Today, Spencer and Mikyzptlk are discussing Justice League 23 originally released August 28th, 2013. This issue is part of the Trinity War crossover event. Click here for our complete Trinity War coverage.
Spencer: One of my favorite hobbies is explaining comic book storylines to people who don’t read comics (“Hey guys, did you know that the Justice League once fought a giant floating psychic island that shoots dinosaurs?!”). It’s always fun to watch their expressions, but it’s also an interesting reminder that comics, at their core, are goofy as hell. Personally, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I’m glad comics are finally being respected as an art form, and I wouldn’t be writing here if I didn’t love poring through comics and discussing their depths, but sometimes it’s just fun to turn off my brain and embrace the goofiness, and no story’s been better for that lately than Trinity War. It’s so much fun that I don’t even mind that big fat “to be continued” at the end—well, I don’t mind it that much…
The splintered Leagues finally all reunite in Athens; they’re immediately drawn under the influence of Pandora’s Box. A fight ensues. A wounded, lovesick, possessed Superman, in an attempt to murder Batman, manages to shut off the box just long enough for Firestorm and Element Woman to determine the cause of his sickness: a sliver of Kryptonite lodged in his brain. How’d that happen?!
Oh, the Atom did it.
Yeah, she’s a triple agent, and it’s devastating. I literally sat there slack-jawed for a few moments when we got to this reveal. We already knew the Outsider had planted a mole within the League, but since we also knew that the Atom was already a mole for the JLA, she seemed clear. It’s a clever move, and it’s also one of the most emotionally charged options, considering that the Atom has probably been the most enjoyable, engaging character for the last half-a-dozen issues. Unfortunately, we’re also losing one of the few women of color on any of these teams.
That said, Atom makes a tremendously fun, sassy villain, and it might be worth the tradeoff if she can keep up this level of snark.
Anyway, Atom unleashes a sentient computer virus named Grid into Cyborg, and it immediately takes over, jettisoning his human portions and leaving him to die. As the Leagues rush to rescue Victor, the Outsider emerges, claiming Pandora’s Box for himself. He reveals that both he and the box are refugees from another universe, and that Pandora’s Box is a gateway between dimensions. The whole Trinity War has been a plan years in the making to manipulate the League into delivering the Box into the Outsider’s hands, and it worked hook, line, and sinker. The Outsider destroys the box, and unleashes his masters, The Crime Syndicate of the evil Earth 3, into our world.
We’ve been predicting just this twist in our comments (and elsewhere across the internet) for weeks now, but it somehow still works. Maybe it’s that the Syndicate emerges with such gusto, maybe it’s that they all arrive with such distinct personalities, maybe it’s the dead Aquaman that preceded them, but I’m totally into this ending. It’s the other twist that had me rolling my eyes, but in a good way!
Well, that’s the one meaning behind the Trinity War title I never would have guessed in a million zillion years, and for a very good reason: it’s completely, thoroughly ridiculous. It’s so ridiculous that it circles past “bad” and back around to being brilliant, and I got a hearty laugh out of this one. This is the kind of goofiness that only comics can do, and this issue does it well.
Even when some elements of the issue fall flat, its inherent goofiness helps elevate the material. Take, for example, the Superman/Wonder Woman/Steve Trevor love triangle. Pandora’s Box brings the tensions boiling between Diana’s various suitors to the surface, and while I understand the concept, it’s executed in a way that is not only quite uncomfortable, but also makes the characters come across like petulant children.
Yet again, it’s the sheer ridiculousness of panels like the above that helps salvage them, at least to an extent. I still don’t like the love triangle, and I’m definitely laughing at this panel, not with it, but at least I’m laughing, and that’s preferable to other options. Petulant Steve Trevor is my new favorite character.
Penciller Ivan Reis deserves a lion’s share of the praise for making this issue work. Reis was born to draw the Justice League—nay, to draw the entire DC Universe all at once. His pencils are iconic and expressive, and he’s got an uncanny ability to pack a zillion characters onto one page without it feeling crowded.
