Before I begin my review, I have to include the cover of Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1 because the Flash is on it. But then again, just about everybody else in the DC Universe is on this cover. This issue serves as the prequel to Trinity War, but I found it highly disappointing. It didn't tell me anything I didn't already know or wouldn't have guessed. Basically, the important thing we learn in this issue is that Pandora "opened" her "box" (a golden skull with three eyes) in 8000 B.C. She didn't really open it so much as she simply picked it up. Anyway, this act unleashed the Seven Deadly Sins on the world, and she was punished to forever wander the world of sin. I find it hard to believe that it took Pandora 10,000 years to come up with some sort of a plan to catch the Sins, and I was really sad this issue said nothing of her role in the Flashpoint event. The issue had really disjointed art and suffers from an overly long and clunky title. I did not pick up issue #2, and I'm surprised that anyone did. Now, on to the main event.
"Trinity War Chapter One: The Death Card"
Geoff Johns Writer
Ivan Reis Penciller
Joe Prado and Oclair Albert Inkers
Rod Reis Colors
DC Lettering Letters
Kate Stewart Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Senior Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family
Of a slightly interesting note, this is the first time I've seen a comic lettered by DC Lettering. I guess this is the direction we're moving now, since everything is done on computers and its more efficient to everything in big teams. Some fans might bemoan the lost art of a good letterer, but that's where we are today. The cover is by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis, and its actually only one third of a larger image. I'm quite indifferent on the whole concept. There is a sense of satisfaction when you finally get all three covers together, but I think they each suffer a little bit individually to serve the bigger purpose. And this cover unfortunately features a nonexistent fight between Dr. Light and Madame Xanadu.
Our story begins with Madame Xanadu acting as a fortune teller for a young woman. But instead of seeing that woman's future, she sees the aftermath of the Trinity War and the events that lead up to it. First we see Billy Batson, who has just killed Black Adam. Despite the protests from his foster family, Billy decides he needs to spread Black Adam's ashes across his homeland, Kahndaq. At the Belle Reve Prison, Superman and Wonder Woman argue about what to do with Despero, who recently destroyed the Justice League Watchtower. Pandora approaches them and presents Superman with her infamous box. She says that Superman is the purest of heart and can help her recapture the Seven Sins that she unwittingly freed.
At the headquarters of the Justice League of America in Washington, D.C., Amanda Waller is blackmailing Dr. Light to join the team in order to take out Firestorm. At the remains of the Justice League Watchtower in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, the rest of the Justice League are searching the remains of the satellite for any salvageable items and to figure out how Despero got past the security systems. Cyborg is upset with Batman for not telling anyone he had a kryptonite ring until it got stolen. Element Woman and Firestorm are impressed that the female Atom took down Despero, but she doesn't tell them Martian Manhunter really did it because he asked her not to tell. Atom then finds a chess set with figures shaped like the Justice League members, but the Superman piece is missing.
Speaking of Superman, he has now taken hold of Pandora's box, but instead of capturing the Sins, he gained a third eye on his forehead and attacked Pandora and Wonder Woman in a rampage. Pandora is able to shoot the box from his hand and he quickly returns to normal. Batman then calls them and tells them that Shazam has arrived in Kahndaq and doesn't seem to realize he's attracted the whole Kahndaqi army. Americans aren't allowed in that country, so the League decides to pull Shazam out. And since Shazam is magical-based, Superman decides to bring Zatanna with them.
The Justice League of America also heard about Shazam entering Kahndaq, so Waller decided now is the best time to take down the Justice League. For the first time, the members of the JLA learn who they are supposed to fight, and Vibe seems especially worried that he's supposed to take down the Flash. He asks Hawkman if he'd like to trade for Aquaman, but Hawkman refuses.
In Kahndaq, Shazam is attacked by the army before he can spread Black Adam's ashes. Before he can retaliate, he's hit by Superman. The two heavy hitters duke it out for a little bit before they're joined by the Justice League. They ask Shazam what he's doing in here, but before he can answer, the Justice League of America arrives.
Everybody starts to argue for a bit and Atom tells Element Woman that she's been working with the JLA. Xanadu sees that Pandora is taking her box to someone else, while the Phantom Stranger has decided to become involved, and the Question is trying to figure out who is the evil behind the evil. He has a big board of clues set up, with everything leading to Superman. Dr. Light tries to prevent any escalation by telling a passionate story about his wife, but then his powers go haywire when he approaches Superman. Dr. Light accidentally attacks Wonder Woman, and Superman grabs Dr. Light and kills him with his heat vision.
Madame Xanadu's client then reveals herself as Plastique. She was sent by the Secret Society to capture Xanadu and prevent her from warning anybody about the future. Everyone in Kahndaq begins fighting, while the Outsider watches from afar with an evil grin.
Epic storyline. I have an interesting love-hate relationship with Geoff Johns. Sometimes I love his stuff, sometimes it bugs the crap out of me, but almost always, I am compelled to read his stories. And that's usually because he gets to write these big, massive events that involve just about everyone imaginable, and are essential reading for any DC fan. Simply put, if you want to know what's going on in DC, you have to read this issue, whether you like it or not. And I think that's the first time I've been able to say that about an issue in the New 52. DC built up the Trinity War for a long time, including a big preview on Free Comic Book Day 2012. So we had more than a year of excitement preceding this issue. It may or may not have been overhyped, but regardless, this is something that everybody needs to check out.
The art. I'm not a huge fan of Ivan Reis, but he was the perfect choice for this story. What really won me over in this issue, was seeing how much Reis' Billy Batson and Shazam looked like Gary Frank's. And Reis draws enough like Jim Lee to keep his fans interested, as well. But in addition to blending Frank's and Lee's styles, Reis is really good at managing scenes with dozens of characters. He's had a lot of experience in this area, and it pays off. Everybody looks good and everybody's doing something interesting.
Superman's "murder." This is one of my biggest complaints with Johns: He doesn't let the reader live in any doubt or suspicion. In Blackest Night, Johns spent a lot of time building up to the revival of Batman. When that moment finally happened, Reis drew a massive, two-page vertical spread to show the shock and horror of a zombie Batman. But then Johns immediately got rid of him and carefully explained to everybody that he wasn't the real Bruce Wayne, effectively killing any impact of that moment. In this issue, he did the exact same thing with Superman killing Dr. Light. Instead of letting us think for even a moment that Superman intentionally committed murder, we get a bunch of quotes from people explaining that Superman wasn't in control of his actions. Superman first says, "N-no … I didn't mean to … what have I done?" Then Xanadu says, "Superman did not do this!" Then Question says, "Who is trying to impute the man of steel?" Then the Outsider says, "Thanks to me, everyone will believe that Superman's killed Doctor Light." Couldn't all that have waited one issue? Couldn't we have spent one week in shock and disbelief that Superman killed somebody? But even if we didn't have all those quotes, we would've presumed Superman's innocence because of Pandora's box. And how are we supposed to feel bad for Dr. Light when we weren't given any time to get to know him. I don't care about him, I don't care about his daughters, and I sure as heck don't care about the morality lessons his wife taught him.
Now Flash didn't get to do much here, but I know it's tough to balance a cast of roughly 30 characters. With so many people around, most of them aren't going to do or say anything. But at least we did get a nice moment with Vibe thinking Aquaman would be easier to fight than Flash. And considering they're out in the desert, there might be some truth to that.
Final score: 6 out of 10
Next time: Trinity War Chapter Two in Justice League of America #6