The second half of “Trinity War” starts right here!
** THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW. DEAL WITH IT **
Doug Mahnke really steps it up this month with stellar work that feels like an improvement even from Justice League of America #6. I tend to find Mahnke’s penciling to look too statuesque and not real enough, as if he’s drawing an artist’s representation of another artist’s representation of the human form. In the pages of Justice League of America #7, however, Mahnke’s facial expressions are top-notch, the pacing of the panels is straightforward, and a few choice panels really drive home the emotional impact this war of Justice Leagues is having on the various members of those teams.
Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire do a great job of keeping the dialogue interesting throughout the issue. Lex Luthor’s reaction to Pandora is amusing, Element Woman’s naivety continues to be a high point of this event, and it’s more evident than ever that Johns and Lemire are choosing each word they use very, very carefully.
When Martian Manhunter gets ahold of Dr. Psycho, he delves into the villain’s mind to retrieve information, “Even if it means tearing his twisted little mind apart.” This single sentence has a large bearing on how the New 52 differs from its pre-reboot counterpart. Before Flashpoint, there was a hugely important story called Identity Crisis that involved the Justice League stepping over the line by manipulating the mind of the villain Doctor Light, as well as one of their own: Batman. Identity Crisis was a major turning point for the Justice League and the DC universe, in general, as writers and readers were forced to see their heroes in a new light. In the New 52, it seems, this sort of ethical dilemma isn’t quite as impactful. Manhunter has no issue with scouring and possibly destroying the brain of a know enemy. I like how there is an obvious difference in storytelling aesthetic, BUT…
Johns and Lemire fail to adequately handle this new, broad moral spectrum that they’ve created in “Trinity War.” I understand that J’onn J’onzz is a different character from his pre-New 52 self, but that’s not really the point; the main takeaway from his interaction with Dr. Psycho is that no one else seems to mind that Manhunter is psychically torturing and/or maiming a perceived threat. I say perceived because Manhunter’s group of various Leaguers really has no idea if Psycho is or is not to blame for the mental attack on Superman. It’s hard to imagine that no one piped up to question Manhunter’s extreme tactics. The actions of the members of all three Leagues are increasingly erratic and questionable, which perhaps might be the idea behind this event, but if so, it’s not being conveyed well enough.
Justice League of America #7 is very much a “time out” issue wherein there’s a whole lot less doing and a whole lot more talking. Our main action for the issue comes from Cyborg, Manhunter, and Superman’s team going after Dr. Psycho, and even that plotline leads to a lot of conversation about status quos, allegiances, and the like. Batman’s splintered group at the House of Mystery is playing the waiting game, while Luthor and Pandora’s conversation is just more posturing. The pacing of “Trinity War” is very, very odd and doesn’t seem to make much sense in the issue-by-issue format in which we are ingesting the story. Perhaps when it’s all said and done things will make more sense, structurally speaking, but for right now, it’s somewhat of a mess.
Also, Dr. Psycho is completely, totally, 100% different from the version we’ve been reading in Superboy, where he’s a reluctant ally of the Boy of Steel. It’s very, very jarring to see a rather lighthearted character written so violently. Psycho is a pretty level headed guy in Superboy, so it just doesn’t make any sense that he’d be so dark and evil here in Justice League of America #7. This is a glaring example of inconsistency in characterization between titles and it’s embarrassing.
Justice League of America #7 is the weakest issue of “Trinity War” yet. There’s a fair amount of processing that needed to happen from what transpired in the first half of the crossover event. Unfortunately, Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire somewhat missed the mark.