Scott Snyder’s ongoing plot for the Justice League involves the re-emergence of an ancient threat, with Lex Luthor and his Legion of Doom a step ahead of the heroes in exploiting that. However, as Luthor discovers in the opening chapter, gathering maniacs like Cheetah, Grodd, and the Joker is a guarantee of complications. He’s already had a lesson in that from Black Manta in Graveyard of Gods.

That’s just the opening salvo as Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV concentrate on the Justice League members largely absent from the previous collection. During brief contact with an alien entity J’onn J’onnz had a vision of his Martian background somehow connecting with Thanagar, home of the hostile flying Hawkmen. Appropriately enough, most of Hawkworld concerns his efforts to uncover a secret held on Thanagar, accompanied by Hawkgirl and John Stewart and his new Green Lantern abilities.

By keeping the story focussed while still concerned with uncovering secrets, Snyder and Tynion create a considerably more palatable read than either of the two previous Justice League graphic novels in this series. It’s already been noted that a threat is coming from beyond, and that old energies once locked behind an impenetrable wall are loose once again. The most fearful threat is Perpetua, who once controlled the seven energies of creation and used them to make the universe a dark and fearful place. She doesn’t manifest here, but awaits in the future. Instead Snyder and Tynion drop several long-reaching surprises, with the use of a now revived Will Payton, once Starman, especially pleasing. Their makeover takes the previously trivial and largely generic superhero and makes him a form of cosmic seer, and that’s not the only intriguing revision dropped in Hawkworld. Others are more intimately connected to ongoing plots, and therefore better not revealed, but they’re interesting and logical while offering new possibilities going forward. Their thoughtful characterisation of J’onn as a hero able to dismiss petty irritations for a greater purpose also resonates, as does his attempt to reason with Luthor.

Guillem March’s distorted pages are ideal for the insanity of the opening chapter, while Jim Cheung and Stephen Sergovia draw most of the remainder with Daniel Sempere responsible for a chapter attempting to fix the universe. All the art is good, giving both the cosmic revelations and the quiet moments the required emotional depth, while ensuring the action thrills.

Considering the incoherent opening volume and a second missing crucial chapters, Hawkworld is a reminder that the Snyder/Tynion writing team can produce greatness. All kinds of nipping and tucking to DC’s past occurs here, some on a small scale, some with potentially massive consequences, and their cataloguing is good enough to wipe the memory of the previous volumes and make The Sixth Dimension something to anticipate. Alternatively the content of both volumes is combined as the second hardcover Justice League by Scott Snyder.