of panache too.

After all what is justice itself, but an ideal? A standard we impose upon ourselves in order to ensure security and shelter from the damage of our basest natures run amok?

What if we all to simply chose one day to abandon those ideals? What if we just gave up those principles, the ones that help to make us civilized, and instead we embraced our darkest, our angriest, our most selfish selves?

What if, for some reason, we just decided to do that?

What forces would be unleashed upon the world if we did? What happens to justice then?

What happens to us?

Some doors maybe shouldn’t be opened. But some of them – once they are – one way or another, we’re all going to have to face what’s on the other side.

And make our choices.

Next Issue: What is the Graveyard of the Gods?

 

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