Justice League continues to be DC’s premier title. Snyder is weaving a brilliant story that is serving as a spine for multiple titles. Justice League #8 is another break issue for Snyder as James Tynion, IV takes over this title for an issue. Usually this means a filler issue with not much plot progression. Let’s hope for the best and do this review for Justice League #8.
Words: James Tynion IV
Art: Mikel JanÍn
Colors: Jeremy Cox
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with a flashback scene set in 1988. We see the Stellaron–5 space station in orbit around Earth. The Stellaron–5’s mission is to collect as much information on the Totality which is about to make a pass by Earth like it did when Vandal Savage saw it during the prehistoric age.
Unfortunately, the Stellaron–5 is not advanced enough to handle the energy from the Totality. The systems of the space station backfire one by one. An energy beam from the Totality streaks down to Earth and blasts an unintended target: Will Payton.
We see Will Payton lying in a crater after getting hit by the energy beam. We then see Will wake up and transform into Starman. We see Starman streaking through the sky. Suddenly, a laser blasts him in the back.
We then see Lex Luthor arriving on the scene. Lex has travelled back in time to capture Starman and gain whatever knowledge that Starman has about the Totality. Lex tells Starman that he has a few questions about the end of the universe.
We then cut to the present day. Martian Manhunter is showing the other Justice Leaguers what is going on inside of Starman’s mind. J’onn says that Starman’s memories end with Lex performing some tests on him in order to extract information about the Totality. J’onn says that all they know is that Lex was able to gain some critical information from Starman’s and then erased Starman’s mind. Therefore, the Justice Leaguers have no idea what Lex learned from Starman.
J’onn says that Lex already had information about the Totality that he gained from Vandal Savage. J’onn says that even though the heroes possess the Totality that Lex Luthor knows far more about the Totality than the heroes do and that means that Lex is winning.
We shift to the Hall of Doom. Joker, Grodd, and Sinestro watch Lex go through four different defenses in order to visit his prisoner. The prisoner is so fearsome that even Joker, Grodd, and Sinestro are afraid of him. The first defense is a secret door. The second defense uses the geothermal surroundings of the Hall of Doom. The third defense is a powerful containment spell written by Morgaine Le Fey that once kept Merlin captured for one thousand years. The fourth defense Lex built himself from future technology that he has stolen.
Joker is freaked out. Joker says that Lex should not have brought the prisoner here. Joker says that Batmans are Batmans. That you don’t put a Batman in a cage without him wanting to be there.
We see Lex entering the room housing the prisoner. It is the Batman Who Laughs. The Lex says that the Batman Who Laughs was right. That Lex needs his help.
The Earth–22 Batman says that when he first met Lex that he thought Lex’s chip on his shoulder was his weakness. That Lex had to humble himself before what the League represented. Batman Who Laughs says that Lex’s chip on his shoulder is actually his strength. The Earth–22 says that he will answer Lex’s questions. But, that he wants Lex to remember something. Earth–22 Batman then sticks his tongue out and shows a pick made of Dark Metal that he had hidden in his mouth. Batman Who Laughs says that he would have used the pick to take down all of Luthor’s defenses in seconds. Earth–22 Batman spits the pick out toward Luthor.
Earth–22 Batman says that Lex has assembled his Legion of Doom in order to capture the hidden forces. That the two easiest to get where the Still Force and the Invisible Spectrum. break out of all of spits a sharp sliver of Nth metal that he had hidden in his mouth. Earth–22 Batman says that he will tell Lex what he is searching for but that it will come at a cost. The Batman Who Laughs starts laughing. Joker comments how he hates that sound.
We then cut to Cheetah and Black Manta arriving on the shores of Newfoundland, Canada. Cheetah asks Black Manta if he trusts Luthor. Before Black Manta can answer, the two villains attack some villagers and demand to know where Captain Proteus is hiding. Black Manta promises to spare whoever tells him this information. A villager quickly says that Proteus is hiding in the nearby lighthouse. Black Manta then kills all of the villagers.
Black Manta then tells Cheetah that trust is foolish. Black Manta says all he cares about that Luthor promised him the power to destroy all of Atlantis. If Luthor delivers then Black Manta will be sated. If Luthor does not deliver then Black Manta will continue on a new path to get that power and he will do it alone.
The villains arrive at the lighthouse and attack Captain Proteus. It turns out that Proteus is Poseidon. Cheetah shows off her new magic claws that have been tainted with the Tear of Extinction. It is powerful enough to allow Cheetah to kill gods with her claws. The villains then set the lighthouse on fire and leave. We see Poseidon dying from his wound and reaching out for a ship in a bottle.
