Review: Trinity Vol. 3 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

After a soundly bad experience with Countdown to Final Crisis, Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley's Trinity is a breath of fresh air. The story is far from perfect, especially toward the end of this third volume -- though I begin to wonder if any writer can really get a fifty-two part story 100% right, and the wisdom therein of continuing to try. Overall, however, Trinity has been a nice surprise, and a book I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.

[Contains spoilers for the Trinity books]

Fittingly, there are three acts to the third volume of Trinity, and of them all, I liked the best the finale of the alternate reality plotline that begins this book. I hadn't expected to enjoy what's essentially an impromptu "Elseworlds" tale, but Busiek both gives the trinity of this new world -- a retired Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and Carter Hall -- so much tough-as-nails moxy, and also peppers the new reality with so many in-jokes, that there's plenty to love. To wit, this time around, we find J'onn J'onzz disguised in our midst as the spirit of humanity (much akin to Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier). That Lois jumps off the Daily Planet to get the god-powered Superman's attention, or that Nightwing similarly gets Batman's attention by shouting about Oliver Queen's chili, might seem rather obvious, but in their obviousness is nostalgia that reminds us what we love about these characters, which I think is the crux of Trinity.

In the previous volumes, Busiek explored the ways in which DC's Big Three characters contrast and make up a trinity, and also how those three heroes shaped our conception of a "superhero" like none other. In the last volume, Busiek properly lessens the hero worship a bit, and instead posits DC's main heroes not as the epitome of the heroic trinity in the DC Universe, but rather as an exceptionally visible representation of a trinity which constantly repeats itself in their world. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are a trinity, but so are Sun-Chained-in-Ink, the Void Hound, and Tarot.

"The trinity," Tarot intones, "are not the universe," but rather "three of the many faces of those forces, those concepts, those ideas." In this way, Busiek successfully reasons out why Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are the Big Three both in their own universe and ours. Yes, they defined superheroics, and yes, they represent together certain dualities -- but moreover, in representing those dualities, they mirror ways in which our world works separate from comic books, like the sun, moon, and earth, or justice and punishment. To say that people around the world understand instinctively the Superman concept because he's this guy from Krypton, etc., is to overcomplicate the notion; to say that people "get" Superman because Superman is like the sun (especially when standing next to Batman) gets to the core of why the character resonates.

I enjoyed far more, however, both the heroes' personality-switching in the first book and the "world without the Big Three" in the second book, than I did "the Big Three-as-gods" in the third book. Obviously we all know the Big Three would be their old selves by the time this was done, and while the personality-switching carried with it some room for character reflection, having the Big Three as absolute versions of themselves (aloof Batman-god delivers only punishment, etc.) felt well-tread and unsurprising.

As well, perhaps showing the seams of trying to keep a story going for fifty-two chapters, Trinity began to repeat itself in the last volume. There's a good amount of running to one locale, having a skirmish, and then running to the next locale and having another skirmish. The heroes' loved ones try unsuccessfully to talk to the heroes-as-gods; they fail, fret a bit, try again, and repeat. I nearly lost track by the end as to which villain was meant to have betrayed which; there's numerous pages of Morgaine le Fay threatening Enigma, Despero threatening le Fay, Krona threatening all of them, and so on.

And Busiek and co-writer Fabian Nicieza get almost loopy in the back-up stories toward the end, as Krona has a conversation with his past self and with the Earth's Worldsoul, who tells Krona that essentially the point of life is just to exist. Interesting philosophical avenues, both, but at the end of the book the stories serve to slow the action when otherwise it ought be moving briskly along.

Trinity ends where we'd expect, right where it began on a pier in Keystone City, but this time in one of those large-scale superhero get-togethers that's always a lot of fun. Frankly the closing scene of the Big Three disappointed me -- so caught up is the plot in the god-power plotline that the heroes never return to how it felt to share each other's personalities and how their relationship might change; instead they reaffirm, yet again, their commitment to their loved ones. Hawkman, however, gets a great final scene that touches on his role as a leader on the alternate Earth, and ties (mostly coincidentally, I think) to events for him in both Rann/Thanagar: Holy War and Blackest Night. If nothing else coming out of Trinity, I'd be most interested to see Kurt Busiek write a Hawkman miniseries in the future.

But overall, for me, Trinity came down to one question, would Busiek find a way to keep alive the resurrected Tomorrow Woman at the end of this story, and the answer thankfully is yes. Tomorrow Woman first appeared in one issue of Grant Morrison's JLA, but the character had so much potential as to evoke a cult following and brief later appearances in a handful of DC titles, though never to return for good.

Nothing demonstrates that a writer "gets" the DC Universe (and DC fandom) like the way Busiek spotlighted Tomorrow Woman and equally-brief Leaguer Triumph, and that Busiek resurrects Tomorrow Woman for good is to cement Busiek's name as a writer we have to thank, for this one small glowing moment. Trinity is debatably good sometimes and not so good other times, but again, what's definite is that this series most certainly loves the DC Universe.

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

Reviews of Green Lantern, Rann/Thanagar, Titans, and more coming up. Don't miss it!
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1 comment:

  1. Titans? Old Friends I take it? Hoo boy. Good luck with that one man. The only good issues out of all the ones collected are #5 and #6.

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