Justice League #22 is a Summer Action Extragavanza with a Bit of a Brain Too

Justice League 22MadameXanadu
Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciler: Ivan Reis
Inkers: Oclair Albert, Joe Prado
Colors: Rod Reis
Publisher: DC Comics

Justice League #22 could never be done as a film. It is the first chapter of DC’s first true “epic” in the New 52 filled with exotic locations, intense action sequences, and heroes crossing the line. However, unlike some other events, the seed for this “Trinity War” have been sown since Justice League #1 and scattered throughout Geoff John’s run on that book. Everything, from the new team members to the Pandora cameos and especially the Shazam backup, all pay off in a book that could end up changing how readers view classic characters, like Batman and Superman. However, this book isn’t perfect and contains a little too much exposition. Also, sometimes characters do things that either seem dumb or out of character. There are mystery elements in this book, especially in the scenes involving the Question, so these out of character moments may have a purpose in the end.

Justice League #22 is the literal climax of the New 52. The chance formation of the Justice League because of Darkseid’s invastion, the formation of the Justice League of America to keep the Justice League in line, and even the emergence of Billy Batson as Shazam all come together in one storyline. Even “incidental” characters, like new Justice League recruits Atom and Firestorm, Madame Xanadu, and Doctor Light, play an integral role in the start of the Trinity War. There is an actual reason for this conflict that makes sense. The Superman/Wonder Woman romance has even caused Batman to take countermeasures so why wouldn’t the Justice League of America be afraid of what these characters could do if they ever became out of control.

However, one thing that might turn off long time DC readers to Justice League #22 is the dark and divided nature of these heroes. The characterization is in line with what readers have seen in both Justice League and the early issues of Action Comics which show a brasher hero who isn’t afraid to cut loose with his heat vision once in a while. Dating Wonder Woman who isn’t against killing villains also unlocks Superman’s darker, more violent side. However, there is also a feeling that the heroes aren’t being themselves for some reason or another. Appearances by the mysterious Trinity of Sin: Pandora, Phantom Stranger, and The Question don’t help with these feelings. These forces aren’t explained entirely, but Pandora’s motivation is relatively clear. There is a reason that she was in all the first issues of the New 52. The Question’s allegiances are still a mystery, but hopefully the event will develop the character and his motivations.

Ivan Reis’ art gives  Justice League #22 the power it deserves. He practices good panel economy by using smaller panels for intimate conversations and cutting from location to location and uses the splash page for big reveals and important scenes.  Reis is at ease handling a large cast, and his character drawings are detailed and unique. He uses the recurring motif of Madame Xanadu’s tarot cards to add depth to the important players in “Trinity War”. The interplay between the cryptic symbolism and superhero action turns the first chapter of “Trinity War” into the “action mystery” that Geoff Johns promised us. Rod Reis’ colors are amazing and shine in the action sequences whether through Superman’s heat visions, Shazam’s magic, or the variety of dark rooms that Ivan Reis draws. The potential that Ivan Reis showed when he was drawing the “Throne of Atlantis” crossover come to fruition in “Trinity War”.

As a first chapter in an event, there was a quite a bit of exposition. Madame Xanadu’s characterization devolved from the fully-developed character seen in the last arc of Justice League Dark to a plot device that gives cryptic explanations about the events of the story. But most of this narration happened at the beginning of the book, and Justice League #22 had a strong third act full of superhero vs. superhero action and behind the scenes manipulation. Some of this action derives from characters acting out of character, but it is beautiful to look at and has real consequences. The theme of the conflict between the government and metahumans comes to a head in Justice League #22 and is explored in a few scenes with Batman, but most of the focus is on the action and mystery.

Justice League #22 isn’t a particularly deep comic and involves a lot of jumping from scene to scene, but it is an enjoyable, action-packed comic. Geoff Johns can handle big casts of characters (especially with Ivan Reis to draw them), and most of the conflict in this issue stem from the conflict that he has been building up in his Justice League and Justice League of America runs. This kind of long form storytelling is one of the strengths of the comics medium, and this story is only really beginning.

 

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