Trinity of Sin: Pandora 1

pandora 1 trinityToday, 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.

trinity war divPatrick: 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.

Vandal Savage tell Pandora how it is

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.

But soft, what pride through yonder window breaks

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.”

trinity war div

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…


. Image Source: IFLS

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.

Shield of Steel

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.

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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?

14 comments on “Trinity of Sin: Pandora 1

  1. Wait, what’s all this about Johns taking the reigns from here on out? Is that true? I was really hoping we could keep reading the metaphysical journey of Pandora as told by Fawkes. I may not be totally in love with it yet, but it seems uniquely posed to STAY WEIRD, and we have to cherish that.

  2. Hey, how about that Vandal Savage? He’s also been around for at least 8000 years, and we’ve been seeing him drift through various points of interest in the past. Is there a bigger importance to him? Or is he just some violence junky? Like of like a less-interesting Wolverine.

    • How much have we seen of Vandal in the present day DCU? I know he had an arc in DCU Presents (that I didn’t read) and he’s been in Demon Knights right? I can’t think of other appearances he might have made in the N52. With his longevity, you’d think he’d be a big player in the world. I’d imagine that he has his hand in a lot of stuff, but it just hasn’t been revealed as of yet. Seems like Trinity War, Villains Month, and Forever Evil is a good place for that to change.

      What’s your experience with the character Patrick? Do like him, hate him, or are you still waiting for him to make an impression on you?

      • He showed up in All Star Western 17 and 18 and I want to say that I’ve seen him one other place, but for the life of me, I can’t think of where that would have been. He’s already made an impression, and that’s kind of what I articulated: he’s just a battle-junky, seeking all the biggest conflicts throughout the ages and inserting himself. As a counterpoint for Pandora, that’s certainly interesting, but that implies a larger role for the guy – like he’s some divine agent of chaos. I much prefer the idea that he’s just some weird anomaly: a barbarian that never stops swinging his sword. Where the fuck is he in present day?

        • Savage is an interesting character. I think my favorite portrayal of him is in the Justice League animated series, where his first storyline involves him inventing a time machine in order to send advanced technology back to his past self, allowing him to conquer the world until the Justice League intervenes. His best storyline involves an attack that seemingly “kills” Superman, but instead sends him millions of years into the future. With Superman gone, Savage defeats the League, but in the process, wipes out all of humanity. Unable to die, Savage spends millions of years alone and isolated, until meeting the displaced Superman. Savage has been driven slightly unhinged, but has also basically been reformed, realizing that the goals he pursued in the past was not what he actually wanted at all. Savage helps return Superman to the past and gives him the information he needs to take his past-self down, and he succeeds. Savage stands there, watching the future be rewritten around him and watching his own self start to fade away, but he doesn’t care that he’s dying or that his reformation has basically been undone, he’s just happy that humanity has been saved.

          Anyway, onto the comics themselves. I’m not sure what Savage has been up to in the New 52, (I haven’t read any of his appearances besides this issue), but in the old continuity I never really took him as a simple brute or a berzerker like Wolverine. Savage is an excellent hand-to-hand combatant to be sure (having had an eternity to practice and learn), but he probably enjoys war, but it isn’t his first course of action. Savage is an amazingly patient tactician, creating plans that can take hundreds of years or more to fully come into effect–after all, he’s not going anywhere.

          There is a more savage (ugh) side to Vandal, but it only tends to come out when he’s forced into hand-to-hand or when his plans are being particularly unraveled. In a JSA story he once took on both Wildcats in combat, and started out as a well-dressed, regal sort of person, but as the battle raged his clothes tore and he became less vocal and more primal, almost as if he was regressing to caveman instincts. It was pretty interesting.

          Savage certainly thinks of himself before anybody else, and even when he thinks of others it’s usually on a very large scale (Savage cares about the advancement and evolution of the human race, for example, but doesn’t really have any concern for them as individuals), but he’s not necessarily the kind of mustache swirling supervillain either. While he isn’t really the kind of guy to team-up with superheroes, he’s certainly fought for the same goals as them on occasion.

