Spencer: One of my favorite hobbies is explaining comic book storylines to people who don’t read comics (“Hey guys, did you know that the Justice League once fought a giant floating psychic island that shoots dinosaurs?!”). It’s always fun to watch their expressions, but it’s also an interesting reminder that comics, at their core, are goofy as hell. Personally, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I’m glad comics are finally being respected as an art form, and I wouldn’t be writing here if I didn’t love poring through comics and discussing their depths, but sometimes it’s just fun to turn off my brain and embrace the goofiness, and no story’s been better for that lately than Trinity War. It’s so much fun that I don’t even mind that big fat “to be continued” at the end—well, I don’t mind it that much…
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?
Mikyzptlk: Event comics are…strange. As Drew mentioned in his previous coverage of Trinity War, event comics like these can be hard to pin down. There’s usually a ton of damage and more colorfully clad heroes than you can shake a superpowered stick at. At the same time though, with so much going on, it can be hard to get to any meaningful characterization. It’s not impossible, but there’s just usually not that much of it. Another thing that event comics like Trinity War are known for is the idea that “Things Will Never Be The Same” after the events of said comics. In the end, what we normally get in event comics are shallow, action packed adventures that drastically change the playing field for our heroes. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, in fact, I think it’s kind of necessary. The ever-changing playing field helps to keep these decades old characters fresh, and help to prime our heroes for those character-rich solo stories we all love so much. While Trinity War has given us some interesting moments, I can’t help but feel impatient for the drastic changes it will bring. The penultimate chapter of the tale helps to reinforce that feeling. Continue reading →
Drew: Determining a level of focus is perhaps the most important step in evaluating a work of art. These foci are specific to the style at hand — harmonic analysis is likely going to tell you very little about a rap song, just as an examination of brush strokes wouldn’t add much to a discussion of da Vinci. Intriguingly, these styles often begin to resemble each other as you zoom in and out — abstract paintings may share concepts of form, color, or composition with those of the Rennaisance masters, for example — further increasing the importance focus in an analysis. Geoff Johns has always written “big” — he’s been at the helm (or at least sharing the helm) of some of DC’s most important events over the past decade — and his writing has often chafed at the analyses of his critics. Justice League of America 7 actually avoids many of the pitfalls Johns is often cited for (a lot of stuff actually happens here), but it still has me wondering if we’re simply using the wrong tool for the job of evaluating a giant, Geoff Johns-penned event. Continue reading →
Taylor: We like to think of our world as being made up of opposites. There is always a yin to a yang, there is always a cat to a dog. It’s a convenient way of looking at the world and it helps us make sense of a lot of what we see in our everyday lives. But as we grow older we come to realize that maybe the world isn’t so black and white. Maybe there isn’t an absolute good and maybe there isn’t an absolute evil. Despite this, we tend to think of comic book characters as falling in either the spectrum of evil or good. However, when Superman, supposedly a hero of pure heart, opened Pandora’s Box we realized that not even the best of our heroes is totally without a certain darkness in his heart. But if we flip the tables, is it possible we’ll find a super villain who is totally evil of heart? Pandora wants to find out and in the second issue of her stand alone series, we see that the Trinity War is becoming even more complicated than we thought.
Taylor: Superheroes are, by nature, egotistical creatures. Think about what it requires to be a superhero. Not only do you need some sort of amazing ability or power, but more importantly, you need to have a belief in yourself and that you can help the world. For some, such as Spider-Man and Superman, this egotism can be a burden, while for others, like Batman, it can be a tool to fulfill unspoken desires. Regardless of the why, superheroes must believe they are doing the right thing, otherwise they lapse into inaction or perhaps outright villainy. But this raises a question: what happens when superheroes team up and they have to make a decision, but everyone has a different opinion on how to solve that problem? Being egotists, it’s not in their nature to give in to another’s will, so what happens when they come to an impasse with their superhero peers? Justice League Dark 22, the third installment in the Trinity War tackles this question and the results are explosive, to say the least.
Patrick: Did any of you guys ever play Warhammer? If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a table top war game where you assemble an army from your race of choice and battle against your friends’ armies. It’s the least pick-up-and-play game you could ever imagine – understanding the basic rules means reading a 100+ page manual, and keeping a cheat sheet with charts and tables with you at all times. And then there’s understanding your own army, for which you need yet other book completely dedicated to that race. Then you need the little metal figures to represent the members of your army (sold separately), and if you’re really hardcore you can paint them. Then you need a surface large enough to play on – one time my friends and I took a door off its hinges and used that when we were denied the dining room table. Ideally, this surface will be populated with trees and terrain and stuff like that. Setting up the Trinity War has felt an awful lot like setting up a Warhammer game. Everyone’s been reading extra books they don’t really want to read just so they can play in the big game. Now the event is actually here and I can’t believe I’m surprised that all the characters feel like pieces in a game. Continue reading →
Taylor: The Flash has been living up to his abilities and making himself appear nearly everywhere with his insane speed. He popped up in Dial H a couple months ago and he’s currently enjoying a run (pun definitely intended) in Justice League Dark. The character has fit in remarkably well in both of these titles and in Justice League Dark, Barry even goes so far as to say he feels more comfortable working with the JLD than he does with his regular teammates. That Barry would say such a thing is interesting both for its narrative consequences and for what it means about his crossover events in general. It’s not always an easy thing to integrate a hero, with his or her own mythology and personality, into a different title that has its tone and voice. So what happens when you try to integrate not just one hero, but an entire league of them into a different title? Can that be done? Issue 22 of the Justice League, which marks the beginning of the Trinity War crossover event, makes it seem that such a thing is not only possible, but that it can done well too.
Patrick: Comic books have an unhealthy relationship with death. For superheroes and their enemies and friends and families, death is a temporary setback. It’s such a common assumption that heroes will come back from the dead, and that assumption affects our language as we talk about these characters. Here’s a good example — in the blurb introducing the new Marvel series Superior Foes of Spider-Man, the editor explains the conceit of the series by saying:
…One thing they have in common is their shared hatred for their nemesis, the Superior Spider-Man — even if he’s possessed by their old boss Otto Octavius at the moment.
“At the moment?” Dude, come on, let’s commit to the idea that Peter Parker is dead. Otherwise, he’s not dead — he’s on vacation. So, it’s nice a character so integral to DC’s mythology journey all the way to heaven only to discover that he can’t just pluck the souls of his family from the afterlife.
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.