We hop back to Lex and the Batman Who Laughs. The Earth–22 Batman says that Lex has to surrender to something bigger than him. But, that something has to be something Lex believes in. That Lex always sees himself in the center of the universe. That is why Superman always beats Luthor.
Earth–22 Batman says that Lex heard the Totality calling out to him. The trouble is that Lex thought it was his own voice. That the Totality needed him to survive. Earth–22 Batman says that Lex could be the ultimate version of himself. That Lex needs to let go of what has held him back like Earth–22 Batman did. That the universe is not destined for Lex, but that Lex can still take it.
Earth–22 Batman says that he will tell Lex what he knows if Lex agrees to a few things. First, Lex agrees to release him and accept that he has his own plots and motivations and that those may not always be in line with Lex’s plots. Second, Lex agrees to stay out of Earth–22 Batman’s way and Earth–22 Batman agrees to stay out of Lex’s way.
Lex asks why he should trust the Batman Who Laughs. Earth–22 Batman says that trusting others is an idiot’s game. That Lex does not need to trust him. That Lex needs to just trust himself, his chip on his shoulder and the fact that he might win or might lose. Lex says that they have a deal.
Earth–22 Batman says that dark forces of creation were locked away to keep them from a certain person. And that the Source Wall was a prison built to imprison that same certain person. That person is Perpetua. Batman Who Laughs says that if Lex unlocks the seven powers that she once wielded then Lex will unlock her. (It’s like when you play Street Fighter or Tekken and get to unlock certain hidden fighters! Sweet!)
Lex asks who is Perpetua. Earth–22 Batman replies that Lex is a smart guy and will figure that out. Earth–22 Batman says what is more pressing is not who she is but where she is.
We zip back to the Hall of Justice. Batman and Martian Manhunter are looking at the Totality. J’onn says that they are falling further behind every day. J’onn says that Prime Thanagar will give them some answers but will it be too late. Batman answers that this is something that is bigger than all of them. That they need to stay humble and find the answers and trust their instincts.
J’onn says that there is a part of the Totality that is alive and that it wants something. That they would be fools to think that the Totality is on their side. That the Totality is on its own side. Batman says that J’onn is personifying something that is cosmic. Batman says that he will take the recovered Starro fragment in order to get more out of Starman and that J’onn will get what they need off-world.
Batman says that the Totality is a mystery, but it is a mystery in their possession. That they just have to trust that they can solve it before Lex. Batman and J’onn leave the room. We then see the Totality glow and a silhouette of a woman appears inside of the Totality. End of issue.
The Good: Justice League #8 is another well crafted issue. Tynion does an excellent job tagging in for Scott Snyder. The issues that Tynion pens are obvious “pause” issues where very little plot progression is delivered. For readers who become quickly irritated with decompressed storytelling this is sure to be an annoyance.
However, what Tynion’s issues do accomplish is to dig deeper into the details of the story that Snyder has crafted. Tynion focuses on the plot lines and spends time helping to further flesh out Snyder plot lines and give them even more depth and texture. Tynion also does a nice job focusing on the character work of all the various players that Snyder has assembled for this story.
The obvious strengths of this issue is Tynion’s excellent character work, well crafted dialogue and incredible detail to the plot lines. All of the character are wonderfully fleshed out. The reader gets such a good sense of the various heroes and villains that Tynion focuses on with this story.
What is impressive is that Tynion is able to pull of amazing character work in just a few panels. Tynion is able to highlight the fear that Joker has of the Batman in just three panels. The couple of panels where Joker comments how a Batman is never capture unless he wants to be captured effectively gets across the respect and fear that Joker has for the Batman. Tynion also uses just a single panel where Joker comments how he hates Earth–22 Batman’s laugh to get across how much Batman is Joker’s worst nightmare.
Tynion is also able to get across Grodd’s disdain for the humans around him and Sinestro’s unbridled arrogance and supreme confidence in just a few panels as well. All of this is such effective character work that is performed in an incredibly economic fashion. This is rare to see these days.
Tynion’s dialogue is equally impressive. All of the characters have well defined and unique external voices. The reader could close their eyes and have the dialogue read to them and they would know exactly which character was talking.
Tynion proceeds to add so much detail and texture to Snyder’s plot lines. Snyder’s world is fleshed out and made that much richer. Tynion’s work helps to make Snyder’s world even more three dimensional. This also helps to pull the reader even deeper into Snyder’s story. The immersive quality to Tynion’s writing is amazing.
I particularly enjoyed Tynion’s subtle use of theming in this issue. Tynion plays with the theme of trust and the theme of humility. These two themes are examined in an enjoyably subtle manner. I love that Tynion never beats the reader over the head with the themes. Instead, Tynion investigates them in a way that the reader may not even be aware of while reading the issue. It is more of a subconscious level that Tynion is aiming for with how he uses these two themes.
