If you have not read, or do not know what it is about, Trinity War is the culmination of a crossover between Justice League, Justice League of America and Justice League Dark wrapped loosely around the Trinity of Sin – Pandora, The Question and The Phantom Stranger.
To support the main cross over storyline held by the League titles there were also tie-in issues of Constantine, The Phantom Stranger and the newly launched Pandora title. Instead of divergent stories, these were character explorations; not necessary purchases to follow the main story, but in my experience of them they are a nice addition to round off the whole offering.
The main thrust of the Trinity War was written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire, giving an intricate continuity throughout. The best thing about the story for me is that it never felt like it lost its focus. Johns and Lemire kept the pace fast and constantly hitting. Unlike previous DC events (like Flashpoint), there are no divergent and disassociated stories to detract from the main theme. Instead it brings together the various New 52 Justice League teams, culminating in something that none of them truly expected.
The story of Trinity War is initially based on the Greek myth of Pandora’s box. Once thought to be a gift from the gods it was opened by Pandora releasing the seven deadly sins upon the world (something which is looked to more in her tie-ins). However, the DC spin is that the box - in the form of a three-eyed golden skull - was not actually from the gods. In fact even they do’t know much about it. So where is it from and what is it’s purpose? Despite this Pandora is on a quest to open the box again, using either the purest or darkest of hearts so that she can put the sins back in the box for good.
To this end Pandora is the catalyst in bringing the Justice League into the story, as she hoped that Superman would be the one who could open it. Sadly during that meeting something goes horribly awry and Superman is tainted. In the process it appears he kills Doctor Light. The JLA are then introduced to the mix as Captain Marvel’s boyish naivety draws both teams into a politically charged international situation. Superman voluntarily places himself into custody but the incident, The Question has been watching from the shadows and putting things together; he realises that there is more than meets the eye, finally stepping in to break Superman out.
It is finally in Justice League Dark we catch up with The Phantom Stranger and discover that Madam Xanadu (who was believed to be killed) is held hostage by an unknown figure. The even bigger bombshell is dropped at the end when this mystery villain claims that there is a mole within the Leagues, casting doubt across almost everyone.
This is the end of what can be perceived as the first act. Interestingly enough the internal conflict, struggle and general chasing of Pandora are reflected in the triptych of adjoining covers. This imagery is then continued through the second act of comics, as another triptych depicts the hunt for the golden skull.
The story explores the idea that motivations can vary, change and evolve. The threat of Pandora's box is its ability to taint even the strongest of hearts and minds making them mad when in its proximity. Noble individuals suddenly covet the box for themselves or their own selfish reasons. Shazam - who has a childish honesty about him - almost managed the feat only to be changed by the box, becoming that which he clearly fears. The knock-on effect of his magic is that it opened everyones' minds to the world around them meaning, revealing the captured Madame Xanadu and dropping the skull into John Constantine’s grasp with no apparent effect. This provided me with the entire story's funniest moment when in typical flippant fashion everyone’s favourite anti-hero quipped that of course he wasn’t affected my the box: “Corrupt me? You can’t spoil an already filthy pot, love.” Brilliant!
There then followed a massive revelation for this story as Xanadu saw that the item that everyone ws fighting over was not the box as they had all thought but instead it was a doorway. Everyone had been played and things would only get worse.
The final issue - released this week - focuses on the identity of Xanadu's mysterious captor as this sinister gentlemen figure opens said doorway, against the backdrop of an outright internal war of heroes, harking back to our brief preview of these events in last year's Free Comic Book Day issue. Other horrors include Cyborg being forcibly removed from his cybernetic systems that transform into a new robotic body for a sentient and overreaching AI, plus the revelation that the traitor in the midst is the Atom. But the coup de grace is this thin man's identity as he stands revealed as the Alfred Pennyworth of Earth-Three. With a tongue in cheek reference of “the butler did it,” he reveals the skull's true purpose as he opens the doorway to his masters. The Trinity was never about the three sinners, it was about the number itself. Behold the Crime Syndicate - the yin to the Justice League’s yang in every way shape and form - and they are here to take over the world.
As a final issue it ties up the storyline brilliantly, and leaves the door open to follow straight into DC’s Villains Month and the Forever Evil event. Have the heroes survived? Is this why every bad guy is running riot? We shall see.
Across all of the issues a plethora of artists including the like of Ivan Reis and Doug Mahnke who have produced a concise body of work, which comes into its own in the sixth issue with several single and double page splashes, including interesting use of both portrait and landscape layouts. There are huge impact pieces which punctuate the issue fantastically. All of them are a must-see and choosing one as a stand out would be like choosing a favourite child, although at this particular moment the removal of Cyborg is edging ever so slightly ahead.
In the same vein as Flashpoint, Trinity War is a great piece of work to read on its own yet it also heralds a greater change. Whilst the debacle of the 3D covers has tarnished Villains Month before it even arrives, it seems that Geoff Johns and co are set to rise above that nonsense with the Forever Evil event. The Crime Syndicate aren't a new concept in DC Comics, but this may arguably be the best introduction they've ever had.
Matt Puddy loved the ride, can you tell?