          Oh, and some writers like to say that he’s the Biblical first murderer, Cain

        • Oh, and I forgot to say this, so let me add:

          It’s possible that Savage isn’t even concerned about superheroes yet in the New 52 Universe. He’s obviously familiar with meta-humans, having met them in the past, but also, Savage is a very long-game kind of guy. Superheroes have been around for six years at the most, and that’s not even the blink of an eye to Savage. I imagine he’s probably waiting around to see if they even “last” before trying to make any sort of move on them–and certainly won’t without something grand to gain from it.

        • That bit about Savage being Cain is pretty interesting. The Red lantern energy has also been teased as originating in that original murder. I fucking love seeing biblical stuff pop up in comics – it’s exactly how I want to recontextualize the faith I grew up with: fun, culturally charged stories!

          Also, I guess I was being overly simplistic in comparing him to Wolverine. As soon as Spencer used the work “berzerker” I realized that I was not expressing myself clearly. It’s like he understands himself to be an effective warrior and he seeks out those experiences – everyone wants to do the thing they’re good at, right? Obviously, he’s smart and observant enough to recognize one woman at three different battles set thousands of years apart from each other. But it also seems like he doesn’t really care – he’s like “Oh, shit, do you know what people are saying about you? I’ll see ya later, I’m gonna cut off some heads while the gettin’ is good.”

  3. I was certainly interested in the mythology of Pandora here but the fact that it’s a lead-in to an event kind of hurts the story on its own merits

    • I dunno man, I think Pandora’s roll as this 10,000 year old observer makes her perspective on the DCU interesting in and of itself. Though, I will admit that Pandora seems to echo your sentiment. When she’s about to kill Wrath and then is spirited away to meet the wizard, she responds to his orders by saying “Fine, then. Fine.” She so frustrated that she has to deal with superheroes!

  4. Okay, I wasn’t sure I’d even be interested in Pandora, but I like what I’ve seen so far. She’s a sympathetic character, and the concept of someone falsely condemned, forced to walk for eternity and at least try to make up for the problems she’s caused, even if she’s doomed to failure, is compelling.

    I’m not 100% sure on the execution, yet. There was a lotttt of talking and exposition, as I suppose there would have to be in a book that basically covers from the beginning of time to the modern day, but it’s still a lot to get through. There had to have been a more interesting way to cover this information without making it SEEM like they were just covering this information, which was definitely obvious.

    Still though, they managed to get all of that out of the way in only one issue, and I still didn’t dislike it. And actually Patrick, pointing out the poetic nature of the prose helped me to appreciate the writing more, so thank you, I appreciate you doing that. I wouldn’t mind reading all of that just on its own.

    • I’l just embrace the broken-recordness of this comment: One Soul. One Soul. One Soul. One Soul. One Soul. One Soul. One Soul. One Soul. One Soul.

      Fawkes’ poetry is out of control in that book, and the 18 individual stories often get too hard to follow (for pages and pages at a time), so you’re just sort of left to revel in the beauty of the sad, minimalist turns of phrase he uses. It took me a second to identify that that’s what was happening in Pandora too – so many people try to affect that style of writing to inject a little epicness into otherwise crummy art. I mean, hell, look at Rob Liefeld – he tries to write like this all the time, but the dude writes the way he draws, so it’s always unsatisfying and phony. Even the people who are marginally better at it suffer from sounding kinda forced – without starting a fight, I’d put forth that Jason Aaron does not always pull of this style in Thor: God of Thunder. Fawkes’ work, by comparison, is much more careful.

      It’s like Nigel Tuffnel said: “It’s such a thin line between clever and stupid.”

  5. Pingback: Trinity of Sin: Pandora 2 | Retcon Punch

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