The theme of trust comes up twice when dealign with the villains of the story and then once in an even more subtle fashion when dealing with the heroes. Tynion has Black Manta and Cheetah discuss whether Black Manta trusts Lex. Black Manta scoffs at the notion of trust by dismissing it as something that is foolish.
Tynion then focuses on the theme of trust again in the scene with Earth–22 Batman and Lex when Lex asks if he can trust Earth–22 Batman. Tynion has the Batman Who Laughs dismiss trust as an idiot’s game. In these two moments, Tynion shows how the villains equate trust with stupidity.
This view of trust is then contrasted with the scene involving Batman and Martian Manhunter. Batman tells J’onn that in order to beat the Legion of Doom that the heroes are going to have to trust their instincts and trust themselves and each other. That this will be key to them prevailing. I like that Tynion is able to gentle weave into the story the striking difference in core beliefs between the heroes and the villains.
This is furthered he highlighting how the villains are all highly individualistic and confident in themselves. Black Manta mentions that if Lex cannot deliver to him the ability to destroy all of Atlantis that Black Manta will set out on his own and achieve his goals by himself. This shows Black Manta’s individualistic nature and his confidence in himself to achieve his goals.
We also see that with Batman of Earth–22 and Lex Luthor. Both men are individualists who prefer to operate on their own. Both men possess the extreme confidence that they can achieve their goals on their own. Even Grodd, Sinestro, and Joker are highly individualistic characters who rankle at having to as a team and take orders from Lex.
This is contrasted with our heroes who know that their greatest strength is in acting as a group rather than acting as individuals. The heroes realize that they can achieve greater results by working together.
Tynion also plays with the theme of humility. We see how Cheetah is proud of her new ability to kill gods in the scene where she attacks Poseidon. The idea of being a godkiller boosts her ego and feelings of pride. Tynion makes sure to deliver a Black Manta that is brash and maniacal.
Then Tynion goes into some depth about how Earth–22 Batman felt that Lex’s lack of humility and his chip on his shoulder was his weakness. However, upon further examination, Earth–22 Batman has realized that Lex’s lack of humility is his greatest strength. Lex’s lack of humility is what drives him to accomplish the impossible.
Tynion then nicely contrasts the villains lack of humility with our heroes’ humility. Batman specifically tells J’onn that the heroes must stay humble in light of things that are bigger than them and that they do not fully understand. That through humility will come answers.
Tynion handles this theme of humility with a wonderfully subtle manner that makes the contrasts between the villains’ approach to the Totality and the heroes approach to the Totality that much more compelling. What makes it even more fascinating is that the hero who is preaching trust and humility is Batman.
Batman is arguably the one DC hero that most people would rarely call trusting given his paranoid nature and his past schemes designed to take down fellow JLA members in case they went rogue. Batman is also a character that certainly has suffered from both a large ego and pride. So, to have Batman be the character to preach the virtues of trust and humility gave the moment far more impact on the reader.
At the same time, the zen approach of being humble in the face of the unknown in order to clear your mind and to admit what you do not know in your question to discover the truth is does sound like the Batman.
Justice League #8 only presents the reader with a small amount of action. All of the action is delivered in the Black Manta and Cheetah scene and it is well done. Tynion effectively gets Black Manta over as a genocidal psychopath. Tynion also gives Cheetah a serious power upgrade. All of it combines to deliver an exciting action scene with quality psychology.
Justice League #8 is blessed with some incredible artwork. Mikel JanÍn turns in a beautiful looking issue. Janín’s action scenes are intense and dynamic. However, what is even more impressive is that most of Justice League #8 is just talking heads. Janín is able to take those dialogue heavy scenes and still make them compelling. That is no easy feat at all. Janín is also able to give all of the characters amazing facial expressions that help inject the story with plenty of emotion.
The Bad: Justice League #8 is a slow read. There is very little plot progression at all in this issue. Justice League #8 feels like a filler issue as Tynion stalls for time while Snyder gets a break from the grind of this title.
At this point, the reveal that Perpetua once wielded the seven ancient powers and that she is inside of the Totality had little impact on the reader. The main reason for that is that Perpetua is a no-name character that the reader has zero connection to at all. Her reveal elicits little emotion or excitement from the reader. Having said that, I am curious to see what Snyder does with Perpetua’s character.
Overall: Justice League #8 is a well written issue. Readers who have been enjoying Snyder’s story will enjoy the extra layers that Tynion brings with this issue. Readers who like a slower paced and more cerebral read with good character work will also enjoy this issue. However, readers who prefer lots of plot progression will be sorely disappointed with this issue. As will action junkies who like plenty of excitement and fighting in their comics.