Trinity #12

Most considerations of "Trinity" -- in reviews or in local comic shops across the world -- probably begin by looking at it in comparison to DC's past two weekly experiments. "Is it much like '52'?" some may wonder? "Is it as terrible as 'Countdown?'," others will ask. Some prospective readers may have purchased the first issue or two, and then dropped it. So perhaps they are wondering if "Trinity" has improved in quality since its launch.

The short answer to all those questions: no.

The long answer will take a bit to explain.

It's nothing like "52," and whether you liked that series or not -- I happened to enjoy it, but I don't think it's nearly as good as other work by the same creators -- there's little here that bears any resemblance to "52." Based on the first dozen issues of "Trinity," and what I've read of Kurt Busiek's plans, this series is one continuous story. No weekly jumps in time -- no time jumps of any sort, really -- just one issue after another that ends with a cliffhanger and "To Be Continued." Presumably until "Trinity" #52.

It also lacks the layers of "52," which ended up using its four writers to craft intertwining plot threads that sometimes overlapped (physically or thematically), but nevertheless dealt with different levels of the DC Universe. "Trinity" is focused on a single, ambitious (and mysterious) evil plot, and even the back-up stories don't so much add layers as they do illuminate the main story from a slightly ancillary perspective.

And, thankfully, it's no "Countdown." While "Countdown" tried to mimic the layering of "52" and failed, "Trinity" holds tight to its single-minded focus.

And unlike both series, "Trinity" deals with some of the heavy-hitters in the DCU. Even besides the obvious participation of "The Trinity" itself (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman), the story is filled with JLA members and interesting villains like this issue's Crime Syndicate and (in the back-up) the Riddler.

But the problem is that this series, and this issue is no exception, is so mind-numbingly average. Everything about it is right down the middle of the aesthetic spectrum. Its very existence establishes the baseline for these five-star reviews. It's two-and-one-half stars from top to bottom.

Mark Bagley's art might be the main culprit. He's a perfectly competent artist, and he's fast, but even though his style is recognizable, it somehow ends up as the most generic comic book art possible. Almost every "camera angle" is from slightly above waist level. His figures look like they were chiseled out of other, better, artist's designs. He's consistent. And bland.

And as much as I've liked Mike Norton's work in the past, his back-up feature is relatively innocuous as well. It's a step above Bagley, to be sure, but not as energetic as his work on "Gravity" or even his recent work on "Green Arrow/Black Canary."

Busiek's writing -- as ambitious in scope as the plot is -- also falls into a rote middle ground, where characters give speeches at one another and fists fly. It's a bit like watching that new "Clone Wars" movie, but at least Busiek spares us the stinky little Huttling.

Since Bagley and Busiek's work has been that way since issue one, it's safe to say that the series hasn't improved at all.

I do think it's completely average, though, so that doesn't mean I think it's a bad comic, even though I've been criticizing it for nearly this entire review. It has some nice features, in addition to its ambitiously long plot. I like some of the individual ideas, like the ossified and embedded heroes in the Crime Syndicate headquarters in this issue. I like some of the weird new villains Busiek and Bagley have introduced. I like the notion that Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman are metaphysically central to the stability of the multiverse, and I like how Busiek is trying to contrast their personalities.

Unfortunately, all of those interesting ideas are pulled off in the most mundane ways possible. If you put "Trinity" #12 next to a generic DC book published 15 years ago, I don't think you'd find much difference.

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