Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Justice League Dark 22 originally released July 24th, 2013. This issue is part of the Trinity War crossover event. Click here for our complete Trinity War coverage.
Taylor: Superheroes are, by nature, egotistical creatures. Think about what it requires to be a superhero. Not only do you need some sort of amazing ability or power, but more importantly, you need to have a belief in yourself and that you can help the world. For some, such as Spider-Man and Superman, this egotism can be a burden, while for others, like Batman, it can be a tool to fulfill unspoken desires. Regardless of the why, superheroes must believe they are doing the right thing, otherwise they lapse into inaction or perhaps outright villainy. But this raises a question: what happens when superheroes team up and they have to make a decision, but everyone has a different opinion on how to solve that problem? Being egotists, it’s not in their nature to give in to another’s will, so what happens when they come to an impasse with their superhero peers? Justice League Dark 22, the third installment in the Trinity War tackles this question and the results are explosive, to say the least.
Superman has seemingly killed Dr. Light and has been imprisoned in the A.R.G.U.S. headquarters while various superheroes and officials decide what to do with him. Batman isn’t totally sure what caused Superman to blow up Dr. Light’s head but he’s pretty sure it’s not Pandora’s Box thanks to the Phantom Stranger showing up to tell him so. Having come to this conclusion, Batman sets off with some assorted Leaguers to go stop Wonder Woman and the Justice League Dark from finding the box. When he arrives at their location, he and Trevor get into a big argument with Wonder Woman about what path everyone should take. More lines are drawn in the sand and eventually the JLD, with Wonder Woman, escape to look for the box. Meanwhile back at A.R.G.U.S., The Question arrives and frees Superman. He also informs Superman that Dr. Psycho was in Khandaq right before the incident with Dr. Light. This instills enough doubt in Superman to cause him to break out of A.R.G.U.S. with a few super-buddies at his side.
The primary antagonistic force in this issue isn’t The Question, it isn’t Superman, and it sure as hell isn’t Wonder Woman. Instead, the cause of the turmoil in this issue is the clashing of egos among all of the Justice Leaguers. Batman openly debates with Wonder Woman over the idea of going after Pandora’s Box and their inability to sit down and discuss a plan of action leads to rash decisions being made. It’s easy to see where both sides are coming from however. Batman has always been a man of science, and as such, it makes sense that he wouldn’t find much value in pursuing Pandora’s Box – even if he was urged to take this action by someone who seems to have a direct line to God. Similarly, it makes sense that Wonder Woman would place the reason behind Superman’s manslaughter in the mystical item. After all, Wonder Woman regularly battles the Greek Gods, so dealing with Greek mythical items is basically her specialty. Despite these differences, Wonder Woman and Batman have gotten along in the past and it’s odd that their egos are getting in the way of choosing a more effective path than yelling and fighting.
Despite these setbacks, at least Batman and Wonder Woman appear respectable compared to Superman and his compadres. As soon as he is broken out of his clamps in A.R.G.U.S., Superman goes on a bit of spree and beats up a bunch of soldiers. Sure, they were trying to prevent him from leaving, but he was the one who put himself in custody in the first place. Now, thanks to a bit of prompting on The Question’s behalf, Superman has turned a 180. Forgotten in Superman’s quest to find Dr. Psycho is the thought that he did apparently kill Doctor Light. Whether he did this out of free will or not isn’t so important at this point, but it’s disturbing to see Superman so sure of himself that he disregards this point entirely. Instead, of reasoning with others, his way of working things out ends up looking like this:
As is often the case, Constantine is the “superhero” who ends up bucking the trend and forging a path that is entirely his own. Instead of giving into mere egotism, it seems like John is just going about his day. Instead of seeing the Trinity War as a cataclysmic event, Constantine merely views it as another development that can possibly help him achieve his own convoluted goals. While other heroes argue about how to act, Constantine saddles up to Shazam and leads him away to where we know not.
On the one hand, John’s disregard for the squabbling of the Justice Leaguers is admirable, but on the other he is basically duping a child and leading him into unknown dangers. Obviously the morality on display her is questionable and it will be interesting to see if Constantine remains somewhat of a free agent throughout the rest of this event or if he’ll eventually choose his side. Whatever the case, I can’t but be a little nervous for Shazam; we all know what happens to those who get close to Constantine.
