Justice League #22
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Rod Reis
Lettering by DC Lettering
Published by DC Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Since the launch of The New 52, DC has largely concentrated on recreating individual characters for a new generation. Through fits and starts, reboots and cancellations, the absence of an overarching narrative has been somewhat filled by the promise of an event that will tie these disparate threads together. With the launch issue of “The Trinity War”, DC begins to make good on that promise by tying Pandora - a character present at the birth of everything (literally, she appeared in every #1 issue of the original 52 titles that launched this new universe) - into the main storyline of DC’s flagship title.
With Shazam’s origin story now complete, and Pandora introduced to her own title in Trinity of Sin: Pandora, Geoff Johns sets about pulling together all of the books that bear the name “Justice League.” To this end, Justice League #22 is mostly a prelude, albeit one that brings a hell of a bang in the second half. Framed within a tale recounted to Madame Xanadu, we flash forward briefly to the aftermath of the Trinity War, in which hope appears to have been lost. Prior to that, young Billy Batson attempts to honor the memory of his fallen foe Black Adam, but causes an international incident when he crosses Kahndaq’s borders. The resulting scuffle results in a fight that finally pitches the Justice League against the Justice League of America, who was created explicitly for this purpose.
While much of the first act of Justice League #22 is exposition, this works in the book’s favor, allowing new readers to jump aboard for what will no doubt be a crucial event. Johns does a terrific job of pulling together what has been essentially four or five separate stories, incorporating not only the three main titles that this will span over the coming months, but introducing several new players into the mix as well. The Phantom Stranger has already been seen in the New 52, and so has The Question to some extent, but now they are interacting with the universe. Indeed, this is what marks this issue as distinct from the sometimes-winding path that has led it here: it’s an advancement of the story rather than a conscious effort to divorce it from the rest of the world.
Series regular artist Ivan Reis delivers some top-notch blockbuster artwork here. From the dark visions of the future to the double-page spreads of the Justice Leagues fighting amongst themselves, this is the stuff of giddy fan-service and there is something overwhelmingly pleasing about that. There’s a splash page of Superman losing his proverbial sh*t that is a perfect pin-up, but the delight is in the details. Reis includes a Shazam that is consistent with Gary Frank’s reworked version of the character, while simultaneously giving it his own spin.
Justice League #22 comes at a time when DC needs to win back fans, jaded after two years of reboots and gimmicks. With an issue packed with portents, action, and a couple of major deaths, The Trinity War shows the promise that the New 52 did back in 2011. Let’s hope it survives its own first wave.