This is a slightly-modified adaption of my review on Comics Now.
Scott Snyder’s run on Justice League has been his best work to date. In the pages of this book, he has found a story and a voice that, while flowing naturally out of his prior publications, transcends them. The love he has for these characters—and for comics in general—is on full display; and such affection is contagious to the uninitiated, and endearing for those of us already on board.
Justice League #10 is the start of a new arc, as well as a prelude to the Drowned Earth event beginning in two weeks; and if you thought Scott Snyder’s opening play was a big, cosmic party, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
One of the things I enjoyed most about No Justice—Snyder’s four-issue prelude to this run—was the inclusion of such a wide array of characters. He did the same thing in Metal, of course, but that event felt more self-contained, at least at the time. Here’s a video of him talking about scriptwriting, and the latter portion on full script has lots of great stuff about his approach to Justice League:
Snyder wants a big, inclusive JL roster, so it’s no surprise that we would see characters like Firestorm and Adam Strange here in Justice League #7. But expected or not, I love it—particularly that their inclusion makes sense within this particular story. I especially enjoyed Strange’s determination that traces of zeta beam-like energy are indicative of the Hall of Doom’s ability to “…be someplace and physically not be there at the same time.” That’s such a neat, highly-comic book concept, and it makes Strange’s brief appearance incredibly significant. Snyder’s all-in on the DC Universe, and wants to pull in as many characters as he can; but, he also wants to make them matter when they show up.
Snyder’s also all-in on his core characters, and he wants them to matter, too. As you can see in the video, this means breaking the team up, and spending time with smaller units. That way, we get more intimate moments between characters like Wonder Woman and Aquaman—moments where we can consider these smaller units of characters more closely than we could if the entire roster received equal billing. Aquaman is our anchor character this time around, and Snyder’s structure allows us to align ourselves with Arthur and get swept up in his side of this story—which, admittedly, has more personal relevance to him than it does to the other Leaguers. We still see the rest of the team, and they matter and get to do cool things; but with Aquaman at the center, we have a good sense of who and what this story is about, and that makes its impact much stronger than if we were spread thin over the whole pack.
So what’s Aquaman’s story? An old Atlantean tale of reaching out into the stars proves true, though the details have been skewed by the passage of time. Arthur, Diana, and Firestorm search the Arctic Circle, following a path put before them by Poseidon—now dead—when they stumble upon an ornery, cosmic Kraken. Things go south rather quickly, and Arthur soon learns the truth about that old tale.
The myth-building is strong and suitably dramatic, and new locales, beasts, and characters are drawn and colored beautifully by Manapul, whose storytelling is every bit as effective as his aesthetics. The perspective on Arthur in the first scene of the book is high—he’s taller than his teammates, and often situated in a way that puts him above them from our vantage point. There’s even one panel where we’re looking up at him slightly. He is a king, proud, strong, and confident.
But as we reach the middle portion, as danger nears, he draws even with his friends, or beneath them. The frame tilts, and his movements are less regal and more frantic. The confidence is gone, and as we come to the final scene and the reveal of this story’s great enemy, it is Arthur who is looking up, Arthur who is below, Arthur beneath the power of this new, formidable threat. Snyder anchors us to Aquaman, and throughout the course of this one issue, Manapul takes him from confident king, to uncertain warrior, to vulnerable prisoner. We know the details of what is happening because Snyder tells us, but we feel the emergence and success of the enemy through Manapul’s work.
- Francis Manapul, man. He’s always good, and here, is even gooder.
- COSMIC KRAKEN.
- You miss Starro.
Scott Snyder has clearly put a lot of thought and planning into his run on Justice League—not just in what he wants to happen, but how. His ideas are mature, but so is his structure and technique, and he’s being paired with artists who are more than capable of transmuting these elements into artwork that is both aesthetically delightful and functionally sophisticated. In short, these books have been some of the best-looking, best-working comics on the stands for months now. They are the all-too-rare union of well-developed ideas and remarkably able hands, and I don’t expect things to slow down any time soon. If “The Totality” showed us that Justice League is back, Drowned Earth seems poised to show us that Justice League is here to stay.