Look at that spread! I want to hang it on my wall; I could stare at it for hours, trying to pick out all it’s Where’s Waldo-esque details. This isn’t just characters throwing themselves at each other, no no, there’s a story going on through these fights. Some of the elements in the background—such as Flash attacking Catwoman—are even carried over from earlier scenes in the issue. Whole plots are playing out in the wordless backgrounds of these very crowded panels, yet none of it is muddled in the slightest. All three pencillers involved in Trinity War have been top-notch, but it’s hard to outdo Reis, that’s for sure.
It’s a good thing this issue builds up so much good will, ’cause that “To Be Continued” could easily destroy it all. This isn’t the first time Geoff Johns has ended an event on a cliffhanger, and it threatens to reduce Trinity War to nothing more than a prologue (much like Rise of the Third Army), and this event doesn’t deserve that.
So, Mik, could you overlook the cliffhanger ending, or did it ruin your fun? Did you enjoy this issue’s goofiness as much as I did, or were you hoping for something more serious? And hey, who do you think the Syndicate’s prisoner is? My money’s on Alexander Luthor.
Mikyzptlk: I’d say that’s a pretty safe bet, though I’m not sure how I would feel about it. Even though it was a number of years ago, I feel like I got my fill of Alex Luthor, Jr. in the pages of Infinite Crisis. That said, I would be interested to see a rebooted version of his father, ya know, this guy.
Just look at that costume! Oh, and the beard! Ollie Queen would be proud. In all seriousness, I’m not sure who the prisoner is, but I’m damned excited to find out! Like you, Spencer, I was pleased with this ending. I’m not the first to admit that Geoff Johns isn’t a perfect writer. The guy has had an incredible career of a lot of spectacular highs and a few disappointing lows. If there is one thing that Johns is the master of though, is that “To Be Continued” that you mentioned, Spence. By that I mean that Johns has got world-building down to a science, and he knows how to keep the excitement for his stories up. I know we’ve talked about this, like a lot, in the recent past, but just look at what he did for the Green Lantern franchise. Johns is now doing the same thing with the Justice League franchise, and arguably the rest of the DCU by default.
With Trinity War, Johns has repositioned the Justice League titles as one of the central franchises of the DCU and its line of books, similar to how Marvel treats The Avengers. I mean, when was the last time that a major event came out of a Justice League book? I honestly don’t remember, though I’d be more than pleased to hear what our lovely readers have to say on that subject in our comments section. Anyway, with the growing line of “Justice League of Whatever” books cropping up, DC seems to be priming its reader base with anything and everything to do with the League, and I couldn’t be happier. Hm…I wonder if that has anything to do with the Justice League movie on the horizon?
Getting back to the Trinity War storyline, Johns has been crafting this tale since the inception of the New 52. Although it’s been a decidedly bumpy road in getting to this point, I’m extremely happy with how it all turned out. Even if some of the twists were expected, as Spencer pointed out, there were still some genuine thrills and surprises to be found. I was shocked by the Atom reveal, as I loved her character. As important as it is to have heroes of color though (and oh boy, is it ever), it’s just as important to have female villains. Regardless of that, Johns has crafted an interesting character with Rhonda Pineda, and I can’t wait to see more from “Atomica.” One of the biggest surprises for me in this issue was the reveal of this cyber monstrosity.
I absolutely love Cyborg, and I’m glad that Johns has gone out of his way to make sure that he now has an evil counterpart as well. I cannot wait to see Cyborg’s recovery process, and the new powers he will hopefully have at his disposal. Judging by what we already know of The Grid, these are powers that Cyborg will desperately need in order to help the League put a stop to it and its Crime Syndicate partners. The Grid is just another example of Johns’ amazing ability of seeding things throughout his word-building efforts. Just take a look at issue 18 of Justice League.
Did the Justice League inadvertently give up all of their secrets (and the secrets of every other superhero and villain) to a homicidal killing machine? Yikes, the fallout of this should be delightfully devastating.
Spencer, you asked me if the displayed “To Be Continued” at the end of issue 23 ruined my fun. I’ve got to say that it didn’t bother me in the least. I was fully prepared for Trinity War to lead into Forever Evil, and Johns has more than succeeded in getting me pumped for his next world-building chapter. As for any goofiness you mentioned? I say bring it on! These are funny books after all.
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?