Justice League 22

Today, Taylor and Shelby are discussing Justice League 22 originally released July 10th, 2013. This issue is part of the Trinity War crossover event. Click here for our complete Trinity War coverage.

trinity war divTaylor: The Flash has been living up to his abilities and making himself appear nearly everywhere with his insane speed. He popped up in Dial H a couple months ago and he’s currently enjoying a run (pun definitely intended) in Justice League Dark. The character has fit in remarkably well in both of these titles and in Justice League Dark, Barry even goes so far as to say he feels more comfortable working with the JLD than he does with his regular teammates. That Barry would say such a thing is interesting both for its narrative consequences and for what it means about his crossover events in general. It’s not always an easy thing to integrate a hero, with his or her own mythology and personality, into a different title that has its tone and voice. So what happens when you try to integrate not just one hero, but an entire league of them into a different title? Can that be done? Issue 22 of the Justice League, which marks the beginning of the Trinity War crossover event, makes it seem that such a thing is not only possible, but that it can done well too.

A mysterious traveler shows up to Madame Xanadu’s to have her future told – because apparently even superheroes need to pay the gas bill. While reading this woman’s fate, Xanadu has a vision of death and destruction on a grand scale. Meanwhile, Pandora presents herself to Superman and Wonder Woman and asks Supes to open a mysterious skull- box so she can try to recapture the sin she released into the world. Superman fails at this and gets a call from Batman telling him he’s needed in Kahndaq; Shazam has flown there to put to rest the ashes of Black Adam and finds himself under attack. Both the Justice League and the JLA show up to rectify this situation when Superman (seemingly) accidentally, kills Doctor Light. As the issue closes, it seems that this foretells the arrival of the Trinity of Sin and the plot to pit the collective Justice Leagues against one another.

I’ve always preferred the Justice League Dark to the regular ol’ Justice League for some reason. I’m not sure if it’s because it has an element of weirdness I find appealing or if I just like John Constantine and Deadman that much. When I was learned told about the Trinity War crossover event I was a bit skeptical. It’s hard to envision these titles coexisting in the same universe really. While magic may indeed exist in the Justice League comics, it is nowhere near as omnipresent as it is in JLD, so I had a hard time seeing how these two forces would be rectified. I mean, while the idea of Batman fighting hell-demons is awesome, it just doesn’t seem to coalesce with his mythology all that well. Perhaps it is with that thought in mind that writer Geoff Johns acknowledges that Bats, and the Justice Leagues, are in over their head when they are dealing with magical issues.


This acknowledgement, while subtle, goes a long way towards helping reconcile the many titles which are being thrown together in this Trinity War event. Batman isn’t an expert on magic and the realization that what he is meeting is foreign helps adjust to the idea that these distinct titles are meeting up.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t moments when Johns is able to transcend specific titles and create moments where the DC Universe seems like a truly coherent whole. No character in the DC pantheon has had their mythology explored more than Superman. With that being said, one would be tempted to think that integrating his history into newer titles would be somewhat difficult. After all, messing with Superman’s story is close to heresy. But with a deft hand, Johns integrates the world of mysticism and magic into Superman’s story in a way I wasn’t expecting to see at all. When Pandora shows up with her mysterious skull-box, she believes that Superman can open it – given his pure heart. However, it turns out that Superman is not as pure as she thought and he begins to be corrupted by the box.

Supes Also Fits In

Pandora thought that Superman’s alieness would protect him from the evil magic that surrounded the box, but it turns out he’s more human than she thought. This idea and exploration of Superman’s humanness is central to his mythology and it’s fun to see Johns exploring this idea through the lens of occult magic. Even Wonder Woman is considered in this little ordeal since Pandora’s box comes from the pages of Greek mythology, which itself has basically become Wonder Woman’s mythology as well. Having all these forces swirl together into an effortless whole is neat and more seamless than I would have ever guessed possible. And while it’s too early to say if the Trinity War event will be this smooth in its entirety at least it’s gotten off to a good start.

Shelby, you’re quite familiar with John’s writing, are you at all surprised by who well this issue came together? Did you even have doubts about it in the first place, like I did? Also, a lot of other interesting stuff took place in this issue, namely the conspiracy seeming at play behind everything. What do you make of all that?

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Shelby: This issue was a lot better than I thought it would be, but I’m still pretty skeptical about this whole event. Despite Xanadu and Zatanna’s presence, this was really just a meeting of the Justice League and the JLA; I might feel differently when the rest of the JLD crew gets involved, but I’m not so sure.

