Over two years ago, DC started on what would become an evolving experiment with “52”, a weekly comic book that would serve as a sequel to “Infinite Crisis.” It had a lot going for it, conceptually. The entire DCU jumped ahead a year and this book was set to fill in that blank. It also featured, arguably, the four best writers working for DC at the time (if not the four best writing monthly comics, period). So, that turned out well.
Following on its heels was “Countdown,” which would eventually evolve into “Countdown To Final Crisis.” It was met with less enthusiasm, less critical success, and by all accounts was seen as a bit of a mess once it all wrapped up.
The two books took wildly different approaches in terms of their connections to the rest of the DCU and their ultimate significance to the overall “continuity” of the universe. Never ones to shy away from a challenge, Dan DiDio and DC Comics have decided to give things another shot, this time taking an approach just as different from “Countdown” as “Countdown” was from “52.” Instead of a TV-style Writer’s Room, “Trinity” will be written by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza exclusively (the latter scripting from he and Busiek’s plotting for one half of the issue, but more on that later). Also, this weekly comic is not holding any keystone position in the continuity at all. It’s not a “missing year” or a “spine,” it’s just a long form story, told in weekly installments. An idea that’s kind of fresh in its simplicity. It has no inherent connection to the overarching continuity of the rest of the DCU, and a big event like “Final Crisis” is trundling alongside it at its own pace, unrelated. And finally, the art team (at least for the “main” half of the story, again, more on that in a bit) is set for the whole series: Mark Bagley and Art Thibert.
There are benefits to this approach, of course. Every week, readers can at least be assured that Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley will be the primary forces behind the book. Or at least most of it.
And it’s here that “Trinity” runs into its most significant problem. Understandably, even an artist as reliable and fast as Mark Bagley couldn’t possibly turn out a 20-something-page comic book every week. So the book is, somewhat unceremoniously, split into halves. The primary story focusing on Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman (the eponymous stars of the book) runs through the first fifteen pages. The remaining half is plotted by Busiek & Nicieza and then scripted by Nicieza, and drawn by a rotating set of three art teams, starting with Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens in this first issue, focusing on what looks like the comics’ set of antagonists.
While it’s an admirable solution for the problems of quality that often plagued the first two weekly comics, it causes a more significant problem to the narrative of the entire book. When you’re dealing with a weekly comic, one expects the pace to a little bit more languorous. After all, there’s another installment just a few days away. But trying to tell two stories in that format, you’re inevitably left pretty unsatisfied by both. Instead of feeling like you’ve just gotten an episode of a TV show, it feels more like you’ve just watched the cold open of an episode of LOST, the logo has floated up, and now you have to wait seven days for the episode to start.
Now, this could easily just be a problem for the first issue. Subsequent installments could be filled with satisfying developments and exciting scenarios at every turn, and every issue will leave me completely satisfied. There are certainly reasons to be hopeful.
Bagley’s art — much like his brothers in defection, the Kuberts — seems to have benefited greatly from a change of scenery. His work on Batman especially is quite dynamic and displays a unique take on his overall look. Busiek also does a nice job of meditating on the fundamental conceits of Bruce, Clark, and Diana’s secret identities. In the second half of the book, there is also a pretty intriguing hint at a kind of “Days Of Future Past” wrinkle to the storylines that are coming.
That being said, this isn’t quite enough to overshadow this issue’s fundamental problems. As I said, the pacing of the book is way too uneven to work as a compelling introduction to the story in the first half. It’s over way too quickly, and feels more like the first story in a Giant Sized Annual than the first chapter of an ongoing narrative. While the second half actually features more intriguing developments, it centers on two characters as practically anonymous as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are well known. That’s not to say they’re not intriguing, but when putting down the issue, one really has no idea where all this is headed, and that’s not necessarily in a fun, “I can’t wait to see where this is headed” kind of way.
I still can’t help but hold out hope for “Trinity,” though. There are some legitimately interesting developments hinted at throughout the book, and I was an enormous fan of Busiek’s work on the Superman books since he started working on them during “One Year Later.” He’s even reintroduced a member of Superman’s Rogues Gallery he created. (No, sadly, not Kryptococchus.) So I almost can’t envision a way in which this whole story won’t eventually come together and turn this book into a must-read every week.
But as a stand-alone issue and an introduction to the overall narrative approach, it really has left a lot to be desired.