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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Trinity War and More

This week I'll be taking a look at DC's Justice League #22, the first part of the big crossover "Trinity War". Part 1 is written by Geoff Johns, the creative head honcho of the New52, and illustrated by Ivan Reis. DC has been forcing its many books into crossovers since the beginning of the reboot, allowing a 5 or 6 issue arc to establish the various titles, then shoehorning in an event or crossover between many titles. Some were good, some were not. For example, the forerunner seemed to be the "Night of the Owls" event that ran through the core Batman title with tie-ins throughout the other Bat-family books like Nightwing, Batman and Robin, and the rest. This event was well done by Scott Snyder with minimal intrusion into other titles by the tie in issues. Then you've got "The Culling", and event throughout the majority of issues of Teen Titans and Superboy. These two books were supposed to overlap but were just one big ham-fisted headache penned by Scott Lobdell, a guy who forgets that it's not the 90's anymore.

"Trinity War" could turn out to follow either of those. It has a structure similar to "The Culling" and Justice League's previous crossover "Throne of Atlantis" (which I actually enjoyed and was pretty simply executed thanks to both JL and Aquaman being written by Mr. Johns), where you start with JL #22 as Part 1, then pick up Part 2 in Justice League of America #6, and Part 3 in Justice League Dark, etc etc. This is a simple structure that allows the story to move on quick, as opposed to the "Court of Owls" story which only took place in Batman which, like every other title, is a monthly book. This allows Johns to get Trinity War out of the way quickly so he can then move on to his 7-part "Forever Evil" (pfhahaha) story and DC's latest mistake, Villains Month. But anyway, on to the book itself.

In the New52 universe, there are three mysterious entities that may or may not have something to do with why the DC 'verse was rebooted in the first place, if they decide to even address that. They are Pandora, The Phantom Stranger, and The Question. We don't know much about them, since Pandora only just had her first issue released last week, while Phantom Stranger has had a short and as I hear it mediocre run of around 10 issues. While we don't know much about them, other than Pandora releasing the 7 Deadly Sins on humanity, there have been tensions among the world's superhuman crowd. America's secret organization ARGUS has formed a team of heroes and anti-heroes to take down the Justice League if they should go bad. This is their "Justice League of America". There's also the magic-using Justice League Dark which didn't do much in this issue but they have been burned by ARGUS in the past. This first part focuses on the hero Shazam traveling to the nation of Kahndaq which has banned any superhuman fly-bys. Both the Justice League and the JLA want to keep this from happening but for different reasons, which brings them both into a conflict.

As the first issue of this event, we get the deft writing of Geoff Johns. He establishes a little bit of needed info if you've just been reading JL. Otherwise he flies right into the two teams and their various concerns. Johns and JL are basically the core of the new DC universe as far as I can see, and he definitely wants this to be their first BIG event. You know, besides all the other ones editorial wants their writers to interrupt their individual stories for. Johns has been writing for DC for a while. You love him or you don't. I loved his run on Green Lantern, and what other stuff I've read (such as old DC's Justice Society) has been pretty good. He does good team books as well as decently-focused individual character books like Aquaman. Ivan Reis draws this book as well as his other work from earlier Green Lantern and the previous issues of JL. As you can see from the spread above, this event will allow him to make some dynamic pieces, of which this first issue has a few.

This first issue establishes what the main problem is without getting too much into it. It could have been a stronger hook, but with comics how they are, we had a bunch of titles serving as a "prelude" to it and comic solicits saying "read this pleasepleaseplease". Some of the dialogue is iffy, as you can see The Question to the right talking about EEEEVVVVIIILLL, which there is a lot of in this issue. But maybe that's just how The Question talks in the New52, and I'm kinda looking forward cautiously to how Johns treats the character. Since the JL books keep their fingers on the pulse of the new DC universe, this is really their first "big" event, so I want to see where it goes. If you've been reading Justice League since the beginning of the reboot, this should shape up to be bigger than "Throne of Atlantis" and worth following. The only wild card is how Justice League Dark, the one of the three titles not written by Johns (instead by Animal Man's Jeff Lemire), fits into his story. Luckily we've got two weeks (I think) to find out instead of two months.

Some other comic highlights:
 - Superman Unchained #2 by Scott Snyder looks to be interesting, introducing a new character from Supes' past into the mix of hidden terrorist plots by the group Ascension. Snyder is known for his writing in Batman focusing on Bruce Wayne's inner thoughts and is very personal and kinda dark. He brings that to Unchained with some good insight into Supes' mind and that he doesn't ALWAYS know what to do. I haven't read a lot of Superman books, so maybe this isn't all that great a job, but I'm liking it so far. At least, it's better than the core Superman book launched for the New52.

 - I recently picked up the first trade of Irredeemable by Mark Waid. It is about a Superman-esque superhero who "goes bad". But not like sudden mind control or evil clone, but a slow erosion of his principles and personality over time. Waid poses the possibility that not all heroes are emotionally equipped to deal with the praise and criticism of being a hero, and shows what could happen if a god-like being just can't take the pressure and stress anymore. The first volume brings in some classic hero tropes and makes them go wrong, such as revealing his secret identity costs him a possible marriage. It's an interesting idea that I think I'll keep going on with for its run of 37 issues.

 - Having seen some of their books pop up in my Amazon recommendations, I looked into Valiant and their heroes like Shadowman, X-O Manowar, and Bloodshot, some popular comics from the 90's that weren't from the big two publishers. They recently did their own little reboot by launching four (I believe, more have been added) titles that have all received relative praise. So I picked up the bargain-priced first volume of their rebooted Shadowman ($9.99 for a trade with 4 issues, an incentive to give the first story a shot, something more publishers are doing now it seems). Having only read the first issue of it, it seems it's right up my alley. It's got themes of family and powers passed down through generations with a horror vibe. Sounds like Animal Man. I'll be looking into the other reboots too because I already like this book.

So that's it for now. Back next week with another comic review.

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