Johns’ setup for getting everyone to the Kahndaq desert is actually pretty smart. It makes perfect sense for Billy to want to spread Black Adam’s ashes in his homeland; it’s an act that reflects his  new-found responsibility, and it’s just a very sweetly childlike gesture. I really admire the innocence behind his actions, especially considering the extreme violence that innocence leads to. It’s also a simple and very logical way to get the Justice League and the JLA out there. Of course Superman and Wonder Woman have to go, it’s kind of their fault Billy thought it was ok to go in the first place. Naturally, the rest of the team will accompany them. And OF COURSE once Waller gets wind of it, she’ll send her team to deal with it. The pieces fit together very nicely.

My beef with this issue, and seemingly with the whole Trinity War, is that it is based on the ol’ Two Heroes in a Room scenario: anytime you get two heroes in a room together, the first thing they’re going to do is pound on each other for a while. As a plot device, this frustrates me because a) it’s a policy that seems to cause more trouble than it’s worth and b) we see it all the fucking time. Like in issue one of Justice League, for example; it’s a plot device Johns has used with the same characters already. Because we’re dealing with two teams of heroes, naturally the problem is somewhat magnified.

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I’m also a little disappointed in the way Johns has chosen to write some of these characters. Don’t get me wrong, I think Element Woman, Atom, and Star Girl are the big take-away hits of the last few issues of JL and JLA, but I’ve never been happy with Martian Manhunter post-relaunch. His coldly superior attitude and complete lack of morals just don’t jive with the supremely powerful but civil gentleman I’ve known this character to be. I can’t imagine this J’onn getting excited over some Oreos. My biggest disappointment, though, lies with Wonder Woman and her blase attitude towards killing. You all know I don’t feel much of a tie to continuity; I’m more interested in a good story than maintaining some 70-odd years of history. So if Maxwell Lord isn’t the only bad guy this version of Wonder Woman has ever killed, I don’t have much of a problem with it. The issue lies with how out of character it is for her to be so cavalier about it. One of Diana’s defining characteristics is that she seeks peace above all else, and loves everyone; I don’t mind it if she’s had to kill people in the past, but she should care about it at least a little bit, right? It should haunt her, like killing Dr. Light is going to haunt Clark. I think it’s a real disservice to the character for her to behave otherwise.

Ultimately, though, my somewhat lackluster opinion of this issue comes from my apathy towards the Trinity War event as a whole. Crossover events tend to make me more tired and frustrated than anything else, and considering I only care about a third of the Justice Leagues involved (and they’re not even in this issue!), I haven’t been able to work up a lot of excitement for the event. I do have to admit that the old epic-scale Johns that got me hooked on comics in the first place is peeking through my problems with this issue. And, even though I disagree with some of them, he’s definitely making some bold and intriguing choices for these characters. Who knows, maybe by the time this thing reaches it’s sure-to-be-grandiose conclusion, I’ll be eating my words. I hope so, actually; otherwise this is going to be a looooooong story.
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For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

15 comments on “Justice League 22

  1. I am pretty hopeful for this event–I have always been impressed by Johns ability to stage big, dramatic events. They sometimes get a bit messy, but are usually fun. It is his character work that I have been less impressed by. He seems to see characters as game pieces, and rather than developing them, he seems more concerned with maneuvering them into place for the next epic moment. I think some of the best character work Johns has done was the introduction of Bas, and it is kind of disappointing how quickly he has faded into the background. (Billy Batson was okay too, though I really like Jeff Smith’s Shazam). Anyway, I intend to avoid looking too closely at the details and sit back and enjoy the spectacle. When the dust settles, I will go back to the individual books to pick back up with the characters I like.

    • Oh right, Simon Baz… He shows up for a hot second in this issue, huh? It’s weird that they’re like “yeah, he can take care of Hal… whenever he’s coming back.” Green Lanterns seems like they are going to be busy in space for a while. Honestly, with all that The Definitive End stuff we were joking about in the comments of GL22, it sorta feels like the GLC should just disappear for a while. I can trust that they’re up to thrilling space adventures for a while without having to deal with them in the context of DC’s Earth. Just keep Baz around because I want to spend more time with that dude.

  2. I really enjoyed this. If nothing else, Johns has a truly epic scale going on here, and it’s clear that the numerous plot points Johns has been building up in preparation for this event (Shazam, the mysterious figure who robbed the Batcave and unleashed Despero, the Secret Society, Pandora and the rest of the Trinity of Sin) are all going to be addressed in this crossover, and I’m thankful for that.

    As always, Shazam was pretty great. I loved that look of childlike enthusiasm on his face when he punches Superman.

    Dr. Light was a great fakeout. When I reviewed JLA 4, when Light was first introduced, I mentioned that I was much more interested in seeing whether Light would turn out like his pre-reboot self than I was in the version of the character seen here, and I think Johns had us all fooled that way. I know I was too busy expecting him to turn insane or villainous to really imagine that he’d be killed off. I do appreciate that he remained the most moral, human member of this whole little shindig until the end.

