Trinity War is here! DC has been building up to this event for months and now, we finally get to see how the three Justice Leagues are at odds with one another and how their turmoil affects the greater scope.
** IF YE HATE SPOILERS…BEWARE!!! **
As a first chapter of a major crossover event, Geoff Johns hits the nail on the head with Justice League #22, giving readers a cohesive introduction to this major event that is brewing in the DC universe. Johns excels at long-form storytelling, and Trinity War proves that many of the elements introduced in Justice League and Justice League of America—since they each respectively began—connect in ways we are just now beginning to understand. Johns has already set up the board, now it’s time to move the pieces.
Madame Xanadu as a framing technique is a fantastic way to structure this first chapter. It allows Johns to jump between different scenes without the issue feeling fragmented. But, in true Geoff Johns fashion, more questions are raised than are answered by Xanadu’s portents of war and destruction—especially the magical factor of this “Trinity War” equation. Also, I really want Xanadu’s tarot cards of the various heroes as a poster. Ivan Reis does phenomenal work in this issue and the cards are one of best aspects of the art.
I was skeptical about Shazam as a key player in this crossover, especially since up until last issue, he still hadn’t really grasped the breadth of his powers and the responsibility that came with them. Fortunately, my concerns are put to rest this month as Johns moves Billy Batson into the forefront of Trinity War in a big way: he’s the reason there’s so much animosity.
When Billy decides to honor Black Adam’s death (because “even ‘bad guys’ deserve to be buried,” as he puts it) by returning his ashes to his homeland of Khandaq, Shazam sparks a superhuman war borne of politics and egotistical notions of control and duty.
Even though “Trinity War”s biggest selling point is getting to see all our favorite Leaguers—no matter which League—duke it out, Johns has made sociological science the real focal point of this conflict. Who has the higher authority: the Justice League or the Justice League of America? Who decides how to handle Shazam: the JLA because he’s an American citizen crossing international borders, or the Justice League Dark because they specializes in mystical endeavors? Who is responsible for policing the others?
While it is mostly fun and enjoyable, Justice League #22 is still just the first chapter of Trinity War, which means there’s a whole lot of set-up. Something big happens at the end, yes, but most of the issue is build-up. We see the major players beginning to make moves that will affect everything around them.
** I REPEAT, REAL SPOILERS AHEAD! **
Superman murders Dr. Light. That’s the big catalyst that starts the entire Trinity War. And it’s a big, big letdown. Even before this issue came out, critics and journalists were positing that DC would soon have Superman kill someone to help with cohesion between Man of Steel in cinemas and the Man of Steel we see in comic books. Obviously, this idea had been in the pipeline for a while, but the result is a lackluster gimmick that comes across and pandering fan service.
Thus far in the New 52, Doctor Arthur Light has been a tertiary character. He’s made a handful of appearances in both Justice League and JLA, but his role was mostly limited to “brilliant scientist” until he accidentally imbued himself with the ability to sap light energy wherever he goes.
The problem is that Dr. Light is not important enough to have an impactful death. DC is still in the process of building the New 52 universe, and killing off a character like Dr. Light at this point weakens the integrity of this comic book universe as a whole.
On some level, Johns may have been hearkening back to Identity Crisis, wherein the pre-New 52 Dr. Light raped Sue Dibny—wife of the Elongated Man—before having his memories wiped by Zatanna in one of the Justice League’s darkest hours. But even if he was trying to make some sort of connection or reference, it just doesn’t land and comes across in bad taste.
As for Superman’s reason for murdering Light, well, that’s upsetting as well. Clark Kent is a poised guy; he is one of the most self-aware beings on the planet because he has to be or else everything falls apart. The idea behind the murder of Dr. Light is just that—“things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” Dr. Light accidentally absorbs Superman’s yellow sun energy and expels it at Wonder Woman. Since Clark and Diana are romantically involved, Superman is blinded by rage and kills Dr. Light.
This is just preposterous. Superman doesn’t know that Wonder Woman can handle the blast? I know that Wonder Woman can handle the blast and I’ve never actually met the woman because she’s fictional. The idea that Clark loses sight of himself over someone attacking Wonder Woman is frankly insulting. It’s happened a number of times in far more dangerous situations.
While Justice League #22 does a fine job setting up Trinity War, there are a few big missteps that pull the issue down. It’s obviously too early to make a call on the overall quality of Trinity War as a crossover event, but as a single issue, Chapter 1 isn’t the awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping opening act many were hoping to read.