Comic Book Review – Justice League: Trinity War & Forever Evil

Justice League: Trinity War (2014)
Reprints Free Comic Book Day 2012, Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1-3, Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger #11, Justice League #22-23, Justice League Dark #22-23, Justice League of America #6-7, and Constantine #5
Written by Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire, and Ray Fawkes
Art by Ivan Reis, Dough Mahnke, David Finch, and Mikel Janin

Forever Evil (2015)
Reprints Forever Evil #1-7
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by David Finch

DC did a good job of not having any major events in its shared universe for the first three years of the New 52. But we all knew that wouldn’t last. Things kicked off with Trinity War, an event being teased for a while that brings together the three Justice League ongoing titles that were being published at the time. It seems ARGUS, the government organization working as the Justice League’s liaison, was secretly building a team behind their back. This ties back into Green Arrow’s failure to be inducted early in the series’ run. Now Oliver Queen is in the Justice League of America alongside Hawkman, Martian Manhunter, Katana, Green Lantern (Simon Baz), Stargirl, Vibe, and most surprisingly, Catwoman. 

Trinity War served as a way to introduce Shazam into the New 52’s Justice League as he traveled to Khandaq to spread the ashes of his former foe, Black Adam. The Justice League shows up, an international incident ensues, and ARGUS dispatches the JL of A. However, there’s also Justice League Dark, heroes led by Zatanna and concerned mainly with the occult. They’ve gotten entangled with elements involved in the very foundations of this new reality. Way back in the conclusion of Flashpoint, the last DC major event, the universe was reconfigured, and on his way across realities, The Flash glimpsed a woman named Pandora. She popped up in every single #1 of every New 52 title, often hidden away in the background. 

Come to find out, Pandora is part of the Trinity of Sin, three beings who transgressed the nature of reality to the point they were punished by a council of powerful beings. Pandora is the literal figure from Greek Myth who unleashed the evils of man into the world. The Phantom Stranger is implied to be Judas Iscariot, cursed by his betrayal of Christ. Finally, the Question is reintroduced as the third member, a nameless figure who did something terrible enough to be turned into an immortal faceless being. While Trinity War serves to only introduce this narrative, it would be wrapped up later in the aptly titled mini-series Trinity of Sin. It would run for six issues in 2015 and be remembered by pretty much nobody.

I found Trinity War to be very mediocre. It’s attempting to get readers to buy books that weren’t selling great, like Pandora and Constantine, and doesn’t make an excellent argument for that because the stories in these titles are so abysmal. They only tie in with the main story so tangentially that it feels almost criminal that they are referred to as essential parts of the event. Constantine swipes Shazam’s powers for a few pages, and Pandora and Phantom Stranger stumble through the story. The conflict between the Justice League and the JL of A never quite reaches the heights promised, but it all turns out to be a prelude to the big event. 

Forever Evil builds out of Trinity War which concludes with the League being taken out of commission and the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 taking over Prime Earth. The Crime Syndicate is a play on the dark side of the hero. On Earth-3, heroes are villains, and vice versa. This means Earth-3’s version of the League are despots who use their powers to oppress the people. Ultraman, their Superman, crushes up Kryptonite and snorts it while the sun takes his powers away. Superwoman is caught in a love triangle between Ultraman and Owlman. Owlman was the second son of the Waynes, who used his wealth and intelligence for evil.

There are some fun plot beats here. A sleeper agent is revealed to have infiltrated the League and actually be an Earth-3 resident. The Crime Syndicate busts every supercriminal out of places like Blackgate and Belle Reve, forming a new Secret Society of Super-Villains. Luthor is forced to unleash his failed Superman clone nicknamed “Bizarro.” Captain Cold of The Flash’s Rogues takes a turn as a hero, unwilling to bend the knee for these new bad guys. Johns introduces a new Doom Patrol, which will lead to a storyline later in Justice League. 

Every time I read a Crime Syndicate, I feel like there’s missed potential left on the table. I can’t really articulate what is missing, but it feels like there’s more that could be done with these villains. This particular story does a pretty good job of highlighting the depravity and cruelty of these heroes. They should always be presented as a nightmare version of the heroes we love. There’s a mystery included, a figure imprisoned by the Syndicate, a bag overhead, and instructions to keep him restrained. The reveal has some clunky pieces that don’t work perfectly, but it is an interesting idea.

I’d say I enjoyed re-reading this as one whole story instead of monthly releases. It’s an enjoyable summer blockbuster type of story. I personally don’t like David Finch’s particular art style, but it’s not offensively terrible. There are some clever plot developments centering on Nightwing’s identity being revealed to the public in the first issue. Batman has to maneuver a minefield to avoid his identity being leaked. However, there are also some glaring plot holes that are very convenient for the story and provide great moments but entirely fall apart the more you think about them. The event ends in the way you’d probably expect (the good guys win), but there is one twist that we’ll get into in the following review.

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