Writers: Kurt Busiek with Fabian Nicieza
Artists: Mark Bagley with Tom Derenick and Wayne Faucher
Publisher: DC Comics
We’re just beginning the third year in a row of weekly comics from DC, and Kurt Busiek has a lot going against him in his attempt at the format. After the critically-mauled but still commercially-viable Countdown to Final Crisis allowed for the possibility of a third year of weeklies, the law of diminishing returns forced DC’s hand, and the result is a book centered around DC’s stretched-to-the-limit flagship trio of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. With one of their most dependable marquee writers on board in Busiek, DC’s hope would seem to be that the combination of a reliable creative team and the company’s most popular characters would at least yield more consistent results than the tumultuous Countdown.
The book comes off to an awkward start. A portentous, cosmic opening in the first issue that feels cribbed from a Crisis checklist is revealed to be a dream shared by Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. They each have different interpretations of it – a nice tactic, albeit a heavy-handed one – and decide that they need to remain alert to possible clues to its meaning. All of this could’ve been handled in a couple of pages, but the majority of the main story in the first issue is made up of the three sitting around a pier and chatting over breakfast. Nothing against the mundane, because some of the best stories have been written about people sitting around and talking (Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” is probably the best example), but if you’re really going to insist on the coffee house confessional, the dialogue needs to be pitch-perfect and the characterization has to be revealing and surprising. The dividing of the three heroes along distinct psychological lines doesn’t tell us anything new about them – it just reinforces the personalities they came into the book with. Superman’s an alien, Wonder Woman’s mythological, Batman’s the most complicated human alive; the divisions between them are drawn this easily, without the deftness and overlapping gray area of a comic like Kingdom Come. As the issue continues, the narration falls into the Loeb-era Superman/Batman technique of clashing first-person perspectives that center on each other as much as the situation at hand, which further alienates the three from each other, and ultimately makes them into archetypes rather than characters.
The backup story, by Busiek along with Fabien Nicieza, centers around two villains that seem to be set up as major players in the series – Wonder Woman adversary Morgaine Le Fey (a great choice, given her own mythic origins), and Enigma, a technological character set up as Batman’s adversary for the book. The dialogue in the section is notably grating, caught between Le Fey’s haughty, lofty phrasing and Enigma’s obnoxious banter, and the main thrust of the section is pretty standard supervillainy – the two have been having the same dreams as our heroes, and decide to use the cosmic instability centered around the trio to take power for themselves. After some prognostication, they decide to grab Despero and form an anti-Trinity, which is a good enough setup for a story arc, but something of a gambit for a fifty-two issue series.
The main story of issue two centers on a series of attacks on the Trinity orchestrated by Le Fey and Enigma, which are easily brushed aside by the heroes. That’s pretty much the entire story, but there’s some enjoyable banter between Superman and Wonder Woman, and Enigma’s voice seems to have been smoothed out – as a consequence, the dialogue between him and Le Fey reads much better this time around. Mark Bagley’s also given far more to do in his art duties, and his action scenes contrast a lucid linearity with some nicely off-kilter angles of perspective. His work in the second issue is distinctly more comfortable than in the first, down to his facial expressions – Superman’s determined look while in the center of the minor sun this issue looks much more natural and compelling than the stiff, clenched-teeth smiles that run through the first.
The backup is another extended action sequence, a fight scene between Green Lantern John Stewart and a new character, Konvikt. Aside from the rebellious, misspelled name, the character has a pretty unfortunate design – he looks like a purple cross between Shaggy Man and Doomsday. He’s also accompanied by an annoying imp named Graak, and somehow manages to beat John Stewart in a fight after a strange moment in which John seems to grow weapons out of his body, Guy Gardner-style. The artwork in this section, by Tom Derenick and Wayne Faucher, is extremely hit-or-miss, with a lot of energy (objects often overlap panel divisions, which is a technique that doesn’t get used enough in general), but some clumsy moments in terms of anatomy and facial expressions.
Ultimately, Trinity’s shaping up to be an extremely focused, consistent book, one that will probably avoid the extreme fluctuations of quality that made Countdown to Final Crisis so maddening, but it’s a standard, derivative book. There’s nothing new going on here so far, and even the new characters are incredibly uninspired (and, to be frank, incredibly lame). People may still debate the relative merits of 52, but that book’s saving grace was its infectious energy; reading it, one could feel the excitement of the creators for their material, and their willingness to let it go beyond their plans and follow its own impulses in order to do something that felt different. Trinity, however, is a book that’s full of padding – people who hate decompression in comics should probably stay far away from this one – and the main story/backup tale structure makes it even more difficult to really become invested in the proceedings. It’s a book that already feels tired, like its creators are steeling themselves for the long year ahead.
Tags: Batman, DCU, Superman, Wonder Woman