Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman: Trinity

New, Revised Review

By Matt Wagner with Dave Stewart & Sean Konot (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0187-6 (TPB)         978-1-4012-0309-2 (HC)

Comics fans – especially aficionados of the superhero genre – have an innate appreciation and love of mythologizing. It lures like a siren, hits like a titan and dictates our lives and fate like Ragnarok arrived. We just can’t help ourselves…

DC comics have been compiling just such a feast of legend since the very creation of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, slowly interweaving these undying fantasy favourites into a rich tapestry of perfect adventure which has taken on a life of its own, inextricably entrenched in the dream-lives of generations of children and the adults they became.

However it was only relatively recently that DC tacitly acknowledged or even realised the imaginative treasure-trove they were sitting on. However, the publishers were quick to respond when they did wise-up, cannily building on the epic, cross-generational appeal of the elder statesman appeal of their stars. Amongst the most impressive of the efforts is this tale, originally released as a three-part (of course) Prestige Format miniseries in 2003.

Auteur Matt Wagner – who has an uncanny gift for re-imagining and updating the raw power of Golden Age classics (as seen in Batman and the Mad Monk or Sandman Mystery Theatre for example) – was tapped to reveal a new, canonical first meeting of the all-conquering triumvirate and he did not disappoint…

Following an effusive Introduction from novelist and A-List comics-scribe Brad Meltzer, the story opens in the Art Deco Metropolis as oafish Clark Kent’s morning is ruined by an assassin who shoots a commuter train driver and brings the morning rush-hour to a screeching, crashing, cataclysmic halt…

It soon becomes clear that the subsequent near-disaster has been devised simply to distract and properly assess the mighty Man of Steel. That night a daring raid on S.T.A.R. Labs is ruthlessly foiled by a silent, caped visitor to the “City of Tomorrow” but Superman knows nothing about it until it’s all over.

…And at the bottom of the world more mysterious masked minions at last liberate Superman’s warped and retarded clonal antithesis Bizarro from its icy imprisonment deep beneath the Antarctic mantle…

Another promising day is spoiled for the reporter by a visit from Bruce Wayne, a reluctant occasional ally, and equally obnoxious whether in his playboy charade or as his true self: the dread Batman.

The visit is a courtesy call between distant colleagues. A terrorist group called “The Purge” would have obtained samples of Kryptonite if the Dark Knight hadn’t intervened, but now they plan to raid Lex Luthor’s citadel and professional courtesy demanded that Superman be fully apprised…

Meanwhile in a most secret hideaway a strangely formidable young girl named Diana auditions for the Most Dangerous Man on Earth: an overlord in need of a perfect warrior to lead his massed forces…

Ra’s Al Ghul always gets what he wants and after the charismatic Demon’s Head charms Bizarro with honeyed words of friendship, the freakish doppelganger is only too happy to bring him a present.

Tragically, Russian nuclear submarines are a bit tricky to handle and the super-simpleton manages to drop one of the atomic missiles en route. The lost nuke explodes far from any regular shipping lines, however. Apart from fish, the only creatures affected are a race of immortal women warriors, invisible to mortal eyes and forgotten by Man’s World for millennia…

As mysterious mercenary Diana prepares to carry out The Demon’s orders, in Metropolis another Amazon tracks down Superman and politely enquires why he dropped an A-Bomb on her home. Eschewing rash accusations or pointless fisticuffs they soon come to realise the true nature of the horrific event and unite to track the stolen sub to the Sahara, promptly falling into an ambush by Al Ghul’s fanatical forces.

The guns, knives, nerve gas and suicide bombers prove no problem but the booby-trapped nuke is another matter entirely…

Barely surviving the detonation, Man of Steel and Princess of Power head for GothamCity to seek the grudging assistance of The Demon’s most implacable foe, but the Dark Knight is already on the case, having just unsuccessfully engaged with Al Ghul’s Amazonian field commander.

Reluctant to admit a need for allies and inherently suspicious of bright and shiny super-people chronically unable to make hard decisions or get their hands dirty, Batman nevertheless enters into a tenuous alliance with the dilettante champions to stop the insane plans of an immortal madman determined to wipe out modern civilisation and cleanse the Earth of toxic humanity…

Hard-hitting, epic and spectacular, this Wagnerian (you have no idea how long I’ve wanted to use that) saga superbly illustrates the vast gulfs between the so-different heroes and how they nevertheless mesh to form the perfect team. Strongly character-driven throughout, the protracted struggle to defeat Al Ghul and his infamous allies offers tension, humour, mystery and powerful plot-twists galore, all wrapped up in a bombastic feast of frenzied action and supplemented with savvy cameos and guest shots by other, albeit lesser, keystones of  the DCU.

Stunningly illustrated by Wagner, lavishly coloured by Dave Stewart and subtly lettered by Sean Konot, the book also includes a glorious cover gallery and a beautiful Sketchbook section featuring many of the artist’s preliminary drawings and ideas.

When producing this type of tale there’s always the dilemma of whether to trade on current continuity or to deconstruct and attain a more grandiose, mythic feel, but part-time and casual readers need not worry. Wagner has hewn to the evergreen fundamentals to craft a gratifyingly “Big” story which still manages to reveal more about the individual stars involved than a year’s worth of periodical publishing.

Trinity is primal adventure: accessible, exciting and rewarding, with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman as they should always be but so seldom are. Team ups and retrofits should all be this good.
© 2003, 2004 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

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