Justice League #23 review

Answers - this book has them by the bucketload. There's the story of Secret Society organiser The Outsider. The revelation of a traitor within the Leagues. What's been poisoning Superman. The truth behind Dr Light's death. And best of all, the true nature of Pandora's Box.

All of which makes this issue sound like Exposition Central, but there are 30 pages of story, plenty of room for the traditional biffing and bashing too. I'd have preferred less fighting, actually, as what we get is pretty much what we've had throughout the six parts of the Trinity War crossover that's filled the Justice League titles this last month - lots of possessed heroes attacking one another without ever actually doing real harm.
Oh joy, Weapons Master is in the new continuity
The issue starts with the Outsider thinking back on how, on the day Darkseid invaded Earth, a weakness between dimensions brought him from his shattered world to this Earth. Him, and a woman. He's spent years recruiting League villains for the Secret Society, his ultimate aim being to put the superheroes in position to find one thing for him - Pandora's Box. Along the way, he's seeded one of the Leagues with a traitor.

It's the current day and the Justice Leagues - regular, Dark and America - are in Athens on the trail of the Secret Society. Vibe senses someone from another dimension is around. Before they can find out who, the box sends out a massive wave of corruption, with only the already dodgy John Constantine retaining his senses. Cue massive battle, as seething resentments and random paranoias come to the fore. Steve Trevor hates Superman for taking Wonder Woman away from him, Superman hates Batman for fear he'll take Wonder Woman from him ...

Things calm down and Firestorm reveals what's been making Superman sick, a sliver of green kryptonite in his brain. But how could it have gotten there?
Step forward the new Atom, revealed as not simply a double agent between the Leagues, but a triple agent - she transported the green K into Superman's head, causing his heat vision to blast Dr Light to smithereens. And she has another trick up her sleeve - she's hacked into Cyborg, letting a sentient computer virus in. It takes over Vic, expelling the flesh from his body, leaving only the murder machine Grid.

The distraction allows the Outsider, revealed as Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred Pennyworth, to step forward and pick up Pandora's Box. It does corrupt, but it's not a creation of magic, it's a transportation system between dimensions - his world's version of the Fourth World's Mother Box. Only someone from his world can open it. Which he does, creating a portal to ... Earth 3. A twisted version of Aquaman is the first to step through - and immediately die. But his teammates are luckier.The Crime Syndicate of America are here, and ready to take over.

Phew. This is a busy comic, and as summer events go, extremely satisfying. As well as the aforementioned answers and action, we get advancement of the story, as the Trinity of Sin strand sparks the Forever Evil sequence. I'm not normally a fan of 'Event A doesn't really end, you'll have to read Event B (and C and D ...)', but the obvious long-term planning means the transition is seamless. The Pandora's Box mystery is tied up in a satisfying manner, with the implication that the personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins didn't create evil on regular DC Earth, as logic says couldn't have been the case, they exacerbated what was already in the hearts of mankind.

The Atom reveal had me smiling broadly, this really is a wicked woman, and I hope she survives the crossover - if nothing else, she's given Vic an interesting bit of storyline, for once.
Tying the Outsider into Darkseid Day makes sense - I wonder if crossing worlds might also have given him a power, a la Vibe, that we've not yet seen.

The big fight in Athens includes a shot we previously saw in the 2012 Free Comic Book Day giveaway, and there's a nice explanation for something in there that, as time went on, looked to have been a casualty of changing storylines. I'm talking the inclusion of Mera - I thought she was going to join a League, but she never did, yet she shows up here. Kinda sorta.

I'm conflicted that Bad Aquaman didn't make it - just once, I'd like to see a version of CSA with the Sea King front and centre. And he looks amazing, like the Peter David version, with more silver. But his big entrance, and speedy exit, did make me giggle.

The latest version of Silver Age baddies the Crime Syndicate have immediate appeal, as immoral versions of our favourite heroes. They're around for just a few pages, but make a big impression as they exude nastiness and we see characters quirks beyond, say, Hal But Bad.

Not everything in Geoff Johns' script delighted me. I cannot believe that it 2013 and still DC writers are treating Wonder Woman as the Prize, someone for the menfolk to fight over. I'm not a fan of the current version of the Amazing Amazon, but she deserves better.

I can't see why Constantine could be said to be so corrupt that he'd be impervious to the taint of Pandora's Box - yes, he's a scumbag, but surely the good he's done would count for something?

And while there are good moments for Element Woman, Vibe and Firestorm, several heroes are relegated to silent background player status. I'm sure Johns could have taken a page or two away from the battle spreads to show us, for example, what Hawkman is feeling.

The dialogue could do with being a tad more character specific, with only the bad guys - Atom and the Outsider especially - showing real personality.

The big picture, though, remains good. Johns does a first-rate job tying up the many strands of the immediate Trinity of Sin story, leaving such things as the identity of The Question to be explored elsewhere. And the CSA brings a new mystery with them, one I expect will be solved next month as Forever Evil begins.
Place yer bets! I say Earth 3 Luthor
Ivan Reis. This guy earns his pay cheque. Thirty pages of pencils, probably as many characters, and not one person looks off, not one storytelling choice feels wrong. The figurework is strong, the facial expressions right, the compositions excellent - it's a bravura performance. Credit too, to the Trinity of Ink, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert and Eber Ferreira, who act as one to shore up Reis' strengths, and colourist Rod Reis, who adds extra pop to the pages. And on the lettering front, Nick J Napolitano keeps it clean and clear.

