The Totality has made landfall, and Earth’s heroes are scrambling to get answers. Is it an emissary of good will or of evil? Meanwhile, the Legion of Doom pursues their own agenda around the mysterious arrival. With the League and the Legion on collision course, who will reach penetrate the secrets of the Totality first—and what will they find when they do? The intrigue deepens in Justice League #2. SPOILERS AHEAD

An interesting voice

For me, Scott Snyder’s voice has always been his greatest asset. His entire run on Batman was marked by Bruce’s internal monologue, and his very prosey A.D. gave him more space than usual to work out story through well-wrought language. Justice League under Snyder has introduced a third-person narrator, and it’s one of the things I have thus far enjoyed the most. The amount of narration never feels excessive, nor does it seem an insecure mechanism for guaranteeing our understanding. Snyder clearly trusts his artists to do their share of the storytelling, so I suspect that the narrator is born of deliberate purpose. What purpose? I can’t speak to Snyder’s intent, but I find the principal function is to generate unease without arbitrarily using characters to do so. We are let into J’onn’s uncertainty and Luthor’s thoughts without having to enter their minds through first-person narration. Maybe it seems like it makes no difference whether the narration is first or third-person, but to me, it does. It’s easier for me to swallow Snyder’s implicit acknowledgement that he is telling us something than to try to play along with the ineffectual device that would pretend that a character’s internal monologue is a convenient rehearsal of things that we, the readers, desperately need to know.

An evil genius

Of all the characters, Luthor shines the brightest. His merciless charisma entertains me, and his bravado manages to feel charming. Snyder manages to capture some old-school villainous theatricality without diminishing Luthor’s menace. The great comic book villains became great not simply because of the challenge they posed to our heroes, but because of the distinct flamboyance each brought to their performance. It’s refreshing to see that sort of thing at play here after a long drought.

J’onn J’onzz is a close second. He and Lex are the obvious focal points, both in their parallel roles on their respective teams, and in the narrator’s observance of their thoughts and feelings. J’onn doesn’t even have much to say this time around, but his presence is felt, and his awareness of just how bad things may actually get colors the way you read this entire issue. The League will inevitably discover that he has been hiding his insights, and that hangs over the proceedings, as well.

Jorge, now you’re an all-star

Jimenez has been turning in dazzling portrayals of many of these characters for two years now, and—teamed with usual collaborator Alejandro Sanchez—he continues to do so in this issue. But their strengths are not merely aesthetic. The first page alone is a brilliant cyclone of storytelling, a perfect visual prelude to the narrator’s comments about Luthor’s newfound passion for truth. Look at the lie in the first two panels: Lex Luthor, American hero, smile plastered on his face. But the faces of the Legionnaires begin to expose the lie, and Luthor’s face at bottom left almost says “well, you have a point.” The page is consummated in the final panel when the truth at last comes out, both in Lex’s face and in his words.

Look at the growth of the shadow over his face, as well. The closer we get to the ugly truth, the more the shadow envelops Lex’s face, until at last, only half of one eye remains outside of the darkness. This is excellent stuff from Jimenez and Sanchez, and a representative sample of the sort of expressive storytelling that fills this book.

For his part, Tom Napolitano does a great job nestling Snyder’s many words amidst this great visual storytelling. His sound effects are clean and blend well with the artwork. There’s a moment at the top of the “Meanwhile in the Hall of Justice” page where the layout forces a slight confusion in reading order, but I’m not sure there’s a way that Napolitano could have done any better. And in the end, that momentary confusion is quickly remedied by the text, and you’ll likely never think about it again (if you even thought about it in the first place!).

A few sticking points

While Snyder’s voice is his greatest asset, he can at times fall into the trap of making all of his characters read like Scott Snyder, and I feel that a little here. John Stewart lacks the clear identity that we’ve seen in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps and the New 52 series that preceded it, and Superman—a character whose speech ought to stand out almost as much as his brightly-colored uniform—isn’t differentiated well-enough from Batman. Part of the problem is that he doesn’t speak all that much this time, but Snyder would do well to find creative ways to make him more distinct in limited space.

I felt a little goofy reading “Ultraviolet Corps”, too. The concept feels too clever—sort of like Snyder’s usual Wikiisms fleshed out into something more intricate. It’s not that it doesn’t flow logically—if you know anything about the spectrum of light, then it checks out. I don’t know—I won’t try to argue that there’s something intrinsically wrong with this idea, but it feels more dorky than cool to me. Your mileage may vary.

Recommended if…

  • You enjoyed Justice League #1. This runs with much of what was good in that first issue.
  • You like it when Lex Luthor is a bad guy.
  • You think that Jorge Jimenez and Alejandro Sanchez are rock stars.

Overall

It’s not quite as impressive as the first issue, but Justice League #2 doesn’t have to be, either. Strong writing and expert visual storytelling make for a compelling read, and the focus on Lex Luthor continues to pay dividends. His charismatic arrogance is fun to read and to see. If heroes are only as good as their villains, then the Justice League might just be the best around.

SCORE: 8/10