Friday, June 22, 2018

X-men Supreme Issue 170: High Evolution Part 2 is LIVE!


Another monumental upheaval has descended upon the world of X-men Supreme. Magneto is back and he has the High Evolutionary as an ally. Charles Xavier and his X-men are still more divided than they’ve ever been. Every now and then, this fanfiction series undergoes some dramatic changes. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the High Evolution arc will bring the biggest changes to date.

It’s the culmination of a story I set out to tell after the events of X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide. I knew at the time that I was taking a chance. If you’ve been following the X-men comics, then you understand why my timing couldn’t have been worse. Just as the X-men are coming together again in the comics, I throw a huge schism into the mix within this fanfiction series. I would even argue it’s a bigger schism than the one Cyclops and Wolverine had in the comics. By making it between Cyclops and Charles Xavier, the emotions are that much higher and the choices are that much harder.

The division has caused so much tension and strain throughout X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided. It’s not just between Cyclops and Professor Xavier either. Jean Grey has to deal with her former lover opposing the X-men. Rogue has to deal with Nightcrawler and Mystique being on another team. Then, there’s the Scarlet Witch’s unexpected role. To say there has been plenty of tension would be a gross understatement.

It’s been building steadily through arcs like Drug War and Crimes Against Inhumanity. With every triumph and failure, the strain between the X-men and X-Force grows. Cyclops is feeling it. Charles Xavier is feeling it. President Kelly and General Grimshaw are feeling it too and they’re margin for error has effectively vanished. In other words, Magneto couldn’t have picked a better time to return to the world of X-men Supreme.

He returns to a world that is beleaguered and broken, especially after the events of Crimes Against Inhumanity. Nobody feels safe anymore. Humans and mutants alike are tired of all the conflict. Anyone offering a better way is bound to get attention and Magneto has shown many times before that he’s not afraid to make a statement. The High Evolution arc began with him announcing to the world his plans for Asteroid M. The impact of that announcement is just starting to unfold.

Beyond just acting as a culmination of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided, High Evolution is also Magneto’s ultimate endgame. He’s had a vision in place since X-men Supreme Volume 1: Mutant Revolution. Despite all the failures and mishaps along the way, from Uprising to the Cambrian Explosion, Magneto has never waned in his vision. He’s going to see it through this time. Humans and mutants alike are going to feel it and that begins in this issue.

X-men Supreme Issue 170: High Evolution Part 2

This is probably the most excited I’ve been about an arc I did my own version of the Phoenix Saga back during X-men Supreme Volume 3: Ashes of Hope. Building this fanfiction series in a way that allows me to tell stories on this scale gives me an opportunity to tell an X-men story that has a special impact. It’s not enough to just pit the X-men against Magneto again. It has to have real dramatic stakes and that’s what I’m hoping to achieve with High Evolution.

For those who have been following this fanfiction series, I hope you’ve enjoyed the long and arduous process of pursuing that goal. I’ve every intention of making this arc the best to date for X-men Supreme. As always, I urge everyone to provide feedback on this and every other aspect of this fanfiction series. Either post your comments directly in the issue or contact me directly. Either way is fine as long as you review. I’m always happy to chat X-men. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Misguided Matrimonial Bait-and-Switch: X-men Gold #30

The following is my review of X-men Gold #30, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


A superhero wedding is only as successful as the journey that leads to it. For some iconic romances, that fateful walk down the aisle is a matter of inevitability. Couples like Cyclops and Jean Grey, Reed Richards and Sue Storm, and Superman and Lois Lane reflect the ideals of star-crossed lovers. No matter what comes between them, be it death, retcons, or reboots, they always find a way back to one another. Their love may as well be as constant as the rising sun or Dr. Doom's ego.

For that reason, though, the wedding of Kitty Pryde and Colossus brings something unique to the trope of superhero nuptials. Theirs is a romance that didn't rely on destiny. They have to put effort into making their relationship work, by default. They overcome their share of obstacles without the luxury of being one of those comic book power couples. Those obstacles include death, being trapped in a giant space bullet, and multiple romantic entanglements. To say Kitty and Colossus have a lot of forces working against them is like saying the Hulk gets moody ever now and then.

