It Was All Building To This: “Justice League #22”

Colonel Hannibal Smith of the A-Team was right to love it when a plan came together. A well-orchestrated convergence of details and timing is a beautiful thing. Every great story demonstrates this to some degree. From Shakespeare to Michael Bay movies, the value and appeal of a story is predicated on its ability to bring multiple elements and plots together into a single, unified product.

However, there’s a trade-off for the kinds of plans that the A-Team are so good at crafting. There’s an exceedingly narrow window for convergence in a story. Move too fast and key details are lost, which is akin to Murdock crashing the helicopter. Move too slow and those details lose their meaning, which is akin to Mr. T taking a wrong turn during a car chase with mobsters. DC often sets itself apart from Marvel by saturating their stories with details. That’s what was presented with Flashpoint and that’s what has been promised with “Trinity War”. Justice League #22 marks the beginning of “Trinity War” and a convergence of numerous details that have been unfolding between the panels.

In this story, characters such as Shazam and Pandora, who have been background characters since the New 52 began, finally play an active role in a much larger story. Those who have been following Justice League finally get some payoff for the Shazam origin story that appended the end of every Justice League comic for the past year. In wake of Shazam’s defeat of Black Adam, he must make a fateful decision on what to do with the ashes of Black Adam. It is this decision that creates the circumstances that put the Justice League and the competing Justice League of America in the deserts of Khandaq. And it feels all the more fitting that this decision is rendered by a pre-pubescent boy whose understanding of global politics doesn’t extend beyond World of Warcraft.

But that isn’t the only plot that leads to the convergence of the Justice League and the JLA. Pandora, whose story has been unfolding in other books, also enters the picture when she approaches Superman about her mythical box. Having been a shadow in the New 52 since its inception, it’s refreshing, albeit overdue, to see her contribute to a major story. And it’s partially because of her actions that Superman ends up throwing the first punch in the “Trinity War”. In addition, visions with Madam Xanadu offer a telling insight into how badly this war ends. It doesn’t feel like a spoiler, but it does give the reader an idea of how badly this could go.

The clash between the two leagues and the subsequent impact on the reader can either be this issue’s greatest appeal or its greatest flaw. In the past, DC’s strongest events involved stories that casual readers could pick up and understand what was going on even if they hadn’t been following the issues leading up to it. This was part of what made Blackest Night so appealing to many readers and stories like Infinite Crisis fodder for angry readers on message boards. Justice League #22 is not quite on the same level as Blackest Night, but it is in the same zip code.

Readers who have been following Justice League and nothing else will feel rewarded for their dedication. Readers who have been following only Justice League of America will feel just as rewarded. But casual readers who haven’t been following either series closely will still get something out of this one issue. It doesn’t offer every detail about Pandora or Shazam or the Justice League’s recent activity in Khandaq, but it offers enough to make the story both coherent and epic. It’s basically a comic that fans of Avatar and Pulp Fiction could get behind.

That said, casual fans may still be at a disadvantage. Without knowing the details surrounding Shazam or the recent story about Superman and Wonder Woman’s activities in Khandaq, the impact of this story might be lost. Taken from the perspective of someone who is just curious about DC, who also happen to be the segment of the market that comic book publishers covet the most, this issue takes the form of just another superhero mash-up. And in a market where events like Marvel’s Civil War and Avengers vs. X-men are still fresh in peoples’ minds, this may be a major turnoff. Lately, it seems as though big events can only happen when heroes fight each other. It’s getting to the point where readers might suspect that the villains in comics are getting lazy.

But what keeps the first issue of “Trinity War” from echoing the same sentiment as Avengers vs. X-men is the ending. Even casual readers will feel the impact of the ending because it gives a clear and definitive message about the story. It’s not just about two teams of heroes fighting. Someone devious is pulling the strings and with DC’s upcoming villain month, it reassures readers that the villains in comics are not getting lazy. They’re just working smarter and not harder.

There are lots of appealing aspects about “Trinity War” and Justice League #22 demonstrates nearly all of them in a neatly contained package. The challenge now is to not overwhelm the readers with too many details and tie-ins, which DC has a nasty habit of doing. For now, at least, Trinity War is off to a promising start. Everything that has been unfolding in the DC universe is starting to come together and like the A-Team, there’s a lot to love about a plan that comes together.

RATING 9 / 10