Credit: Bruno Redondo, Hi-Fi, and Tom Napolitano

The War rages on! Aquaman may have turned the tide in the past, but things are still looking pretty grim in the future. Can the League collect the Totality shards and bring them back in time to stop Apex Lex and his evil mama? Things get even crazier, in Justice League #33! SPOILERS AHEAD.

Still a lot going on

I complained last issue that there was too much going on, and suggested that the future scenes were taking up space that would have better served the WWII subplot. Justice League #33 is still split between the three threads we’ve been pursuing: Aquaman leads John, Barry, and the JSA to Atlantis; Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman square off against Brainiac One Million; and, Starman, Hawkgirl and Perpetua’s rebellious children take the fight to Doom in the Promethean Galaxy.

So why doesn’t it bother me?

Even with the split story, I enjoyed this one much more than the last. I would still argue that the future fight isn’t carrying its weight, but the past and present are much stronger this time around.

Instead of flitting around the Battle of Pearl Harbor, avoiding any real action, we see the League and the JSA in transit to Atlantis, and their conversation along the way is quite entertaining. More than that, Jay forces Barry to ask a question that we should all be asking about Aquaman, which—for me at least—makes the current scenario more believable. The characters aren’t taking Arthur’s sudden appearance for granted, and Snyder and Tynion are reminding us readers that they haven’t forgotten the first time we saw Arthur in this arc.

Credit: Bruno Redondo, Hi-Fi, and Tom Napolitano

The issue actually opens in the present, with Hawkgirl’s team at the edge of space. We read psychic dialogue from Sh’ayne, son of a Martian Manhunter and Hawkgirl that might have been. He’s begging his father for help, hoping against hope that he’s somehow still out there. If you’ve been reading Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo’s Martian Manhunter limited, then you—like me—will likely find this quite poignant. J’onn has lost so much, but the World Forger’s misguided schemes have inadvertently given him a family again. I can’t help but ache, along with Sh’ayne, to see that family restored.

Instead, Sh’ayne watches helplessly as his mother’s temper is manipulated by Lex Luthor, and the scale tips closer and closer toward Doom. My hope—and honestly, my bet—is on J’onn J’onzz separating himself from the mad Luthor and turning the tide for Justice. For now, we wait.

A tale of two (or three) twists

The once and future threads both leave us with twists. I find one of them very compelling, while the other leaves me cold.

In the past, Vandal Savage turns out to be the ruler (or usurper) of Atlantis, and the Legion of Doom assails the great city with a leashed Poseidon. If you don’t know why I might find this interesting, then you must not have been reading Justice League from the start. Savage was there at the beginning, and will no doubt be happy to get vengeance on Luthor. Poseidon factored heavily in Drowned Earth. These are characters who have contextual weight in Snyder’s run.

In the future, a distraught Kamandi (evidently) finds clarity. He wanders from the battlefield and meets up with Batman Beyond and his future League (weren’t they called Justice League Beyond or something?). If you’re a Terry fan, you probably pumped your fist, shouted shway, and whistled the Batman Beyond theme song as soon as you saw the final page. But if, like me, you never really got into Beyond, you probably just said “ooohhhhh” and put the book away.

The significance of the final page depends pretty heavily on context external to this run. You have to know about Batman Beyond, and more than that, you probably need to be into it, too. It’s a weaker twist in general, but it’s also put in the awkward position of having to close out an issue that was, on the whole, a lot stronger than this final moment.

And another art team

The artwork here looks really good, for the most part. That said, I’m disappointed that we haven’t seen Jimenez in a few weeks. I suspect they’re killing him on some giant-sized finale, so it’s understandable, even if it’s frustrating.

Redondo and Sampere are better substitutes than Howard Porter, I think. Whereas the latter’s layouts in Justice League #32 tended to be fairly cluttered—sometimes to the point of confusion—the former two artists here deliver plenty of dynamic, readable action. They capture the right beats, and the book is a smooth ride, much to their credit. Hi-Fi colors them both quite well, too.

Napolitano, who has far less text to deal with than he usually does, nevertheless produces his usual excellent work. My only disappointment with the lettering isn’t even his fault: Snyder and Tynion didn’t write any SFX into this one, so we don’t get any from Napolitano. It’s a shame, too, because the battles are big, and he’s really good at it.

What’s Next?

For me, Justice League #33 is a nice recovery after a somewhat disappointing last issue. Snyder and Tynion handle the multiple threads quite a bit more gracefully this time around, and I have a much easier time investing in the story. I’m hoping we’ll see the return of Martian Manhunter in an issue or two, and that he brings Jorge Jimenez, Alejandro Sanchez, and some SFX with him.

Recommended if…

  • You’re invested in this run.
  • You don’t mind artists pinch-hitting, as long as the storytelling is still strong (it is).

Overall

Justice League #33 is a big step back in the right direction. Snyder and Tynion gracefully juggle multiple plot threads, and Redondo, Sampere, and Hi-Fi realize it all beautifully on the page. After a very brief dip, this is once again one of DC’s two or three must-read series.

SCORE: 8/10