Despite all those forces, Kitty and Colossus attempt to achieve the same romantic pinnacle as other iconic couples. Since X-men Gold began under Marc Guggenheim, the complications that frequently drive these two apart are steadily mended through an emotional, but compelling journey. In X-men Gold #30, they're finally set to complete that journey.

At least, that's how this big event is presented, both with the cover of the issue and the various issues that led up to it. The actual substance of this momentous affair is unexpected in its results and not necessarily in a good way. In fact, the events that play out are downright damaging. Even though a well-known X-men couple does get married, the moment ultimately comes off as empty and dispassionate.

That outcome is pretty jarring. Guggenheim borrows greatly from past weddings, going so far as to mention how close the ceremony is to the location of Cyclops and Jean Grey's wedding. Kitty and Colossus have everyone in the team supporting them. There aren't any ominous warnings about how their marriage will lead to a dystopian future. There aren't even any clones, Skrull agents, Legacy Virus outbreaks, or Sentinel attacks to disrupt the affair. There is nothing preventing this long-time couple from tying the knot.

It still doesn't happen, though. After all the love, support, and encouragement the X-men give the long-time lovers, Kitty gets cold feet and at the last possible second, no less. It's one thing for a bride to call the wedding off on the ride to the ceremony. Kitty actually waits until she's wearing her dress, down the aisle, in front of all her friends, and about to receive her wedding ring from Colossus.

Beyond turning a joyous occasion into a public spectacle of heartbreak, it paints Kitty Pryde as callous, indecisive, and emotionally inept. Considering that she's also the leader of the X-men, those kinds of deficiencies just don't make sense. Kitty's actions completely upend the over-arching story that has been unfolding between her and Colossus since the beginning of X-men Gold. It gives the impression that all the heartfelt moments they shared, all the drama that led up the proposal, and all the challenges they overcame to make it to this point carried little emotional weight.

It's one thing for a romance to go too fast and burn out. Kitty and Colossus aren't that kind of romance, though. They have a rich history together that leaves little ambiguity to the sincerity of their feelings for one another. They don't have the same excuses as most couples, superhero or otherwise. They didn't go too fast and their love never comes off as shallow. However, Kitty still finds an excuse to call it off and it's not a good one.

The reasons she gives Colossus are crass and impersonal. They are the kinds of musings that can easily be repeated by any bride that ever got cold feet and it would make just as much sense. Nothing about her decision for stopping the nuptials is specific to her and Colossus' relationship. Considering that she's the one who proposed to Colossus in the first place, it just makes Kitty out to be even more callous, if not downright dishonest.

It's not just a weak excuse to stop a wedding and irreparably undermine a long-standing relationship within the X-men mythos. It sends a message that every romance, even those involving superheroes, is too hard for anyone to make work and isn't worth trying. It's not enough to love someone. Even wanting to marry them to the point of planning a wedding isn't sufficient. There are just too many forces working against a couple seeking marriage and it just isn't worth risking, as though love and commitment are somehow more dangerous than an attack by Apocalypse.

If X-men Gold #30 had ended on that solemn note, it may still work because it reflects the precious rarity of iconic romances that make it to the altar. It's a depressing message, but one that carries enough weight to have an impact. However, given all the build-up and festivities surrounding this wedding, there's a sense that someone has to get married to salvage the moment. That's where Rogue and Gambit come in.

It's quite possibly the greatest bait-and-switch in the history of comics, turning the marriage of Kitty Pryde and Colossus into the marriage of Rogue and Gambit. While Rogue and Gambit are another one of those iconic X-men romances that overcome a great many obstacles, theirs is a romance that just began rebuilding itself in the pages of Kelly Thompson's Rogue and Gambit series. Instead of continuing that process, like Kitty and Colossus attempted in X-men Gold, they just skip right to the part where they get married.

While that may overjoy fans of the couple, this twist undermines that relationship almost as much. One couple can't go through with the wedding, despite all the planning and effort that went into it. Another, however, just randomly decides to do it on the spot, as though one couple is interchangeable with the other. It's like romances are TV dinners bought in bulk. If one doesn't turn out well, then another one is just as good.

