It was kind of weird reading through my stack of new comics yesterday afternoon and not reading an issue of Trinity, DC’s third consecutive weekly series. Having read an issue of it every Wednesday for the previous year (well, I guess a few shipped on Thursdays due to holidays), I actually kind of missed it.
It was rarely the best comic I’d read on a particular Wednesday, but it was always pretty good—an easily accessible, extremely reliable comic book equivalent of comfort food.
Now that it’s over and I’ve had a week or so to think about it, I don’t think it was as good as 52, despite having a more consistent narrative point-of-view and stronger interior art on average than 52 did, although it was far, far better than Countdown, which I don’t think I ever managed to read past the sixth issue or so.
I think it’s also quite an accomplishment, and I congratulate the writers and artists involved for getting it out on-time every week for a year, and for never looking rushed in doing so (I think the final issue was the only time any of the artists seemed to be in a hurry, judging by the work itself).
After the jump, I’ll list some of what I liked and some of what I didn’t, starting with the negative so we can end on a positive note.
1.) The covers. A lot of talented artists contributed covers to the series, so it’s not as if they were marred by bad drawings each week or anything, but the cover concept got quite tiresome after a while. Each issue was one-third of a triptych prominently featuring the Trinity, each member striking a pose of some sort. There were a few notable riffs on the concept, but they didn’t deviate very far, and the result was a book that seemed to have the same cover every week.
I don’t think that was a horrible thing, nor do I think it necessarily hurt sales by confusing customers or anything, but it was an aspect I didn’t like. The first of the weeklies, 52, had a much stronger cover concept; you could almost read 52 by looking at J.G. Jones’ covers alone.
I wasn’t terribly fond of that logo, featuring the three heroes’ symbols stacked on top of one another, with two of them being out of focus each week either, but I eventually got used to it.
2.) The pacing occasionally dragged. It occurred to me as the series reached the end that 52 is a rather arbitrary number of issues, and that Trinity was probably 52 issues long because Countdown was 52 issues long, and Countdown was 52 issues long because 52 was.
Now 52 was 52 issues for a reason. The concept, as originally conceived, was to do a comic that occurred in “real time,” 24-style, and that was more or less integral to the storytelling approach. Additionally, it was meant to cover a missing year in the DC Universe, and tied into the latest cosmology of the DCU (although it’s safe to assume the number of issues came first, the number of alternate earths second).
Did Trinity need to be 52 issues long, or was it a shorter story poured into an overlong run? I think the latter, which would explain why the narrative seemed to slow here and there, or attention seemed diverted into less interesting background (I’m thinking particularly of the issues in which so much time was focused on the way the mythology of the Egg World reflected the life stories of the Trinity; the point was clear within an issue or two, an didn’t need explained so).
Busiek’s storytelling never seemed decompressed; he and his collaborators clearly weren’t just killing time through splash pages or long, detailed, silent, cinematic passages or anything like that. But a great deal of attention was focused on many of the bit players, giving them extensive backgrounds, which no doubt made the experience richer, but, if you’re not all that interested in Big Strong Alien Guy’s deepest motivations, kind of boring too.
Personally, I would have preferred a tighter, fleeter, more focused 36 or 48 issue series than one that was written to fill 52 issues just because, you know? I hope DC continues doing weekly series regularly, and that they do them of varying lengths (I see the next one, Wednesday Comics, will be shorter than 52 issues).
3.) Scott McDaniel. Not to single McDaniel out as the worst creator involved or anything, but his particular style is the one that stood out the most from the other artists involved.
DC solved the art consistency problem of the previous two monthlies rather elegantly here, by hiring one of the few name artists capable of providing a lot of art on a tight schedule to draw half of the book, and rotating artists to handle the back half. Tom Derenick and Mike Norton have a rather similar style, one that’s not too far removed from Bagley’s.
McDaniel’s figures tend to be much stockier and abstracted, his artwork flatter and less detailed. It’s immediately identifiable as the art of Scott McDaniel, and it draws attention to itself by its difference from the others.
4.) Tomorrow Woman’s job. Why are so many superheroes attracted to journalism in their off time?
1.) It was there every week. That probably sounds like a backhanded compliment, the verbal equivalent of a participation ribbon, but it is one of the nice things about a weekly comic like this. No matter how light a week it might be otherwise, I knew that every single Wednesday there would be a super-comic featuring a bunch of DC heroes, by creators I liked and trusted to deliver no worse than a decent enough comic. If you’re a habitually Wednesday superhero comic shopper like me, that’s comforting knowledge.
This was especially appreciated given the somewhat chaotic nature of the rest of DC’s line. For example, I’ve avoided JLoA for much of the last year, so it was nice to see so many of the characters popping up here, or when Batman was dead or Superman off-planet an you found yourself missing them, they could still be found here.
2.) Busiek, Bagley and company tried to include the entire DC Universe. This storyline definitely synchronized its scope to that of the DC universe in terms of time, space and the character catalog. Considering how long its been since Bagley has done any DC work, the fact that they tried to cram everyone in was appreciated (that is, there are few characters I haven’t seen Bagley draw at this point).
And did they ever try to cram everyone in. In addition to almost all of the DC heroes and villains currently active in the company’s various books, I saw plenty of relatively obscure characters like Gangbuster, Ragman, Tomorrow Woman, Triumph, Skyrocket, Space Ranger, original costume Black Orchid, Punch and Jewlee, Nocturna, Jason Blood, Prometheus, Charity from James Robinson’s Starman run and on and on.
3.) The series added to the DCU, rather than just subtracting from it, or rearranging the pieces. I understand why creators are reluctant to create new characters when doing work-for-hire stuff for the Big Two. The comics industry was built on exploiting great ideas from creators losing control of their best ideas, and certainly now there’s a greater awareness that the next great comics creation could be the source of a movie franchise and marketing empire.
Even still, superhero universes are built on new ideas and characters getting thrown out willy nilly, and there’s got to be a balance than can be struck between creating new characters and not just handing over valuable intellectual properties. (Of creators working today, I think Grant Morrison has been one of the best at creating minor characters from scratch that seem to fit into the series he introduces them in, without risking turning over the next Superman to DC to exploit).
Busiek, Bagley and company gave us the quartet of villains-turned-heroes called The Dreambound (of whom Primat’s the only one I like all that much), fortune-telling young woman Tarot, the heroic Riddler of the Crime Syndicate’s earth Enigma and big, strong alien guy Xor, and they also brought Busiek’s previous creation The Void Hound into a new, different place and status quo.
I don’t see any of those characters necessarily going on to star in the next Hitman, but still—new characters!
4.) Tomorrow Woman is back. I always liked her, and the one-issue story Grant Morrison wrote about her early in his JLA run was one of that book’s strongest, I thought. She’s been restored to life, one of the relatively few changes that was actually made during the unmaking, remaking, unmaking and remaking again of reality that occurred in this series.
5.) Despite its size and subject matter, it remained self-contained. While Trinity starred the entire DC Universe, and involved the sort of destruction and recreation of the universe that occurs in big crossovers like Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis, it all happened within the confines of this particular book, and I can’t think of any instances where it contradicted anything major in the other books.
It took a year to complete, but didn’t reflect all the changes in the various characters’ own books, because it didn’t have to; it could quite easily be slotted as occurring before Final Crisis or New Krypton or whatever.
If DC can do that with a 52-issue series, they really ought to be able to figure out how to do it with a few story arcs of JLoA.