With issue #17 of Trinity, the year-long limited series’ fourth month comes to a close; and so does its first big arc. Trinity is the third of DC’s fifty-odd week series, but unlike its predecessors 52 and Countdown (To Infinite Crisis) it has no immediately recognizable place in the DC superhero line. DC already has books about Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, both solo and in various combinations. Trinity hasn’t been billed as a game-changing Big Event, after which nothing will ever be the same. It doesn’t cross over with its heroes’ solo or team-up titles. It’s just a story which has these characters’ relationships at its center.
So what have we learned, and why should we care?
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Act One of Trinity can be broken down into a few main arcs.
– Issues #1-#2 set up the book’s premise. Essentially, the renegade scientist/cosmic entity called Krona has been sending out different sets of dreams to two groups of three super-characters. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have each been getting different perspectives on Krona’s escape (although they don’t know it’s Krona escaping). Meanwhile, a group of villains unofficially dubbed the Troika — sorceress Morgaine Le Fay, extraterrestrial tyrant Despero, and Enigma, the Anti-Matter Earth’s version of the Riddler — have been receiving Krona’s dreams of power. The Troika aim to take the Trinity’s place as “universal keystones,” but to do that they’ll need a bunch of ingredients.
– Issues #2-#5 portray the Justice League (including the Trinity)’s fight with extraterrestrial prison escapees Konvikt and Graak.
– Issues #6-#9 deal with various aspects of the villains’ Tarot-centered plan.
– Issues #10-#14 cover the League’s fight with the Anti-Matter Earth’s Crime Syndicate of Amerika.
– Issues #15-#17 show the League and others taking the fight to the Troika. Issue #17 ends with the Troika’s plan succeeding, and the world re-shaped presumably to their wishes.
Since the book has two stories per issue (with the lead usually a few pages longer), it can be flexible in how it advances various plot elements. Mostly the backups are concerned with supporting characters and subplots, and many times those backups aren’t directly related to the main arc (for example, with the issues featuring the Crime Syndicate).
As you might expect, the Troika’s plan is a familiar superhero plot: villains stealing items whose connection is not readily apparent. Specifically, Enigma (posing as the Riddler) hires Gotham-based villains to steal particular “wands, pentacles, swords, and cups”: i.e., mystical devices with a connection to the Tarot. Later, another group of villains (the Dreambound, created by the Troika) steals three sets of three Trinity-related items: one each for a hero’s foe, friend, and foundation. Meanwhile, Morgaine Le Fay has been sending out her Howlers (wolf-men) to brand each of the Trinitarians with a mystic sigil. Put all of these together, mix on a techno-altar, and say the magic words; and presto! you and two of your friends are the universe’s new triune keystones.
Looking back at that big list of arcs, though, neither the Konvikt nor Crime Syndicate fights appear to have much to do with the Troika’s plan. Enigma’s true identity isn’t confirmed until after the League leaves Anti-Matter Earth, and Konvikt only meets two of the Troika in what may be an alternate-universe vision. While there is some suggestion (in issue #13) that the Troika might have manipulated the Crime Syndicate, their actions — kidnapping people from other Earths for slave labor to rebuild their shattered world — otherwise flow pretty directly from their last appearance in JLA.
Therefore, the Konvikt and Crime Syndicate arcs appear for now to be more illustrative of the Trinity’s functions and less directly related to the overall plot. Indeed, the Konvikt fight shows the Trinitarians working together and as part of a larger team. The CSA arc expands on these observations, contrasts our heroes with their evil counterparts, and hints at the Trinitarians’ “keystone” roles.
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Because Trinity doesn’t have the same kind of structural importance that a more continuity- or “rules”-oriented title might, it may feel the need to justify its own existence. So far it has attempted to do so through these two action-oriented arcs. The idea that these three characters form a universal trinity may be, on its face, more suited for a term paper than a year-long weekly comic book. Accordingly, Trinity’s arguments are based in the texts themselves, and don’t try to recast familiar characterizations in radical new lights.
