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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review: Justice League #22



We have finally arrived.  Since The New 52 began, no large story at DC has received nearly as much hype as Trinity War.  Were this event happening at Marvel, you would have one main Trinity War mini-series, and then tie-in comics that spread across several different series for a number of months.  DC has made the wise choice to make this story remain within the family of Justice League titles, but that does not mean this is a crossover without size, scope, or stakes.  In many ways this is the beginning of a story at least two years in the making, one which we have had hints at for quite some time.  Now that this event has started, will it prove to be worth the wait?  Can writers Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire give us a story that rises to meet the hype that precedes it?  The time for speculation is over, the time for answers is here: Trinity War has begun.


Justice League #22 begins the story of Trinity War with a framing narrative of Madame Xanadu witnessing events unfold through her deck of tarot cards: An unwitting Shazam decides to spread the ashes of Black Adam over the desert of Kahndaq, unknowingly putting many people in danger.  The Justice League arrives to find out Shazam's motives, but not before the Justice League of America can arrive to escort their rivals out of Kahndaq.  Tensions mount, an atrocity is committed by Superman, and the two teams are launched into a conflict which could mean the end for these heroes.

For many reasons, Trinity War is not just your average crossover.  It is not like Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire had to sit around and find an interesting way to unite these three series.  What makes this story so special is that it is the culmination of a multitude of events, some of them being seeds of potential story which have been planted for some time.  At the start of the New 52, we bore witness to a hooded figure appearing within every debut issue.  Later revealed to be Pandora, this woman's motivations and reason for showing up in each of these series would remain a mystery for some time.  Here we finally get a taste of what Pandora was seeking: someone who could open her fabled box and rid the world of the evil it released so long ago.  As we see in this issue, Pandora believes that person to be Superman, but the Man of Steel is not as pure of heart as we might hope.  Since the Justice League came together as a team, the trust they received from the public by defeating Darkseid seemed a little too easily gained.  Enter: the Justice League of America.  For the past few months, Justice League of America has been a comic with a more government agency approach, and it is here that we finally get to see the JLA unite for their true purpose: to fight and defeat the Justice League.  This is a development which feels very fluid, no doubt due to the fact that Johns pens both books.  Even the long overdue inclusion of Shazam in the on-going events of Justice League adds to the feel of culmination with this issue.  With these long foreshadowed events finally taking place, it adds a sense of planning and foresight into the writing of Trinity War that you do not find in most large superhero crossovers.  The route of story-telling may not mean a comic that is friendly to new readers, but it does mean a comic which satisfies fans.

The trope of superheroes fighting amongst each other is nothing new.  Marvel notably broke the mold of this plot device in its oft-praised story arc Civil War, but it is an idea which has been around for as long as superheroes.  On some level, Trinity War can come off as a re-hash of concepts we have seen done in superhero comics quite a bit over the past decade, a concept which many feel is worn out.  One cannot accurately judge from 1/6th of this story whether the hero against hero idea was the right move for DC, but it is not as if the struggle between the Justice League and JLA which happens here feels unwarranted or not fluid to the story at hand.  Justice League under Geoff Johns in the New 52 has never been a series that has pretended to be anything more than a comic for large scale superhero action, so it should come as no surprise that the superhero fights which begin in this issue are well done.  Often this comic has embraced its action-oriented nature, leaving more intricate story by the way side.  Trinity War's opening chapter may not do too much to give the action a brain, but it is action which feels justified and is incredibly exciting to see unfold.

Geoff Johns has never been a comic book writer to play all of his cards at one time when opening a large story.  Johns is so much a writer who thrives on small hints here and there, that it should come as no surprise that the direction of Trinity War after this issue is just as unclear as it was before this story began.  This lack of clarity is not meant to be a slight on the issue's part by any means, Johns makes it absolutely clear that this is a story that has been in the works for some time, and we already have hints as to how everything will end.  In its first chapter alone, Trinity War is already a story which feels epic in scope, easily becoming DC's most grandiose story-telling endeavor in the New 52.  How the Justice League Dark is included into this feud will be interesting to see as the threads tying them to these other teams are less apparent.  Even with the continued mounting of tensions, it is becoming just as exciting to imagine what the fallout of Trinity War will end up being.  In the days leading up to the release of this issue, we were told it would be something which would break the Internet.  Although Superman does something which could have made a lot of fans angry (especially if they disliked a certain scene in Man of Steel), we are given reason to believe that these teams are all just puppets.  It will be fun to see these puppets perform their show, but the puppet master we see on the final page of this issue is immensely more intriguing.

Ivan Reis is the artist of this issue.  As Reis has been on Justice League for a number of issues, it is not too surprising that he can draw the team very well.  Perhaps it is because Justice League of America has had such a lackluster artist for the past two issues, but Reis' drawings of the JLA are almost on the level of the work David Finch was doing.  Each of these heroes looks fantastic, and they look even better when they are fighting one another.  This is definitely a comic where you could easily tell what is going on in the story based on the art alone, a testament to Reis' talents.  The artwork Ivan Reis is giving here is just as epic as the story Geoff Johns is writing, and one gets the feeling that both are working on all cylinders to make this their greatest story yet.

Imagine, if you will, that Trinity War is a Thanksgiving dinner.  In many ways, this is a very apt comparison.  Much like a Thanksgiving feast, Trinity War is a story which has not been simply thrown together, but is instead the culmination of the work of multiple people for an extended length of time.  The time has finally come for us to sit down for this meal, and we are served an excellent first course with this issue.  It is clear that a lot of time was spent on this first course, and one can only hope that the courses which follow show just as much care.  Metaphors aside, this issue is fantastic, and not picking this story up may cause a very deep sense of regret.


Rating: A+

Summary: Justice League #22 gives us the opening chapter of Trinity War, and, if the rest of this story is as fantastic as what we get here, it may end up being the best story DC has done in years.
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