How well you enjoy Justice League #23 hinges on whether or not you’ve had things spoiled for your already and how jaded you are by big events. This is a comic that’s going to divide readers into two camps. There will be those who view it as an awesome comic because it has such a large cast of DC characters (it even introduces a few classics into the New 52 for the first time) and it features great 2-page spreads and splash pages illustrating big superhero action. And then there will be those who read it and give a resounding “Meh.” because it’s mostly made up of 2-page spreads and splash pages showing everyone fighting and all of the big surprises were spoiled about a month ago by DC interviews. The latter camp will view Justice League #23 and Trinity War as an over-stretched prelude and will likely wish they had saved their money for Forever Evil instead.

In my opinion Trinity War has dragged on too long showing us our heroes running in circles and has basically been an excuse to have some very talented artists draw big name heroes punching each other. It’s an event that doesn’t really have a satisfying conclusion (Part 6 of 6 ends in a “To be Continued”), but instead leads into yet another event! But the way Trinity War stalled for time (after reading this I feel like the story could’ve been told in 2-3 issues instead of 6 and a few extra tie-ins) makes these six chapters feel like little more than a prologue to Forever Evil and I gotta say I think you can probably skip Trinity War entirely and just jump right into Forever Evil #1 next month. Or at the very least, you could just pick up Justice League #22 and Justice League #23 and have all of the important events of Trinity War summed up for you quite nicely. While the likes of Geoff Johns spoiled the big reveal that was coming in this book (I won’t say what it is outside of spoiler tags) months ago the thing that I was most curious about is what exactly happened to all the heroes for them to be absent from next month’s Villains event. I thought that surely the answer would come from Justice League #23, but it didn’t. Now, those who have managed to stay in the dark about all of these spoilers are in for a real treat but hardcore fans who grab any info they can about upcoming comics will only find surprise in the reveal of the Justice League’s mole(s).

What I found most shocking was that nothing from the previous tie-in comic Pandora #3 played any part in this story whatsoever.

Spoiler
Pandora figured out a way to kill one of the Seven Deadly Sins that were originally released from the box thousands of years ago
I thought for sure that that would be recapped in Justice League #23 and that it would play a major part in the story to come. A development on that scale would finally put Pandora in the spotlight and make her the integral part of the DC universe she’s been hinted at being ever since the character appeared in every #1 issue of the New 52! Instead she and her story are all swept aside and confined only to her solo series and I honestly don’t see that thing lasting beyond 10 issues (12 at most).

With the coolest aspect of this comic being spoiled for me a month ago by an email from DC, I gotta say that the biggest highlights for me were the mole(s) reveal and the artwork by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado who really brought their A-game and made this the spectacle it needed to be. This is some of the biggest action you’ll find in a comic book this month, but I wish that there had been more emotional weight behind the scene since we already had an all-out-brawl in chapter #1 of Trinity War.

I”l put my notes about the more spoilerish aspects in spoiler tags:

Spoiler

  • “I’m not afraid of you Batman, I’m the Green Lantern!” — I just really didn’t like that line. And I also don’t understand what that little capsule thing was that Batman used to make Baz back off.
  • I could’ve done without the Manhunter to Mera transformation. Seeing as how J’onn is such a powerful telepath, why doesn’t he just snap his fingers and make everybody in the room brain-dead? With that character so powerful (and alien) I think it would’ve been better to have had him be a voice of reason in the room trying to get everyone to calm down. Maybe the box shouldn’t even have had an affect on him. The same goes for Superman, but that’s just me I suppose.
  • This chapter totally ignores how Earth 3 Alfred emerged from the shadows and introduced himself at the end of the previous chapter.
  • The Grid looks how Metallo should.
  • Atomica being the mole makes sense if you look back at previous issues. Take note of the tarot cards (same goes for Cyborg) in Chapter One and how J’onn couldn’t read her mind in issue #21 (or was it #20?) and Despero mentioned she was hiding something.
  • When the Grid separated itself from Victor my jaw dropped. That was an awesome moment and a big surprise. If they really killed of Cyborg like that then I’m really in shock and have to say bravo. Logically Victor should be dead since he has very few human parts left, but the cynical side of me says that if Cyborg really was killed off then DC would’ve spoiled it for us months ago.
  • Did Earth 3 Alfred really need to orchestrate a plot this overly elaborate and attract the attention of not one but all three Justice Leagues in order to just get Pandora to let him touch the box? Pandora doesn’t seem all that bright (her backstory says she is but her actions scream otherwise) and from what we’ve seen she’s down with letting just about anybody touch her box (that could’ve been worded better) including Lex Luthor.
  • Sea King’s death was stupid. I feel like the character was designed that way and killed off just so Geoff Johns could make a joke about how much he doesn’t like 90’s Aquaman (the design was almost identical). While I would agree that I don’t like Aquaman looking like that, it’s perfect for an evil Earth 3 Aquaman! A real waste of a potentially cool character.
  • It’s odd seeing the Earth 3 Owlman after the events of City of Owls.

Recommended If…

  • You love splash-pages and 2-page spreads
  • You didn’t have the big reveal spoiled for you a month ago
  • You love seeing large-scale superhero battles
  • You didn’t read chapters 1-5. Honestly this seems to sum just about everything up, but I also feel like you could skip Trinity War entirely and just jump right into Forever Evil #1 in September. You might think you need to read Trinity War just to find out where all the heroes vanish to next month, but everybody is still here at the end of this issue!
  • You’re fine with reading events that don’t have an ending, but just lead into other events

Overall

If you didn’t have the big reveal spoiled for you by press releases or interviews this month then what you’ll find here should be very thrilling! The artwork is fantastic and what happens in this comic does indeed set a precedent for the months to come so it’s indeed an important comic for DC and the upcoming Villain’s Month, but it’s not a comic that I would return to for repeat readings. This issue is mostly made up of cool imagery without much plot development outside of what we already knew. If you pieced together who the leader of the Secret Society of Super Villains was months ago (as many did) and grow weary of superhero on superhero battles that always end in a draw then you might find yourself strumming your fingers on the table waiting for something new to happen. I think that there was a good story, a good prologue anyway, within Trinity War but it could’ve been told in 2-3 issues.

SCORE: 6.5/10