Review: Justice League Vol. 5: Justice/Doom War trade paperback (DC Comics)

Justice League Volume 5 Justice/Doom War

Though the final issue collected in Scott Snyder’s Justice League Vol. 5: Justice/Doom War was released in at the beginning of this year (and the collection in June), it couldn’t feel more relevant than right here, right now. The war that Snyder’s League fights in these pages is ultimately one of ideologies — “… The rise of evil in this universe. The lack of connection between the good.” When the League makes their final case to the people of the world to turn away from the cosmic evil Perpetua, it comes down to a consensus choice. Then the world goes dark. “What happened?” Wonder Woman asks. Batman pauses a moment and replies, “We lost the vote.”

Whatever side of that metaphor you fall on, it is Justice/Doom War’s saving grace that it has a metaphor at all. Snyder’s last Justice League volume is big on summer blockbuster theatrics and cool moments, but small on plot, real character development, or anything to conclusively tie up this Justice League era proper. That you can find some connection to the here and now gives Justice/Doom War that little nugget of interest that it desperately needs; otherwise this volume is like so much momentary cotton candy, a letdown after a good run overall.

[Review contains spoilers]

What turns out at the end of Justice/Doom War was that this entire saga was an exercise by Perpetua to bring the League to a place where they were utterly let down by humanity — that Perpetua foresaw that the League would try to rally the people of Earth to their cause and be rebuffed. That itself was an eventuality planned for by the Quintessence (Ganthet, Highfather, the Wizard Shazam, and such), who absented themselves long enough to save the League from Perpetua and then send them back after her again … in the pages of Dark Nights: Death Metal. So it is that the League was fighting a battle — has been fighting a battle all this time — that they were not going to win, were never even supposed to win, and the real story is all to be found in another title entirely.

This is not at this point a surprise, as news of how League ended spread rapidly, nor unfortunately is it even unprecedented (Justice League: Trinity War begetting Forever Evil and even Death Metal itself now leading in to “Future State”). But I’m put in mind of Grant Morrison’s JLA: World War III, a multi-part conclusion housed entirely within Morrison’s JLA, or even the far end of that book, JLA: World Without a Justice League, which itself admittedly lead in to Infinite Crisis but did not have the same “none of this actually mattered” twist as Justice/Doom War does. Way back when, the Superman Triangle Titles killed off Lex Luthor in one single issue (he got better. It was a whole clone thing). Nowadays it feels at times that good stories have given way to squeezing every last cent out of the reader as long as possible.

It’s a shame, because one really wants to enjoy Snyder’s cut-loose roller coaster thrill ride. I can hardly fault a title precipitated on a dust-up between the good Justice League forces and the bad Legion of Doom for wearing its heart on its sleeve, and Snyder’s War has heroic heart in spades. “We can do this,” an awfully optimistic Mera reassures Hawkgirl Kendra Saunders. Wonder Woman counsels a down-and-out Kamandi that humanity is more than war: “There is also passion, and hope … and truth.” Green Lantern John Stewart turns Vandal Savage’s heart by explaining that there’s “just one fight” that we all have to fight together, an all-pain-is-the-same message applicable to mental health and etc. that I’ve been glad to see from DC lately in Snyder’s work and Tom King’s Heroes in Crisis, among others.

As well, Justice/Doom War has cameos and crowd scenes galore, something we lost when the New 52 made everyone a stranger but that I’ve been glad to see make a comeback. Most of DC’s current lineup is here, plus the Justice Society to start, and then DC One Million’s Justice Legion Alpha, Batman Beyond and his Justice League Beyond, and then scores of Multiversal others. Snyder’s got the gang back together as best he can and that makes for plenty of stand-up-and-cheer moments.

But even this lacks for something when you dig beneath the surface. Sure the Justice Society is here, and Green Lantern John Stewart and Flash Barry Allen think to themselves it’s strange they never heard of the Society before, but it doesn’t go farther than that — Snyder is holding out their real return (versus this return-light) for his event series. Nor does Barry offer any acknowledgment that Jay Garrick is the selfsame Flash that Barry met and was very concerned about in Batman/Flash: The Button. Nor is any connection shown between the Batman Beyond here and the one who appears in Dan Jurgens' series, a big missed opportunity (might as well have made that title part of “Year of the Villain” and bumped sales). 

Point being that yes, the gathered Justice Leagues of the Multiverse are here, but they’re just figures on the page that you could give or take, not really anything all that relevant to the story. As I’ve said before, the characters of the Multiverse are often the go-to for DC writers in need of applause lines. Applaud I did, but there’s nothing particularly relevant or earth-shaking here to convince me a reader couldn’t just jump from Dark Nights: Metal to Dark Nights: Death Metal and skip this Justice League title entirely.

I must say, too, poor Hawkgirl. One-time JSA breakout star Kendra Saunders emerges here as reckless and foolhardy, basically handing victory to Perpetua (and getting Starman Will Payton killed) because she can’t control her emotions and stick to the plan. What’s got Kendra so out of sorts is the recent apparent death of the Martian Manhunter, with whom Kendra had only recently, and not wholly convincingly, started a relationship.

Snyder has done little to flesh Kendra out — reintroduced in Dark Nights: Metal, it seemed people kind of already knew her, but how she became Hawkgirl and what her recent history has been, Snyder’s never shown us. Instead, Kendra finishes out this title as unhinged mourner for a man she just met, and there is hardly even time for reunion with the resurrected Manhunter as the book ends. If there will be a final word on Hawkgirl and Martian Manhunter’s relationship, it’s not found in the very book it started in.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Justice League Vol. 5: Justice/Doom War



Again, Justice League Vol. 5: Justice/Doom War is a fine bubble gum story. The book is full of big ideas and big showdowns, and if I can project what Justice/Doom War might have going for it that Death Metal will not, it’s an Earth(ish)-bound story of the Justice League fighting their arch-enemies Challenge of the Super Friends-style, often in souped-up flying headquarters, without alternate realities and forgotten identities and such. It purports, at least, to be a classic-style Justice League story. I enjoy that, and I can appreciate that; I just wish it didn’t send me somewhere else to get the story that properly should have been right here.

[Includes original and variant covers]


Post a Comment

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

Newer Post Home Older Post