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.
Taylor: 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.
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?
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.
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.
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?