How did Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman become friends? The New 52 largely yadda-yadda‘d the development of their relationship, but the return of pre-Flashpoint Superman and his emergence as the only Superman in the Rebirth DC Universe provide the perfect opportunity for stories that establish and explore the chemistry of the Justice League’s biggest three.
A slow start is not a bad start
Recognizing the importance of a unified Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman, Lois and Diana conspire to unite the three heroes: FOR DINNER! Concerns are voiced; dirty, colorful laundry is aired; and, some fears are stilled, while others grow.
If that sounds uneventful, then you heard right. Trinity #1 is short on action, which is the last thing I expected to write going into it. It would have been easy for Manapul to assume the Trinity’s alliance and kick things off with a lot of spectacle, but he instead (wisely) focuses on what truly makes these characters heroes. This is by far the more challenging approach, and he does make some missteps along the way, but those errors are covered over by (mostly) excellent characterization and (mostly) superb dialogue.
More than a fancy pencil
If you’re a fan of Francis Manapul’s artwork, you’ll feel right at home in this first issue of Trinity. His character aesthetics are, for me, the just-right balance between realism and abstraction—a fantasy nonetheless rich with gravity. Characters and environments alike look beautiful filled with pastel colors and oily texture. Facial expressions are rich storytelling devices. Steve Wands does a predictably excellent job throughout, with an especially gorgeous credits page. Manapul will soon turn art duties over to (the very capable) Clay Mann, but it is a pleasure to lay eyes on his fabulous work once again, even if only for a few months. Paired with Wands’ pitch-perfect credits, it’s got me reminiscing about the glory days of the New 52 Flash.
The most promising thing about Trinity #1, though, is that it’s more than a pretty face. The last time I read any of Manapul’s writing was in two of the Justice League: Darkseid War one-shots. Those two books were by no means total stinkers, but neither were they great. Trinity, while not perfect, shows a great deal of growth in his skills, and the future looks bright for this title.
A large part of Manapul’s success lies in his clear knowledge of and love for these characters. He chooses to narrate through Lois, and her strong voice makes an equally strong frame for the story. I’ve never really considered how Lois must have felt about Clark hiding his identity from her all of those years, so it’s interesting to see her address it here; that she thinks it was a mistake on his part feels very in-character for someone familiar with Superman’s world, while providing a helpful introduction to the uninitiated on how her mind works.
Batman also benefits from a well-informed treatment by Manapul. Some readers might take exception to Bruce saying something like “I work alone,” when he clearly doesn’t (except for those few months between the death of a Robin and the recruitment of the next, even younger Robin); but it seems to me that he’s poking fun at Batman’s tendency to take too much on himself and hide details from his allies. Bruce’s grim exterior is ripe for comedic exploitation, and Manapul works it well.
Wonder Woman has a few early moments where her dialogue gets clunky, but for the most part, she, too is strong. Her conversation with Lois after dinner is the highlight of the whole issue for me, and the bond forming between she and Lois is both organic and moving. I hope Manapul plans on developing this further in the months to come.
As for Clark, I won’t say that he’s done poorly, but I did have trouble connecting with him. In a sense, he is the centerpiece of the narrative, but for all of the development that he provides to the other players, he never fully shines himself. He has his moments, and I definitely know who he is as a character after reading this, but he isn’t as strongly defined at the end as his wife or his teammates.
Manapul’s greatest narrative achievement comes in his central thesis, expressed beautifully through Lois’ voiceovers: walls are bad. They may keep out threats, but they also keep out friends; and, when those who seek to harm us penetrate our defenses, we’ve cut ourselves off from those who might come to our aid. The arc is called “Better Together,” and Manapul makes the case for that proposition excellently, both in-universe and out: Bruce, Diana, and Clark are better off as allies, but we are likewise better off as readers with this book. It offers something different than what we’re getting in the solo titles or Justice League: something intimate and charming, something familial. If Manapul can capture this spirit going forward, Trinity may well be one of the most important books in DC’s Rebirth line.
- You enjoy character-driven narratives.
- You’ve missed Francis Manapul’s distinctly beautiful artwork.
- You’re interested in seeing the relationship between the big three develop and mature.
The artwork here is as good as anything Manapul has done previously, and is worth the cost of purchase on its own. But the real achievement comes in the form of an intimate family dinner and a strong premise well-explored. Trinity is not a perfect start, but it’s a really good one. I love Manapul’s decision to favor character over spectacle, and I am hopeful that the series will remain moored in these interpersonal relationships even as the action heats up in future installments.