Weighing in with more than thirty pages of story and featuring plenty of moments for all of DC's heavy-hitters, "The Death Card" kicks off the "Trinity War" summer crossover event in Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert and Rod Reis' "Justice League" #22. The buzz around the internet is that a death gets the battle between teams rolling. That death comes nearly two-thirds of the way through this book and involves an unlikely party in both attacker and victim. The identity of the "killer" is certain to raise a few more hackles and questions than that of the fallen, if for no other reason than the fallen hasn't found a way to become endearing.
Johns manages to balance personality expositions with story breaks, giving readers a sense of who the opposing sides are, if nothing else. Johns brings lots of big moments to the pages, but the emotions he wrings from those moments really help sell this book. Shazam's reaction to punching Superman is priceless and displays the youthful, naive optimism Shazam can bring to a story. The Atom gets a significant amount of panel time as her agenda is advanced. Given that this is "Justice League," however, I am surprised by the excessive attention Johns pours on Madame Xanadu, but I suppose it is somewhat necessary in order to loop in the third Justice League title. There are glimpses of the true villains of the piece -- the Secret Society -- and their machinations that lead to this story. Johns is kind enough to furnish a label for the mysterious Joker wannabe that has been directing the Secret Society in the pages of "Justice League of America."
In addition to encouraging Johns to raise his game, Ivan Reis delivers a story packed with detail and character. Reis magnificently identifies the characters in is artwork, distinguishing Aquaman from Steve Trevor and Superman from Shazam. Every character has a personality that shines through in their appearance, but Reis also gives many of them additional expression through their actions. The artist does a great job of enveloping the situations as well. Superman touching the golden skull branded Pandora's box is a very different Superman than the one who admonishes Wonder Woman and her tactics, but they are both visibly the same character. Prado and Albert do a nice job shining Reis' artwork up and applying shadows while Rod Reis breathes life into everything with ample color. Reis is more straightforward in his color style here than he has been of late in "Aquaman," and it serves the story well. The effects the colorist employs really help boost the story also, showcasing powers and underscoring situations.
While the scope of "Justice League" #22 is certainly summertime blockbuster, the emotional resonance from this story is more along the lines of "Crisis on Infinite Earths." The story spirals outward to ensnare more characters, but to what end? Certainly not everyone is going to come through this unscathed and I highly doubt there will be a group photo taken at the end to break up the festivities of a family reunion-like party. Like a summer blockbuster, the characters here are in danger of being absorbed by the plot, but at least that plot is big and loud and full of action. "Trinity War" expects readers to check disbelief at the door and just absorb the spectacle.