REVIEW: “Justice League” #22

(DC Comics, 2013)

Review by Shawn Warner

WRITTEN BY:  Geoff Johns
PENCILS BY:  Ivan Reis
INKS BY:  Joe Prado & Oclair Albert
COLOR ARTWORK BY:  Rod Reis

Begun the Trinity War has. Sorry. I couldn’t resist. Justice League #22 kicks off one of the most complex and multi-facetted events in recent memory. Geoff Johns takes elements from all three Justice Leagues as well as heavily mining material from the Shazam/ Black Adam back-up story that recently ended in Justice League#21. It takes a master story teller like Johns to weave a unified narrative out of so many components but he is off to an intriguing and exciting start.

The story is constructed around a tarot card reading by Madame Xanadu during which she sees visions of a city in ruin, devastated by a war and over the remnants of the buildings hover Superman and Wonder Woman while Batman looks down from atop a destroyed structure like a watchful gargoyle.  The account unfolds as Madame Xanadu searches the cards for answers. Further into the reading she sees Pandora as she searches for someone to open her box and once again imprison the sin she has loosed on the world. She gets Superman to attempt the task erroneously thinking that he would be able to overcome the influence of the box. However he turns out to be far more vulnerable than she had bargained for and is horribly affected by the box and its power, transformed into a twisted and evil version of himself he is only saved by Wonder Woman’s intervention. While this is happening Shazam is en route to the Kahndaq Desert to spread the ashes of Black Adam as are Steve Trevor and the JLA with the intention of taking on The Justice League. When Shazam reaches his destination he is greeted by military gunfire and the urn containing Black Adam’s ashes is shattered. Superman has arrived on the scene at this time and is very unceremoniously slugged by an irate Shazam. Wonder Woman and the rest of the League have now arrived as Superman regains his wits and hammers Shazam on the jaw sending him crashing into the ground with such force he creates a huge crater. When he is able to regain his composure he is surrounded by the Justice League and the JLA. Steve Trevor informs all present that the Kahndaq government believes they are being invaded and have sent an air strike.

Madame Xanadu continues to turn over cards in her tarot spread when yet another player is revealed, The Question. He stands before a board containing news articles and pictures of all those involved all connected by string leading to a center photograph of Superman, in huge letters at the top of the board the words ,”Who is the evil behind the evil?” are emblazoned.

The scene returns to Kahndaq where both teams of heroes are engaged in a heated exchange when Dr. Light is over-charged by Superman who is essentially a solar battery and accidentally releases an energy blast at Wonder Woman. Things escalate so fast and to such a degree that Superman reacts in an unthinkable way thrusting both Leagues into a brutal, violent conflict. The final page of this issue sets events into play that will forever change the fate of everyone involved in the Trinity War.

There are so many intricacies at work here that to take them all in after a single reading is an impossibility. The plan formulated by Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller against the Justice League is not one of mindless attacks but a plan full of subtleties and machination this lends the strategy more credence and plausibility. Initially the concept of forming the JLA to counter the Justice League, member for member seems insane and highly improbable at best, let’s face it when your team boasts the likes of Superman on its roster the rest of the group is almost irrelevant but Geoff Johns is able to circumvent the supremacy of the Justice League by setting forth an intriguing plot that contains some very ethereal variables, queue the Justice League Dark. The fact that they do not actually appear in this issue does not diminish their presence in the Trinity War one bit, in fact their conspicuous absence is a tangible component of the plot. Madame Xanadu represents the JLD as an integral part of the narrative thus far.

Ivan Reis is certainly a logical choice for an event of this magnitude. His hyper-detailed style and realistic character designs are well suited to tell a story so full of action and set in such diverse locations. He is undoubtedly no stranger to big events at DC especially when it comes to teaming up with Geoff Johns on such projects. Their collaborative efforts have resulted in some of the finest Green Lantern and Flash stories to date and I have no reason to think Trinity War will be any less impressive. Reis’ pages are lush and jam packed with imagery bringing Johns’ script to life and bristling with electricity. The chemistry these two unmitigated professionals display is beyond extraordinary; they share a synergy that has spawned genius on numerous occasions.

It’s impossible to judge a series of this scale by the first issue, it’s undeniably more esoteric than most event books save perhaps Final Crisis but it is still vastly accessible due in great part to the flawless writing of Geoff Johns. He knows super-heroes on a level that scarce few do. In fact his peers would be names like Morrison and Waid. Trinity War is an epic story both in scale and talent; it sets the stage for an intriguing and mysterious extravaganza accentuated with the ethereal accents of the JLD, giving the whole thing a touch of “Vertigo” sensibility and style. This creative team has a track record of excellence and what I’ve seen so far I believe that record will be continued, so I give Trinity War part one a well-deserved 4.75 out of 5. Don’t wait for the trade, get this one as it comes out, you will be glad you did. So until next time, see you at the comic book store.

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Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter:  @shawnwarner629

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