By: Geoff Johns (story), David Finch (pencils), Richard Friend (inks), Sonia Oback (colors)

The Story: I really can’t believe it’s not the Justice League!

The Review: I freely admit that I’ve given Trinity War and Forever Evil a hard time for skipping over what exactly happened to the three Leagues after the Crime Syndicate showed up.  As I said in reviewing the first issue of this series: “It seems pretty outrageous that Johns would simply go from there to ‘the Justice League is dead,’ (‘Hell, yes, they are.’) thereby skipping over some fairly crucial plot points in the process.”

Well, we finally get some answers as to what happened in this issue and, as it turns out, there may be a good reason why Johns didn’t feel like getting into it earlier.  As the three-page sequence shows us, it was less a matter of the combined Leagues falling to the Syndicate’s power, and more that the Syndicate caught them with their pants down and took advantage of the opening to trigger a trapdoor beneath them before they even knew what was happening.  No wonder Johns didn’t want to dwell on it.

While this may not go down as any of the Leagues’ finest moment, it does give us some important insights.  I’m not really talking about where they actually ended up, which is interesting and somewhat nonsensical.  I’m talking about the fact that the Syndicate didn’t really defeat the Leagues with raw power, but in the traditionally villainous way: cheap shots and treachery.  That they then exaggerated what happened to the Leagues means the Syndicate is running the show on false pretenses, which makes an inevitable rebellion more likely to succeed.

That doesn’t mean shaking off the Syndicate’s yoke will be easy, however.  Black Adam’s bone-shattering defeat and the disposal of the Rogues serves as a warning to Luthor, Manta, and anyone else thinking of taking on the world’s new head honchos.  But even though the Syndicate ultimately triumphs in these engagements, there are moments of vulnerability for the critical eye to take into account: the muting effect cold has on Power Ring, Ultraman’s anxiousness when his notices that his own blood has been shed, etc.

Our “heroes” will need to take note of every one of these weak spots if they want any hope of victory.  It makes you wonder, though, how far Johns plans to take his band of villains in their attempt to save the world.  While it’d be pretty refreshing if this story ended with the planet in Luthor, Manta, Adam, Captain Cold, and Bizarro’s debt, it would leave the Leagues in a rather awkward position, though.  Then again, it’s not as if our real heroes are in any position to do their part.  With most of the Leagues trapped and Batman hamstrung by his priority to Nightwing, it looks like salvation by antihero is all we can count on for now.

If Finch’s art has a polarizing effect on people, it’s probably because for all its outwardly attractive appearance, it somehow lacks the liveliness you’d expect from a splashy superhero event such as this one.  Even when Catwoman sticks out her tongue, Finch doesn’t totally succeed in conveying her playful personality.  Still, it’s worth noting that his work here is still an improvement over past efforts, and when the action gets especially grisly, he does distinguish himself.

Conclusion: As the storyline proceeds toward its Big Fat Middle, the pace slows, leaving only brief moments of excitement and character work to keep you occupied, and otherwise repeating itself.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I think it’d be rather wonderful for Luthor to be paired with Bizarro for a good long time.  It’s just funny watching the “world’s most powerful mind stuck with the world’s most undercooked,” and you get some good lines out of their double act: “I’d prefer to work in silence, creature…so close your mouth when you’re breathing, won’t you?”