All seems lost! Superman withers and dies in a prison system with no sun; the Justice League fights their more-experienced alternate-reality future selves; Batman agrees with the World Forger and stands on the opposite side of his teammates. What in the worlds can be done? Find out, in Justice League #25. SPOILERS AHEAD
“The Sixth Dimension” has called the ideals of the Justice League into question, and none more severely than Superman. According to the World Forger, it is Superman’s stubborn idealism that leads to the death of everything, and there is no winning path but the one in which the League become tyrants in the name of justice.
But the Sixth Dimension is a place beyond imagination, and though Clark may at first believe that the only thing here is pain, he soon finds that he is wrong—that our imaginations exclude not only the worst possibilities, but also the best. There is more here than a Groundhog Day of failures and horrifying potential: there is redemption, there is grace, and there is hope.
Redemption, grace, hope
These are not realities reserved for Superman and his friends, either. We saw redemptive potential for the Legion of Doom last issue. We have seen over several months in J’onn and Kendra’s son that even this manipulated reality can not completely drive out what once made the League good. And this time around, we see Lois Lane—hardened by the failure of her husband and the perennial death of her son—Lois discerns the error of her cynicism and rejects it at the moment that matters most.
Perhaps the most striking turn takes place in the World Forger, Alpheus, himself. He recognizes his fallibility; the League extends grace; he joins them. Though still not entirely convinced that Earth’s finest can win the day, he steps into the unknown with them. There is hope in the unknown, because it is not the certain path toward Doom that he perceived before. And so with the seed of hope in his heart, he moves forward with the League.
What other comic book exalts such noble ideals? What book could? Alpheus has done horrible things, and intended even worse; but, rather than destroy him, imprison him, or even shame him, the League empathizes with him. They offer him what he could not see: a hope undistorted by the cynical vision of fear.
Seeing the fusion
Comics should be the fusion of words (when they have them) and sequential art—two forms of storytelling swirling together until they make something new. The degree to which that mixture succeeds varies from story to story, but sometimes, a creative team just clicks, and you aren’t reading so much as you’re absorbing. The story goes straight to your heart, unfiltered by the interpretive bridges your subconscious builds to process narrative.
As Superman, powered by fresh hope and sunlight, races towards his confrontation with the World Forger, there is no script, no lines, no colors, no letters. There is Superman, there is truth, there is justice, and there is the American way. There is that single truth that rescues Clark from the darkness: that alone, we are a fixed point, a single line of life, a rigid shape. But together, we are the present, the past, the future. We transcend. Together, we are more than we can even imagine.
If it seems like I’m getting caught up in it, it’s because I am! That’s the power of this team. At the critical moment, the nuts and bolts fade away and we’re just right there with Superman and inside Superman. I’ve reread this several times, and it does not get less exciting.
More than we can even imagine
There’s more to this story, though. After Snyder and co. wrap up their arc, we get a backup story from James Tynion, Javier Fernandez, Hi-Fi, and Napolitano. It’s an apt epilogue to “The Sixth Dimension,” but it’s just as much of a setup for Year of the Villain. Conceptually, I think it’s very strong: Lex Luthor uses the League’s absence during Mxyzptlk’s rage as a platform. It was the Legion of Doom, after all, who brought Bat-Mite to the fight and neutralized Mxy. His angle is this: the heroes—the push towards Justice—failed the world, so it profits no one to keep up the pretense of doing good. “The only way to save our world is to make this the year of the villain,” he says, and you can see how it would be a compelling argument in the wake of what’s just happened.
Tynion does a decent job, such that I didn’t really miss a beat when transitioning from the first portion of the book to this one. Fernandez’s artwork is distractingly inconsistent, however. I know it’s just a backup story, but it seems a bizarre juxtaposition to Jimenez’s refined work with Snyder.
All of that said, I didn’t find it distracting enough to dislike the entire backup, and the main story is amazing enough to justify the cover price all by itself.
- You believe in comics. This will validate you.
- You don’t believe in comics. This will make you a believer.
Justice League #25 is not perfectly executed. Its main story dang near is, but its backup has artwork that at times appears to have been rushed to production. But Justice League #25 is nevertheless perfect in my estimation, because I am filled with joy during and after the reading of it. The main story is long enough and extraordinary enough to justify the price of admission, and it may be unmatched this year in its exemplary use of this beautiful artform we call comics.
Batman News received an advance copy of this book for the purpose of review.
Several small selections in this review were taken from an article I wrote on Comics Now.