Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Ivan Reis
Inkers: Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Eber Ferreira
Colorist: Rod Reis
Publisher: DC Comics
This was a hard comic to review because of the spoilers leaked by DC about their upcoming Forever Evil miniseries. However, despite a little bit of the ending being ruined, Justice League #23 ties together all the loose ends of “Trinity War” and also sets up Forever Evil nicely. There are callbacks to previous events in the Justice League series, like Darkseid’s invasion and 2012’s Free Comic Book Day issue. Geoff Johns also finds time to comment on several of the heroes’ subplots and flesh out the new villain(s) between the action sequences. Ivan Reis shows why he is the perfect choice for drawing big comics events with several splash pages of heroes fighting each other. But Justice League #23’s strength is its clear, logical plot, and the fact that it has an actual effect on the DC Universe.
After a couple issues of fighting, traveling, and slow pacing, Geoff Johns cuts loose with his plot in this issue. After the heroes grapple for a while, he goes straight into an extended denouement that answers “What is the evil behind the evil?” and reveals what the Trinity War actually means. His writing perfectly balances superhero action and murder mystery. Even little scenes, like Firestorm learning how to make kryptonite, and even the choice of narrators for the series end up having a huge effect on the conclusion of “Trinity War”. Each of the new Justice League recruits (Firestorm, Element Woman, Atom) have important roles to play in this issue. Unlike Infinite Crisis, which involved some plot contrivances and one of the biggest deus ex machinas in comics history, the ending of “Trinity War” is fairly straightforward and not unlike DC’s early “crossover” events, like “The Flash of Two Worlds” and the Silver Age “Crisis stories. However, Johns doesn’t indulge in nostalgia, but raises the stakes and creates new characters for his story.
Ivan Reis was born to draw large ensembles of superheroes fighting each other. Even though having three inkers sometimes muddies the details of his work, Reis’ splash pages are detailed and aren’t just pinups. They combine with Johns’ scripts to shock the reader with each new reveal. There will be a word balloon, and then a splash will develop a seemingly throwaway line of dialogue into a major moment for the characters. Reis isn’t afraid to make his characters ugly and twisted too, especially when he shows the effects of Pandora’s Box on them. He also uses minimalist backgrounds with The Outsider to contrast him with the various Justice Leagues. Rod Reis’ colors amplify the effect of Pandora’s Box which bleeds into every panel. Justice League #23 is a textbook example of how to draw action scenes with large cast of characters.
Justice League #23 will probably go down as one of the best issues that Geoff Johns has written in his career. The book reads like a particularly dark episode of the Justice League cartoon with its emphasis on both action and long marinating character subplots, like Superman and Wonder Woman’s romance and Cyborg’s new body. He melds the tropes of the murder mystery and superhero vs. superhero story to create a comics event that has a big impact on the DC Universe. Johns plays with concepts and characters from DC Comics’ past, but isn’t afraid to create new characters, like Simon Baz and Rhonda Pineda, as well as make Vertigo characters, such as John Constantine and Madame Xanadu, important players in “Trinity War”. The character interactions and consequences of Justice League #23 are foreboding, but Ivan Reis’ magnificent art makes it an enjoyable read even though the heroes end up on the short end of the stick.