Today, Patrick and Mikyzptlk are discussing Trinity of Sin: Pandora 1 originally released July 3rd, 2013. This issue is part of the Trinity War crossover event. Click here for our complete Trinity War coverage.
Patrick: After reading through the first issue of Trinity of Sin: Pandora, I went back and reread Ray Fawkes’ masterpiece – One Soul. The book is beautiful: it’s a sprawling, 200 page meditation on birth, sex, death, life, love, disappointment, god, war – all as told through the eyes of 18 people throughout history that never meet, never interact. None of these characters are named, but they always occupy the same single panel in each spread. When they die, their panel just goes black, and remains that way for the rest of the book. By all accounts, One Soul is a slog. It’s hard to parse out the meaning in 18 different rambling monologues, and every time you do zero in on a character, Fawkes takes them away in a tragedy of circumstance. It’s disorienting and it’s heartbreaking. The middle of this issue shares a lot of these qualities as Pandora hopelessly wanders the Earth for centuries, experiencing unspecified loss over and over again. This directionless wandering is bookended by dense DC mythology, emphasizing the long, meandering, often pointless nature of these big superhero universes. But just because they’re long, just because their meandering, just because they are often pointless, doesn’t mean they’re not also beautiful.
In prehistoric Macedonia, a young mother stumbled upon a three-eyed golden skull in the forest. The young mother makes the ULTIMATE MISTAKE in touching the skull, which releases the Seven Sins upon they world – these are like demons manifesting each of the sins, as we’ve seen in the Shazam story in Justice League. The Sins devour her entire village, and the young mother stands trial at the Rock of Eternity alongside the Phantom Stranger and the Question. As we learned from the New 52 Free Comic Book Day issue over a year ago, the young mother is sentenced to roam the world forever as punishment for releasing these evils on mankind. Her first order of business upon returning home? Burying those she lost to the Sins.
But then the narrative gets much looser, stringing together battles of the ancient world and Pandora’s experiences trying to lessen the suffering at the hands of the Sins. Oh, yes, we’re calling her “Pandora” now – after awkwardly recognizing her at three different wars centuries apart from each other, Vandal Savage informs her of her own legacy.
No matter what she does, and no matter how many battles she inserts herself into, the suffering doesn’t stop. So Pandora trains, Bruce Wayne style for centuries. She’s finally ready to take on the Sins with magic and sheer force when the wizard appears and tells her she’s been judged too harshly. No shit, right? With his dying words, the wizard sets Pandora on a path to find “the box,” open it, master it’s power and “end the curse…”
Which leads me to believe that this all takes place before the events depicted in the “present day” sections of the FCBD issue. It’s on the wizard’s marching orders that Pandora breaks into A.R.G.U.S. to get the thing. That also places the events of the Shazam story around this time – that story also showed us the last moments of the wizard. And all of that takes place sometime in 2013. I know there’s no way to construct a hard and fast (and infallible) timeline, but it is sorta fun to watch these pieces come together to form a slightly more coherent narrative.
But, man: how weird is it to see Pandora and Wrath tusslin’ in Aleppo? She spends the whole issue dropping in on real life conflicts, but I let out an audible gasp when I realized we were reading a story set in an actual, current civil war. Clearly, this character can be used to explore lots of weird facets of myth and storytelling and their relationships with history, and even more specifically the mutable nature of comic book history, but there are also heady real-world concepts at play here. Even if “demons made them do it” trivializes the Syrian Civil War, the fact that Pandora engages in this kind of conflict makes her more interesting than the her mysterious role as Dark Angel of the New 52 might imply.
Most of what I’m digging about this book is conceptual. Due to the vaguely biblical subject matter, and a persistent old-world atmosphere, most of Pandora’s voice over is written in the King Jamesian English, with characters like Pride affecting a Shakespearean cadence.
Fawkes mostly pulls it off, and the simple poetry that frames Pandora’s journey is often moving all by itself. It’s almost a shame that his elegant prose feels a little silly against drawings of wizards and superheroes. Just for funsies, let’s take one of the more lyrical bits out of context:
I did not – could not comprehend what I had done.
