The current wave of Justice League graphic novels are a bit muddled because their issues intermingled during a crossover event called Trinity War and as a result JLA Volume 1, Justice League Dark Volume 4, and this book right here are all missing 4 chapters because if a particular chapter didn’t feature the same title, it wasn’t included in that series’ collected edition (JLA only has JLA, JLD only has JLD, etc.)! So with these three books you’re going to get some decent setup and then a pay-off with some noticeable gaps. However, the loss of those chapters isn’t as painful with “The Grid” because its 2 crossover chapters (the beginning and end of Trinity War) are commonly viewed as the most entertaining and informative and it can be argued that they’re the only chapters of the Forever Evil prologue that you really need to consume whereas everything else felt like filler. But if you would like to take in every little piece of the tale of the Justice League vs. Pandora’s Box then the full Trinity War saga along with all tie-in comics from Pandora, Phantom Stranger, and Constantine is available now. Now, on with Volume 4: The Grid!
Justice League, Vol. 4: The Grid is a relatively short read consisting of issues #18-20 and #22-23. Issue #21 was cut, but don’t worry, it’s an all-Shazam affair that concluded Billy Batson’s long-running backup feature. You can find the New 52 origin of Shazam available now in hardback and I highly recommend that you do. It’s one of the best stories to come out of the New 52 to date. Full, in-depth reviews of each individual issue from Justice League, Vol. 4: The Grid can be found at the links below and after that I’ll offer a brief reflection on this graphic novel as a whole.
Your first question is likely, “What is The Grid?” The Grid is a database that Batman and Cyborg created. By using certain buzzwords that Cyborg’s programming filtered out from the endless stream of data constantly flooding his mind, he was able to form a detailed list of all super-powered beings and their contact information– this is how he was able to summon so many unheard of heroes at the end of Justice League, Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis. The devastation caused in the battle with the forces of Atlantis along with Green Lantern’s recent departure from the group served as a wake-up call to the Justice League– they need more members, they have a method of recruiting them, and they need to act now. However, rather than invite everyone from The Grid, they pick out a select few and invite them to the Watchtower for a delightful superhero mixer that really kicks off this graphic novel on a fun note.
While things begin lighthearted with plenty of witty banter between heroes, writer Geoff Johns gradually inserts little clues as to the coming Trinity War and Forever Evil event all while building a mystery involving a possible Justice League mole and a shocking Batcave break-in. Trinity War was indeed the big event that brought together all corners of the DC Universe, but “The Grid” is where many of the early introductions are made to such characters as The Atom, Platinum, and many others I’ll let you be surprised by. And that’s essentially the purpose of these first three chapters, gently introducing new characters before the big event. The core team takes a bit of a back seat until Trinity War begins, mostly they are there to offer a bit of commentary and showcase some personal drama while the new-recruits shine in action-packed sequences with the big bad you see on the cover– Despero (who is cool, but does feel underused and I hope he gets a bigger story of his own at some point). However, it should be said that although Geoff Johns succeeds in giving all of the new recruits depth and a number of memorable moments, they are all ultimately upstaged by the return of a fan-favorite A-list hero. And I must say that when you see this character confront Despero it becomes clear that these two should definitely be arch-enemies from here on out. Also, one last thing about the lead-up to Trinity War is that the second chapter features one of the most emotional “Batman Requiem” moments following the death of Damian Wayne and it wasn’t even an official “Requiem” book!
As for the artwork, well, when it’s on it’s very much on. The style shifts frequently due to Ivan Reis stepping in and out as penciler. Jesus Saiz starts the book off strong, but the first chapter is mostly made up of conversational panels and I felt that more detail could’ve been applied to the scenery when there so little else occurring. Later on, when the action is on the rise we have chapters in which there are 3 pencilers, 3 inkers, and 3 colorists working at once and the transitions can be jarring. That said, when the artwork is functioning on all cylinders it’s indeed some of the best that DC Comics has to offer. The Trinity War portion is the most consistent and offers the most memorable imagery, particularly the finale.
I don’t get to say this often when it comes to the New 52 graphic novel releases, but the bonus material on this volume is quite good. Volume 4 includes a variant cover gallery that comes with everything including those covers from Justice League Dark and Justice League of America so you can see the full image that the connected covers shaped. It also features a lengthy 20-page “Inside Justice League” (like those Director’s Cut issues DC puts out from time to time) special that compares the original script by Geoff Johns with the original pencils from Ivan Reis.
Value: Sale Price
I went back and forth on this, honestly. There are a lot of pros and cons. It’s $25 bucks, which sounds like too much to me (it would’ve been around $20 if you bought them as floppies) for such a quick and incomplete read, but at the same time you’re getting all this wonderful bonus material– but that’s not gonna be worth it to you unless you’re a really big fan of Johns/Reis. I say pick it up at Amazon or wherever you can find it for a discount. It’s a good read, but I hesitate to commit to full price.
There’s some fun material here, especially for big-time DC fans who want to see loads of superheroes interact with each other. The opening 3 chapters of this collection make for a quick read filled with adventure while the Trinity War portion is noticeably incomplete but features the most important moments of that saga. It’s short and sweet entertainment with nice artwork, but perhaps not the best re-read value unless you’re a big fan of specific characters who stand out in the prelude. Great bonus features, though.