    Also, I’m assuming the Secret Society leader was the one who manipulated Superman into killing Light, and I imagine he did it somehow through Light’s new abilities–after all, he’s the one who GAVE Light his powers.

    • That last piece is really well-observed, Spencer. I don’t know that I’d ever drawn a connection between Dr. Light and the fact that Superman gets his energy from the sun, but if that was the Secret Society dude’s plan all along, that’s some pretty impressive foresight. Even if it ultimately means that Light was just a miniscule pawn in this game (we could restart the ‘fridge’ conversation if we really wanted to), it’s a cool and logical use of superpowered characters.

    • Oh hey, I totally forgot: there’s a cool Easter Egg when Dr. Light is talking to his wife. His wife is named “Kim”; which I can’t help but think must be short for “Kimiyo Hoshi”, AKA the pre-reboot, heroic “Dr. Light II.” Are we going to be seeing a legacy hero soon? Or perhaps they’ll flip the script and have Hoshi be the villainous Dr. Light to contrast Arthur’s newfound martyr status? Or maybe it’s just an Easter Egg, who knows…

  3. Yeah, I agree–it is fun seeing various plot points from various titles coming together here. I am also curious to see what new wrinkles are introduced through this event….

    I also agree that Dr. Light was a good set up–it looks like he was designed to react (overload) in Superman’s presence, and it is possible that he was programmed to somehow elicit a response from Superman as well in order to trigger the JL/JLA confrontation (and what is Waller’s role in all of this? Is she being played as well?). I did wonder, though, if Pandora’s box served somehow set Superman up as well, Was that as innocent on Pandora’s part (not sure innocent is the right word) as it seemed (just trying to undo her opening of the box), or was she specifically targeting Superman as part of a larger plan? I am assuming that Pandora and the leader of the Secret Society are not working together, though. I am looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

    • If Pandora’s solo title is anything to go by (and I’d say it is), Pandora’s motives were pure.

      Then again, Pandora was someone innocent who was used to unleash great evil, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what’s happening to her all over again here.

  4. What do we make of the fact that the action of this issue is all told as vision Xanadu is having. I think we’re meant to believe that these are premonitions that are actually happening in the present – like maybe the future-telling is set a few weeks in the past or whatever. It’s a strange framing device, and sorta makes the issue feel like it’s more teaser or prelude than the actual beginning of the story.

  5. A while back (February even) I made a prediction that The Outsider was the leader of the Secret Society. It’s nice to have a prediction validated. And with it being the Outsider, and some context clues in previous issues of JLA, I can safely say Forever Evil is going to have some multiversal shenanigans involving Earth-3.

  6. Overall i enjoyed the issue, but did no one else feel like the characters were being written as stupid just to serve the plot? There was no need for Superman to punch Shazam when he first flies in there, he just does it so that a fight can start. Sending Wonder Woman and Superman into a country who’s laws they’ve previously broken is also stupid, sending the whole Justice League in there afterwards is also stupid, and then Waller deciding to send in the JLA tops up the amount of stupid. Its like she wanted to cause an international incident. I’d love to be in the room when whatever poor US government guy has to explain to the Kahndaq government why they allowed their government funded superheroes start a war on their front lawn.

    I agree with Shelby. Johns is doing a massive disservice to Wonder Woman. his portrayal of her here, and in other issues of JL, flies right in the face of who she is. I don’t understand why he’s writing her to be so unpleasant, when Diana should be one of the nicest people in the DCU. Its hard to enjoy a story when my favourite character is being written completely out of character.

    • Oh, it’s absurd the way Johns write Diana. He basically just writes her as an ultra-violent fish-out-of-water, with none of the interesting compassion or her sense of honor or anything even remotely resembling warmth.

      • I’ve always found Johns’ writing of women to be a bit suspect. Diana is probably the worst recent offender, but in almost every case his women are horrendously underdeveloped.

        • He does seem to struggle with female characters. I think part of his problem is that he needs to define them through their relationships with male characters; he can’t write them unless they are in a supporting role. And even then his writing of them is not great.

          What I don’t understand is why no ones calling him out on this. I would be very happy if an interviewer asked him why she was so horribly out of character. But I doubt that’s ever going to happen.

        • I think it’s because a lot of people aren’t reading Wonder Woman, and they might just assume that this is the New 52 characterization of Wonder Woman. It’s a shame, because it will certainly stick if that is in fact the case, and it’ll be a significant setback for the character.

  7. Pingback: Justice League of America 6 | Retcon Punch

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