Following the death of New 52 Superman and the arrival of pre-“Flashpoint” Clark Kent, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman haven’t been the tight-knit group of friends that fans have come to expect. That’s the genesis of Francis Manapul’s “Trinity” #1, where Batman and Wonder Woman try to adjust to the familiar-looking stranger in their midst. What we get here is not only a story of building new friendships, but a gorgeous visual spectacle as well.
By now, longtime DC fans have come to expect Manapul’s particular art style. Drawn with careful ink washes and then computer colored, his artwork results in a book with a soft, almost gentle look that comes across as painted art with traditional superhero edges. There’s as much detail provided in a kitchen’s backsplash tiles as there are on the individual hairs on a character’s head, and action sequences are drawn with the same loving care as a farmland vista. The motion of the characters is great, too; Batman jumping into the comic could have looked stiff in other hands, but here you can see the power as he propels himself through the air. Similarly, the glimpse of Wonder Woman fighting Cheetah looks great; it’s a single panel, but you can see and feel the struggle that’s going on between the duo.
What readers might not expect, though, is how Manapul quietly alters the page layouts from time to time in order to form images-within-images. It’s a technique that few modern comic artists are adept at — J.H. Williams III being a notable and obvious exception — but you can definitely add Manapul to that list. As Manapul introduces Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman to the story, the two-page spreads contain panel borders that carefully construct the iconography of each hero between the images; Wonder Woman’s eagle, Batman’s bat and Superman’s shield all appear this way. What’s more, Manapul is careful to choose the symbols that appear on each character’s chest. It puts these characters front and center in an attractive, yet non-gimmicky fashion.
That said, there’s more to “Trinity” #1 than its gorgeous art. Manapul’s story is quiet, but it feels natural as these three get to know one another, reconciling their memories of each other from different universes. There’s such a nice hesitance going on here that comes across as friends who haven’t seen each other in 30 years. The memories are there, but they’re distant and not quite right in places.
Manapul waits until the final page to start throwing bombshells at readers, and — in this case — it’s a glimpse into a past that was seemingly long gone. It’s not an earth-shaking revelation, but rather an intriguing one, both in terms of plot as well as character. In many ways, that sums up the overall approach to “Trinity” #1. This isn’t a book about huge fist fights (at least, not yet); it’s about these three DC Universe demigods as they interact and build what otherwise seemed lost. It’s a very different take on these iconic characters, but one that fits in well with the overall hopeful remit of “Rebirth.” “Trinity” #1 starts the series on an extremely strong and satisfying note.