Justice League: The Totality provides a strong re-launch for one of DC’s core titles.
The Source Wall, the boundary of reality, has been broken, leaving the multiverse on the verge of collapse. The Wall spits forth the Totality, a massive object, suffused with the energy of creation, which rockets through space and crashes in the Nevada desert. The Justice League tries to determine the nature of the glowing mass, which is affecting everything around it. But Lex Luthor leads a new Legion of Doom, determined to control the Totality by harnessing the powers of seven fundamental universal forces. When the Legion co-opts the Still Force and the Unseen Emotional Spectrum, it brings the universe to the brink of, well, doom. The Justice League races to undo the Legion’s destructive plot and protect the Totality. An interlude shows how Lex Luthor moved away from his recent heroic persona to re-take his place as DC’s number one villain and founder of a lethal new cabal.
Scott Snyder has earned his stripes as one of DC’s “go to” writers in recent years. With his new take on Justice League, he makes the book central to the DC Universe again. He incorporates various pieces of DC mythology from a variety of books (the emotional spectrum from Green Lantern, the Speed Force from Flash and his own concepts from Batman and Dark Nights: Metal) and expands them in clever new directions. He then splashes them across a massive canvas, crafting a cosmic epic that feels like it has actual stakes for the characters and the world around them. It’s bold, widescreen storytelling and Snyder does it very well.
Snyder chooses his cast rather cannily. He focuses on a nine-member core for the League, composed of heavy hitters (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter), crucial mainstays (Aquaman, Flash/Barry Allen) and well-selected legacies (Green Lantern/John Stewart, Hawkgirl, Cyborg). Snyder plays these personalities off one another entertainingly, demonstrating that they’re an actual team in small ways (ribbing about who does the best “gruff Batman voice”) and crucial ones (coordinated efforts are key to winning the big battles). He also surrounds the core with a revolving cast of well-known heroes who pop in and out of the action as needed. The core cast ties the team into the greater DCU and is a strong center for Snyder’s cosmic tale.
Almost as critical to the book’s success is Snyder’s take on the Legion of Doom, putting a fresh spin on an old idea. It was inevitable that Luthor would return to the dark side at some point, but Snyder devises a strong motivation for his recidivism. Moreover, Snyder really takes the “Doom” part of the name to heart, giving the collective a much deeper purpose than mere revenge on the heroes. By deploying heavyweight villains like Joker, Sinestro, Grodd, Cheetah and Black Manta, Snyder makes the Legion a true threat, but also plays with the tantalizing idea that maybe the Legion aren’t the real villains of the story. Frequent Snyder collaborator James Tynion IV handles the writing duties on the Legion interlude, maintaining Snyder’s tone as he explores the formation of the villain team.
The Totality boasts several strong art teams, all doing dynamic, emotive work. DC stole Jim Cheung away from his long-time home at Marvel to help with this re-launch. And while Cheung (working with inkers Mark Morales and Walden Wong and colorist Tomeu Morey) handles only the two bookend chapters of this arc, his immediately recognizable style and storytelling flair is a significant asset for the series. He sets a strong visual standard at the outset (fans of the old Super Friends cartoon have some pleasant surprise in store), defining the look of the series and infusing his pages with drama and energy. Jorge Jimenez (working with colorist Alejandro Sanchez) ascends to the A List with his work on the rest of the arc, picking up on Cheung’s contribution but giving it his own moodier spin that works a darker vein while supporting the big ticket nature of the story quite effectively. As a bonus, popular veteran Doug Mahnke (working with inker Jaime Mendoza and colorist Wil Quintana), handles the Luthor-focused interlude, providing an almost seamless throughline for the Jimenez chapters that surround it. The art team delivers consistently, supporting the big ideas of Snyder’s story while providing the high octane action visuals a book like this demands.
After its last volume felt oddly disconnected, Justice League is back in a big way with The Totality, retaking its place as the linchpin of DC’s line.