After the success of the really-rather-good 52, and the failure of the catastrophically-bad Countdown, it’s fair to say the jury’s still out on DC’s grand “weekly comic” experiment. So the question is, can Trinity push the balance back towards the favourable side?
The omens are good, in that lessons have clearly been learned from what did and didn’t work in those prior series. For the first time, Trinity doesn’t tie into (whether launching off the back of, or leading up to) a big “event” series – although, that said, it’s a little jarring that it’s come out so soon after the first part of Final Crisis, as you have to keep reminding yourself that this is a standalone story, not designed to slot specifically alongside current events. Indeed, the fact that it’s simply a standalone long-form story makes you wonder just whether the weekly format is necessary – it’s not taking place in “real time” a la 52, and it’s not building up to an event as Countdown attempted to, so will it really be able to sustain interest for 52 weeks?
Still, if there’s another positive omen, it’s in the identity of the creative team. Mark Bagley is given a deservedly high-profile launchpad for his DC career, while Kurt Busiek – rarely the most spectacular writer in comics, but certainly among the most reliable – gets to make up for having missed out on being part of the 52 team by taking the reins here. And they make a fairly solid start, it has to be said. If the main weakness of the book so far is a story that doesn’t yet seem to be doing very much, nor inspiring a huge amount of interest, then its main strength is at least in the telling. One of the benefits of having such an experienced hand as Busiek on board is that there’s no messing about with the characterisation – the opening scene of our three heroes’ secret identities meeting for coffee gets them all spot on, with Busiek keen to play up various contrasts (from the way they order food to their varied interpretations of the same dream). There’s nice attention to detail, too, in the caption boxes that follow the thought patterns of all three as they go their separate ways (and the nice artistic touch of the slightly-altered logos on all three making up the first letter, which winds up looking far neater than the similar but simplistic approach taken in Superman/Batman).
It’s still disconcerting to see a Marvel legend such as Bagley drawing such iconic DC characters, and I suspect it will remain so for a little while to come. Despite such preconceptions, though, his work is exactly as you’d expect – decent, clear storytelling, with an energy and dynamism that makes the occasional bit of odd face-shapery forgiveable. His versions of Wonder Woman and Batman are the stronger points, while Superman perhaps needs some work before he becomes an iconic-looking figure. But the consistency of artist will, I’m sure, be one of the book’s strongest assets as the weeks roll on, and on this evidence Bags looks to have been a good choice.
If the book falls down anywhere, it’s in the backup story. I can see the practical reasoning behind splitting the book like this (Bagley’s a quick and consistent artist, as shown by his astonishingly long and always-on-time Ultimate Spidey run, but could he cope with 22 pages a week for a whole year?), but these pages are certainly the weaker, quite aside from the fact that they cause the main feature to truncate and arguably lessen its breathing space. The approach of focusing on the villains provides a good flip-side, and there’s arguably more plot here than in the main story; but with Fabien Nicieza’s slightly overwrought scripting, it gets a bit too bogged down in flowery mysticism, although a neat “alternate Gotham” sequence featuring Green Arrow and Speedy (and, er, “the Arrow-signal”) holds intruging promise. In addition, Scott McDaniel’s loose and cartoony art style fails to hold up all that well against Bagley’s work.
Nevertheless, it’s overall a solid enough start that I’m willing to take the bait. After completing 52, I’d agonised over whether to start buying Countdown, but my snap judgement of “leave well alone” after reading the first issue turned out to be the right one; I’m going to stick my neck out here, though, and whack this one on the pull list. Let’s see how it gets on.