There's no denying that superhero romances are wrought with melodrama and very few end in a successful marriage. That's exactly what makes them so noteworthy, though. X-men Gold #30 initially sends that message to some extent, but undercuts it by treating it as something any couple can do on a whim. It turns romance into a gimmick rather than a part of the ongoing story between characters and it's hard to have any emotional stakes in a gimmick.

Final Score: 3 out of 10

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Maturation of (Regenerating) Degenerates: Deadpool Assassin #1

The following is my review of Deadpool: Assassin #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


When it comes to gratuitous violence and genuine heart, Deadpool is in a class all his own. In fact, it's not unreasonable to say that Deadpool, as both a character and a concept, goes out of his way to stand out and isn't afraid to be obnoxious about it. Regardless of whether his name and design was derived from Deathstroke, he's someone who does more than most to stand out in a sea of Wolverine, Superman, and Batman rip-offs.

Thanks to two successful movies and the inherent likability of Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool's star has never burned brighter. It's safe to say that in his efforts to stand out, he has succeeded. His mask, his tumor-laden face, and his propensity to break the fourth wall are now every bit as iconic as Wolverine's claws or Captain America's shield. He has nothing left to prove. He's earned the right to brag and gorge on all the chimichangas he wants.

As much as he's achieved, Deadpool always finds ways to stay busy and entertain. Most of those ways still involve the kind of destruction and vulgarity that would get most characters fined by the FCC, but he never does it out of pure malice. He's not Sabretooth, Norman Osborn, or Dexter Morgan. He's crazier than a sack of ferrets, but he still maintains a code of conduct that sets him apart from less scrupulous mercenaries. Those who undermine that code are likely to be on the wrong end of Deadpool's guns, katanas, and toilet humor.

That's both the setup and the appeal of Deadpool: Assassin #1. Cullen Bunn and Mark Bagley put Deadpool in a position to further set himself apart by showing that there is merit to having a code of conduct as a mercenary. That process involves a hefty bit of bloodshed and mayhem, but anything other than that just wouldn't be true to Deadpool's increasingly powerful brand and he does plenty to maintain it in this story.

Bunn and Bagley don't try to reinvent the regenerating degenerate. They just put him in a situation where he can do what he does best, which means being in close proximity to far less ethical mercenaries and evil ninjas. For Deadpool, that's like mixing chocolate and peanut butter, but with several extra sides of carnage and bloodshed. It's every bit as potent as it tries to be.


These crude, but colorful basics give Deadpool: Assassin #1 plenty of entertainment value. However, there are some other side-plots thrown into the mix that keep it from being a generic story about a Deadpool-centric shooting spree. One involves Deadpool's old friend Weasel, whose life has taken a far more domestic turn. He still works with Deadpool and still provides him with plenty of opportunities to shoot things, but he's got other priorities. In revealing those, Deadpool himself reveals something striking and potentially profound.

Being so unhinged and eccentric, Deadpool never comes off as one of those guys who plans for a simpler future that doesn't involve as many explosions. Between his skills as a mercenary and his fourth-wall breaking awareness, he rarely shows interest in settling down, retiring, or taking up a hobby that doesn't require heavy firearms.

He operates on a moment-by-moment basis, going from one job and/or wisecrack to the next. While he may occasionally mix things up by joining the X-men or marrying a succubus, Deadpool still acts primarily on an impulse. Even with the limited ethical standards by which he operates, he's not known for his foresight any more than he's known for his choice of underwear. Wherever there's violence to be had, he tends to gravitate towards it. With an unstable mind and a body covered in tumors, that's kind of how he has to be.

That's what makes his admission that he's getting bored with mercenary work so striking. He still makes clear that he loves killing unscrupulous mercs and ninjas, but that's not enough for him anymore. He claims he's only doing a few more jobs before he moves onto something else. It's not clear how serious he is. It's like Peter Parker saying he doesn't want to be Spider-Man anymore, but that sentiment goes away the second he has an excuse to change his mind. Unlike Peter, though, Deadpool isn't known for responsible decision-making.

