The story Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV are telling in Justice League is so huge in scope you must throw out what you think you know about the DC universe and start anew. There is no better proof of that than with issue #22 out today, as it explores what Perpetua was up to 20 billion years ago. Spoiler: It was very much something the DC superheroes should have mixed feelings about.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The Multiverse is teetering on the brink, and Lex Luthor’s Legion of Doom is poised for victory. But as the combined intellects of Brainiac and the world’s smartest man make their move toward conquering the keys to the sixth dimension, a much bigger power grows on the horizon. At last, the final form of Perpetua takes her shape, and the DCU will never be the same again!
Why does this matter?
If you care about the multiverse, creation myths, or like to keep up with summer events, you need to read this. The “Year of the Villain” is directly died to this series and this issue specifically. Don’t skip it.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This issue does a good job transitioning from the main narrative of the last few issues into a full-fledged flashback sequence. It opens with Starman and Mera fighting off Mr. Mxyzptlk and being way overmatched. Enter the Legion of Doom with their salvation! As Scott Snyder told me on the AiPT! Comics Podcast, this is the beginning of the “Year of the Villain” as Lex Luthor will have the answer for Earth’s problems. This is partly because the Justice League are stuck in the sixth dimension and can’t do anything to help. After Lex introduces a ridiculous weapon of sorts that will surely be a crowd pleaser to readers, the narrative naturally dives into what the Legion of Doom has hidden away at their home base: Perpetua.
The next 16 issues take place at various times in the last 20 billion years. Tynion and artist Francis Manapul take us on a creation story like no other with Perpetua helming the entire project. The story clearly unfolds what she did, how her three children were involved, and what that means for humanity. She is undoubtedly evil or at least immoral, and her actions directly influence our reality. There are many superhero stories that help explain why Earth is so special and this is one of them. It adds interesting wrinkles and is quite unique. It is also open to a future threat that is unknown, further complicating this story and making it an interesting one to mull over how it might play out.
Manapul’s art is a good match for this kind of story. Giant alien gods stand tall and talk over these godly things they do and look impressive doing it. Perpetua is frightening, but also pretty in her own way. There are three impressive double page layouts that help convey scope well and the use of color is quite something. In the final double page layout, Manapul uses strikes of white/yellow light to convey an act that’s key to what we know about the Totality helping to make the act feel magical and otherworldly. I’ve always been a fan of Manapul’s work in part because he uses so many colors to create a dreamlike tapestry of wonder. His ability in that category is featured well here.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
This is the kind of comic where the story at hand takes a back seat while a lot of heavy lifting exposition takes place. It’s all good if you’re in the mood for it, but it almost reads like a one-shot focused on Perpetua could have made more sense. I say this because the Legion of Doom doesn’t do much of anything and only gets a double page layout. Unless of course, we count Perpetua as a member of the Legion of Doom? Either way, plotting-wise it’s a chunk of flashback tacked onto a nudge in the main stories narrative forward.
Is it good?
I’m a sucker for creation myths and stories that open up your imagination to how it all began, and this is another good one. Joseph Campbell once wrote, “If you’re going to have a story, have a big story, or none at all.” Justice League does this and then some telling a richly told story.