Patrick, did you like watching superheroes acting like superheroes or do you also see them as egotistical pricks? Also, do you think The Question really is the cause of all this drama or do you think it was just simmering below the surface waiting to boil over all the while?
Patrick: It’s early enough in the week that I do want to let our readers know that Constantine 5 (on sale now! (and we’re covering it on Monday)) picks up right where where John and Shazam disappear into the mist. Rest assured, John does not have the kids’ best interests at heart, but rest double-assured that he also pays an appropriately hefty price for futzing with such mighty forces.
As far as who’s behind all of this, it’s totes that dude that’s got Xanadu tied up in his wine cellar. Spencer and I talked a lot last week about the various game references that were being bandied about in Justice League of America 6, and this issue seems to have doubled down on making that explicit. The leader of the Secret Society specifically refers to the heroes as “pieces in play” and by issues’ end notes that “the Queen (is) unprotected.” Which makes me believe that all of this nonsense is an elaborate ruse meant to draw Pandora into a situation where the heroes can’t help her.
Couple problems with that, as a plan. The first time Pandora ever even came into contact with the heroes was like yesterday when she handed the box to Supes. Even as late as this issue, heroes are still making sure they understand who Pandora is and what her box is all about. If the Secret Society wanted to take Pandora out, or gain access to Pandora’s box, they could have spared themselves the effort by just getting a day or two headstart on their plan. No, I think there’s got to be more to the plan than that – and I suspect it has a lot to do with the assignation of blame.
Taylor’s right to bring up the massive amount of ego our heroes are swinging in this issue. That’s kind of a hallmark of Geoff Johns’ Justice League books, but JLD had been surprising absent of such pissing contests. This is mostly because Constantine, who anchors the series, doesn’t give a flying fuck about what’s “right” in either the moral or logical sense. Ironically, “justice” isn’t high on his list of innate virtues. But it’s interested to see the rest of his league fall into this way of thinking – they’re all so quick avoid the responsibility of having failed to save Superman.
Constantine is such a mind-your-own-business kind of guy that he doesn’t even take his own stand here when everyone is like “yeah, let’s help Superman.” Every one of these guys is going to end up being indirectly accessories to Pandora’s box falling into the wrong hands, and I think that’s the end goal for the Secret Society. After all, Pandora was the last person held responsible for that thing’s curse on the world, and her life sucked for like 60 centuries. Maybe the intent is ot get that curse redirected to basically all the superheroes. Otherwise, I’m not really clear on what’s to be gained by getting all of them involved.
Oh and they’ve got a mole, too. My money’s on… eh… Hawkman? I’ll say Hawkman.
I’ll tell you what’s an unqualified thrill: seeing Mikel Janin draw all these awesome superheroes. Janin’s grizzled, ferocious Batman can go toe-to-toe with a Greg Capullo Batman any day of the week. I also feel like Janin has a much more grounded concept of the bodies of these characters, and while the women all still have impossible waists and the men still have impossible chests, no one is quite the hulking monstrosity they appear to be elsewhere in this event. In particular, Shazam finally looks to be decently proportioned, which is a startling departure from the top-heavy freak Gary Frank had been drawing.
Janin also pulls off some great acting in this issue. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Diana roll her eyes quite so hilariously before.
So even if there are a few too many superheroes claiming their way or the highway, I think there’s a lot to like about this issue. Also, I’ll totally admit to being a sucker for the largely arbitrary reshuffling of teams. It’s impossible to follow Trevor and Batman’s orders to their respective teams as they go out in search of Wonder Woman, but it also doesn’t matter like 8 pages later when the teams meet up again and reshuffle at the House of Mystery. Not only is it a big goofy game of “try to remember who’s traveling with whom” but it kinda pokes fun at the whole multiple-Justice-Leagues concept in the first place. League Loyalty doesn’t mean anything – nor should it. These heroes get together to address problems bigger than any one hero alone could address. Why are there three of them? SHUT UP THAT’S WHY!
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?