Maybe it's just me, but this was one deep issue of Trinity.
Lately I've been thinking about the way I approach fictional universes, and had put some of that into words on Tuesday with regard to Star Trek. Accordingly, Trinity #50 gives me the chance to expand on that.
For those of you concerned about such things, this means very little trivia and a lot of rambling. You have been warned.
“So…” was written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Mark Bagley, inked by Art Thibert, colored by Pete Pantazis, and lettered by Pat Brosseau; Rachel Gluckstern, associate editor; Mike Carlin, editor.
In Brief: Krona, the Trinity, and the Worldsoul bring back Earth -- but not before…
“Her Realm” was plotted by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza, scripted by Nicieza, pencilled by Scott McDaniel, inked by Andy Owens, colored by Allen Passalaqua, lettered by Pat Brosseau; Rachel Gluckstern, associate editor; Mike Carlin, editor.
In Brief: The Worldsoul tries to make Krona understand what it means to be her.
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This issue is pretty simple, plot-wise. Krona has destroyed the Earth, pulling it apart like monkey bread (mmm…) in order to get at its Worldsoul. Said Worldsoul -- which might also be described as the Gaia-force, or perhaps the planet's "animating spirit" -- is a critical piece of the cosmic puzzle Krona seeks to solve. Accordingly, he "enters her realm" and starts grilling her about the quantifiable aspects of her existence: life-cycle, sustenance, communication with similar beings, generation of planetary inhabitants, etc. She's mystified by his questions, because all she does is exist and experience. Such existence and experiences are too big to be crammed into Krona's "specific" demands, so she lets Krona share her perceptions in a mind-expanding two-page spread.
Still not getting it, Krona lashes out with "a hurricane of energy that could devastate a galaxy," but which proves ineffectual in the Worldsoul's realm. Finally, the Worldsoul asks Krona rhetorically "[do y]ou want reality itself to change to suit you? To be what you think it 'must be,' rather than what it is? What your own senses have shown you?" When Krona continues to protest, the Worldsoul kicks him back into the regular universe; but he's far from done: "If the cosmic intelligences are too foolish to strive, to seek knowledge -- then they are not gods, but sheep! Lab animals! And I will tear you to pieces to see what makes you tick…!"
At this point, however, the Trinity appears, still in their divine forms. They and the Worldsoul draw Krona into their circle, using his power and theirs to bring back the Earth and its inhabitants. The issue ends at the North Pole, with Lois, the Justice League, Justice Society, and Titans alive and well, but still dealing with natural disasters.
Regular readers of this feature are probably well-acquainted with my perspective on DC's idea of a "Trinity." Essentially, it's an attempt to translate the characters' continuous publication histories into an in-story relationship. It's a relatively recent concept, and therefore not a well-settled part of the texts in the way that Batman and Superman have long been established as the "World's Finest Team." Indeed, Wonder Woman's 1986 relaunch set her debut in the present, thereby eliminating all of her prior adventures with other superheroes. Only in the past few years has that history been restored; and even now, all we really know is that she helped found the original Justice League. To be sure, it's important to her place in the Trinity, but it alone doesn't qualify her for Trinitarian status.
I'm getting off the track a little, but not much. Like Krona tearing into the Earth, I am trying to pick apart one aspect of Trinity -- Wonder Woman's history -- in order to see if it can be justified. However, What this issue seems to be saying to me is that such things are unquantifiable.
Let's look at this briefly from another angle, continuing with Wonder Woman. Would Trinity be different if it were being published five years ago? Ten years? Twenty? Forty? Fifty? If the story did change appreciably, odds are those changes would come from her shifting role. Nevertheless, I daresay Trinity would still make the case that the essence of Wonder Woman -- regardless of the details -- justifies her Trinitarian status. She might be a white-suited martial artist, she might pose as an Air Force officer, she might not have killed Maxwell Lord, but those things are irrelevant in the bigger picture. Likewise, Superman might consider "Clark" a disguise, or Batman might be working through a sci-fi phase; but their core characteristics remain unchanged. Trinity's premise might not be defensible statistically, but it doesn't have to be. The series provides its own justification. It just is.
That raises the troubling question of whether this space has been used productively. I do feel a certain sympathy for Krona's fruitless pursuit of hard data. Perhaps I have also concentrated too much on the details … uh, sometimes.
