Today, Taylor and Shelby are discussing Trinity of Sin: Pandora 3 originally released August 21, 2013. This issue is part of the Trinity War crossover event. Click here for our complete Trinity War coverage.
Taylor: One of my favorite scenes in any Quentin Tarantino movie, of which there are many, is the training sequence when Beatrix Kiddo is under the tutelage of Pai Mei. At first, the wizened martial arts master is reluctant to teach a white America woman, but eventually Beatrix’s tenacious character convinces him of her dedication to her chosen craft (killing). It’s a goofy scene that’s intentionally over-the-top in its reference to kung-fu films of old, but that’s part of the pleasure. Adding to my enjoyment of the scene is the fact that this particular segment of Kill Bill references a key archetype of storytelling: the hero’s training. In virtually every story ever written, the hero, at some point, must confront the fact that their best just isn’t good enough. Sometimes this leads to personal growth and sometimes it leads to a training montage. Whichever the choice, it’s hard to find a story where this doesn’t happen. Keeping that in mind, we shouldn’t be surprised that the myth of Pandora is being given the same treatment. However, which road will the writers take? Personal growth, training, or a mixture of the two?
So some pretty bad shit is going down in the DC universe. Virtually every hero alive is fighting one another and, to make matters worse, Shazam has nabbed Pandora’s Box and now he’s supercharged by evil and out of control. The Seven Evils released when Pandora first touched the box are enjoying seeing the world’s best tear themselves apart and Pandora is feeling helpless in her quest to defeat them. In the midst of battle she recalls her training from various points in her long life. These flashbacks span the ages and the world, centering on Medieval China, Renaissance France, and Enlightenment Era Germany. Just when all seems lost, Pandora remembers/understands something from her training and suddenly is able to physically harm the seven evils. She wastes no time in apparently killing Envy and we can only assume the rest of the Seven (now six) Evils are next.
Pandora has gone about the business of ridding the world of the Seven Evils in basically the same fashion for thousands of years. She talks to different people, she trains, and she gets new weapons. None of these approaches have ever worked, so she tries to get a superhero, or two thousand, involved in her affair in the hopes that they will be able to defeat the Evils. However, nothing about Pandora personally has changed when she made this decision. While the means of her actions were different, the thought was the same: get a weapon powerful enough — in this case, a superhero or villain — and use it to defeat the Evils.
This process has never worked for Pandora and it’s somewhat amusing that after thousands of years of butting her head against the wall, she hasn’t given up or changed her way of going about things. Perhaps this is part of Pandora’s process of becoming the hero of her own story. Or to put it another way, perhaps this is the reason why we are focusing on this particular period of her life rather than when she was hanging out in Mongolian yurts learning the ways of nomadic cleansing rituals. We see Pandora at this time in her life not because it’s the same as the other thousands of years she’s lived, but because it’s different, because she is growing and changing. Throughout this series, we’ve seen various flashbacks which have detailed Pandora’s life experiences and training, but never have they focused so much on mental training and refinement as they have in this third issue.
In a flashback to Nantes, Pandora is training with Adalger, seemingly by reenacting the story of William Tell. In preparing for this stunt Adalger philosophizes a little bit and speculates that maybe the universe needs evil in it to exist and that maybe evil is only possible because of the existence of good in our world.
It’s basically a Yin-Yang, duality, an opposites sort of thing, which is a theme that is mirrored in the other two flashbacks in this issue. The basic point of these collective teachings is that evil isn’t something that stands alone and can be fought using conventional methods. Unlike Pandora’s previous ways of defeating evil, one must approach its negation with a subtle touch and understanding. Pandora eventually gets this in the midst of battle and whatever she realizes allows her to finally defeat the Evils that have plagued her and humanity for almost all time.
This is a moment of growth and passage for Pandora and like the heroes from other stories; she is finally beginning to realize the wisdom of what her teachers have taught her. It’s similar to the scene where trapped in a coffin, Beatrix Kiddo realizes the determination needed to punch through wood using only the velocity of her own first. However, whereas that scene felt like a natural progression of Beatrix coming into the apex of her strength, the realization Pandora has feels a bit sudden. It’s hard to believe that after thousands of years and countless pains she suddenly gets it. Why now? Why during this particular fight? Surely, scenes like this have been part of Pandora’s life before, so what’s changed to make her understand her master’s teachings now? It just seems like a bit of a leap and you can’t help but wish there had been a little more than just flashbacks from eons passed to help us feel like this realization is part of a natural development.
SHEBLY! What do did you make of Pandora’s moment of clarity? Was it part of natural of her process of becoming a hero or is it more a deus ex machina? Did you like the little scene where the Feds show up to question Marcus? It seemed a little random to me, how about you?
Shelby: Well, I can understand Pandora’s sudden clarity. It’s true, she’s been fighting the same way for thousands of years, but I think this battle has the highest stakes of them all. She’s the closest to an answer with her clue from the wizard, and she’s unleashed the most powerful weapons she’ll ever find, and nothing is working. All her life, she’s been questing for the best weapon and searching for the best knowledge. Well, now she has both, and she still finds herself failing. To me, her sudden moment of clarity comes at the point of rock bottom; she has literally exhausted all her resources, and the world is now on the brink of doom because of her decisions. She is finally surrendering all of her preconceived notions of what it will take to undo what has been done, and only then does she truly understand. I think that’s a perfectly acceptable point in character development for her to reach.
What I have a harder time swallowing is the philosophy of this issue. Of her three teachers we see, the first tells her that evil is merely the effect of denying nature, I believe he gives the example of damming a flood, only to have it burst forth stronger than ever. The second posits that evil is merely the absence of good, like darkness is the absence of light; we would not be able to recognize one without the other. The third states that slumbering spirits such as the non-corporeal embodiments of the seven deadly sins are not things we can touch, but are things that reflect our own selves back to us. So, if I were to read all three of those ideas first, before getting back to the big fight scene, I would interpret it all as the necessary duality of good and evil. That evil always existed, and it was only in trapping it away, denying it it’s true nature (our true nature as sinners, even), that evil was allowed to grow into the dangerous force that Pandora unleashed. Therefore, evil is not something to be battled and defeated inasmuch as it is something we must accept; only in accepting evil’s existence as necessary can we regain balance between good and evil.
Having come to that conclusion, then, I would be very surprised to see Pandora fighting and somehow defeating Envy. It’s true, she was only granted the power to do so by allowing herself to feel envious; in seeing the sin in herself she was able to accept it and acknowledge it. But I thought the point of all her teachers was that evil is not something to be defeated? In fact, 2 out of 3 culturally ambiguous mystics agree that evil is necessary for the existence of good. I completely expected to see Pandora acknowledge and accept the evil of Envy in herself, and to have that acknowledgement rob Envy of its power and agency in this particular battle. I know this is heady stuff for a comic book who’s sole purpose so far seems to be a tie-in to a DC promo month, but this is the path this title is taking; if we’re going to discuss the philosophy of the nature of good and evil, then I’m going to call to question any issues I have with the logic involved. The real problem with the whole “you can’t fight evil because it’s necessary to the human condition” idea is that it renders Pandora’s entire quest (hell, her entire existence) moot. That’s problematic for this particular title. Honestly, I appreciate what Fawkes is doing here, I love the idea of exploring bigger philosophies in this form of media, but I feel like he painted himself into a corner with this. Hey, maybe I’m one hundred percent wrong; maybe next issue we’ll see Pandora’s destruction of the evils backfire sharply. In fact, her outright destruction of evil itself could be the very thing that triggers the avalanche of villains we see next month. Only time will tell.
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