Panel Dyslexia: Trinity War, Parts 1-3

Since the DC Reboot of 2011, DC has been pushing one character: Pandora. She showed up at the end of Flashpoint, made cameo appearances in every new #1 of the New 52, and eventually got her own series. Her backstory was finally revealed in DC Comics’ Free Comic Book Day “The New 52” Special, which hinted at an event called “Trinity War”, which seemed to be the culmination of everything that had happened regarding the New 52. Finally, in August 2013, Trinity War arrived within the pages of Justice League, Justice League of America, and Justice League Dark. So, was it everything we hoped for? Let’s find out by looking at the first half of this, in Justice League #22, Justice League of America #6, and Justice League Dark #22.

The covers of all three are actually one image, split across all three, a common occurrence for comic book crossovers. It’s actually a very good image, despite the fact that the events technically don’t really occur in these issues. We see Pandora in the center, clutching the Box, while the three Justice Leagues fight around her. We also see projections of the Phantom Stranger and The Question looking on in the background. What I like most is that the covers of each don’t just show the team of that particular book, but various members of all three teams instead. Overall, a good cover that sets our expectations.

Part 1 opens with a woman visiting Madame Xanadu, an immortal psychic and ally to the Justice League Dark. Upon taking her hand, Xanadu sees a vision of a city in ruins, with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman looking on. She picks up one of her tarot cards, which reveals an image of Billy Batson, AKA Shazam (known prior to the relaunch as Captain Marvel). Billy, after his battle with Black Adam in the last issue of Justice League, decides to take his ashes to his home in the fictional country Kahndaq. Kahndaq is rather hostile towards the western world, causing the US to ban all of its citizens from entering the country, something that isn’t helped by Superman and Wonder Woman attempting to rescue hostages in the country in Justice League #19.

Speaking of Supes and Wondy, we cut to them talking while taking guard duties at Belle Reve Prison (Basically the Arkham Asylum of the rest of the DCU, except with much better security). Pandora appears to the two and says Superman can open the Box because he has the purest of hearts. Clearly, Pandora has never seen Man of Steel. Cutting to A.R.G.U.S. headquarters, Skinny Amanda Waller suggests to Colonel Steve Trevor putting Dr. Thomas Light, who had gained superpowers in Justice League of America #5, on the JLA as a counter to Firestorm. Yes, because putting a scientist who just obtained superpowers last week and has absolutely no combat experience onto a military team is a GREAT idea.

Next, we cut to Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, where Batman, Cyborg, and the Justice League’s new recruits are investigating the crashed remains of the Watchtower, trying to find out who let Despero into the Watchtower in 3 issues prior. While Batman and Cyborg debate Batman’s possession of a Kryptonite ring, Atom (a member of the JLA sent to spy on the League) is alerted to a chess set by Martian Manhunter. However, she notices the Superman piece is gone. I’m just wondering why the Justice League has a custom-made chess set, with themselves as pieces. Think they have “Justice League Monopoly” too?

Back at Belle Reve, Pandora hands Superman The Box, but upon touching, the Box’s evil influence takes hold and he attacks Diana and Pandora. Pandora shoots him with her magical pistols and disappears with her Box. Batman radios the pair that Shazam is flying into Kahndaq, saying they need to get him out before a political fiasco ensues. Superman suggests bringing Zatanna due to Shazam’s magic powers and Atom calls Col. Trevor to inform him of the League’s move. Skinny Waller tells the JLA to get them out. While Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, and Katana are enthusiastic, the rest of the JLA has reservations about fighting the League.