That makes the plot surrounding Deadpool's changing priorities seem tentative, at best. Nobody, fictional or otherwise, can buy that he wants to retire to his own tropical island and sip margaritas for as long as his healing factor allows him to live. He gets bored too easily, enjoys dangerous surroundings too much, and makes too many impulsive decisions. While that makes his antics fun to watch, it also makes any effort to settle down less believable.

To some extent, Weasel's situation reflects that. He's no longer a former Hydra agent who just happens to be friends with an unhinged mercenary. He's got a stable job, a wife, and an overall easier life that involves less killer ninjas and more credit card bills. It's less hectic, which Deadpool claims to want, but Weasel never gives the impression that it's very fulfilling.

If anything, he sends the message that settling down can make a man feel domesticated. This doesn't impact Deadpool's intentions or his ninja-fighting skills, but it does throw shade on the idea that seeking a less damaging occupation comes at a cost. It also establishes that if Deadpool really does attempt to hang up his katanas and guns, he'll end up changing his mind faster than Peter Parker ever did.

Long-term intentions aside, still provides plenty of value in terms of giving Deadpool fans what they want. Bagley's artwork makes it colorful while Bunn's dialog makes it witty. It checks all the necessary boxes for a fun, engaging Deadpool story. It tries to do more and while it lays a foundation, it doesn't offer much in terms of clues. He's still doing mercenary work, as only he can, but what does someone like Deadpool do when he wants to move onto a new endeavor?

That question goes unanswered in Deadpool: Assassin #1. More than anything, it puts Deadpool in a position to mix things up again. It probably won't result in him getting a job as a tax attorney or a janitor, but if it leads him to novel forms of violence, then it can only help the potty-mouthed merc in his never-ending struggle to overshadow Deathstroke.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Friday, June 15, 2018

X-men Supreme Issue 170: High Evolution Part 2 PREVIEW!


One of the biggest appeals of the X-men, whether it’s comics, movies, or cartoons, is how their fight for peace and understanding a global impact beyond saving the world from invading aliens. Sure, the X-men deal with plenty of aliens and I’ve included that in this fanfiction series with arcs like Outer Limits, but some of the X-men’s most compelling struggles occur when humans and mutants alike are impacted. X-men Supreme has had plenty of conflicts like that, Dark Legacy probably being the most profound. However, High Evolution may end up being even greater.

X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided has just begun its final major arc. The culmination of the divide that began in X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide is starting to unfold. What started as a bitter disagreement between Charles Xavier and Cyclops has become a huge liability for both the X-men and X-Force. They’ve been clashing and arguing, leading to some pretty damaging results that played out in events like Drug War and Crimes Against Inhumanity. The potential damage this time, though, is unprecedented for this fanfiction series.

Magneto is back and he’s not alone. After an absence that began at the end of X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear, the Master of Magnetism has returned alongside the mysterious Dr. Wyndham, whose name should be familiar to X-men and Marvel fans, alike. He’s brought with him the ultimate failsafe to ensure the survival and prosperity of the mutant race. He calls it Asteroid M, carved out of the same asteroid that almost doomed the whole world in the Overlord arc. It’s not just a safe haven like Genosha. It’s a whole new world for mutants.

However, Magneto has never been one to limit his vision. That vision fell short with Genosha. He has no intention of making the same mistakes as Asteroid M. This time, however, he’s not looking to wage total war on the human race. He claims his vision for humans and mutants has evolved. He’s now opening that vision to other humans, provided they evolve within this new world and not just in their thinking. It’s the kind of act that promises to complicate the efforts of the X-men, General Grimshaw, and President Kelly.

It certainly doesn’t help that the world is still in a very vulnerable state, due to the events of Crimes Against Inhumanity. The damage to global defense systems have left humans and mutants alike feeling unsafe. They can no longer trust their government or the X-men to protect them anymore. Now, here comes Magneto offering a chance to escape. Given their experience with him, though, expect Professor Xavier and his X-men to be skeptical, even in their divided state.

