As DC’s third attempt at a weekly series enters its “Second Act,” its position of relative merit (As good as “52”? As bad as “Countdown”?) is starting to become clearer. It’s first third was in many ways uneven and at many turns pretty lackluster and boring. It centered around the symbols of the tarot, always a cliched and uninteresting piece of mythology, and featured three villains of pretty low scale levels of projected menace.
A lot of people, me included, were holding out hope that the Kurt Busiek that created Kryptococchus and created “Astro City” would be showing up any issue now. That the telegraphed and pretty uninteresting roundup of artifacts and branding of heroes couldn’t possibly last all year. There were bright flashes, of course, the slow conglomeration of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman’s personalities, for example. But overall, the first third of the series felt aimless and insignificant, especially in light of the subject matter.
This week’s issue, however, reveals what should have been the driving force of this story way earlier: A World Where The Trinity Never Existed. The setup, which took seventeen issues, really could have been handled in fewer, perhaps even starting in this world and then explaining how it got to this point. But what’s done is done. The good thing about a weekly comic is that any misgivings about previous issues don’t last long, as there’s another one coming down the pipe in a few days.
And Busiek (along with Nicieza in a sharply clever vignette in the issue’s second half), seems to be taking his time and really getting into the details of exactly what impact their absence would have. Most of these kinds of stories don’t have the luxury of that kind of attention and “Trinity” is making the most of it. We see Lois Lane, the Justice Society, Nightwing, and many others, all in a world with none of the influence of the three biggest heroes of the DCU. While “52” played with the idea of the three of them taking a year off and everyone else picking up the slack, “Trinity” is now tackling the idea of all three of them completely eradicated.
The second story, for example, deals with a person whose death was a direct result of Batman in the “right” world and now in this “wrong” one, he’s alive and can tell something is wrong. We see those kinds of ripples throughout the issue and, hopefully, we’ll see plenty more. Everything that was uninspiring about the first third of the series has been completely replaced with the kind of ingenuity and clever storytelling that most people were expecting from the start.
I still have some misgivings about Mark Bagley’s art on the book. As the cast and environments expand exponentially, his occasional lack of versatility becomes more and more evident. And in a dark and gritty new reality, his pop-comics style is strained pretty much to its limits. Scott McDaniel’s work in the second half is better suited, but has its own set of discipline problems when it comes to line.
When everyone sits down, nine months from now, and takes “Trinity” in as a whole, it’s quite possible that the first third will be better appreciated, crucial even, to the rest of the series’ successes. Who can tell? For now, at least, it’s great to have a book of this renewed level of quality on the stands every week.