Review: Justice League Vol. 4: The Sixth Dimension trade paperback (DC Comics)

December 1, 2019

 ·  2 comments

It's one of those heady times in the DC Universe — Heroes in Crisis just ended and Event Leviathan and "Year of the Villain" are beginning, not to mention the semi-related machinations of the Batman Who Laughs. We are just at the beginning and (perhaps because of that) this latest DC era feels rife with possibility. Many times in the past when DC titles were not necessarily all rowing in the same direction, but were at least all rowing in one of a couple of directions (which would then sometimes overlap), DC had great success; Infinite Crisis is a prime example of this, and also the often-overlooked tight continuity of DC You.

Scott Snyder, Jorge Jimenez, and James Tynion's Justice League Vol. 4: The Sixth Dimension is a tight rubber band, stretching out to the point of near absurdity and then snapping back together to make sudden, unexpected sense — there are aspects of Dark Nights: Metal that suddenly coalesced for me with this book, some four-plus volumes down the road of Snyder's Justice League. This is the non-calm before the storm; there is no lack of intrigue or connections to the grand conflagration coming next time that this series has been leading up to all along (and that'll mark Snyder's exit from the title), but at the same time if you snip a thread here or there, this also reads like one last, great standalone Justice League story. There's also a marked amount of grace here, akin to some moments in Justice League Vol. 3: Hawkworld; Snyder is doing interesting stuff, and he's left upcoming writer Robert Venditti with big shoes to fill.

[Review contains spoilers]

Skipping to the near-end to start, Snyder pulls off a clever trick in that, while the League has been off in the Sixth Dimension trying to prevent a scorched earth solution from being enacted against the threat of the Legion of Doom and their patron Perpetua, a relative week has passed in the present. In that time, Lex Luthor has managed to sow mistrust against the heroes. It's particularly ironic because the League's just been battling against a workable solution to save humanity — since it'd sacrifice the many to save the few — and they return to find they've been beaten on a second front while protecting the first.

As such, the landscape is now approaching apocalyptic. More insidiously than when Darkseid took over and mind-controlled everyone in Final Crisis, here we have Luthor sparking outbreaks of selfishness and violence among the populace. There's not a villain to defeat specifically so much as the League is up against a cultural shift, people emboldened to take what they want and that "might makes right." For purposes of comics, Luthor's "Year of the Villain" must necessarily take on an Underworld Unleashed, gifts-of-the-devil kind of structure, but I'm more interested in the way that Snyder's League's victories always come with losses and the seeming commentary here about today's society.

When all is said and done in the extra-sized Justice League #25, the "bad guy" of the "Sixth Dimension" story invited to join the team and the League returned home, Tynion (in a backup story) sets out an auspicious three-fold mission for the League. For one, they must locate the ye olde Monitor and Anti-Monitor in order to fight Perpetua; they must seek answers among their allies in the Multiverse; and also the League looks to recruit heroes against the coming war. The tapestry that Tynion then riffs on is vast; he's aligning often divergent threads from Crisis on Infinite Earths through to Final Crisis and in to Metal, he's looping in Grant Morrison's Multiversity maxiseries, and still more there's room for great character moments with "second-tier" Leaguers like Mera, Hawkgirl, and the Martian Manhunter.

I myself have derided how Crisis on Infinite Earths is an easy applause line in DC Comics, oblique references to cull interest with no real substance. But in this volume, I think Tynion resurrects the material smartly, positing a paradigm (that was already probably most fans' head canon) in which for every reboot, the "souls" of the relevant heroes transfer over to their new forms, with the Monitors always on the outside. Tynion does particularly well giving the Monitor characters personalities, perhaps for the first time, such that when they reminisce for instance about the death of Barry Allen in Crisis, it feels more genuine than just a call-out. As well, Tynion's explanation of the many forms of the original Monitor Mar Novu, including why there were many Monitors in Final Crisis and how Novu came to be singular again, goes a long way retroactively toward making Novu's sudden return in Metal more exciting than head-scratching.

Snyder has a nice moment in the "Sixth Dimension" story (ultimately an alt-reality story with shades of Morrison's "Rock of Ages") in which the League is helped out by the future, repentant Legion of Doom. This is not a stretch, with Sinestro assisting a Green Lantern (as he sometimes has) and Cheetah allying with former friend Wonder Woman (as she sometimes does). In the present, the villains will immediately be the heroes' sworn enemies again, but I think Snyder including this scene ahead of the "Justice/Doom War" is particularly pointed. Much as they fight, and whatever ills the villains are about to rain down on the heroes, here the audience has incontrovertible proof that there is good in some of these villains and that with just the right amount of perspective, they might become allies. I can hardly recall in mainstream superheroics where a writer has given the antagonists so much leeway, and I'm eager to see how that plays out in the finale.

Though wholesome tales of Superboy Jon Kent are not usually my go-to, I will say that with Jon having been absent of late, seeing artist Jorge Jimenez draw flashbacks of Jon (and his Man of Steel father) was nicely nostalgic. Francis Manapul's depiction of the secret history of Crisis on Infinite Earths is also a highlight here. I'm only disappointed that DC did not include Snyder and Jim Cheung's and Tynion and Manapul's "Justice/Doom"-related stories from the Year of the Villain Special book here too, as they relate particularly and take place during this volume. (The "Event Leviathan" story from that same book is not mentioned in the solicitations for the Event Leviathan hardcover, which would be another big oversight.)

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Justice League Vol. 4: The Sixth Dimension

It'll be six months till the next chapter of Justice League following Justice League Vol. 4: The Sixth Dimension, which feels like a long time. Still, we're in it now, all those events I mentioned, Event Leviathan and "Year of the Villain" and also, of course, the pending end of Doomsday Clock. I guess it's time to go follow the fallout into the other DC titles and then come back to League. Pity Scott Snyder is leaving, though I'm optimistic it's for the big event that all of this must necessarily culminate in.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Justice League Vol. 4: The Sixth Dimension
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 2 )

  1. I agree with this review, and I'd say artistic consistency played a big part in making this my favorite arc of this run. As for the short stories from the Year of the Villain special, I agree they should have been included, but I guess the problem is that while the Snyder/Cheung story could be seamlessly placed between the lead and backup stories of issue #25, the one by Tynion and Manapul is set between pages 37 and 38 of that issue, which would interrupt the narration by Martian Manhunter that connects those pages. Still, I think the two stories could be included in Vol. 5 as preludes.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I really hope the FCBD issues are collected in vol 5. I am utterly disappointed they aren't in this one

    ReplyDelete

To post a comment, you may need to temporarily allow "cross-site tracking" in your browser of choice.