Friday, December 6, 2013

Justice League #23

"Trinity War Chapter Six: Conclusion"

Geoff Johns Writer
Ivan Reis Penciller
Joe Prado, Oclair Albert and Eber Ferreira Inkers
Rod Reis Colors
Nick J. Napolitano Letters
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

The cover is the final three-part image by Doug Mahnke and Alex Sinclair. It's nice to have the Flash included with the big guys of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Pandora and Aquaman (even though Aquaman has been a bigger non factor this story than Flash). I also give props to this cover for actually showing something that happens this issue. And, unlike the other Trinity War covers, this one can stand well on its own. However, I do not like Mahnke's style at all. Everybody's face looks incredibly weird.

Five years ago, Darkseid's invasion weakened the barriers between universes, enabling the Outsider and a female companion to come to Earth. Over the next five years, Outsider built up the Secret Society, planted a mole on the Justice League, and enacted an elaborate plan to acquire Pandora's box, which involved framing Superman for murder. Today, the Outsider has retreated back to the shadows while the rest of the heroes arrive at the temple of Hephaestus to battle for Pandora's box.

Everybody fights for a while, resort to base name-calling, and continue to play hot potato with the skull-shaped box. Until suddenly, the box goes "dormant," and everybody suddenly stops fighting. Wonder Woman wonders why Superman is still sick, and Firestorm and Element Woman locate a microscopic sliver of kryptonite in his brain. Atom admits to placing it there, which triggered the heat vision blast that killed Dr. Light. She also says that Cyborg is also a traitor — or rather, the mechanical part of him, which removes itself from Victor Stone and calls itself Grid.

The Outsider then picks up the box and is surrounded by a force field of lightning that prevents the Flash and other heroes from touching him. He explains that the box is science, not magic, and it was created long ago on his home world, the birthplace of evil — Earth Three. The Outsider then opens the box, which creates a portal. The Sea King is the first to arrive, but he immediately dies for some reason. He's quickly followed by Ultraman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick, Power Ring, Deathstorm, Owlman and a mysterious prisoner.

Atom reveals herself to be Atomica and jumps into Johnny's hand. The Outsider reveals himself to be Owlman's butler. Our heroes scramble to protect Cyborg and Superman, while the Crime Syndicate launches its attack.

The Good:

Surprising reveal. It was kind of nice to see that this female Atom was actually evil. At first I thought DC was just trying to increase its diversity with the Atom. But now Atomica is her own character, and her betrayal makes sense. I also liked Cyborg's robotic self turning on him, and I was secretly hoping this action would kill him (although it looks like he'll survive). It's not that I hate Cyborg — I just wanted a major, meaningful death. DC promised the death of a hero in Trinity War, but all we got was Dr. Light, who never really was a hero to begin with. But still, this issue was pretty exciting. I knew Trinity War would lead into Forever Evil, but I didn't necessarily think the Crime Syndicate would be behind it. So it wasn't too bad of an ending for this epic crossover. Having said that, though, there were still a few things that made me mad.

The Bad:

Kryptonite in the brain. In the New 52, in Grant Morrison's run in Action Comics, Superman's enemies planted a piece of kryptonite inside his brain. It made him very sick, and he almost died until he was saved by Kryptonian technology. Either Geoff Johns didn't read those issues, or did and just decided to copy that plot device. In a perfect DC-continuity world, Superman would have remembered the sensation of having kryptonite in his brain, and he would have at least asked someone to check that out.  Instead, he just sat around coughing and followed everybody around to investigate Dr. Psycho and Amanda Waller. Another similar problem with Trinity War was making John Constantine the only person corrupt enough to touch Pandora's box. A rather recent issue of Justice League Dark saw Constantine compelled to tell the truth, and he had nothing but good things to say to everybody. So it was a bit of a whiplash to go from learning that Constantine is actually good at his core to being told that he is completely corrupted.

Failure to deliver. For Free Comic Book Day in May 2012, Geoff Johns wrote a short teaser for Trinity War, and Jim Lee drew a massive two-page spread showing what we all believed to be an actual scene from this story. Here's what Lee drew back then:

And here's what Ivan Reis drew for the official story:

Very similar, yes, but there were more than enough differences to really bug me. Johns basically had a whole year to plot events in Justice League and Justice League of America to get to that moment, but he apparently changed his mind or forgot what DC co-publisher Jim Lee drew. Of course, I wouldn't be so mad if the fighting in this issue (and this whole crossover) didn't feel so forced and rushed. Throughout these six issues, all the heroes repeatedly, and reluctantly, got into brief fights out of some sense of obligation. And then all the fights ended faster than they began. What was the deal with Pandora's box going dormant? Basically, I'm upset because I feel cheated. I was promised a big event that pitted all my heroes against each other. But Johns couldn't come up with a more compelling reason for everybody to fight each other than a magical evil box that turned everyone evil. But then we learned that the magical box was not magical at all, even though everything it ever did screamed of magic. And for an issue titled "Conclusion," it wasn't very conclusive. Sure, we got a couple of nice reveals, and I enjoyed them, but ultimately, this whole Trinity War was not much of an event in itself, and just an extended prelude for Forever Evil. Hopefully that epic storyline will be more satisfying.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time: Before jumping into Forever Evil, I'm going back to hit some passive Flash appearances I missed the first time around. But first, I'll review the final Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato issue, The Flash #25.

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