Justice League #22
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, and Rod Reis
The short of it:
A random woman emerges from a cab in New York looking for something she isn’t quite sure to be there….Madame Xanadu’s storefront. She hides in plain sight, using her abilities to help those in distress that find her, which includes her newest customer. She’s having nightmares about violence and fires, she expects something horrible to be happening and her to be the cause of it. Xanadu offers to read her, but all she sees is Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman standing over the end of the world. And a word, Trinity, and the war that came with it. She reaches to her tarot cards to tell the rest of the story, to figure out how it begins so she can bring it to an end.
Starting with Shazam, Billy Batson and friends. Billy wants to scatter Black Adam’s ashes in Kahndaq because he feels it’s the right thing to do, even if he is NOT allowed in that country (nobody is). Xanadu’s attention is quickly turned to the World’s Most Powerful Couple as Superman tries to plan a date and Diana wonders about Despero. Why is she pissed? Because nobody else deals with their villains like she does with the stabbing and killing and neck breaking action. She has no shame in killing, and that lasso makes her sure when they deserve it. Brr, ice queen. Speaking of, time for them to meet Pandora! She’s searching for Superman, whom she believes to have the purest heart there is, and she wants him to help her undue her mistake.
Meanwhile, in the JLA, Waller and Trevor discuss Dr. Light and his seeming inability to keep a secret, as he shares all of his classified info with his wife. Again. For the very first time. Same time the rest of the Justice League is examining the crash of the Watchtower and Atom finds a clue.
Meanwhile, Pure Heart Superman tries to open Pandora’s Box and we find out that he really is just as human as everyone else. No evil in Superman? Ha! He has the same potential for rage as everyone, he just hides it better. He goes back to normal without the Box, but it’s enough for Pandora to bail. Just as Shazam enters Kahndaq. The League goes in because Batman blames Superman and Wonder Woman showing that it was ‘okay’, and the JLA goes in because they exist to smack the Justice League around. Of course, their entire team hates their orders, but those are the orders. Just like the Kahndaqi army was ordered to start firing tank shells and machine guns at Shazam.
Then begins the end of everything, as Superman decides it best to PUNCH Shazam out of there, which leads to him fighting back, and the next thing you know there’s the League and the JLA, face to face, with Billy in the middle and Steve Trevor trying to call the shots Dr. Light gets a bit too supercharged at such close range to Superman and accidentally attacks Wonder Woman and….
It all goes to absolute hell from then on out.
What I liked:
With Shazam in the main story he didn’t get a backup, which meant the extra pages were folded into the main story. Why yes, I will happily pay the extra buck for extra pages of actual content without complaints.
The fact that the logic behind Billy going to Kahndaq, despite every law saying ‘don’t you dare’, he wants to do the right thing and he believes that if Superman and Wonder Woman went, he can too. Totally the reaction of a kid playing adult, and it’s really nice to see Geoff fall back on that moment instead of using it in a throwaway manner.
The fact that Superman wasn’t pure enough to open Pandora’s Box without being overcome by his own inner evil. For as much as I love Superman and believe he should be the best humanity has to offer (even if he isn’t human), that’s exactly why I like him having that lack of purity. It makes him more human than any way he may or may not look.
Dr. Light. I liked the look, the powers, the personality, and what happens to him. I’m sorry, but dude was just set up to fail miserably and it happened spectacularly.
Ivan, Joe, Rod, and Oclair bring the thunder, as always. Seriously, this art team may be the most deserving big title art team on the market right now, everything always looks amazing across the board, and they really do work perfectly with Geoff. They make the most out of his writing, and he makes the most out of their art. It’s been one of the best writer/artist groups in recent memory dating back to Green Lantern (eat you heart out Brian Bendis and Stuart Immonen!).
I’ve been expected the Pandora/Shazam ties ever since the Wizard punished her in the first place, but tieing it all together as her releasing the seven deadly sins gives her some added oomph in giving her a connection to the early days of the DCU.
I really got a kick out of the JLA members raising their various WTF flags at the idea of being sent to go randomly confront the Justice League as if they were bad guys. The conflict is so unclear that any other reaction would have been forced.
What I didn’t like:
So yeah, I don’t believe for a minute that the JLA has the firepower to take on the Justice League. J’onn and Baz are their tanks, and they have Katana placed against Wonder Woman. I’m sorry, what? That’s not a fair matchup!
Atom’s “I wish I didn’t work for the JLA” moment on Element Woman’s shoulder. Really? Worst secret keeper ever? Worst secret ever? I mean, as a reveal, it would have had better legs had it been built longer than two issues. Now it just feels like an excuse to have her fight with E.W.
Diana’s commentary on killing her bad guys. I mean, yes, I get it and it’s true, but her rogues gallery is also mainly mythical characters that were slaughtered in various myths. Not normal people, and when it comes to the normal killable people? She doesn’t kill them.
The conflict is ridiculously unclear here. The JLA marches in and tries to pick a fight with the League that goes nowhere until Dr. Light is triggered by The Outsider, and then the manipulation of Superman starts it, but why did the JLA need to be there to bark orders for their first meeting? While foreign soldiers shoot at them for invading their territory? It just feels like the encounter was forced together.
I don’t like Pandora. At all. She just whines, repeats that woe is her, and tries to get other people to do things for her. I’m not actively rooting against her, but there’s also a reason I didn’t give her solo book a shot.
Same reason I’m skipping over anything Question related. Between this and his appearances in Phantom Stranger (who I do like) I’ve just yet to see anything to make me believe he’s worthy of being some immortal faceless man. I mean, I liked the gimmick, but someone whose punishment was being stripped of his identity becomes an immortal conspiracy seeking detective that orchestrated Phantom Stranger being stabbed with the Spear of Destiny? I liked old Question. He made sense.
Why is Pandora’s Box a three eyed skull? Why did it give Superman a Despero eye?
Superman trying to knock the piss out of Shazam as a hello is timeless but also….this guy is just standing there being shot at, he means no apparent harm to anyone, and you’re SUPERMAN; why not ask him what he’s there for before trying to punch him out of the country? Seriously, the League came across as dicks.
Though Steve Trevor and his Justice League of AMERICA coming in and saying they had jurisdiction was just….what? The League belongs, formally, to no country and boasts an alien, an Amazon, the King of Atlantis, and a few Americans. The JLA is one hundred percent American made and staking claim to foreign soil. I mean, yes, I understand the Trevor was trying to halt an international incident, but all I saw was dick waving about jurisdiction where nobody had any.
When they never bothered to name the girl meeting with Xanadu I thought it was pretty obvious that she was evil.
Speaking of, save for Xanadu framing things and Zatanna providing magical help, there is really no mention at all of the Justice League Dark. I get that the Trinity of Sin is more up their alley, but I really hope they aren’t just thrown in towards the end of the next issue to set up their own book. Like, I really don’t want them to wind up an after thought thrown in because they are magical in nature.
The Outsider? Interesting. I liked his Flashpoint mini, and I’ve liked the villains stuff in JLA so far, so I’m on board for the reveal. Plus, since he didn’t really exist before then it does count (in my eyes) as a new villain, and given the flops we’ve seen thus far in creating them so far in the New 52 (this book had Graves, who is up there with my least favorite bad guys ever), it’s nice to see one I don’t instantly hate.