Comics Review – Justice League #22: Trinity War

Justice League #22: Trinity War Part One

(This review contains spoilers for Justice League #22)

Created almost three years ago, the new DC universe is about to experience a war of super-heroes. Underneath that war, another conflict continues. This battle is over a fairly fundamental question to human nature: where does evil come from?

Superman, Wonder Woman, and The Batman are leading a team called the Justice League. They don’t belong to any country, and stand together as role models, and a symbol of cooperation. Amanda Waller and Steve Trevor are two people employed by the United States government with a plan. They are, understandably, reluctant to let the powerful Justice League wander freely across the Earth, despite the lives they save. Waller and Trever created the Justice League of America (JLA) as a check to the original League. A third team appeared independently of the others: the Justice League Dark set out to prevent magic and deeply supernatural events from spiraling out of control. Considering the deep supernatural nature of current events, they are pulled, inevitably, into a battle.

Magic and myth play a role in this comic book story: Pandora, of the myth “Pandora’s box”, is trying to force the evil she unwittingly unleashed back into the box it came from. At the same time, the magical champion Shazam, sometimes called Captain Marvel, wants to honor the passing of his arch enemy Black Adam by scattering his ashes over the deserts of Adam’s home country. Pandora and Shazam’s missions, despite their good intentions, appear to cause a fight in the desert between the Justice League, and the JLA.

Throughout the Comic book, this question is raised several times: where does evil come from?

Art

The best visual feature of the book, aside from the detailed and lifelike pencil work, is how uncluttered the actions and events flow across the panels. Speech bubbles and lettering is not a chore to read, and the character’s voices are matches expertly with their body language depicted. It’s entertaining.

Pace is strong: as tensions builds in the comic book story, the size of the panels adjusts. When the tension reaches it’s peak, a full page is devoted to the action. Colour and visual effects make these full page artworks powerful images, which could stand on their own.

Cast

Pandora and Superman have a brief, but important conversation – Pandora believes that all evil in the world stemmed from her opening the box, and unleashing spirits called the seven sins onto the Earth. Superman is skeptical. He states the humans are not evil because someone opened a box. Essentially, the argument is whether evil and wrong-doing has an external, or an internal source.

Madame Xanadu is a card reader and psychic working for the Justice League Dark. She reads a custom built set of Tarot cards: the heroes of the DC universe are the figures, not the traditional suits and trumps found in a tarot deck. Xanadu narrates the comic book, and may have uncovered a deeper layer to the story. Aside from the Leagues and the government, the super-villains of the DC universe may be working toward a common goal. This sub-plot is underplayed to make room for the war.

A showdown between Shazam and Superman is satisfying reading. Shazam can match Superman’s strength, and it’s good to see that DC have taken Superman’s extreme power levels down a notch – he cannot easily knock out Shazam, or the Martian Manhunter ( a member of the JLA with a battery of abilities).

Themes, Ethics, Values.

Where does evil come from?

Greek myths and legends combined with Judeo and Christian writings form the foundation of this comic book. The concept of evil in the form of  sin has been a part of Catholic writings and theology for two thousand years. Pandora believes that Superman can open the box, and return the seven sins to their prison. Indeed, the Catechism of the Catholic faith states that it is the role of God to save humanity from sin through Jesus Christ, the son of God.

Superman is a bit like Jesus because he is viewed as a saviour, and once returned from death. Pandora makes the association too. She asks him to open the box, but that doesn’t work. Superman is corrupted by the evil of the box. What does this say about Superman? DC comics could want a limit on the association between Superman and Christ: He is a super hero, but not an eternal, spiritual saviour described in the texts of Catholic faith.

The issue is more complex than it appears: it takes more than one saviour to pick out the evil parts of the world and put them in a box. That’s the key value being discussed here, alongside the origin of evil in humanity, and even the extraction of evil from human lives. Future installments could cover these questions and themes in more detail.

A Bit more on Justice League #22

Trinity war recruits mythology, and combines it with ideas from theological writing. By having Madam Xanadu – the card reader – acting as narrator, the comic book ties itself firmly to supernatural and fantasy themes. Trinity War (part one) presents an interesting discussion of good and evil, and provides great artwork and mystery.

Justice League #22 is published by DC comics. $3.99 Geoff Johns (w). Ivan Reis (p). Joe Prado & Oclair Albert (i). Rod Reis (c). DC Lettering (l). Cover art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Rod Reis.

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