Following along from last week’s prelude we have this week, the first part of the main event in Justice League #22.
Now immediately you may notice that the first issue has a rather strange cover, seemingly incomplete. That's because the covers of the this issue of Justice League, plus the next issues Justice League Of America and Justice League Dark form a tryptic image. The concluding three issues’ covers of this crossover will form another image too. This is a fully tied in crossover story, both in terms of plot and presentation.
The build up has promised to shock the readers. There will be a murder. There will be a surprise killer, and there will be big repercussions too. Geoff Johns' first issue certainly keeps this in mind.
Opening on a very wet night in the middle of nowhere, Madame Xanadu hosts a frightened and weary young woman, prompting the psychic to become the issue's narrator, guiding the reader through the entire issue. Her tarot cards introduce the different characters from the DCU, before then expanding on them from wherever they left off in recent issues. Chief among them is young Billy Batson, the newly minted Shazam, who is another significant driving force behind the story. Following on from his recent clash with Black Adam, Billy decides that the best thing to do is visit Kahndaq and scatter his ashes, because, “Bad guys deserve to be buried too.” Guided by a child's morality and ideals, this powerhouse on a par with Superman casually flies into an international crisis in the making, because he recently saw two of his heroes do it as well.
This is essentially the catalyst to bring the Justice League into play, as they seek to remove him from a diplomatic incident. Director Waller sends the JLA in to the fray for similar reasons, albeit with the original Justice League as their targets. With tensions already frayed, things are stretched even further as these two teams do not see eye to eye.
To make matters worse, while on en route Superman and Wonder Womam encounter Pandora, who feels that Superman is the pure of heart soul she needs to open the box. This massively backfires and has enormous repercussions when the Man Of Steel encounters Doctor Light. Their two sets of powers interact with unpredicted and dangerous results, culminating in a shocking moment as Superman apparently kills him in a fit of rage. But is this what has really happened? The Question, the man who epitomises shadows and mystery, is already asking questions about the bigger picture, the real story and the honest truth of the matter. Nothing is clean cut or as it seems.
As a reader, would we really expect anything less from Geoff Johns?
Ivan Reis, who is almost as much of an industry standard as Johns himself, is at the visually creative helm. For those who saw his work on Blackest Night (or recently on the Justice League), you'll be familiar with his strong style and most of the visuals hit the mark. There are a couple of times when I felt perhaps things were a little too overemphasised - Shazam’s boyish glee for example, as he realises that he’s just knocked Superman off his feet. That can be easily overlooked though, when one looks at the other truly iconic images, such as when the Justice League are stood over Captain Marvel demanding to know why he’s in a foreign land. Though small. that image is powerful and imposing. Although there is a clear foreground, everyone has weight and standing.
As the first part, this issue has certainly waded in and got knee deep and dirty with the story. There isn’t any shirking and whilst there aren’t many questions answered - with plenty more asked - you’re already invested and brought into the arc. You may need to hit the ground running with this one, but if you can then it is worth it. I’m almost sad at the thought that there is so few issues to Trinity War.
Matt Puddy wonders who the mysterious individual is on the final page...