Doooooooom! How did Lex Luthor convince Sinestro and Grodd to join his crew? The Legion of Doom takes over Justice League, leading us through the recent past, the far future, and the immediate present in the space of twenty pages. Is Lex the scion of truth he claims to be? You decide—in Justice League #5.

Lex Luthor is about achieve everything he has ever dreamed of…?

Following Scott Snyder is a tough spot to be in for any writer. Even when Snyder’s narrative choices leave you cold, the quality of his writing almost always provides enough meat to drive interest. James Tynion has been in this spot several times on Batman, providing several annuals in the midst of Snyder and Capullo’s run. In those instances, he did pretty well, as I recall. He kind of did his own thing, and it worked well enough.

Here, though, Tynion attempts to ape the narrator Snyder’s been using in Justice League, and I don’t think he’s doing it nearly as well as his mentor. The first page, in particular, bothers me. It suggests that there is something different in the air—something perceptible to Scarecrow, Black Adam, and other villains; something that affects the atmosphere, or the fire pits of Apokolips. This something is attributed to Lex’s actions, and, I quote, “because right now, at this very moment, Lex Luthor is piloting Superman’s body forward, step by step, about to achieve everything he has ever dreamed of.”

All of that—nature bearing witness, Lex getting everything he’s ever wanted—it’s stuff that sounds nice and flowery and poetic when Tynion says it, but then buckles under the weight of a little scrutiny. Why would Luthor’s control of Superman, or his soon-to-be-realized ambitions, have any noticeable effect whatsoever on the universe? Perhaps in his mind it would, but in reality? I’d sure like to have that one explained.

And is Lex really about to “achieve everything he has ever dreamed of”? What is that? Proving himself to be Superman’s superior? That’s certainly one of the things he’s always wanted, but it’s also not something his ego would ever dream of, because he considered it inevitable. The end of No Justice, as well as the entirety of this run on Justice League, root Luthor’s current ambitions in fresh vision—in seeing things with a clarity he never previously had. His goals today are not his goals of yesterday, and the statement that he’s about to achieve everything he’s ever dreamed of seems ignorant of that.

When did Thaal Sinestro abandon reason for madness?

Here’s another problem. A few issues ago, Snyder began with a page talking about a young Sinestro realizing that he must seal away the Invisible Spectrum, because it was far too dangerous a thing. But here, Luthor uses it to entice Sinestro, who takes the bait! Obviously, the young and the aged are two different Lanterns, with much having changed in the intervening years; but the implication a few issues ago was that the Invisible Spectrum was something that Sinestro deliberately avoided using—not something that he was unable to find. Now, though, it’s dangled like a carrot by Luthor.

In truth, this isn’t a bad issue of Justice League. It’s just that it isn’t written nearly as well as it has been, and I think I would have liked it quite a bit better had they given Tynion the annual and let him tell his whole multi-part Legion of Doom background there.

But that artwork, though

I love it when an artist is announced for an upcoming book, and then they suddenly pop up where you didn’t expect them and get you super-stoked for what’s to come. And even though we knew Doug Mahnke was going to be handling this issue of Justice League for a little while now, it still seems like perfect timing after the Detective Comics news out of San Diego Comic Con. Whatever this issue lacks in plotting and dialogue/narration, it makes up for in the art department. Mahnke’s layouts are as dynamic and effective as ever, and there’s only one inker, so things are a lot more consistent than some of his books have been in the past few years. He and Mendoza always do great work together, and they’re usually joined by Quintana, as they are this time. The result is a very confident-looking aesthetic, with lots of sophisticated color work and strong lines. Obviously, Detective will feature far less diversity of color, but I’m still thrilled to see what Mahnke (and presumably Mendoza and Quintana) will do over there.

Napolitano’s letters are solid, as usual. I think he might have more text to wrangle with than even Snyder gives him, but it all looks great and reads well.

Recommended if…

  • You want some background on this iteration of the Legion of Doom.
  • You’re a fan of Doug Mahnke.
  • Mad Scientist Lex is your jam.

Overall

This isn’t great, but it’s definitely not bad, either. Tynion floats some good ideas out there, and even though he fumbles the ball a few times, it’s still a pretty readable book throughout. And with Mahnke, Mendoza, Quintana, and Napolitano all at the top of their respective games, you may not pay much mind to the slouched writing anyhow. Justice League #5 is still worth your time.

SCORE: 7/10