Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE #39
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Scott Snyder
Colours: Alejandro Sanchez, Hi-Fi
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Justice League #39: In the wake of the Justice/Doom War, the Justice League finds themselves stranded at the far end of the universe and facing a challenge they’ve never faced before. But what will they find on their journey? Has their battle with Perpetua had consequences reaching farther across the cosmos than they ever imagined? Superstar scribe Scott Snyder says farewell to the Justice League with a special story that both winds down all the things he started in issue #1-and nods toward everything that comes next in the DC Universe.
We are now nearly at the end of the Justice League’s fight against Perpetua and the Legion of Doom. In Justice League #39, we see the Martian Manhunter appeal to the entirety of humanity to turn from Doom and back to Justice. And at first it seems to succeed. The Doom sigil in the sky starts to Transform to the symbol for Justice, and Hawkgirl is about to use the Totality to re-imprison Perpetua.
Unfortunately, as Batman succinctly puts it, “We lost the vote”. Humanity remains sided with Doom, ensuring Perpetua’s victory. Then Perpetua reveals to the League that her victory was inevitable. She had allowed the League to make their case to humanity, knowing it was doomed. She even left seeds of her own defeat for the League to find, knowing that it was fruitless for the League to attempt to make use of them. It’s all been a game to her, one that she’s rigged from the start.
But Perpetua doesn’t wipe the League out of existence after her victory. Instead, she opts for exile. She strands the core Leaguers on the moon without their powers or costumes. They are left where they can see the Earth now under Perpetua’s control, but unable to reach it.
However, this isn’t the end of the story, as Snyder presents the League with a deus ex machina that gives the League one final fighting chance. The Quintessence appears to the League, restoring their powers and delivering some exposition.
The Quintessence is a group of the DCU’s most powerful benign characters, first introduced by Mark Waid in Kingdom Come, and most commonly show up in stories of cosmic import. The Quintessence here consists of the Phantom Stranger, the Spectre, Highfather, the Wizard Shazam, and apparently Hera has taken her husband Zeus’ place in the group.
Usually, the presence of a deus ex machina is a sign of lazy writing, but it’s fully justified in a story on such a grand cosmic scale. It’s not a matter of the gods descending to settle a petty Earthly matter, but that the Crisis has risen to such a level that even the gods are threatened and are forced to take action. The entire Multiverse is at stake and even the Quintessence is threatened by Perpetua.
The god-like beings explain to the League the reason why their battle was doomed, and that even if they had won this battle, Perpetua would keep coming back until she was victorious. They explain that, “The universe has been divided by evil, and in division comes fear, anger, and disillusionment. No single action, or wonder, or victory can correct such a tide”.
This explanation actually makes sense. Doom is an entropic force, while Justice works against entropy. Thus, alignment with Doom can come quick and easy, while Justice requires a lot of work, as it fights against the inevitable tide of entropy. That’s not to say that Justice can’t prevail, but it has to be built up.
So, how can the League build Justice back up in the Multiverse. The Quintessence informs them that they have been preserving one final option. This option comes in the form of a doorway. The Spectre explains, “Behind this door lies a path that connects all actions, past, present, and future…”. The Phantom Stranger further elucidates, “In opening this door, you will bring everything to bear. And give reckoning to every story, every event throughout history. The ones you know… and the ones you do not”.
The League does not shy away from this task. Wonder Woman delivers a speech summing up what the League needs to do, and why. She states, “Listen to me. Perpetua’s great lie is that we each matter alone. The truth is we matter by making every life matter. Honoring every story. So that’s how we fight her. We make everything matter… So one last time… one last fight… for everything!”
It sounds to me that whatever lies behind that door will might indicate a major redefinition of the DCU. I think that perhaps “giving reckoning” to every story means that every version of DC continuity over its history will be somehow recognized as canon. But how would that work? Unfortunately, we won’t be finding out next issue.
Justice League #39 and Scott Snyder’s momentous run ends with a tantalizing in-house ad. The ad informs us that next issue starts a new story by a new creative team. It also tells us that Lex Luthor’s story continues in Hell Arisen, as Luthor battles with the Batman Who Laughs. But more importantly, the League’s fight against Doom continues in a new event.
What this even is kept unclear. We are only told to “Get ready for the encore!” and that “The mayhem is coming”. Is “Mayhem” the title of this event, or just a description of what it will entail? We are also given a single image of Wonder Woman wearing strange battle-damaged armour and wielding what appears to be a Magic Lasso-powered chainsaw. Does this mean that Diana will be the central focus of this event? This is quite possible, as DC is putting her to the forefront, and has just established that she was the first superhero of DC’s Golden Age.
Greg Capullo stated at FanExpo 2019 in Toronto that he and Scott Snyder had a project coming up that would be the biggest thing that the League has ever faced. It appears that this is the project he was alluding to. I can only assume that this is the realization of the story DC started with Rebirth and carried on through Doomsday Clock, the Justice/Doom War, and all the other major storylines of the last three years.
I am a bit disappointed that we have to wait a bit for the conclusion to Snyder’s epic. This event has not even been solicited yet, so it won’t appear until May at the earliest. But at least we will have Robert Venditti’s take on Justice League to tide us over. He has done some stellar work on the current Hawkman title, so I look forward to seeing what he has in store for the League.
Also, I think that DC needs to decide once and for all the Wizard Shazam’s skin colour. Geoff Johns redefined the Wizard as a person of colour in the New 52 and has kept this version in the current Shazam title. I have no problem with this change for the character. However, the Shazam that appears in Justice League #39 as part of the Quintessence is clearly Caucasian, which is a strange inconsistency. Unless it’s not the same Shazam. Could there be multiple versions of the character existing in the DCU? That might explain why he has been acting strangely in recent issues of Johns’ Shazam.
While I am sad to see Snyder’s run on Justice League come to an end, I am eager to see how the story continues in this new “Mayhem” event. And with Venditti coming in to take over the writing duties, the title will be in good hands. I am eagerly awaiting to see both the conclusion to Snyder’s story and the start of Venditti’s story.