The situation is evolving and devolving. Expect it to get worse before it gets better. Like the final arcs of every other volume in this fanfiction series, I intend to leave the world X-men Supreme forever changed by the end of this arc. I’m not just talking about a resolution to the schism between Charles Xavier and Cyclops, either. There will be huge changes, heavy losses, and massive upheavals. Once again, I’ve provided a preview of some of those changes and how the X-men will attempt to confront them.

Wanda Maximoff had a lot riding on her shoulders. She was leading both the X-men and X-Force into a trap on a planetary scale. Like many others, she heard the reports of the chaos her father’s announcement had caused. She didn’t have time to hear all the stories of determined people fighting for a spot on Asteroid M while equally determined people tried to thwart them. She assumed the chaos was part of a larger plan.

‘Once again, I’m caught in the middle of your madness, father. This time it may not even be your fault. I hope it isn’t because this is getting old. I can’t keep doing this for you. Something has to give this time. You must decide…your madness or your family.’

Wanda maintained her strength as she, the X-men, and X-Force were transported to the designated coordinates for the transport pod. They arrived in a series of Chinook helicopters. The ride aboard was tense.

A group of MSA operatives continued to surround Cyclops, Wolverine, Emma Frost, Domino, and Nightcrawler. Phoenix, Beast, Storm, Rogue, Gambit, Psylocke, and Colossus remained close as well, but remained silent. The tension between the two teams was still apparent. Captain Freeman made it a point to sit between them so they didn’t worsen any lingering wounds. Everyone needed to prepare themselves for what they may face on Asteroid M.

Once the helicopters landed, they were greeted by a military convoy that had already surrounded the area. In a clearing near the lake, they could see the metal transport orb waiting for them. The MPs had already cleared out every civilian within a five-mile radius. Once X-Force and the X-men stepped out of the helicopters, the MSA operatives pulled back. That left General Grimshaw to lead them to their destination.

“Looks like everything’s in place,” announced General Grimshaw, “This is where we cut you loose and expect you to do your jobs.”

“You sound like you’re expecting us to blow you off, General. Do you really think we’re that dishonest?” said Cyclops.

“I hope that’s a rhetorical question, Summers,” said Captain Freeman under his breath.

“Once you’re up in Asteroid M, you’ll be a long way away from our jurisdiction,” said the General, “If I was in your position, I’m sure I would be tempted.”

“You’ve got nothing to worry about, General. We consider ourselves honest deviants,” said Emma Frost.

“As if hanging out on a floating rock with Magneto is that appealing,” said Domino, “I don’t care how enticing he made it. So long as he’s running the show, it ain’t paradise.”

“Keep in mind we don’t know if he’s running anything,” added Professor Xavier, “That’s part of what we’re supposed to uncover.”

“Yet we have no idea on what that other part may be,” Psylocke stated, making it clear that this didn’t sit well with her.

“Guess we’ll have to play it by ear and cut up anything that gets in our way,” said Wolverine, “If there’s something or someone out there tough enough to pull Magneto’s strings, I’d love to meet him. So would my claws.”

“That makes two of us,” said Wanda strongly.

There were certainly plenty of issues to resolve on Asteroid M. Both teams were eager to uncover the turth as they stood ready to depart. General Grimshaw signaled the military personnel to clear out. The MSA operatives had already returned to the helicopters and the convoy that had arrived before them was starting to leave.

Upon reaching the pod, they encountered one large military jeep. As they approached, the doors opened and two familiar figures stepped out. One was Abigail Brand of SWORD, who had been in the driver’s seat. The other was James Proudstar, now back in his X-Force uniform and looking ready to join the battle.

“James!” exclaimed Storm as soon as she saw him.

“I see you got paroled, Warpath. You get off for good behavior?” teased Domino.

“They flew me here in a fancy jet and let me ride in the front seat. Guess I was good enough,” said Warpath with a grin as he was greeted by X-Force.

“It’s good to see you back in action, Warpath,” said Nightcrawler as he shook his teammate’s hand.

“Before we go any further, I think we owe you an apology,” said Cyclops.

“For what? Leaving me behind after I did something insanely reckless?” the Native American scoffed, “There’s nothing to be sorry for. You did what you had to do. I did what I had to do. And I’d do it again.”