I'm a big Doug Mahnke fan, but I'm not keen on his cover, too scritchy scratchy, as if he's channeling Jim Lee rather than his own talent. And while I see why Alex Sinclair coloured as he did, the purple and white makes for a drab finish.

The Trinity War took a long time to get going - more than a year from that FCD preview to the start of the story proper - but now I see how much Johns and co were seeding the storyline, setting up things that have paid off big, I can only commend them on a job well done. They won the war.

Comments

  1. I've been slightly worried for this last issue seeing as the last few releases have been only average at best. but, I'm excited again now after reading this.

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    1. I think you'll enjoy it, the reactions so far seem favourable.

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  2. You're really offended men want and desire WW? Really? It would be damn odd to me that anyone ignore a beautiful woman like that and not love/notice/admire her on some level. Seems some have a bit of paranoia themselves over female characters that we must mary sue them. The whole virginal everyone sees her as their sister or mother on pedestal is more unrealistic and irritating imo.

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    1. No, I'm not offended, don't put words into my mouth. I'm disappointed that Diana's role in the story is to incite conflict among men. The guys are as impressive as Diana, but we don't have the women fighting over them.

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    2. Well said, Martin.

      And you know...I find that comment above implying it's "unrealistic and irritating" and assuming that women who aren't sexulized are "Mary Sue" to be extremely insulting.

      What the anon is essentially saying is that it's unrealistic for beautiful women to not be male gazed and sexualized. That's gross.

      Wonder Woman is a gorgeous women. But one of the reasons a lot of people get RIGHTLY ticked off when DC Comics passes her around the JLA/makes her the object of male affection WITHIN the Justice League is bc it DOES imply that the only way to work with gorgeous, desirable women is to ultimately view them as a sex object. It's just gross. It's also disgusting for someone to imply that it's "unrealistic" because that also basically implies that women owe men something. That men just "can't help themselves' around women as opposed to treating them as people first and foremost.

      I don't have a problem with Steve Trevor harboring those feelings bc he's HER love interest so that's ok. But Superman worrying that Batman will steal her from him? That's gross. This is exactly why so many women rightly get upset and offended by this entire relationship stunt. It's poor taste.

      I'd also point out that when women "fight" over the men---it's always treated like a male fantasy. The women are basically sent up the creek so that the guy can look like a stud in the process.


      --Shades

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    3. Thanks for the comments, Shades. How many JLAers have we seen Diana with in the last decade? Batman, Aquaman and now Superman? Bored now.

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  3. I'll agree with that last statement by Anonymous. Even Kyle Rayner from Morrison's JLA Days admitted to having a giant crush on her....and Wonder Girl of course.

    Read the review, but I'm still buying this one. Sure I bash, and will conitnue to bash the reboot, and yet this story-line, especially because of the debit of the CSA is the only true thing holding my interest at the moment.

    Sweet review Martin:)

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    1. Thanks very much, Dale! The ongoing storyline is shaping up well.

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  4. Had a blast with this issue and I'm really excited to see where this will go with Forever Evil (happily the first issue hits next week!).

    Also, I actually guessed the Cyborg being an unwitting traitor a while back, but I certainly did guess the Grid thing though. Go figure.

    Lastly, go back to Justice League #22 and check the tarot cards again. The Atom's said The Gameplayer and Cyborg's said The Grid. While those make sense initially, they really add a little bit more now that they can be seen has having a double meaning to them.

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    1. Good guessing! And yeah, the tarot cards make sense, though what an odd set someone has manufactured!

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  5. if you look back and read justice league 6 you see the outsider and another person on the day darkseid attacks , so thats not a big reveal

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    1. How interesting, I shall look. Well, I shan't, I shall take your word for it.

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  6. "The distraction allows the Outsider, revealed as Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred Pennyworth"

    Thomas Wayne's Butler actually.... a subtle but very important distinction.

    "I cannot believe that it 2012 and still DC writers are treating Wonder Woman as the Prize"

    Maybe becuz its not 2012.

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    1. I was taking it that five, probably six by now, years back it was Bruce Wayne, but he died in the global cataclysm, so Thomas has taken up the mantle. I've not got the comic with me, but I'll check the dialogue later, see if there's anything to cement one thing or the other.

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    2. Yep, no reference to Alfred's master dying, just not escaping, so you're right!

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  7. Nice review, Mart.

    Totally agreed about Wonder Woman. I'd like to see people react to her better -- even when their baser natures are taking hold.

    As for Constantine, maybe he still has the blood of Nergal running through his veins, as in his previous incarnation? Because him being too evil for the box to corrupt really doesn't make much sense, considering his actions.

    On the other hand, that page turn with JC holding the box and basically every hero on earth coming after him was pretty wonderful.

    And as for the Atom... er, Atomica. Her name is Rhonda Pineda! With those initials, how could we not have seen that she was the Earth-3 version of Ray Palmer! Well played, DC.

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    1. Hello Rob, great points about Nergal (which always looks like an anagram) and Rhonda - such fun, as they say on Miranda.

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  8. Great review, but I didn't get the part where superman tells batman that he's not taking her away from him, as in harm her or take her as his woman.

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    1. The latter, is the concensus, I reckon.

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