Justice League #18
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Pasqual Ferry
Letters: Tom Napolitano
There are two big changes to the Justice League plot line; Brainiac is alive again, and Perpetua (an old god) is in the hands of the Legion of Doom. Since the Luthor and his team currently have the upper hand, the title shifts focus to cover them rather than our title team. These Legion of Doom issues have been a staple of the run so far and James Tynion IV is the one who has written all these one-shot side stories.
The story here is is focused around Brainac and Lex Luthor. All other characters are either in flashbacks or background. Lex and Brainac bring their minds together, literally, as Lex has access to knowledge of history and Brainac has knowledge of the universe. The idea being, if they pool their combined knowledge together they will understand how to handle Perpetua and The Totality. This issue is light on any action but reads as a history piece/origin story. It is here we learn that Lex’s father and Vandal Savage (who was murdered in issue one of the series) worked together in the past to figure out what The Totality was and would bring. Like much of the series so far, there is a lot of ret-conning and changing of the previously understood status quo. Lex Luthor gets more wrinkles in his family history and it is clear he will be a central driving force of the Justice League’s story under the creative team.
I’ve always enjoyed the larger mystery of The Totality and Perpetua in the larger Justice League story line. The idea that there is a larger threat on the horizon that ties in with the DC universe as a whole is fascinating. This feels akin to the threat of the Anti-Monitor in Crisis of Infinite Earths, or Darkseid. Lex Luthor has traditionally been on of DC’s more interesting villains with more complexity than most characters. Tynion here gives Luthor motivation for why he wants send the world on a collision course with disaster. The trope of a villain that wants to “DESTROY THE WORLD” was seen in every single cartoon I watched growing up, but it never made complete sense to me. Why would a villain want to effectively destroy the planet they are on? However, Lex’s reasons make sense here, as the writing ties it all into his history and his thirst for knowledge. He is willing to risk everything to find out everything. It turns a classic trope into something that makes sense and has agency in the plot. Framing the villain in the protagonist’s role here really lets the reader understand and accept what is going through the mind of a mad man. I’m actually rooting for the villain here, as a reader I want to know what would happen if Perpetua and the extent of The Totality is unleashed. The same knowledge of the universe that Lex craves the reader’s want as well. Writing a villain as empathetic is hard to do, especially if the villain wants something truly evil, yet Tynion pulls it off here.
The art by Pasqual Ferry is the only thing holding this title back. While it is not bad art, by any stretch of the imagination, it still is not very dynamic. Lex Luthor even looks somewhat different and awkward from panel to panel. In a story that lacks action and relies completely on dialogue and historical flashbacks, the art can make things seem stale. There are only so many times I can look at Luthor and Brainac floating around without getting bored. Because much of the issue exists in the “mind” some really psychedelic and interesting artistic choices could have been made to give this issue some excitement. Instead we are treated to the same monochrome background and floating characters just talking. A waste of what could have been a really interesting artistic challenge. This hits home even harder when this comes from the artist who gave us the brilliant Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle, a comic that was bursting with creative energy. Ferry can easily do better than what was seen here.