Since Jeff Lemire took over the comic from Peter Milligan, Justice League Dark has been the best team book at DC. It contains fun, magical adventures with high stakes and an incredible cast of characters. It is intriguing, exhilarating, and as promised in the book’s title, dark. But it understands that “dark” and “gritty” do not have to be synonymous, and the result has been incredible.
While the book regularly features guest characters from around the DC Universe, (there’s a small core team with rotating guest members, the most recent being Flash and Swamp Thing), Trinity War is the first time since the I, Vampire crossover “Rise of the Vampires” that Justice League Dark has interacted with the greater DC Universe at large. So whereas they usually just interacted with one or two other characters in the DCU at a time, the team is now involved with the big A-listers from both the Justice League and the JLA. So what does this mean for the book, and what does it mean for Trinity War? Are three Justice Leagues just too many? Well…
The biggest problem I’ve had with Trinity War in both Justice League and Justice League of America is how much of the spotlight Wonder Woman gets. Now, this isn’t because Wonder Woman’s a bad character or anything. Wonder Woman’s a great character… in her own book. In Azarello’s Wonder Woman, she’s a kind, compassionate, but powerful and take-charge person, who uses a mixture of strength and diplomacy to solve her problems, usually opting for the latter over the former.
Wonder Woman as written by Geoff Johns in the pages of Justice League and Justice League of America, however, tends to act like a violent madwoman whose actions are justified not by context, but by a holier-than-thou attitude. This was especially bad in Justice League of America #6. I’ve seen her actions in Chapter 2 of Trinity War defended by her acting this way out of love and desperation because of what’s happening to Superman, which is all well and good, except it doesn’t really seem any different from how Geoff Johns writes her all the time. Jeff Lemire, however, does not write Wonder Woman how Geoff Johns writes Wonder Woman. And that is a godsend.
Wonder Woman’s still on edge and dangerous, but thanks to Lemire’s characterization it actually comes off as concern for a loved one and taking control of the situation. In the previous chapter, Wonder Woman attacks Hephaestus, her friend, ally, and family member, out of nowhere. She just suddenly grabs him with the Lasso of Truth and starts interrogating him about Pandora’s Box, and the whole scene just leaves a bad taste in the mouth. In this issue, she does the same thing with the Phantom Stranger, but where Johns had previously justified this as “not having time for pleasantries”, Lemire actually gives good, solid reasoning for it.
I would like to thank/congratulate Mikel Janín now for not making this panel needlessly sexy when 90% of other comic book artists would have.
The issue’s plot is fantastic. In old interviews and press releases, different higher-ups at DC, such as Geoff Johns and Dan Didio, have stated that the “Trinity” in “Trinity War” doesn’t just relate to one Trinity. In fact, we have a trinity of trinities. There’s the Trinity of Sin (Pandora, the Phantom Stranger, and the Question), who are central to the plot. There’s the trinity of Justice Leagues in the story. And we were promised that it would also relate to DC’s own main trinity of heroes; Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.
Now we’re finally seeing the divide here. The Trinity of Justice Leagues is obvious, but how the other trinities get involved has become apparent. The three leagues have been split into three groups, not just by roster, but by how they operate and goals they have, all relating to the death that kicked off the story arc.
Cyborg can fly now. Whether this was an idea that Johns and Lemire had individually, or whether this was an editorial mandate passed along because he can fly in the Teen Titans Go! cartoon, it’s pretty cool.
You have Batman’s team, investigating the murdered hero, aided by the Phantom Stranger. You have Wonder Woman’s team, who think the answer to Superman’s problems is magical and are looking for Pandora. And you have Superman’s team, who are trying to find out what caused the murder in the first place, aided by the Question. Trinity War has split into three story arcs, all related, and all leading to one big conclusion, and we’re only halfway there. It’s fantastic.
The art in this book is to die for. Mikel Janín is one of the best artists at DC right now, and though he hasn’t done much (he’s pretty much exclusively been on Justice League Dark since the New 52 started, having also done Flashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons right before that), what he lacks in experience, he makes up for in talent. Janin’s figures are all distinct. No two characters look the same, and it’s not just because of their costumes. Everybody is built differently, and more importantly, everybody’s face looks different. And that is even more important to note, because it shows that Mikel Janín’s art is improving.
At the beginning of the New 52, pretty much every female character drawn by Mikel Janín had the same face, while all the men were distinct. It was kind of distracting, because Wonder Woman, Zatanna, and Madame Xanadu all looked the same from the neck up, just with different hair. Let’s look at some women from Justice League Dark #1…
And let’s take a look at them now…
Aquaman is the most beautiful of them all.
None of the three women in this panel look the same. There’s still not as much variety as the male characters have (the number of different man chins Janín is capable of drawing is absolutely astounding), but it’s better than when he started, and more importantly, it just looks really good overall.
Also, Jeremy Cox’s colors are just awesome. Justice League Dark, while not using a reserved color palette, hasn’t even really been a book I would describe as “colorful”. But when you bring in all these superheroes, that changes quickly.
The Justice League Dark members don’t really do anything. They just kinda hang around while Wonder Woman and Batman debate the best course of action. So far, Trinity War has been almost entirely the League and the JLA, but hopefully the JLD will start taking a more active role in the action next month. Honestly, though, I don’t really find it much of a problem. It’s better for them to let the story progress in the way it should rather than just shoehorn in as much dialogue as possible for Frankenstein and Constantine to appease the fans. I’m sure every character will get their big cool moment somewhere down the line, so there’s really no need to worry about it right now.
This is definitely a transitional period for Trinity War. I’d say that with this issue, the story has entered its second act. Characters have clear goals and motivations now, and the story’s looking really interesting. While a lot of Trinity War’s advertising has made the story look like your standard crossover smackdown, the story itself is all about the repercussions of what such a fight would actually be. Trinity War as a whole has been a really good, solid story all throughout, and if it continues on this level of quality, then the second half next month should be a real treat. It’s also nice to have a second writer in on this, because it brings in new ideas and a nice reprieve from some more tiring elements of the other writer’s work (Don’t get me wrong, Geoff Johns is great, but he really can’t write Wonder Woman).
Justice League Dark #22 is available for $3.99 USD from your local comic book store and digital retailers.