The Trinity War Begins
Justice League #22
written by Geoff Johns
art by Ivan Reis
A woman walks into a dusty storefront, seeking the help of a psychic because of her bad dreams. Those dreams foretell disaster, and perhaps a few readers will recognize from the outset that the psychic is DC's awkwardly shoehorned horror comic host Madame Xanadu.
Xanadu has the best tarot cards in the world, by the way, because they don't just foretell the future to those who know how to read them. They specifically portray all the players in the war that's coming -- a war that, if you've been reading Justice League for at least the last year, you'd know was brewing, even if you didn't know why. (Or if you've been reading comics as long as I have, you'd know why -- SALES, people, SALES!)
In truth, it's been building since the Flashpoint event, when Pandora first appeared. Slightly ruby-skinned, cloaked and as of last week's debut issue of Trinity of Sin: Pandora, we know also a complete bad-ass with modern weaponry, Pandora is the figure of myth.
Despite the weird science fiction background Geoff Johns has given her, he also writes her pretty well. She gets to say the kinds of things I think most of us wish we could in the DCU; when Superman refuses to believe that she is THAT Pandora, she points out that he is dating Zeus' daughter.
The big event here is both shocking and a revelation of how repetitive these cross-overs have become. Okay, so it's not even all that shocking. But one hero gets manipulated/possessed into killing a villain -- at least, someone long-time readers consider a villain even if he has not appeared before in New 52 continuity -- and the whole world will blame that hero.
Remember when that happened to Wonder Woman as a build-up to Infinite Crisis? Of course you shouldn't. This is all new.
That's cynicism talking, and with this particular character, Johns really does have a chance to explore some facets of characterization that, when he's on his game, he really is good at doing. It's too early to tell if that's going to happen, but as he proved me wrong in my initial distaste for his Shazam! reboot, I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.
So why is this the Trinity War? Let me be really analytical and point out that it's a whole heck of a lot of trinities involved:
The Trinity of Sin: This would be the Phantom Stranger (revealed in New 52 to be Judas), Pandora (actually Pandora) and The Question (who, appropriately enough, remains a question. My thought -- is he Shem, the builder of Babel?). These three were condemned by a Council of Wizards millennia ago -- even though their timelines don't really add up. We know that one of the Wizards repented, and believes that Pandora can find one without sin who can recapture the Seven Deadly Sins. If it turns out to be Shazam... but no, that would really be a cheat, because Billy Batson has committed a few sins that can't be excused just because he is a kid. Forgiven, yes.
The Trinity of DC: Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman are clearly major players, and Madame Xanadu's tarot cards bear that out. Another key plot point is that someone has stolen the sample of kryptonite that Batman keeps in the cave...
The Trinity of Justice Leagues: Though six titles are caught up in this event, it's three teams: Justice League, Justice League of America and Justice League Dark. The last is not fully represented in this first issue, but Zatanna from the Dark team is helping the main League, which also has a spy in their midst from the JLA -- the mysterious new Atom who may or may not have a connection to Ray Palmer, the character nobody seems to want to deal with anymore.
The Trinity of Species: We have three major heroes with, for the most part, equivalent powers -- the Kryptonian Superman, the Martian Manhunter and the World's Mightiest Mortal Captain -- ahem -- I mean, Shazam. I'm reaching, but this is what happens with literary criticism. Patterns keep coming up, such as...
The Trinity of Imprints: "The Trinity War" isn't just the big event that ties the New 52 continuity together sort of, it's also the excuse to make two major players out of characters created outside of DC. Of course you have Superman and all the League, but you also have The Question (from Charlton Comics) and Shazam (from Fawcett). It's my biggest stretch, but just kind of interesting. If Johns could have just thrown in Plastic Man (from Quality Comics) then it would be a real outsider Trinity...
...and speaking of Outsiders: The apparent mastermind behind this all, who will then cause September's major event "Forever Evil," is Mr. (or maybe The) Outsider, a character also first introduced in The Flashpoint Saga.
Depending on who draws and colors him, he bears a strong resemblance to two characters from the Silver Age: The Outsider, who bedeviled Batman for a while, and Alfred, who had been exposed to some weird ray that transformed him into...the Outsider.
I don't think Johns is going to go that route, but it is strangely comforting that visually, we're getting that nod to history, since I suspect that the Trinity War could at least open doorways back to Flashpoint or pre-Final Crisis realities. Plus in Justice League of America, Mr. Outsider has a predilection for the tics and quirks of Batman's other villains -- The Riddler's fashion sense, Two-Face's coin manipulation -- and an overall specific hatred of Batman above all other Justice Leaguers.
I've gone too deep, but that happens with me. So far the story itself is big, bold and full of action. And Ivan Reis is one of the best artists in DC's stable, so this is worth taking a dive into on the art alone. It's also an all-star issue of heroes which is exactly why the Justice League cemented my love of comics in the first place. If we could dial back on the portentousness and occasionally get a little more fun (hard to do with the Trinity of Sin), I could let go of my remaining reservations.
It may be a little dour, but there's no doubt that Justice League #22 gives a heck of a lot of bang for the $3.99.
*May we suggest, of course, picking a copy up at Illusive Comics & Games in San Jose or Earth-2 in Los Angeles?