Review: Trinity Vol. 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I wanted to like Trinity -- swimming perhaps again what I understood to be the popular curve -- and indeed I found much to enjoy in the first volume. If we take as writer Kurt Busiek's purpose to explore the similarities and differences in DC Comics' Big Three trinity -- Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman -- he accomplishes this handily, even revealing some unexplored aspects of the three. At the same time, Trinity doesn't feel like a Big Three-centric book to an overwhelming extent, but rather seems to make good use of much of the DC Universe.

I think Busiek's Trinity project is unique in that, from the beginning, it explores the partnership of of DC's Big Three self-referentially. That is, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are presented with the idea that the three of them make up a cosmic trinity and are attacked because of this role, and therefore within the story consider the way the "trinity" idea applies to them. This makes for a fascinating conversation about a third of the way through the book, where the heroes consider themselves as representatives of the sun, the moon, and the earth; as a savior, punisher, and warrior, and as an alien, a "native," and one in-between, among others.

I found this last concept most interesting, that Superman is the ultimate alien outsider while Batman is the ultimate human insider. We know this to be the obvious case, but Busiek takes it further in pointing out Batman not just as human, but the quintessential "self-made man." While Busiek means this not just financially, indeed the Waynes are the embodiment of the American dream -- family wealth and estate -- but yet we know that Superman is closer associates with the "American Way" than Batman, and that Superman is highly more the "insider" than Batman. Busiek offers the concepts from all sides, and I appreciated it.

I also thought Busiek offered fair insights into Wonder Woman's place in the trinity. Most of what Busiek posits for Wonder Woman tends to be "in between" -- the earth in between the sun and the moon, the warrior between the savior and the punisher -- but even if this only makes Wonder Woman "half" of Superman and Batman respectively, they're also valid assesments of her character. Additionally, Busiek addresses, rather than ignores, Wonder Woman's identity as a woman alongside two potentially overshadowing men, and even looks at why she's been at times attracted to each of them and vice versa.

The first volume of Trinity offers a gigantic rolicking superhero story, a kind of popcorn movie without the weight of something like Final Crisis, but still fun to get lost in. Busiek loads on esoteric DC Universe concepts with abandon -- Krona, Morgaine le Fey, Despero, Kanjar Ro, and the Anti-Matter universe all find a unlikely place. At the end, if it doesn't all make sense, or you find yourself wondering as I did just how the heroes managed to get from point A all the way over to point B, it hardly matters; there's a joy to the deep history of this story that's well worth it.

Indeed one of my very favorite parts of Trinity so far is the inclusion of the late 1980s Superman character Gangbuster. The backup features here, which dovetail almost seamlessly with the main story, mostly focus on Gangbuster and Hawkman, and the two human, brutal characters together is a fun match. Busiek utilitzes the Justice League, the Justice Society, the Titans, and others here, giving the story a crossover-like feel, and the characters are more than just window-dressing. Busiek has Vixen, for instance, provide a remarkably cogent picture of how other heroes see the Big Three.

All of this isn't to pretend Trinity doesn't have its problems. Busiek's new characters like Tarot and Konvict fail to compete with the grandeur of DC's established heroes; to me, the story felt stronger when Busiek wasn't imagining off on his own. Also, some of the supposedly-hip slang Busiek puts in Tarot and Gangbuster's mouths, his stereotypically urban characters, falls very flat. While it's a thrill to see artist Mark Bagley's great rendition of the DC Universe through most of the book, the costumes of his new heroes and villains look hopelessly trapped in the 1980s, including his ridiculous update of Gangbuster's costume. (Brass knuckles with "Gangbuster" on them? Please.)

Overall, however, I enjoyed the first volume of Trinity much, much more than I expected. Unlike 52 and Countdown, Trinity doesn't try to bend itself to the weekly format; rather it's a just a winding multi-part tale, not much different that what you might find in JLA, but painted on a canvas that encompasses the entire DC Universe. What I've read so far makes me eager to pick up the next book.
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1 comment:

  1. The problem with the idea of a Batman,Superman,WW "trinity" is that in real life,noone really gives a rat's ass about Wonder Woman. Some women are what I call "fans of being a fan of" WW,but they just buy shirts and merchandise,to them it's a character who used to be in comics and used to be on TV.
    I understand she originally filled the "token female" role,but these days there's tons of female heroes that people actually care about.
    Were you to poll DC comics readers on who their favorite heroine is,I'm fairly certain both Black Canary and Power Girl would beat WW,and I wouldn't be surprised if Batwoman and Huntress were more popular than Wondy is.

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