And there, in that place out of place, in that time out of time, they condemned me.
Branded me with scars that would burn without relief…
…and cursed me to wander this world of sin, eternally undead.
To witness the ruin I had brought forth, and to feel it with the whole of my being.
That breath stayed caught in my throat. I never took another.
They send me home, and there I did the only thing I could think to do.
I put my people in the ground, and I wept for them
The forest sprouted over their graves, and grew, and consumed them.
And when they were gone, I began to walk.
I find this issue fascinating, but this whole concept has so much to prove. Is it the cosmic glue that holds a superhero multiverse together? Is it a modern epic poem? And the biggest question – how could it possibly live up to the expectations either of those questions suggests? Mik, I have literally no idea how anyone is going to respond to this issue, so I’m eager to hear your reaction. But I’ll leave you with this: the mantra carved into the side of Pandora’s custom weapons roughly means “Deliver me from ignorance to truth,” but a more literal reading would be “Lead us from Unreality to Reality.”
Mikyzptlk: Out of the two choices, I think I’ll take “Lead us from Unreality to Reality,” if only because these huge superhero universes always seem to be so damned obsessed with the statuses and natures of their own continuities. I say that as if I’m complaining, but I’m not. I love thinking about continuity in comics. You could even say that I’m obsessed with it, and I know that I’m not alone. When I read huge, reality-warping stories like DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, I can’t help but put myself in the shoes of a random civilian. Sure, the heroes always seem to know what’s up, but what about the civilians? I mean, time travel and universal amalgamations must affect them too right?
Universe-altering tales also make me think about just how fragile these realities really are. We don’t always need a superpowered retcon-punch to change the foundations of reality, as oftentimes all is required is the stroke of a pen or the tap of a keyboard. I theorize that a big reason of why fans of this medium (the DC and Marvel U’s specifically) are so concerned with continuity is because we sense that the fluidity of these fictional universes mirror our own subjective realities. Take, for example, the dinosaur. For years we “knew” that dinos were large, scaly reptiles, but now we “know” they look more like this…
With a little bit of research, and the stroke of pen or a tap of the keyboard, scientists effectively retconned our own continuity! Sure, that is more of a conceptual retcon, but what isn’t conceptual in a fictional universe? Pandora is essentially the shepherd of the The New 52 continuity. Not only did she create it, but she’s been watching over it since it first began. If knowledge is power, then she’s arguably one of the most powerful forces in the DCU right now as she knows what things were like before Flashpoint. The point that’s taken me way too long to make is that this is the reason why I’m interested in Pandora, but does this interest in the character translate into an interest of her own series?
Well, it has certainly gotten me to pick up issue 1, but it’s Ray Fawkes that’ll get me to pick up issue 2. Patrick, you mentioned above that this issue is sporting some heady concepts and elegant prose. You ask if this series can live up to some fairly large expectations. I’m not sure if it will, or even can, but I’m confident that Ray Fawkes is talented enough to take a whack at it. I really enjoyed how serious Fawkes is playing it here. His poetic prose and Shakespearean word play successfully illustrate just how important Pandora is to the very fabric of the DCU. I mean, she created a brand new universe just to take care of her problems. She’s jump-started this new formulation of the DCU, but now she has to make sure that all of the rebooted puzzle pieces fall into place.
The end of this issue has Pandora declare that she’s going to reach out to the DCU’s greatest icon. While Geoff Johns will be handling the next chapter of this tale [Editors Note: In Justice League], Ray Fawkes has provided an interesting and endearing origin story while leaving some important questions on the table. Who created the box? What exactly is the power that it holds? More generally I wonder: Knowing what Pandora knows, what will she reveal to our heroes? The last time a character knew about pre-reboot continuity, they locked him up in Arkham Asylum where no one (mostly) was subjected to his seemingly insane ramblings. Pandora, on the other hand, seems free to do and reveal what she wishes. These questions have me pretty psyched for this series and Trinity War in general. All that’s left is for our beloved creators to live up to the hype that’s been building since the inception of The New 52. Fingers crossed.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?