Saturday, July 11, 2015

Justice League: Trinity War (comics)

Writers: Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes, J.M. DeMatteis
Artists: Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke, Mikel Janin and others
Collects: Justice League #22-23, Justice League of America #6-7, Justice League Dark #22-23, Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1-3, Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger #11, Constantine #5, New 52 Free Comic Book Day Special 2012

For as many mistakes as the New 52 initiative may have made, it certainly did a fine job of returning some of the lost luster of the Justice League brand. JLA ended somewhere around 2006 and despite numerous attempts it never really managed to strike a chord with anyone. That changed after Flashpoint, with no fewer than three Justice League books launching under the relaunches umbrella; one faltered, but was swiftly replaced by another. They rarely, if ever, interacted on any major scale.

Finally, a solid two years in, they collide in a big crossover. This time it's war. Well, sort of.

Trinity War certainly feels important. For one thing, it's the first big "DC Universe" story since the relaunch. For another, it's readily apparent that it is meant to be a culmination of everything the Justice League line had done in its first two years. Not everything feels as though it was planned - having read all the League books from Flashpoint to Trinity War, I get the distinct feeling that the plan for Pandora may well have shifted early into the lines life - but for the most part you can draw a clear line through each book to lead here. That's fairly impressive, especially given the fact that DC has often had troubling aligning the stars in the past.

The stakes are fairly high as well. We start with Superman having apparently* killed someone. From there things escalate as numerous heroes of the DC Universe try to absolve him - after, you know, the requisite punchup, lest the title be a complete lie - with battle lines being drawn over the best way to go about it. At the center of the conflict is Pandoras Box, the supposed prison of evil the titular character unwittingly opened long ago, unleashing sin upon the world.

It's an interesting story and it holds up fairly well, despite involving several writers and even more artists. I think what impressed me the most is that by the end, you realize the stakes are even higher than previously indicated. Trinity War manages to re-purpose several characters and concepts in ways that might surprise you, including a silver age villain given a no brainer of an origin that makes you question how this is the first time anyone has tried it.

As always, there are flaws. As the crossover goes on, there's less importance put on the "Trinity of Sin". They're made out to be a big deal very early on, but The Question is practically a non entity and while important, Pandora kind of fades to the background a bit by the climax and the Phantom Stranger, who is definitely a presence throughout most of the story, just disappears from it past a certain point. It's also a big difficult to suss out how the "sins" work, exactly, given the big twist of the storyline. I think I managed to figure it out, but it's something that isn't spelled out all that clearly. It isn't enough to break the story - and I imagine the nature of the sins will be explained more in the issues of Pandora that take place after Trinity War - but it's fairly curious.

There's also the elephant in the room that is the ending. Trinity War doesn't really finish so much as it moves us into the next phase. Turns out the war leads into the first - and with the recent end of the branding, only - event comic of the New 52. I can see how that might piss some people off. Personally, I think it works and the twist is intriguing enough for me to overlook the fact that the story is, in a way, a big lead in to an event. I understand how others might chafe, however.

Despite utilizing a small army of artists, visually the book holds together quite well. You'll still see some visual flair here and again, but most conform to a general "look". Many people bristle at the mention of a companies "house style", but there's little denying that in the case of multi-book crossovers like this it's an advantage as opposed to a detriment. Ivan Reis is the best of the bunch, but everyone holds their own well.

All told, Trinity War is a fun crossover that does its job well. You could do far worse. Do be advised, however, that it doesn't so much end as it pulls a time honored "to be continued". It's entertaining enough that it doesn't matter to me and it did its job well of stoking the flames of my interest in Forever Evil.

My Opinion: Read It

* "Apparently" because a three year old could tell you Superman wouldn't do that. The story, to its credit, doesn't even try to pretend otherwise; once everyone calms the hell down and stops throwing punches - hell, even while punches are being thrown - pretty much everyone agrees something is wrong with the picture. Well, save Waller and maybe two others, but if we're being honest "distrusting ass who is not afraid to pull some seriously shady business" is her character in a nutshell.

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