Cunningham Explores the Mysteries of DC's "Trinity War"

[SPOILER WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the opening of DC Comics' "Trinity War."]

After being teased, set up and anticipated since the launch of the New 52, DC Comics' current "Trinity War" story promises to be chock full of payoff for longtime readers of writer Geoff Johns' comics. But before the payoff comes the mystery, and in its first two installments, the event that pits Justice League against Justice League has has its share of unseen hands and head-scratching turns.

This week, "Justice League of America" #6 delivered part two of the core story while teeing up the appearance of "Justice League Dark" next week in the 22nd issue of their regular series. Meanwhile, all the action of the piece has centered around Superman's surprising murder of Doctor Light. But as the original Justice League and the upstart JLA continue to clash over the Man of Steel's actions, the question remains who is pulling the strings and how characters like the Question and Despero factor in.

CBR News spoke with "Trinity War" editor Brian Cunningham about all of these mysteries to find out what the Superman murder means for the Justice League and the romance between Superman and Wonder Woman, where the "Trinity of Sin" will continue to play a role in future installments and what the magical side of Justice League Dark holds in store for the event.

CBR News: With the battle underway between Justice League and JLA, "Trinity War" is paying off on a teaser that hit a few years ago on Free Comic Book Day. What was it like for the creative team to finally get to that big double-splash battle scene? Do you think the plans around that idea changed much in the telling?

Brian Cunningham: Plans since that Free Comic Book Day comic have evolved -- but not as much as one might think. In fact, Ivan Reis draws a variation of that giant teaser image in "Justice League" #23 -- and it is just awesome. And what's more impressive is that that's only one of many amazingly cool spreads Ivan draws in that issue. I can't wait to be able to talk about it all!

That said, the one thing that stood out to me as I read part one of "Trinity War" and some of the lead up issues was how much of a mystery this story is. How important is it to this crossover overall to payoff on the long-seeded mysteries of practically every story Geoff has written in the New 52?

Mystery is a vital part of the reading experience. Otherwise, why turn the page or buy the next issue? I mean, asking "what happens next?" is critical to any serialized story.

I honestly don't quite understand the "spoiler" culture we live in nowadays. I don't get why people would rather know about a story before experiencing it within its proper context, told the way it was meant to be experienced. But I guess that's just me.

I remember a time when I was a kid, and "The Empire Strikes Back" had just come out. I hadn't seen it yet, and some dude around the block told my friend and I, "Yo, Darth Vader is Luke's father!" I could have strangled that guy!

Anyway, I'm getting off track here.

Well, let's get back to mystery in a bit. First let's talk about the big moment: Superman's killing of Dr. Light. While it's pretty apparent that the Man of Steel wasn't necessarily in control of himself, I doubt that fact will have much impact on the immediate ramifications. What are the first impacts this death will have for this story?

The first impact it has is: What just happened? Did Superman really just kill Doctor Light? Everyone has an opinion. The JL and JLA finally have their epic slobberknocker. Surprising alliances will be formed. Friendships are put to the test. And the bad guys continue to hatch their nefarious plans.

And even in death, Doctor Light's story is not over. "Phantom Stranger" #11, in stores August 7, has a group of Leaguers follow the Stranger to find Doctor Light's soul and learn about what really happened in the moments before his death. The consequences of that side-trip will continue to haunt Phantom Stranger, too.

What does this mean for Superman and Wonder Woman's already complicated relationship since she argued so strongly for a killing solution?

You'll need to wait and see, but I guarantee you won't see what's coming.

But back to our mysteries again. Superman's action wasn't just orchestrated by a mysterious foe. It was orchestrated as part of a much bigger plan -- one that involves the theft of the Justice League's personal files and some Kryptonite. Would you say the war between Justice Leagues that's broken out is a piece of this larger scheme or a lucky consequence for the mastermind?

The "bigger plan" will come to light as the story unfolds. But everything that has happened has been for a very calculated reason.

And the wildcard in all of this is master manipulator Amanda Waller, herself. No one except Waller truly wishes to consider the possibility that Doctor Light's death was anything more than an accident. And, savvy guy that he is, Steve Trevor wonders if Waller doesn't know more about the incident than she's letting on.

A chess board with a missing Superman piece, and Superman growing a third eye when touching Pandora's Box. Can't be a coincidence that these things are happening after Despero's appearance, can it? Where would you rank the big pink villain's place in this story from pawn to king?

Despero wouldn't settle for anything less than king, right?

All I can say about the Superman chess piece is that once all is revealed, keen-eyed readers might get a chuckle about how a clue was in front of us the entire time.

One king we do know of: the leader of the Secret Society. He's got a common style with the Joker. Madam Xanadu's tarot identifies him as The Outsider. He knows the names of several of the JLA's secret identities. He's looking for confrontation with Batman. Should the reader be able to figure who this is with these clues? If not, what do you feel is the most important aspect of this very important player?

The Society leader is an interesting fellow. Right now, he's the man with the plan. And that plan is the underbelly of the story. Things get a whole lot worse for our heroes before they get better, that's for sure.

You'll learn a lot more about him in the "Secret Society" one-shot in September's Villains Month. A very fun and twisted tale.

The Question is back in the New 52 and asking, "Who's the evil behind the evil?" We've gotten to know Pandora and the Phantom Stranger a lot better recently, but how does whoever's behind that faceless mask drive things now?

I'd rather not say, honestly. The Question's story will unfold in "Trinity War" and continue in "Phantom Stranger."

Looking forward, with the explosion at Madam Xanadu's, I'm betting the next major piece of this story is for the Justice League Dark to step into the fray. What does their involvement mean for the JL/JLA battle and for the Society's overall schemes?

The JL Dark team explores the mystical aspects of this story, of which there are plenty. From the Trinity of Sin to Pandora's Box, the Dark crew are the experts the other Leagues need to rely upon. Even if that means trusting a guy like John Constantine.

"Justice League of America" #6, the second chapter of "Trinity War," is on sale now from DC Comics. Chapter 3 hits stores July 24 in "Justice League Dark" #22.

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