Shazam prepares to honor Adam, but the Kahndaqi army appears and opens fire, destroying the vase containing his ashes. Shazam tries to retaliate, but Superman rams into him. Despite claiming to not want a fight, Superman precedes to Shazam around instead of actually question him. The rest of the League asks what he’s doing there, but are interrupted by the JLA. While the Leagues argue, we see The Question tying pictures on a bulletin board, trying to answer the riddle “Who is the evil behind the evil?” Doctor Light tries to talk things through, but his powers activate and he accidentally hits Wonder Woman. In a fit of rage, Superman grabs him and accidentally kills him with his heat vision. Back at her parlor, Xanadu screams, saying she knows what “Trinity” means. The woman who came to her reveals herself as Plastique, of the Secret Society. Xanadu‘s parlor explodes and the Justice Leagues engage in a battle royal, Atom trying to stop them. The issue ends with The Outsider watching the news coverage as the battle unfold.

Justice League #22 was a good start to the miniseries. It establishes the characters, sets up the stakes, and makes us want to keep reading, as a good event comic should. However, one big problem was that everyone was too quick to throw punches. While I could buy Shazam, since he is a teenager (even though, prior to 2011, one of Captain Marvel’s powers was the Wisdom of Solomon), but when the JLA shows up, they immediately brandish weapons at the team, with Doctor Light being the only one to consider actually TALKING. Superman in particular seems to quick to throw a punch, and while there’s a possible reason for that, as we find out later, that’s not true. Overall, good start, but rather flawed.

Part 2 begins with The Outsider telling the rest of the Society “It’s time.” Oh no, they’re planning to invade Molossia! Chaos ensues in Kahndaq, with the Justice League and JLA trying to figure out what to do about Superman. Superman finally ends the battle with a TEMPER TANTRUM OF JUSTICE! Joking aside, this is what I would expect from Superman. He’s clearly out of control for some reason, and rather than running off or simply screaming, he tells everyone to lock him up.

The JLA takes him back to A.R.G.U.S. While the other heroes recuperate, Skinny Amanda Waller asks Firestorm if he can make kryptonite. Batman watches over Superman in his cell and notices Superman coughing, something he’s never seen him do. Wonder Woman comes in to comfort him, and tells Batman that she thinks Pandora’s Box caused Superman’s outburst. Batman doubts the story, but she leaves to find it. She confronts Hephaestus, who supposedly created the Box, but he says he didn’t and reveals that no god, not even Zeus himself, knows where it came from.

In desperation, Diana turns to the one other source that can help her: the Justice League Dark who are investigating the remains of Madame Xanadu’s parlor, trying to find out where she disappeared. Back at A.R.G.U.S., Steve Trevor goes to Superman’s cell, but reveals himself as The Question in disguise, claiming he knows who REALLY killed Doctor Light.

Justice League of America #6… is okay, mostly suffering from being the middle of the first half of a six issue miniseries. Over one-third of the book (not counting advertisements and back-up stuff) is just the two Leagues fighting. The rest of the book is just exposition or characters arguing. The only thing that was actually accomplished was the revelation of Pandora’s Box and the introduction of the JLD. One could argue The Question meeting Superman, but that was really just a cliffhanger to have us eagerly awaiting the next part. However, if you’re reading this in a trade, this probably isn’t as big of a problem, since the story flows continuously. So let’s see if it was worth it.

Part 3 begins with Madame Xanadu captured, being interrogated by The Outsider. Her eyes are covered so that she can’t see the future, though when I first read this I thought that she had been blinded by Plastique’s explosion, similar to how she was blind prior to the Reboot. She tells The Outsider that the Justice League will stop him, but he simply states, “The game is already won.” Batman brings Zatanna to look at Doctor Light’s body, but her magic is unable to tell if Light’s powers triggered Superman’s heat vision. The room fills with smoke upon the arrival of the Phantom Stranger, who warns that Wonder Woman cannot be allowed to find Pandora’s Box. Batman and Trevor gather the heroes to intercept Wonder Woman, leaving only Cyborg, the new JL recruits, J’onn, and Green Arrow. Inside Superman’s cell, The Question frees him and shows him a newspaper clipping, prompting him to burst out of his cell. I guess there was a help wanted ad that REALLY paid well.