However, as a weekly series, Trinity invites weekly scrutiny; and it's not unreasonable to see if the details point to something more meaningful. Such an approach worked well with 52, which had its share of extended mystery plots (including Supernova's identity and Sue Dibny's final fate). By contrast, Trinity's main mystery was the villains' plan in Act One. Act Two followed the search for the Trinity and the altered timeline's effects; and Act Three has been a series of god-level battles. Thus, Trinity doesn't share 52's play-fair mystery characteristics. It also seems a little lighter on the numerology that 52 relished. These are not bad things, and I don't mean to suggest that Trinity suffers for not being 52. Both series use their details to give their stories depth and scope; and both use DC's superhero characters to play off (and/or fill the spaces left by) the Trinitarians.
Still, while Trinity is not a play-fair mystery, it is tempting to apply those play-fair rules. Certainly Trinity has played fair in many ways, including foreshadowing the altered timeline and Earth's destruction via issue #1's brazier-visions. Nevertheless, at some point the scientific method cannot account for a story's every twist and turn. More importantly, not every story has a predictable solution. On one level, 52 filled the year-long gap between Infinite Crisis and the "One Year Later" status quo. Therefore, those stories set parameters within which 52 could operate. Trinity's parameters are less specific, requiring only that its characters be "back to normal" at the end, ready to participate in Final Crisis and their own mini-events. This makes its ultimate outcome eminently predictable, since its characters will suffer no apparent consequences. (Regardless, I doubt it will be a complete reset.)
By the same token, though, this forces the reader to concentrate on what the story is saying, and not necessarily where it is going. I get the feeling that the Worldsoul tells Krona as much in this issue. Trinity is grounded firmly in the pre-Final Crisis DC Universe, and its assertions about the Trinitarians draw from established DC history. However, those assertions aim for a more general applicability. Trinity has not positioned itself as another link in the big-event chain which continues with Blackest Night. Instead, it has been a wide-ranging meditation on these characters' relationships with each other and with their friends and colleagues. Looking for something more concrete -- something more practically applicable -- ends up missing the point.
Now, all that sounds like I've talked myself out of a job; but I wouldn't say this feature has been wasted space. Again, Trinity has used DC's superhero lore to examine, flesh out, and sometimes justify the Trinitarians' relationships. To do this, it's had to pull from who-knows-how-many stories produced by countless professionals over seventy-one years. The "Trinity" idea may be relatively new, but it has to fit into that history (or, at least, the current interpretation of that history). Likewise, almost all of the book's guest stars are established characters with their own eclectic histories. The combination of those diverse ideas, and their distillation into narratives and themes, has always fascinated me. On Tuesday I mentioned Star Trek fans' personal theories about the Trek universe, drawn from its established history -- well, I see a good bit of that in Trinity, and I've enjoyed comparing its perspective with my own. To the extent that I can see the origin of a particular observation or plot element, I think Trinity has been "quantifiable."
The important parts, though, are those products of creative energy which we readers don't see coming. To me that's a big part of the Worldsoul's message: some things can't be dissected or calculated. I look forward to reading Trinity as a completed story, but I've had great fun "experiencing" it this way.
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By the way, I do have some notes on this issue….
-- I know none of these folks will be dead for long, but I'd be surprised if Supergirl couldn't survive Earth's destruction.
Page 5 (story page 1)
-- The "CGI," for lack of a better term, is a very nice addition to this story. Like Jack Kirby's photo-collages, it gives the proceedings an appropriately otherworldly feel. I'd be interested in hearing more about how it was accomplished.
Page 6/2 et seq.
-- Trinity has shown us different women who have been connected to the Worldsoul throughout the years (see, e.g., issue #26), so naturally, the Worldsoul looks different throughout this issue. Whether these different faces are expressions of her "facilitators" or of herself is probably a moot point.
-- "I lost one planet…. I won't lose another": while I don't mind him saying this here, the phrase should definitely be part of the Superman Drinking Game.
-- We'll see if this (finally) drains the Trinitarians' god-powers.
-- Fishnets in the snow = brrr! I know Black Canary has warmer costumes….
-- I think that's a plume of yellow-and-black smoke in panel 7 (behind the fading-out Firestorm), but it kinda looked like Krona at first.
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Two more weeks!