This week was spent nursing my wallet from last week. Or, it would have been, had there not been a Comixology sale on all of Avengers Academy, which I may or may not have taken advantage of and will surely be
regretting enjoying for the next couple weeks. Later this week I’ll talk about some trades and other stuff I read (including what occupied me recently on the Oregon trip) but for now, it’s just two-thirds of the Trinity of Sin: Pandora and The Phantom Stranger.
Weekly Spotlight: Prelude to Trinity War
Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger #10. This isn’t officially a tie-in to Trinity War, but it’s the conclusion of a very important saga in the character’s life and directly precedes his being roped into this massive event, so it seemed prudent to get an idea of who The Phantom Stranger is (pun inevitable). As far as I can tell this is the first issue of the book to have “Trinity of Sin” slapped on the title, though surprisingly (or rather unsurprisingly, given DC’s penchant for milking tie-ins…here’s looking at you, “Requiem”) nothing about the issue actually indicates an actual tie to the eponymous Trinity or the council that dubbed it.
Instead we get a guided tour of this book’s version of the afterlife, which was difficult for me, as a Christian, to really swallow. It borrows so much from Judeo-Christian tradition while simultaneously bastardizing much of what that tradition deems holy, and the outcome is both predictable and unsatisfying, even for someone like me who hasn’t read the preceding issues in which, I gather, our protagonist has been fighting desperately to achieve a single goal. And ultimately, “predictable and unsatisfying” is pretty much how I’d sum up the issue, doubly unsatisfying because it provided almost nothing relevant to Trinity War, which was of course my reason for picking it up in the first place. The closest we get is a single page of The Question (part three of the trinity) talking to a Doctor Thirteen (who seems to have been responsible for impaling The Phantom Stranger) and seemingly preparing to kill him.
Like I said, I’ve not read the book before, and I still managed to predict how it would play out from about 1/3 of the way through the issue, killing whatever emotional impact it might have had for me. And had I been reading, I imagine I would only have been upset. It’s worth noting that I checked for alternative opinions on the issue (from people who might know better) and found that while Comic Vine’s Mat Elfring considered the conclusion moving rather than deflating, he nailed my reaction on the head: “If this is your first issue of PHANTOM STRANGER, you’re probably going to hate it.”
Trinity War Preview. As always before a major crossover, DC has released a preview guide complete with a checklist for the event and, in this case, a lot more material which will be helpful for anyone who is planning to look into the crossover but hasn’t necessarily been keeping up on things (particularly, on Pandora). In addition to the checklist of issues the event covers, this (free) guide also reprints a decent chunk of the relevant backstory stuff which I discussed at length in my coverage of Pandora. We’re also treated to some textless cover images, highlights of which include the three covers which form the previously-seen battle triptych (with a kneeling Pandora at the center) and an image of a seemingly defeated Shazam at the feet of what appears to be Constantine becoming Shazam. It stands to reason if you have any interest whatsoever in this event (which you should, considering its potential effects on the DCU; remember that last time we saw Pandora, she created the New 52), you may as well pick up your free version of this guide.
Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1. At long last, the mysterious woman in red gets a proper N52 introduction, and in a way it’s a mixed bag. If you’re coming into this expecting to finally know what this war is going to look like, you’ll be disappointed; the final pages are actually pretty much repeats of the conclusion of the Justice League #0 Pandora story, wherein the wizard comes, apologizes, and disappears after leaving cryptic advice regarding the power of the Box. Bear in mind, therefore, that this issue is the Prelude to Trinity War, and not actually part of it. Instead it is a long history of the girl’s tragic life, from the fateful discovery of the box to present day, and the private war she has waged with the invisible, but potent, manifestations of the seven deadly sins which escaped that glowing golden skull when she opened it. It’s jarring to watch as the grief-stricken girl finds herself at one moment kneeling at the mass grave of her family and the next before a tribunal with no hint of mercy on their tongues. We’ve seen her judgment, but it’s all the more terrible when given context.
The art responsibilities in this issue are broken up in a very strange manner, but the transitions aren’t particularly noticeable because of how no one scene takes more than a page or two and thus the art changes with the timeframe it depicts, lending credulity to the altered appearance of the characters. The Seven Deadly Sins themselves are pretty fantastic, and the prospect of seeing them (both directly and indirectly) in the coming war is one I’d not considered and am now looking forward to, as it’s clear that whatever else moves the various Leagues of the DCU to battle, the actual war is Pandora’s, and Pandora’s alone. Whether she will simply pull the strings to move these characters to help her, or go a more direct route, remains to be seen, and I for one am still pretty excited.
Even if you’re not planning to pay attention to Trinity War, Pandora has likely already had an effect on things you are reading, so it may be worthwhile to pick this issue up and learn a little more about who she is. That said, I can’t honestly call this a must-read for anyone, because even people who do plan to follow the event don’t need anything presented here. This is, first and foremost, an issue for people who want to know about Pandora, and for those people, I think you’ll find this one pretty satisfying.