Justice League Keeps Building the Wider DC Universe

Justice League has embraced the sheer lunacy of the DC Universe in ways fans never could have expected.

Justice League Roster: Francis Manapul

If you’ve been following Justice League over the last year or so, you’ll know that this isn’t a book that does small stories. If you’re going to roll out the heaviest hitters in the DC Universe, then the threats and situations you put them in have to get even bigger and wilder to compensate. For some, the ultimate apogee of “big Justice League ideas” came during Grant Morrison‘s tenure as writer of JLA in the late ’90s. But it’s been 20 years since then, the DCU itself has become even bigger and weirder in that time with the return of its storied multiverse, and many creative teams are no longer aiming for blockbuster movies on the page, and instead are embracing all of the storytelling possibilities that only comics can offer.

And the writers of Justice League, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, are certainly in the latter category. After rising to fame as the writers of Batman and Detective Comics respectively (and Tynion will return to Gotham City to take over writing duties on the main Batman title in 2020), the pair have gone from outsized detective stories starring the Dark Knight, to tales that play with the very foundations of the entire DC Universe, from the Source Wall itself to the source of heroes powers, to nothing less than the very nature of humanity and where heroes and villains fit into it all. Justice League is sometimes a dense read, even for DC continuity scholars, but nobody would ever accuse this book of being unambitious or resting on its laurels.

It’s a story that has been building across the entire DC line for quite some time. The pieces were set in motion in Dark Nights: Metal in 2018, have continued through Justice League all the way through “Justice-Doom War,” into the pages of Superman/Batman with the machinations of the Batman Who Laughs, the line-wide Year of the Villain event, and will ultimately lead to Hell Arisen. “It’s one huge story, and we want fans to feel rewarded,” Snyder says. “If I had one thing I could say to fans, it’s that everything matters.”

It’s all building to a still-unspecified event in DC’s future (one we’re willing to bet features the word “Crisis” in its title), and a brand new timeline of DC Universe continuity

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“The reason that we’re doing the time-spanning, geographical scope of the story where it goes everywhere and everywhen in the DCU and incorporates all these different characters is because it is meant to show that the stakes of this story are the highest they can be,” Snyder says. “It’s going to roll into the very thing that begins setting up the reestablishment of that kind of a timeline. The idea is to show you all these characters in one universe.”

A key point of this “one universe” philosophy came in a recent Justice League issue. You would think a story that is responsible for finally returning the Justice Society of America to DC Universe continuity for the first time in nearly a decade would have enough heavy lifting to do. But a key detail about this “first” meeting between Barry Allen and Jay Garrick reveals much about how DC continuity is being constructed, and the teamwork it takes to make it happen behind the scenes. While it has long been teased in The Flash that Barry has merely forgotten his past interactions with Jay (as he had with Wally West before Rebirth), this was the first time it was explicitly discussed. Specifically, the more time Barry spends with Jay, the stronger the feeling he has that they already know each other. Jay, on the other hand, has no idea who Barry is. Why? Because the Jay of 1940 hasn’t met Barry Allen yet, that event is still in his future, while it’s in Barry’s past. Snyder and Tynion say they often consult with Joshua Williamson (writer of The Flash and Batman/Superman) and other writers to keep little details straight.

“We trade scripts and all of that stuff,” Tynion says. “Sometimes, and this is, I think, true of our entire Justice League run, there’s an element of lunacy to all of this, and sometimes you’ve just got to point at it. Because if you don’t point at it and you pretend it’s not there, fans are just like, ‘Wait, they don’t realize that this is nonsense?’ The Flash, especially, is a character who’s time-traveled, he’s experienced so much in his life, so of course, he is the perfect voice to be like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is all just fricking nuts.’”

Justice League is often gleeful in the way it plays with the weightiest concepts in the DCU, none moreso than with the recent introduction of the Ultra-Monitor, which is what happens when Crisis on Infinite Earths baddie the Anti-Monitor, the Monitor, and the recently introduced World-Forger, join together like Voltron to become an even more powerful cosmic being. It’s the kind of reveal that could have been set up with an entire issue of exposition, and instead it’s presented in an almost matter-of-fact way, the universe-shattering madness of it all just one more big idea in a book that’s been full of them from the start.

“We had talked about that idea so many times, that the brothers form together one singular monolithic Guardian Monitor, that it didn’t even occur to me that we hadn’t really shown it before,” Snyder says. “Some of this stuff we’ve talked about so long that it’s almost like I don’t even remember we made it up and that it’s not old DC mythos. ‘Oh, right when Jim Starlin was writing about Perpetua…’ You know what I mean? ‘Oh wait, we made that up.’ It’s tremendous fun dealing with these huge cosmic figures and getting to revisit some of the real touchstones of the DC Universe in terms of its mythology and its legends and its own origin story.”

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But despite all this cosmic weirdness, there’s an almost primal question driving Justice League, and that’s the matter of whether or not human beings are inherently good, like the heroes we admire in superhero tales, or willing to give in to our baser instincts, like the villains they fight.

“I feel like it’s a story that’s really personal and urgent and resonant for us, because it’s about Lex Luthor believing that we’re essentially designed to be selfish and cruel and that that’s our final form,” Snyder says. “The Justice League is fighting against that belief, and it’s a leap of faith in either Justice or Doom, what they meant in their original forms. But like James was saying, the best thing is to be able to have Jarro or whatever be like, ‘It’s time for us to cosmically link all of the multiverse threads, stop the meteor of Vandal Savage’s moonbeams,’ like that. It’s such a fun combination of absolute bombastic ridiculousness and also deep, emotional, truthful storytelling from the two of us. It’s just a pleasure. I love working on this book. I really do.”

Snyder isn’t alone in his enthusiasm. “The stories that we’re telling are some of the most exciting work that I’ve done since joining DC Comics eight years ago,” Tynion says. “It’s freaking amazing working with Scott and bringing it all to life.”

Don’t believe us about how big this book is? Check out a preview of Justice League #35, which hits stores on Nov. 6. Here’s the official synopsis…

It’s called the “Year of the Villain” for a reason— in this issue, Lex Luthor wins! Everything Lex has been working for over the past year and a half comes to fruition as he finally possesses the fully powered Totality and plans to bend Hypertime to his will. The Legion of Doom’s leader will defeat the Justice League once and for all and make his final pitch to serve at Perpetua’s side-and the Multiverse will never be the same! Francis Manapul returns to Justice League for a key issue on the path to Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen—and beyond!

Justice League #35

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Written by Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV

Art by Francis Manapul

Color by Manapul & Hi-Fi

Cover by Rafael Albuquerque

Variant Cover by Tyler Kirkham & Sabine Rich

In Shops: Nov 06, 2019

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SRP: $3.99

And check out these killer Francis Manapul preview pages! Even without words, everyone’s body language sure says a lot about what went down at the end of the previous issue, doesn’t it?

Justice League #35 Page 1
Justice League #35 Page 2
Justice League #35 Page 3
Justice League #35 Page 4
Justice League #35 Page 5
Justice League #35 Page 6-7
Justice League #35 Legion of Doom Cover
Justice League #35 Perpetua Cover
Justice League #35 Variant Cover

Mike Cecchini is the Editor in Chief of Den of Geek. You can read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @wayoutstuff.