Back with Wonder Woman, the JLD agrees to help her after some, how shall we say, persuasion. The team goes back to their base, The House of Mystery, but finds the other heroes there waiting. Okay, HOW DID THEY GET THERE? Seriously, they NEVER explain how the group was able to get into the House before the JLD. It’s not exactly like they snuck in there while Diana and Constantine were talking. I guess Zatanna could have gotten them in, but they never actually STATE that outright. Honestly, it’s just so distracting and makes me so confused that I can’t think about anything else! Let’s see what Superman is doing.

Superman shows the newspaper clipping, an article from The Kahndaq Times, to Cyborg. The article tells of a businessman who was murdered by Dr. Psycho, a supervillain with mind control powers, who was in Kahndaq just a day before the Justice League. Waller shows up, demanding Superman return to his cell. The commotion causes the other heroes to come running in. Green Arrow suggests going after Dr. Psycho, but Waller says Superman needs to be restrained first. Arrow says, “Screw that” and fires a smoke bomb arrow towards Waller. Returning to the House of Mystery, the Phantom Stranger tells Diana that the Box has nothing to do with Superman’s behavior, to which she GRABS HIM BY THE NECK WITH HER LASSO AND NEARLY CHOKES HIM. WHAT? When the Stranger tells her he doesn’t know what IS, she tells the heroes that she is going after Pandora. Hawkman, Aquaman, and Stargirl join Wonder Woman, along with Zatanna, who says that if Constantine wants them to stay away from the Box, they should do the opposite; she teleports Wonder Woman’s group away. Batman tells Constantine to stop them, but notices Constantine and Shazam have gone off to Constantine #5.

Meanwhile, Superman bursts out of A.R.G.U.S., with the other heroes following behind him, leaving Waller flabbergasted. Honestly, I don’t get this. I could understand the new JL recruits, and even Green Arrow, but why did Cyborg and Martian Manhunter leave. You’d think they’d want to use A.R.G.U.S.’s resources to make sure nothing else gets out of hand. Now one could argue that they plan on making sure Superman doesn’t go crazy again, but nobody’s dialogue says OR implies that. The Phantom Stranger tells the remaining heroes at the House of Mystery that they must confer with Doctor Light’s soul to try and get answers, going off into The Phantom Stranger #11. The issue ends as The Outsider tells Madame Xanadu that he has everything in place, and despite what she says, he’s already defeated the heroes. “I have a mole in the Justice League.”

Justice League Dark #22 is probably the worst of these three issues. While Justice League was decent, just with some bad characterization, and Justice League of America was just boring filler, this issue actually had the most problems. Between Superman’s refusal to cooperate with A.R.G.U.S. and Wonder Woman’s thick headedness and inability to listen to anyone, this issue did the one thing most crossovers suffer from: forcing the characters to disagree. Now that’s not always a bad thing, but it’s all in the WAY you do it. The heroes’ allegiance seems to be easily swayed by the drop of a hat, JUST to create conflict. And while the book tries to make you think that this is The Outsider’s fault, he doesn’t actually CAUSE any of the disagreement’s himself. However, probably this issue’s worst offense is that two of it’s important plot points actually lead into TIE-INS. Yes, they actually brought up two important plots, and forced you to buy tie-ins JUST to understand the story in full. Now I don’t have a problem with tie-ins, but tie-ins are not supposed to be things that actually wrap up plots brought up in the main story! They’re extras, little things to help explore the events going on at the time, like with Blackest Night. That crossover’s tie-ins worked brilliantly because they really didn’t have that huge of an impact on the main story. Honestly, having to buy two extra books is not what I want to do just to wrap-up two mildly interesting plots.

However, these issues work much better read back-to-back. We get nice setup, good action, and the story builds up well to the climax, but still leaving plenty of mystery for the second half. There are still problems, such as characters being inept and plots being rather contrived, but the biggest problem for a six-part story, the flow of the narrative, works better. But will it pay off? Well come back next week, and we’ll finish off Trinity War with Justice League of America #7, Justice League Dark #23, and Justice League #23.

Start the Conversation