Justice League #23.4 – Secret Society

I review Justice League #23.4 – Secret Society, by Geoff Johns and Sterling Gates with artwork by Szymon Kudranski, published by DC Comics as part of Villain’s Month.

Justice League #23.4

Story: Geoff Johns, Sterling Gates | Art: Szymon Kudranski | Colours: John Kalisz | Cover: Mikel Janin | Publisher: DC Comics | Price: $3.99 (3D) / $2.99 (2D)

An army of super villains has been built throughout The New 52 during 2013—but for what purpose? Learn about the villains that have paved the way for the world of FOREVER EVIL.

Before this week, I was actually on the fence about which two comics I was going to get for Villain’s Month. Secret Society or Black Adam. It was going to be one of those two and East of West #6. However, I made a split second decision – I would pick up both of those two, and wait until the second volume of East of West would be available on NetGalley for me to review on The Founding Fields, much like the first Volume. I thus ended up going with both books, and luckily enough, managed to get 3D covers for both Justice League #23.4 and Justice League of America #7.4. Do I regret that choice? At this moment, I’m going to say no – as although Justice League #23.4 was flawed and far from perfect, it was still a promising read – and Justice League of America #7.4 was even better. However, Justice League #23.4 not only provides an insight into the Outsider and Owlman, as well as what life is like in Earth 3, it proves just how cool an Earth 3/Crime Syndicate of America ongoing series would be, and why it’s justified being in my choice of Top 10 series that I think DC should add to the New 52.

This issue is where we finally start getting some answers to Trinity War, about the identity of the Outsider – who is revealed in the preview pages to be the Alfred Pennyworth of Earth 3 – and we get an insight into many other parallel Earth characters, such as the Joker, to name just one. This is probably one of the most important Villain’s Month books in terms of the overall ongoing Trinity War/Forever Evil storyline so far – if you want some answers, and want to see what life is like on the Earth 3 that the Crime Syndicate of America originated from, then look no further.

Out of the various categories that Villain’s Month books fall into, Secret Society is a combination of several. Not only does it set things up for the future and answer previously unanswered questions, but also it serves as an origin story, if you will – of the Outsider and his relationship with Owlman. Sterling Gates and Geoff Johns certainly know how to deliver their relationship well, performing some excellent characterisation. This will also help readers understand how deeply corrupted Earth 3 is, when you watch fairly early on both men going after the two most incorruptable police officers in Gotham (Bullock and Montoya) being torn down to serve Owlman. It’s no secret that Earth 3 is a dark and deadly place, and Justice League #23.4 really enhances this element.

So where was it let down then? The story was fun, entertaining and pretty awesome for the most part. But once again, the chief benefactor in a book not being as good as it should have been is the artist, Szymon Kudranski. He’s one of the main reasons for me putting Talon so close to the chopping block before discovering that he wasn’t a permanent artist, and quite frankly, whilst this issue is an improvement on Talon,  with the dark and mysterious atmosphere more suited to the likes of Earth 3 than Talon, it remains a big disappointment, and I hope – if there is a Crime Syndicate ongoing series, it isn’t Kudranski that ends up on the book.

Overall then, Justice League #23.4 is a solid issue let down by Kudranski’s artwork. It should be interesting for people who have been following the Trinity War/Forever Evil storyline but may prove confusing for people who haven’t. If you don’t mind Kudranski’s artwork – and want to know more about the Secret Society/Crime Syndicate of America, then it’s well worth checking out. However, if you do mind Kudranski’s artwork, then you may find yourself disappointed.

VERDICT: 3/5

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