Novel November


by Matt Wagner

Reading Review by Michael Channing

Trinity by Matt Wagner

I just happened upon this book in the library. I was looking through the collection of graphic novels and comics for something quick to read in between longer novels. Scanning the first few pages, I saw Clark Kent pretending to miss his train to work in order to keep up the appearance of a bungling, forgetful, not-at-all-super human being. Then he hears a gunshot in the near vicinity, and he disappears out from under his hat. I was immediately hooked by the personal touch of Clark trying to fit in with humans by manufacturing his own imperfections. Reading on, I found that the shot he heard was the driver of a train being shot dead, which left the train full of passengers barreling out of control at an ever-increasing speed. Saving the day as he does, though with a flare of dramatic will-he-fail-and-let-the-innocents-die tension, Superman back-traces the trajectory of the bullet to find the firing point abandoned and empty. Missed 'em by that much. One panel later, the reader learns that the shooter's goal wasn't to wreck the train, but to prod Supes into action and measure his reaction time. There are shadow forces about, and they are testing Superman's limits. At this point, I tucked the book under my arm and continued my library search.

Trinity takes place in the present day, but before Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman formed the Justice League. In fact, at the start of this story the two caped heroes have no idea who Wonder Woman even is. Superman and Batman slowly uncover a plot by Ra's al Ghul to befriend Bizzaro and employ him in the theft of a nuclear missile. Bizzaro, confused as he is by instructions involving more than one step, can't figure out how to disengage the missile from the submarine it's attached to, so he just lifts the whole sub and flies off. Whoops, Bizzaro am clumsy and drops a nuclear warhead in the ocean, coincidentally near Wonder Woman's home island. Since Bizarro looks lot like Superman from a distance, Wonder Woman understandably believes the blue Boy Scout is responsible for nearly bombing her people. She investigates, which brings her into the story.

She eventually gets the story straight, because she understands gods, and that's pretty much what Superman is. They acquire a mutual respect for each other. Batman, on the other hand, she has a hard time trusting or working with. He rubs everyone the wrong way. This is the real meat of the book: three different heroes with three different approaches to heroing learning to get along. It seems they'd each rather keep to their own ways, but the book makes the great decision to pit them against, not necessarily their most iconic villains, but certainly their most formidable ones. In addition to Bizzaro, Ra's al Ghul has recruited an Amazon warrior names Artemis. I had no idea who that was. In fact, I'll admit to knowing practically nothing about Wonder Woman's mythology. I watched the Lynda Carter television series when I was a kid, but all that taught m about double-W was her penchant for accessories. A quick dash to Wikipedia informed me that Artemis is a huge figure in Wonder Woman's mythos. She was a villain, then a good guy, then actually took over the role of Wonder Woman at one point. With all three villains in cahoots, our three heroes are forced to rely on each other to overcome the bad guys. Which they do.

Don't think I've spoiled anything by telling you the heroes triumph in the end. That was a foregone conclusion. Do you think DC would authorize a three-issue prestige series to kill off their biggest characters? Of course the good guys win. It's still a well-written book with great pacing and some memorable imagery. One recurring image that sticks with me comes right after Ra's al Ghul “befriends” Bizzaro. In order to prevent the imperfect copy of Superman from lashing out and crushing his skull on first meeting, Ra's ties him down with a dozen boat anchor chains. The huge chains radiate out from a collar around Bizarro's neck, and the reader can't help but feel a little sympathetic toward the super simpleton. Later, Ra's captures Wonder Woman and uses the same chains to lash her down. Think about that, the same massive tent of chains required to hold Bizarro is also necessary to keep Wonder Woman from escaping. And she is able to support the weight, because she is more badass than I realized. Again, I must confess much ignorance when it comes to Princess Diana.

Trinity is a good book. Nice characterization, well paced and blocked fight scenes, but it ultimately becomes a normal, good-guys-take-on-the-bad-guys, beat-'em-up, comic book. It's an alternative version of the meet-up between the big three, but it leads into familiar territory: they become allies and band together to protect the innocent. It doesn't have the same weighty ending as The Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen. I didn't close the cover for the last time and rethink everything I thought I knew about comics or the central characters. I did come away with a newfound appreciation for and curiosity about Wonder Woman though. There's some depth there, and a long history, which, I have to assume, is just as rocky and strewn with chaos and silliness as those of Superman and Batman. This book was a good, entertaining read that set me off on a new path of exploration. In other words, it did exactly what comic books are supposed to do.

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