Justice League: Snyder's "Totality" is funny, fantastic, and full of fiends

Justice League: Snyder's "Totality" is funny, fantastic, and full of fiends

Justice League has had a bit of a rough ride since DC's 2016 Rebirth initiative shifted creative teams and story priorities. Whether you loved or hated Bryan Hitch's and Christopher Priest's takes, fan response to both was overwhelmingly negative. Excitement rose, however, with the announcement that superstar writer Scott Snyder would take the reins of DC's flagship team book after the conclusion of Priest's arc. Snyder's work on Batman was immensely popular, and his huge Metal event with longtime collaborator Greg Capullo showed an enormous amount of potential in the idea of Snyder playing around with the wider DC Universe.

Snyder's prelude to Justice LeagueNo Justice, gave us a more concrete expression of that potential, taking the League on a cosmic journey through some fantastic, multiverse-expanding concepts. The stage was set for a new dawn, but after almost two years of disappointment, it was hard to be optimistic—even given Snyder's pedigree and proven success in No Justice. Here's what I wrote in my Batman News review for Justice League #43, the final pre-Snyder issue:

Honestly, I’m tired. This is the 43rd issue (in a row) of Justice League that I’ve reviewed, and my time covering the book has been marked by unfulfilled hype. I’m ready for Justice League to be exciting again. I’m ready for the cringing to be over. Let’s get the League off-planet and explore the cosmos a bit. Let’s be done with swarms of nameless invaders. Let’s break out some exciting, charismatic villains, new and old. Scott Snyder is a good enough writer to do it, to be sure. And Jorge Jiménez and Jim Cheung are amazingly talented artists who can bring whatever Snyder throws at them to life. Here’s hoping things are on their way up, because if they’re not, I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

Three months in, it's no secret that I love Snyder's Justice League. I've reviewed every issue on Batman News, and written about Snyder's evolution here, but with the first arc coming to a close this week, I thought I'd take a big-picture look at why I've been enjoying it so much. And it turns out that my "final cry" about Justice League #43 was practically prophetic.

Justice League is fun again

A few years ago, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo killed Batman. In the year that followed, Jim Gordon took up the mantle of the Bat, donning a Robobunnybat suit and fighting against a violent, flower-themed villain named Mr. Bloom. 

Now, maybe you didn't like that story. I wasn't nuts about it myself. But Superheavy, as it was called, showed Snyder's sense of humor more clearly than before. There were hints of it back in Snyder and Capullo's Zero Year, but Superheavy seemed to embrace the absurdity of superheroes in a more comprehensive way. And it signaled an evolution in Snyder's approach to his DC work that we have watched progress through All-Star Batman, Metal, and No Justice, finally coming to full maturity in the pages of Justice League.

In Justice League, the fun that Snyder clearly had in Metal meets the focus and tighter storytelling that made him famous on Batman. The plot is big, but comprehensible, and the humor feels like a natural facet of the story rather than something attached to it. The League poke fun at each other (mainly Batman), enemies posture at and taunt one another, and there's plenty of well-scripted situational comedy throughout. Comedy is an organic component of human relationships, and here it makes the Justice League more relatable, and the story more engaging and exciting.

The League takes on the big stuff

That authentic intimacy also helps to anchor the story, because another thing Snyder has done is blast the roof off of the DC Universe and widen the scope of this book. Geoff Johns's run on Justice League was essentially a Darkseid saga, Hitch's an endless horde of swarming enemies, and Priest's a terrestrial conflict that tried to challenge the notion of the League as "World Police." But Snyder took the opportunity in Metal to break a hole in the Source Wall—the border wall on the universe, if you will—and the playground became enormous. "The Totality"—this first arc, concluding with this week's Justice League #7—sees the League face off against the Legion of Doom (more on them in a moment) over a piece of the source wall—called the Totality. Along the way, they deal with elemental forces, face off against a brand new Lantern Corps, and witness the Totality—phasing in and out of time—all at once with heroes past, present, and future.

Through each issue, Snyder has made use of an omniscient narrator with a somewhat playful edge—a device that has heightened the drama, played up the significance of the Totality, and given us the opportunity to see into the perspectives of various members of the League and the Legion. The humor makes these characters relatable and close, but the narration simultaneously elevates them. We can see ourselves in those smaller, playful moments, but Snyder's narrator ensures that the intrigue of these larger-than-life personalities remains.

Let the mustaches twirl

Geoff Johns began an interesting experiment late in The New 52 with Forever Evil—an experiment he was unable or did not desire to see through to the end: he made Lex Luthor a hero. He didn't drastically revamp his character, and wondering at Lex's true motives always made for good tension; but taking Luthor the villain off the table—a decision that remained in effect until the very end of No Justice—that was a choice that deprived us of one of the most charismatic, dangerous baddies in all of comics. 

But Snyder's Justice League took Lex's troubled departure from the League in No Justice #4 and turned it into resolute villainy at the very start of Justice League #1. There is a logic to his turn, and he isn't "evil for evil's sake," but he is evil, and having such an unabashed, unconflicted villain facing off against the heroes has been an absolute blast. And as if that weren't enough, Snyder has brought back the Legion of Doom—a team of arch-nemeses banded together to help Luthor tear down the world that is and build something more honest and brutal in its place. This is classic comic book villainy—enriched, certainly, with modern complexity, but nevertheless pure in its essence.

Justice League is back

There's more to say, and I've been saying it, and will continue to say it here and at Batman News. The bottom line is that Justice League is in good hands again. For the first time in two years, DC seems invested in what happens on this title, and if you're someone who enjoys superhero team-ups, then you should be reading this, because right now, it's best of breed. Hero books should have weight, should stretch the limits of your imagination, should make you say cool. They should be exciting, inspiring, human and superhuman all at the same time, and Justice League delivers.

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