Written by: Scott Snyder, Jorge Jimenez,
Illustrated by Jorge Jimenez,
Epilogue Written by James Tynion IV
Epilogue Illustrated by Javier Fernandez
Published by DC Comics
THAT’S RIGHT! SEE IT! THE WAY FORWARD!”
It’s a Double-Sized Anniversary Issue! One year in, 25 issues.
The final chapter in the Justice League’s adventure in Dimension 6!
The final masterstroke of the World Forger’s dystopian plan to save the Multiverse! A showdown between two visions of justice – one resting in the impractically inclusive ideals of Superman, the other somewhat more suited to Batman’s driven need to win at all costs.
One that’s handed to him on a silver platter.
All he has to do is betray his friends… in order to save them.
Only one can win! The fate of the Multiverse in the balance!
Will Batman sell out his principles, and his best friend, (and his soul), all in the name of a seriously Pyrrhic victory?
Well, all I can say is, it’s a good thing I was right, and Batman has another answer…
This is a hard review to write because I’m very much of two minds about it.
On the one hand, I admire the ambition of this latest effort, just as I admire the ambition in most of Scott Snyder’s work. There’s serious talent there. And, in addition, just a boat load of imagination involved in the whole affair.
There is. It’s a remarkable up-level of storytelling scale, one that puts the League in possibly one of the most astonishing and consequential adventures of their careers.
A lot of it is tons of fun too. In no small part because of the dynamic artistry of Jorge Jiminez and Alejandro Sanchez.
But there’s also this inescapable, overweening air of Trying To Do Too Damn Much. One that unfortunately undercuts the whole effort. And the thing that really bugs me about it is, I don’t think it really needed to be that way.
Because the story’s good. The idea is fantastic, the set-up is clever, the dilemma is as dire as they come, and the pay-off.. well the pay-off should be just as outstanding.
Except, it’s hard.
It’s hard to really feel that way, because for me anyway, personally, the resolution left me with a whole bucket-full of conflicting emotional take-aways. All of which are then summarily glossed over, in the heady glow of victorious camaraderie.
It’s almost as if Batman went ahead and used his cosmic mind-altering Bat-suit anyway, just to ensure that it would be. If only that technology could break the 4th wall too.
Far as I can tell, this happens because rather than trying to tell a relatively straightforward story that gives us a relatively straightforward moral lesson, Scott Snyder is trying to be… complex.
There’s an impression, one that’s been growing for some time, that Snyder doesn’t want to make a relatively straightforward moral point. What he wants is to validate the good points to be found on both sides. While ultimately coming down on the side of idealism and the Greater Whole.
That’s admirable, yes. And so far, he’s mostly managed the difficult task of weaving these points of subtlety into stories that are otherwise meant to be grand sweeping sagas of classical heroism and justice.
But the bigger things get, the harder it is to manage that balance. Eventually, you’re likely to have too many points to prove. And too many contradictions to juggle. Once that happens, the story is going to suffer. That point, for me, happened in this issue.
While I admire Snyder’s intention, and I can see where some of this is all likely to go, for now, what keeps coming to mind is the conclusion that Snyder maybe just a little too much wants to have his cake and eat it too.
Because that’s exactly how he’s set it up. And that’s how he tries to pull it off.
So, does Bruce pull a Kobayashi Maru to rig the World Forger’s game, so that he and Clark can win it by working outside the box provided them?
Does Superman and the Justice League pull out a last-minute win against a dangerous adversary, one who’s co-opted one of their best and brightest to his side? A win that goes above and beyond a mere super-K.O., to demonstrate the undeniable, superior power of their idealism in action?
Does the Multiverse get the second chance it needs, to see its heroes level up to an even grander, more inspiring vision of victory than even the great World Forger of Creation himself appears capable of imagining?
Anyway, they come away with a new, inspirational sidekick.
And a new teammate.
But it sure is a close call. And it’s a little hard to accept that everyone is as kumbaya about the outcome as they all seem to be, when in the final analysis it’s equally clear that Batman was just as ready to reprogram his closest friends and sentence half the population of the Universe to death, Thanos-style, if things had gone even just a teensy bit differently.
Especially when it’s wholly unclear why he didn’t just tell everyone, and the World Forger too, what they needed to hear from the very outset. Given that he saw it all himself so clearly. Seems an awfully (as in, monumentally) big risk there, Bruce. With literally no margin for error.
Thankfully, while Batman may be the Man who Will, Superman is the Man who Can. And thankfully, unlike the rest of the League, who should be as understandably confused as we should be by Batman’s strenuous admonishments for them to just see it (!), while he’s just as strenuously fighting against their right to their own free choice, Superman is able to decode the by now heavy-handed symbolism of Mr. Snyder’s narrative in order to thread the needle, cock his fist, and save the day.
Color me exhausted. And, sorry, dissatisfied.
Really? Really Batman? Really Scott?
I get it. It’s ambitious. And symbolic. And inclusive. And complex.
Just be careful not to validate too much there. Or you’ll end up trying to over-compensate the core message.
Moving on then (because we do), the second half of our blockbuster issue, as well as the second (briefer) half of my review, returns us and the League to Earth, which thankfully has been saved from utter un-creation due of the far-seeing heroism of…
Yep. Courtesy of Bat-Mite, (and James Tynion) Luthor has vanquished Mr. Mxyzptlk. (Because, of course he has – that’s what the League fought to ensure after all.)
Let’s leave aside for the moment how Luthor could have known to do this when the other, unknowable 6th-dimensional rewrite was all but assured moments before. That is, until Superman (and OK, Batman too) saves the day. Perhaps that answer will be forthcoming.
The result is the same.
Luthor is a hero.
But also… he’s a villain. The Master Villain. The architect of this year’s upcoming Year of the Villain. And to kick it all off he’s bequeathed all his death rays and super-WMDs to all of the world’s greatest villains.
As well as to anyone else on the planet who figures Luthor’s invitation to save themselves and their families is wholly reasonable, after he reveals to everyone that the League is responsible for the imminent death of the entire Multiverse, while he himself has just saved it. At least, for now.
And yet, because they’ve labelled it the Year of the Villain, and we know that Luthor is a villain, we’re to understand that anyone who might care to come to this reasonable, if self-serving, conclusion should also therefore be considered villainous. Wearing the label as a badge of honor even. Even though… maybe not. Y’know?
See? More complexity.
Good thing Batman didn’t decide to just rewrite them all. (Even though he, like, would’ve.)
However you want to look at it, this all leaves the League with one Mighty Big Conundrum now.
Or lots of them.
It’s all hands on deck… with many more adventures to come. Welcome to DC’s Summer of 2019.
I’ve got to end this review.. but I’ll end it on the high note of lauding artist Javier Fernandez for his fine work on the second chapter of this book. His style is rough and heavy – similar in look to the great Bill Sienkiewicz. And it works similarly as well. There’s a bit too much of the anime around the eyes for my taste, but otherwise Fernandez’ composition, layouts and visual storytelling is an excellent showcase for his work. And I hope we see a lot more of it.
Next Issue: Hey look, just roll with it, we’re headed to Greatness here folks.