This is entirely appropriate, considering that Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman each achieved their Trinitarian status on the strengths of their respective publishing histories. Each has upwards of seventy years’ worth of stories, across various media, from which to draw the commonalities of his or her character. Each has gone through various levels of popularity relative to the others. One could even make the case that Batman and Wonder Woman each went through periods of emulating Superman and his “family”; which might make distinguishing them from him that much more complicated. Accordingly, as I’ve argued previously, the idea that these three are thematically related is a fairly recent one.
Still, it’s not an unwelcome idea. Both Enigma’s speech in issue #14 and Morgaine’s incantation in issue #17 suggest that while Batman and Superman are defined rather easily, Wonder Woman’s role is more complex. Historically, Wonder Woman has been the odd person out in this particular group of three; and she continues to lag behind her “brothers” in objective measures of popularity. Now, I don’t mean to discount anyone else’s WW work, least of all her book’s current creative team. However, Trinity has the opportunity to establish Wonder Woman on a more macro level as something more than simply the middle ground between Superman’s idealism and Batman’s cold practicality.
That brings me to the topic of Trinity’s scope. To me, one of 52‘s biggest strengths was its one-stop nature. If you only wanted to read one DC comic per week, 52 would do nicely. By design it was self-contained, and despite its plot-based restrictions it could still tell a fairly epic story. Likewise, I think Trinity uses DC’s places and people very well, bringing together the three “worlds” of its principals and orienting them to a larger context.
However, the first act does seem to have been pretty Bat-centric. Clearly a lot of that has to do with the museum robberies, each of which used a different Batman villain. It’s also not surprising that Nightwing, Robin, Oracle, and the Outsiders have gotten a lot of attention. Still, intentionally or not, it helps emphasize the influence Batman has had on DC-Earth. Similarly, I expect Trinity will emphasize Superman’s influence on Metropolis, for example by his absence at the end of issue #17. These are blindingly obvious methods, since Superman and Batman each have their own fictional cities through which their personalities can be reflected. Each of them also have stable, well-established supporting casts. Again, it all makes me more eager to see how Trinity portrays the influence Wonder Woman has had.
Trinity, though, has been building its own supporting cast. In addition to new characters Konvikt, Graak, and Tarot, the book has teamed up (sort of) Green Lantern and Firestorm, and Hawkman and Gangbuster, and set the latter pair largely against new villains the Dreambound. While Green Lantern and Firestorm seem to have been put together out of storytelling convenience, obviously something more meaningful is going on with Hawkman and Gangbuster. Hawkman’s past lives connect him somehow to the universe (as seen in #16), if not the Multiverse; and Gangbuster’s relationship with Tarot links him in turn to the mysterious “Worldsoul.”
Regardless, these characters are not exactly “trinities” themselves. Hawkman, Gangbuster, and Tarot come closest, with Hawkman as Moon/Devil/Magus, Gangbuster as Justice/Emperor/Sun, and Tarot as Priestess/World/Strength. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch; but it could be that the Troika-Earth will reject its new masters and reshape these three, not unlike how the Trinitarians’ thoughts and demeanors merged together towards the end of Act One.
(And now I’m thinking of that “Futurama” where Bender gets linked to Leela’s emotions….)
Anyway, the four Dreambound clearly don’t constitute a trinity, and neither do the duo of Konvikt and Graak. That’s not to say we won’t see how they could, or whether there’s some other power in their particular number.
With that, then, I’ll wrap up by listing some subplots not resolved in this first act:
– John Stewart’s “going armamental”;
– Konvikt and Graak’s places in the story;
– the meaning of the “Trinity monument,” carved out of the side of a mountain and seen in a vision in issue #1;
– the identity of Swashbuckler’s formerly-dead (still-dead?) body … perhaps he’s one of the people Konvikt killed?;
– Enigma’s backstory, filling in the gap after his escape from the Crime Syndicate; and finally …
– … what of the Cookie Wars between the Girl Sentries and the Bonfire Gals? After all, “pastry” has been a recurring motif ever since issue #1!
Back on Thursday with the regular dose of mostly-accurate trivia. See you then!