In every great mystery, there are a certain number of dead ends and red herrings. Like trying to navigate Lower Manhattan blindfolded, the heroes will inevitably butt heads with people who stumble into the crossfire and the villain will grow bolder and probably get a few laughs out of it along the way. Add escalating tensions between two superhero teams to the mix and the final product is akin to Sherlock Holmes meets Wrestlemania. That is the backdrop for DC’s Trinity War and in Justice League of America #7, those tensions become more volatile than the Hulk in a traffic jam.
The first few issues of the Trinity War crossover focused having the Justice League, the Justice League of America, and Justice League Dark converge in a central conflict. Now that conflict is moving in many different directions, so much so that keeping up requires a certain level of multi-tasking. That may be well-suited for typical sales representative at Goldman Sachs, but for a comicbook. Pandora, the one who first set things into motion by confronting Superman with her evil box, has not gone to the opposite end of the spectrum and sought out Lex Luthor for his help. It shows that she’s growing increasingly desperate or has a very flawed definition of insanity.
Pandora’s role is somewhat secondary in this issue because both the Justice League and the JLA are focused on uncovering the truth about Dr. Light’s death. Unlike the unfettered brawl that defined Avengers vs. X-men, both teams managed to contain themselves long enough to agree that there are other forces at work behind this conflict. The very first issue of Trinity War revealed this and now each team is seeking answers from a different source. And both sources end up being a dead end or a red herring. At one point, both leagues seem to be getting frustrated and ongoing mistrust between both teams isn’t helping. At times it feels like Harry Potter trying to work with Lord Voldermort.
One source involves certain members of each league tracking down Dr. Light’s dead soul with the mystical resources provided by Justice League Dark. Yet even though Dr. Light probably was in the best possible position to know the truth, he told them nothing. And they only found this out after spending nearly two pages trying to enter the house in the first place. It was supposed to be comical, but came off as a bit of a waste that didn’t add much to the narrative. And maybe that was the point. It showed that the sinister forces they’re up against is smart enough to make them waste time.
Another group of leaguers follow another lead with Dr. Psycho and while this ends up being a red herring, it’s not a dead end and it actually does provide something more to the story. It also provides some brief but intense action that nicely conveys the desperation and frustration the three Justice Leagues are feeling at this point. The artwork nicely details the corruption Superman is still struggling with as a result of his encounter with Pandora. It also nicely describes Martian Manhunter not holding back when probing Dr. Psycho’s mind. He’s able to surmise that Dr. Psycho was in Kahndaq when the Justice League and JLA clashed. However, he was not the one controlling Superman. And for the first time, the Secret Society is mentioned, finally putting a name on the sinister force that has been tormenting the leagues.
This alone is an important clue to the mystery, but it quickly gets lost by another revelation that seems ill-timed yet not out of place. It has been hinted at before that the JLA has had a spy keeping tabs on the Justice League. Well that spy finally comes clean, also revealing these covert activities were why the JLA knew that the Justice League was in Kahndaq in the first place. It fills in one significant blank, but it has no emotional weight. Some of her teammates are dismayed, but nobody seems all that upset about it. There’s no angry outburst or anything. It lacks the emotional weight that was so apparent in the first few issues when everyone was concerned about Superman. Without that emotional weight, the mystery loses suspense. It’s like Bruce Willis stopping for fast food in the middle of a Die Hard movie.
While this revelation didn’t carry much weight, the momentum of the story remains intact. The Secret Society has been revealed and another group of leaguers has caught up with Pandora. They manage to catch up with her just before she can give Lex Luthor her box. But in the process, Wonder Woman takes it and now she endures the same corruptive force that Superman experienced earlier. In a ways, this reflects the frustrations of the three leagues boiling over. Wonder Woman already knows what the box is capable of because she saw what it did to Superman. But since the Secret Society has been several steps ahead of them and they keep hitting dead ends, they have no choice but to confront the most immediate threat. And in doing so the DC universe now has two of its most powerful figures, Superman and Wonder Woman, corrupted by a force they don’t understand.
The mystery and the desperation of the three Justice Leagues were what made this issue compelling. The tension between each team is still there, but it wasn’t quite as volatile as it was at the beginning of the story. This issue did fill in a few blanks. It just didn’t do so in a way that felt coherent. It was like a dance routine where the song started skipping in the middle of the act. Never-the-less, Justice League of America #7 successfully maintains the momentum that Trinity War has established. The challenge is making sure it doesn’t lead to anymore dead ends.