Justice League of America #6
Writers: Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire
Penciller/Inker: Doug Mahnke
Inkers: Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Tom Nguyen
Colorists: Gabe Eltaeb, Nathan Eyring
Publisher: DC Comics
Like many of the “event” comics released recently (Marvel’s Age of Ultron and Avengers vs. X-Men spring to mind), “Trinity War” will read much better in trade paperback format. Nothing could top last issue’s carnage and action with Superman killing Dr. Light after being sucker punched by Shazam. This issue begins with the fallout of that battle, but then has literal pages of characters getting their wounds bandaged. Text boxes representing the thoughts of the mysterious Question try to tie the different threads of the book together, but they mostly repeat things from last issue or state the obvious. However, one of the strengths of decompressed comics are more time for character moments, and there are some of those in this book. Every scene with Wonder Woman is a treat, and she almost singlehandedly keeps this issue from being a complete bore. Doug Mahnke also makes a triumphant return to the JLA book after an eight year absence even though his art isn’t as detailed because there are four credited inkers.
If there is a most annoying character in comics right now, it is the New 52’s version of the Question, who is neither Vic Sage nor Renee Montoya. His text boxes read like a bad parody of Rorschach mixed up with a Cliffs Notes’ version of existentialism. He has basically been the main villain of Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger, but is he helping the good guys in this one? Hopefully, by the end of “Trinity War”, Question will actually have some depth as a character and an actual purpose in the story other than acting as a bad Greek chorus for this issue which is actually easy to follow because of Mahnke’s art.
Other than the Question, JLA #6 plods at a glacial pace for most of the issue, except for the very beginning and end. The end of the Justice League vs. JLA fight scene is quite breathtaking, and Mahnke makes creative use of Martian Manhunter’s powers as he simultaneously headlocks Superman and wraps Flash in a tentacle. Superman and Vibe get beautiful one page showcases for very different reasons. But after the punching is over, most of the issue takes place in the ARGUS medical bay where they all are either guilty, afraid, or confused. There is some maneuvering from the big players, like Superman, Batman, and Amanda Waller, but the outcome of these actions will be seen in future issues. This is where JLA #6 fails as a stand-alone issue, but could pay off in the long run.
However, every scene that Wonder Woman appears in further develops her character as the most warlike member of the Justice League, who is filled with guilt and remorse because her “no killing” boyfriend Superman killed Dr. Light and also handled Pandora’s Box in the last issue. She also gets a full page conversation with Steve Trevor that succinctly reveals the differences between the Justice League and Justice League of America. Wonder Woman is also the impetus of some actual action that happens in the last third of the issue and definitely leads into the third chapter of “Trinity War” in Justice League Dark #22.
Along with the general awesomeness of Wonder Woman, Doug Mahnke’s art is the other bright spot in JLA #6. However, colorists Gabe Eltaeb and Nathan Eyring help the set the tone for each new setting from the burning desert of Kahndaq to the cold, sterile ARGUS base and some darker and more fantastic environs. But Mahnke creates some great pages for Eltaeb and Eyring to color over. Instead of just using the basic splash page, Mahnke uses inset panels to focus on character’s reactions to big events. One example of this is when Batman is talking to Superman, who has been placed in containment by the Justice League of America at ARGUS. Even though the Question is annoying as a character, Mahnke makes him visually stunning as a character and understands his thought process by zooming from the board he’s looking at to his face and hat and finally slightly changing his face. Like Reis before him, Mahnke does a great job juggling Trinity War’s large cast, and his work especially shines with various guest characters.
Justice League of America #6 isn’t a great or good comic by itself. The plot barely moves, and there are so many characters that it’s difficult to do any kind of meaningful character work with the exception of a few, like Wonder Woman, Superman, and Steve Trevor. The mystery aspect of this comic is also becoming cloying with Question’s text boxes and a painfully predictable cliffhanger at the end. However, some events at the end of this comic do give hope for the rest of the event, and hopefully Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes, and Mikel Janin can pick up the pace in Justice League Dark #22