By: Geoff Johns & Jeff Lemire (story), Doug Mahnke (art), Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Marc Deering, Walden Wong (inks), Nathan Eyring, Pete Pantazis, Gabe Eltaeb (colors)

The Story: A broken mirror brings bad luck.  What about one with a dead man inside?

The Review: I’ll have you know that in my original draft for this review, I started off by saying something like, “As Trinity War rages on…”  But then I realized that “rages” really overstated the kind of tension we’ve been getting in this storyline.  Aside from a brief, breathless skirmish between Justice Leagues early on, there hasn’t been as much direct conflict as you might expect.  If there’s an actual war to be had, it’s being fought guerilla style.

While you may appreciate how Trinity War has been admirably restrained in its use of mindlessly brawny battles so far, you can’t help itching for some real action.  Thankfully, the multiple cliffhangers of the final pages set you up for just that—in the next issue.  In the meantime, you’ll have to bear with a lot of stringing along and dead ends as our heroes try to figure out who caused all this trouble in the first place.

The sad part is they’re about several steps behind on the trail than you are, since you’ve known for quite a while now that the Secret Society has been pulling the strings since day one.*  And it is really some remarkable string-pulling, given the divisions among the Leagues, the various conspiracies at work, the involvement of figures who exist beyond time and ordinary worldly affairs.  Where all this is leading to remains unclear; if the goal is simply to rid the world of its heroes (as all the promotional materials claim), this is a highly elaborate way of going about it.

Even as the plot seems to meander a little bit, Johns-Lemire slow down the character work as well.  With so many characters in the mix, it’s impossible to ensure each gets his or her big moment across several issues, let alone the one, with four different plotlines running at once.  Still, there are plenty of opportunities for the dual writers to spotlight more than several characters per issue.  It’s a pity they don’t do so; these scenes wind up being some of the strongest Johns has to offer: Lex Luthor ignoring his own best interests to obsess over who got to take down Superman first; Green Lantern failing to break into the House of Mystery with his ring, while Catwoman succeeds merely by asking.

Johns also leaves himself little room to maneuver given how occupied he is with trying to make sure each issue keeps you up to speed on what happened in the one prior.  Fruitless as it is to say so, I’m going to mention again that DC should consider a recap page, if only to avoid painfully awkward bits of exposition like the following:

The House of Mystery is our only lead on finding out where Phantom Stranger took Batman, Katana, and Deadman,” Steve Trevor says.

“The Stranger said they were going to talk to Doctor Light (who’s dead) and he disappeared with half our crew,” Simon adds.*

Even though there’s an unreal quality to the way Mahnke draws characters, with features so smoothly chiseled they look like they were carved out of marble, it’s that same quality that lends Johns’ simplistic storyline gravity.  That, and also Mahnke’s unerring choices of composition and pose, making these superheroes actually seem larger than life, whether it’s the combined JL/JLA busting into Dr. Psycho’s hideout, or Superman, half-catatonic from his illness, breaking through the rubble to grab at the tiny villain, or Wonder Woman, bearing Pandora’s Box in one hand, and drawing a massive scimitar towards you in the other.  The inking team generally does a good job meshing their various styles together, but it’s the colorists who really make Mahnke’s art shine with their highly polished and buffed hues.

Conclusion: Rather repetitive and monotonous, especially for anyone who’s followed either League for a long time, but still mostly entertaining in large part thanks to Mahnke’s dynamic artwork.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Which renders the “Secret” part kind of a misnomer, no?

* That parenthetical comment is so out-of-place and obviously pointless that it gives me a good case of sympathy squeamishness even to read it.