Warpath turned towards Storm as he said this, shooting her a brief smile that made her blush. It looked as though prison hadn’t embittered Warpath. It didn’t make what he did any less reckless. Chances were, they might end up having to be reckless for again.

“Even if you do, don’t expect to get this lucky again,” said Abigail Brand, who was carrying a large metal case, “Your buddies may have spared you months of legal rambling, but the fine print on your pardon says you still have to earn your freedom.”

“You really have a grudge against other peoples’ self-esteem, don’t you?” said Warpath dryly.

“In this line of work, we can’t afford to be all touchy feely,” said Agent Brand sternly, “When the world is turning to shit, we need to be a little harsh.”

“No wonder you’re so dang good at your job,” muttered Rogue.

“It also helps to be resourceful,” added General Grimshaw as he approached Agent Brand, “Did you bring it with you?”

“You think I would have left my office if I hadn’t?” she said as she held up the large case, “SWORD is already undermanned and overworked. I didn’t have anyone I trusted enough when I retrieved this little gem.”

“What is it this time? You expect us to carry a bomb with us?” said Phoenix dryly.

“Do not give them any ideas, Phoenix,” said Colossus.

“As if you’re the first to suggest that,” quipped Agent Brand, “Lucky for us, there are those with functioning brains. Those brains tell us that certain symbolic gestures leave more of an impact than any bomb.”

Without going into further detail, Agent Brand set the metal case down on the hood of the jeep and opened it. When the X-men saw what was inside, they could already feel the impact that Agent Brand had described.

“Is that…” began Beast.

“My father’s helmet!” exclaimed Wanda.

“I thought it was stolen from Genosha,” said Gambit.

“It was. I was there,” said Wanda as she took the helmet from the General, “Some masked man calling himself Renegade took it. My father tried to track him down, but he never found him.”

“Yes, I remember hearing about that,” said Professor Xavier, who had to hold his tongue since he already knew the details.

“How did you even…” began Nightcrawler.

“I can’t tell you and you don’t want to know,” said General Grimshaw, “How we obtained this helmet is irrelevant now. The important part is using it for your mission.”


One of the biggest challenges in developing X-men Supreme involves maintaining a commitment to world-building on the scale of the X-men comics. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been incredibly rewarding. As a life-long X-men fan, I understand that it’s not enough to just focus on the many uncanny characters within the X-men. It’s important to treat the world they live in as a character as well. That’s what I try to do with this fanfiction series and it’ll be even more important with the High Evolution arc.

To date, I’ve gotten plenty of wonderful feedback on how I’ve handled certain characters, including a few I’ve significantly changed compared to the X-men comics. To all those who send me that feedback, I am forever grateful. I hope it continues as X-men Supreme enters another critical stage, but I still need more to ensure that this latest effort at molding the X-men’s world is sufficiently awesome. Whether you’re a fan of the character or the world they live in, I want to hear from you. Please send me your comments via by contacting me directly or post them in the issues. Either way is fine. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Friday, June 8, 2018

Justice In Its Totality: Justice League #1

The following is my review of Justice League #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


In a perfect world, justice isn't a fluid concept. What's heroic today still holds up a hundred centuries from now. In that world, teams like the Justice League don't need to agonize over too many decisions. Those tried and true standards answer all those hard for them. Even during the family friendly golden age of comics, though, the imperfections of the real and fictional world keep finding their way into the story.

Between the events of DC: Rebirth #1 and Dark Knights: Metal, the Justice League undergoes plenty of upheaval, both as a team and among its individual members. Timelines get re-written, marriage proposals occur, and secrets of the DC universe reveal themselves in ways that would make any hero's decisions much harder to render. It can get confusing, at times, but it still reflects the evolution of the Justice League and the nature of justice itself.

For many of these complications, Scott Snyder is both an architect and a catalyst. The events of Dark Knights: Metal don't just throw in another upheaval, which the DC universe faces every other week. It requires the Justice League to regroup and reorganize themselves. A universe full of talking gorillas and homicidal clowns is chaotic enough. Even demigods, aliens, and billionaire playboys need to adapt along the way. In Justice League #1, Snyder carries the team into a new era of chaos.

