Review: Trinity Vol. 2 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, January 25, 2010

There's a friendly crisis on infinite earths going on right now at DC Comics, so subtle you might have missed it. That crisis is the quiet collision of the Kurt Busiek-verse with the Geoff Johns-verse (and the Grant Morrison-verse), each encompassing their own overlapping corner of the DC Universe. I, for one, didn't used to be such a fan of the Busiek-verse, but after the second volume of Trinity, I'm beginning to change my mind.

[Contains spoilers for Trinity Volume Two]

Busiek himself has disagreed with me on this point before, but it seems firmly to me that he got short shrift during his Superman run, with Geoff Johns writing Brainiac and General Zod and Busiek writing, well, a couple of crazy Daxamite priests and a space pirate. (I suggest no animosity here between Busiek and Johns, this is just my take on their stories.) By design or by accident, Busiek's are the "other" Superman stories, the ones in service to the main story. Ditto that elements Busiek established in JLA, like John Stewart having a Qwardian robot in his ring, has been soundly in Johns' Green Lantern (compare with Johns' Blackest Night appearing just about everywhere).

This changes with Trinity, at least in part, which would seem to be Busiek's Magnum opus; by the second volume, Busiek has referenced all his recent DC Comics work to date. JLA/Avengers is here, as is the unofficial sequel, JLA: Syndicate Rules. With Trinity's second part, Busiek also introduces elements from Superman: Camelot Falls -- not enough necessarily to distract from the main story (whereas the JLA tales are required reading for this book), but enough to demonstrate a through-way between Busiek's stories. Trinity, it would seem, finally makes the Busiek-verse legitimate and makes his otherwise irrelevant (if entertaining) stories relevant. That Trinity has been soundly ignored in favor of Final Crisis and the Morrison-verse ... well, we won't go there.

Still, let me tell you, this book is a fun ride. The second volume of Trinity accomplishes what Superman/Batman still struggles with -- telling a story about DC's biggest heroes without devolving into obsequious hero worshipping. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman barely make an appearance in this volume, and yet Busiek not only makes their presence felt, but makes those who search for the heroes remarkably interesting, from alternate versions of Lois Lane and Dick Grayson to Gangbuster, Hawkman, Firestorm, and a number of other "not ready for prime-time" heroes.

Indeed, I dreaded that this second volume of Trinity takes place in an alternate reality where DC's Big Three never existed, and the Justice Society became a totalitarian force -- a concept we've seen too many times before -- Busiek has a lot of fun with it. In Busiek's alternate reality, we find a Lex Luthor still in his battle suit, forgotten heroes like Space Ranger and Black Orchid, and even a priceless scene between Justice Leaguers Triumph and Tomorrow Woman, both aware they'll be dead when the world goes back to normal but fighting to make things right anyway. In this way, Trinity is more than a study of DC's Big Three -- it's Busiek's love song to the DC Universe.

Just as the first volume of Trinity looked at the similarities and differences between DC's flagship heroes, the second volume examines the effect those heroes have on their world. Busiek notes through Firestorm (whom I'd be in favor of Busiek writing in a series!) that the Justice Society of World War II were "mystery men," but it wasn't until Superman that the world had "superheroes" -- and without the concept of superheroes, he notes, Aquaman's just "the creature from the Black Lagoon."

Moreover, Busiek posits, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman resonate with their world (and ours) because they are themselves representative of our basic concepts of justice, truth, punishment, and the like. They're pure archetypes of elemental forces (represented also by the characters of the tarot card in Trinity) from which all other heroes spring; as with Busiek's musings in the first volume, this is a remarkable cogent distillation of these heroes, and gives the Trinity books a lasting value far beyond their first reading.

[Contains full covers, "What Came Before" pages]

Trinity remains a rollicking adventure -- from deep space to Camelot to the Anti-Matter Universe to big superhero-supervillain battles to primitive mythology -- and as long as it's taken me to get through these books, I more than feel I've received my money's worth. On now to the third volume -- I'm ready to read something else, but I wish any number of creators would take a page from Trinity and present books even half as detailed as this.
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1 comment:

  1. I've always put off getting this series due to the mixed reviews. Maybe I should change that soon...

    On an unrelated note, it turns out that the Batwoman trade will be a deluxe hardcover, which is news to me, unless I missed the announcement somewhere.

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