The battle across time comes to a head! It’s Justice vs. Doom, with everything on the line, and time’s running out! Can the League, the Society, the Kamandos, and the Monitorzord stop Perpetua and her new favorite son? Find out, in Justice League #34! SPOILERS AHEAD.
There’s a lot going on
A few issues ago, I lamented the lack of emphasis given to the League’s time in Pearl Harbor during the Second World War. I suggested that Snyder and Tynion’s decision to bounce from past to present to future was a liability, as the inconsequential time spent in the latter left inadequate room for a suitable explanation of the former. We’re still bouncing around all these issues later, but Justice League #34 tells its threaded story far more effectively.
So what’s different? For starters, nothing here could be considered inconsequential. With the conflict reaching its apex, past and future wind rapidly around the present, with the three ultimately meeting at the critical hour.
There’s also an economy of storytelling that wasn’t present in the Pearl Harbor issue. Writers and artists do seem to get more out of each page or spread, so I never feel like the scene has transitioned before I’m ready for it—even when the scene takes up just a single page or spread. Again, some credit goes to the frantic race to the climax: this issue does feel more like one, united thread with each passing page.
But it works
Much credit also goes to Bruno Redondo and Howard Porter. Redondo’s layouts are simple and strong, with some pretty smart character placement. Consider page two:
Notice the way Redondo choose to place the Legionnaires and Leaguers in those top two panels. It’s a meeting between two groups; but as we see once we get further down the page, it is much more a negotiation between the leaders of those two groups: Vandal Savage and John Stewart. This point is made abundantly clear in the next two panels (I love how Hi-Fi’s color treatment helps drive it home), but you can tell immediately, without thinking about it, from the first two.
Porter takes over halfway through, and while the aesthetic transition is turbulent, I’m rather fond of his pages. Two issues ago, his work was a bit too cluttered, but here, he’s right on the money. I don’t think any other artist on this title has managed to make Perpetua look adequately evil and nasty, so it is only fitting that Porter should handle her victorious moment.
This issue’s greatest achievement is that none of the preceding 300 words of technical analysis were on my mind when I first read it through. Though there have been bumps along the way, Snyder and Tynion have spent a long time building to this moment, and now that it’s here, I think they just about nail it—not simply from a technical perspective, but also in that the outcome feels consistent with the 33 issues that preceded it. Without context, Hawkgirl’s “lose your temper, lose the battle” moment would seem like a cheap way to force the plot; but she’s been a bit of a loose cannon since early in the run, and the scar of losing J’onn J’onzz to Luthor’s treachery is a scar we all feel right along with her. We may shout NO! as we see her failure play out in slow motion; but there is another part of us that knows that, given the opportunity, we, too would take the fatal swing. It took a lot of patient storytelling to get us to this point, but it’s paying off, and it was all worth it.
- You’re ready to see the League square off against Luthor and Pereptua
- You hate Lex for what he did to J’onn
- You want to see Perpetua look as evil as she ought to
Justice League #34 is perhaps the most rewarding installment of Justice Doom War yet. Snyder and Tynion begin to pay off a year and a half of storytelling, and they do an admirable job, at that. Redondo and Porter hardly have complimentary styles, but they’re both more-than-capable artists, and each brings his A-game to every page. Hi-Fi’s colors are the great unifier, and Napolitano lays down a mountain of text with ease. The story is far from over, but this chapter is definitely a milestone worth savoring.