Justice League #17: Parlay on MarsReview

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Justice League #17 variant cover, via DC Comics.Justice League #17 – Scott Snyder, Writer; Jim Cheung, Artist; Mark Morales, Walden Wong, Inkers; Tomeu Morey, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Excellent
Ray: Scott Snyder’s run on Justice League so far has best been described as “big”, with every issue featuring a wide group of characters engaged in a host of chaotic plotlines. But when he goes small, the story hits its stride, because Justice League #17 is an intimate and tense issue between two characters – Lex Luthor and J’onn J’onnz – and it’s the best issue of the entire run. Largely set on the ruined planet of Mars, it’s essentially a parlay between the leaders of the two rival teams. J’onn is there to commune with the spirits of his lost family in a Martian memory ritual, and he’s invited Luthor to join him in a risky maneuver. Luthor is initially hostile, assuming it’s a trap and ready to kill J’onn. But they have no time to sort things out – when Luthor incapacitates Jarro because he thinks the baby star is there to trap him, it awakens a group of psychic martian dragons buried under the surface. Jarro was there to keep them docile, and now Luthor may have just doomed them all.
The action on Mars is chaotic, and Jim Cheung’s art is brilliant especially when drawing otherworldly creatures. But that’s not the real meat of this issue. Last issue’s reveal that J’onn was previously on Earth, having been kidnapped for DNA research, plays out in a big way here with flashbacks to his captivity – and the one young boy who saved him from dying a lab specimen. Snyder’s done a lot of work with both J’onn and Luthor over the course of this run, but this issue links them in a deeper way than ever before. A lot of people were complaining that this run may be reverting Luthor back to his pure evil personality, but this issue actually hints that there may be a lot more to his redemption (begun by Jurgens) than before. The addition of Lionel Luthor to the character’s backstory is a huge development, and this issue ends with both J’onn and Luthor in a fascinating new position – especially with Brainiac possibly replacing Luthor as head of the Legion. Coupled with Orlando and Rossmo’s new Martian Manhunter series, this is the best era for these two characters in a long time.

The wastelands of Mars. Via DC Comics.
Corrina: The epic stuff doesn’t move me like these intimate issues do: I’m all about character and in a story about the entire destruction of the universe, it’s always going to be the human moments that hold my attention.
No more so than Justice League #17. I agree with Ray, it’s the best issue of the run, bringing the universal stakes down to a two-person confrontation between J’onn and Luthor. Universes will die without hope and that’s what J’onn is trying to tell Lex–his Perpetua scheme is based on intellectually finding a solution, whereas J’onn appealed to his emotions, his heart and his hopes.
Will J’onn’s plan work? Hey, we know the DC Universe won’t really be destroyed. But now the question becomes something more intimate: Will Luthor overcome his arrogance and help save it or will he fail his potential and stay a villain?
Those are the kinds of questions I love.
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