From the very beginning, the scope and scale of the chaos is on a level that requires the full strength of DC's heavy hitters. There's no subtlety or steady build-up. The crisis is already at a level that involves Lex Luthor, Vandal Savage, and a hole in the Source Wall. The situation couldn't be more dire without an army of Darkseid clones invading every planet in the universe.

For any one individual hero, including Superman on his best day, it's a level of over-the-top action that is hard to keep up with. For the Justice League, though, it works perfectly. It starts out as an elaborate, albeit generic plot by Vandal Savage involving a race of subterranean creatures called Neoanderthals. While even a simple plan by Savage usually calls for the collective firepower of the League, this conflict is only a precursor to a much greater threat.

It's not enough to just throw powerful villains and their nefarious plots at DC's most powerful heroes. Snyder brings in forces that don't necessarily have a face, an identity, or an evil laugh. It's not just a threat to law, order, and justice. It has the potential to undercut the very nature of the DC Universe itself. The Martian Manhunter calls it the Totality. It's somewhat esoteric, but it presents the Justice League with a unique threat. Conversely, it presents someone like Lex Luthor with an opportunity.

The challenge in any era of Justice League, going back to the pre-Crisis era, is establishing a predicament that requires more than a simple team-up or crossover. Superman can team up with Batman and Wonder Woman can team up with Aquaman ever other week to take on a unique threat that may just be too tedious to handle individually. The primary difference between a casual crossover story and a full-fledged superhero team involves forging a collective identity.

Throughout the history of the DC Universe, the League assembles when there's more than basic justice at stake. Whether it involves infinite Earths or a full-scale invasion from Apokolips, there's a point where heroes can't just be heroes. They have to come together to keep the world, the universe, and every notion of justice intact. Snyder channels some of that Crisis spirit, but stops short of breaking the timeline again.

In the case of Justice League #1, it's not the threat posed by Vandal Savage that's the main catalyst. It's the hole in the Source Wall that pushes the League into a difficult spot. That hole, another byproduct of Dark Knights: Metal no less, creates something the Martian Manhunter calls the Totality. It's somewhat esoteric, but it still carries that ominous aura that reflects DC's commitment to never-ending world-building.

Parts of the Totality reference other aspects of DC lore, but the underlying concept is simple. The fundamental nature of the DC universe is changing and Lex Luthor knows about it. As such, he and others like him are sure to exploit it. Justice, once again, isn't a perfectly consistent concept that always reverts back to a particular form like Superman's iconic red underwear. Given enough time and stress, larger forces will disrupt it.

That theme and its implications are nicely documented through the powerful mind of the Martian Manhunter, who acts as a messenger to the rest of the League. They're not really in a position to do much about the Totality, which for a team as powerful as the Justice League is really telling. They're basically left to brace themselves while Lex Luthor and Vandal Savage get ready to make the most of it.

It's here where the strengths and weaknesses of Justice League #1 really show. In terms of strength, it builds seamlessly from recent upheavals in the DC universe. Even for those not familiar with events like Dark Knights: Metal, the narrative never comes off as too sudden or contrived. As for weaknesses, though, the overall nature of the Totality falls flat and that keeps the story from having a major impact.

Even with a basis in the Source Wall, the Totality comes off as this impersonal chaos that isn't contingent on Lex Luthor's plans or Darkseid's ruthlessness. It just feels like one big disruption within the overall DC universe, one meant to undermine the Justice League's efforts in a way they can't stop. Too much time is spent just trying to make sense of it, which renders the battle against Vandal Savage as somewhat of an afterthought. Seeing as how that battle literally broke the surface of the Earth, that almost seems unjust.

Justice League #1 still does more than enough to carry the League into a new era. Snyder's usage of high-level threats and evolving challenges give the story an appropriate scope. It doesn't entirely fit together just yet, but the pieces are there and Snyder gives himself plenty to work with. The nature of justice and the DC universe may change in accord with every Crisis-level event, but so long as the spirit of the team remains intact, justice still finds a way to prevail.

Final Score: 6 out of 10