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Trinity War Correspondence, Week Four: There’s No ‘Eye’ In ‘Team’ [Spoilers]

Welcome back, Trinity Warriors! The Justice League Vs. Justice League Vs. Justice League conflict that is Trinity War is back in full force after a few week’s downtime, and thus so are we.

What terrible event could cause three superhero teams with almost identical names to do battle with one another? The pale, purple-clad, villainous community organizer The Outsider and a gun-toting version of the mythological Pandora (a card-carrying member of “The Trinity of Sin”) both had designs on the Justice League: Outsider wanted to destroy them to take over the world or whatever, while Pandora wanted the pure-of-heart Superman to re-open her magic box and thus re-imprison the sins of the world. Later, Shazam (nee Captain Marvel) flew to Khandaq on a personal errand and caused a violent international incident. During the stand-off between Shazam, the Justice League and Amanda Waller’s hand-picked Justice League of America, Superman seemingly murdered the hero Doctor Light. Thinking Pandora and her magic box were the key to Superman’s unusual outburst, Wonder Woman recruited the occult Justice League Dark to help her track Pandy down. Meanwhile, Batman and Trinity of Sin member the Phantom Stranger have their own ideas, as do Superman and the Question, the third component of the Trinity of Sin, who believes the villainous mind-manipulator Doctor Psycho may have been behind the Man of Steal’s murderous actions.

Three Justice Leagues! Three heroes leading them! Three capital-S Sinners messing things up! And three chapters down, with three more to go in ComicsAlliance’s Trinity War Correspondence!

 

Trinity of Sin: Pandora #2
Written by Ray Fawkes
Art by Daniel Sampere and Vincente Cifuentes

Following directions from the dying wizard Shazam in Pandora #1 — only “the strongest of heart or the darkest” can re-open Pandora’s Box (which is really more of a skull-shaped jar) — Pandy met up with Wonder Woman and Superman and handed the box to the Man of Steel. He couldn’t open it, but Superman did turn temporarily gray and violent, a fact that Wonder Woman and a few like-minded Justice Leaguers think might have had something to do with his heat visioning Doctor Light to death. Now Wonder Woman and her crew are looking for Pandora. So too are Special Agent Kincaid from S.H.A.D.E. (Super-Human Advanced Defense Executive, sort of like the DC Universe’s B.P.R.D.) and Special Agent Paul Chang from A.R.G.U.S. (Advanced Research Group Uniting Super-Humans, or the DCU’s S.H.I.E.L.D.), who reluctantly team-up for a few buddy-cop scenes.

Also looking for our girl Pandy? The Secret Society, the current New 52 version of what used to be called the Secret Society of Super-Villains, back when comic books didn’t take themselves so seriously (that, or perhaps having the word “Super-Villains” right in your group’s title is bad PR and they dropped it; kind of like Magneto dropping the “Evil” out of his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants).

They’ve sent immortal caveman Vandal Savage, giganticizing Wonder Woman villain Giganta and old Batman rogue Signalman to investigate the last known Pandora sighting.

Yes, Signalman! The original version, created by Sheldon Moldoff and Bill Finger in the 1950s, was a basically The Riddler with a more ridiculously elaborate schtick. Rather than leaving riddle clues, he left signals of various sorts. Also he had one of the busiest costumes this side of Crazy Quilt. The new version has a slightly less terrible costume and gets his name from his ability to receive and interpret all forms of signal-based intelligence, which one imagines is a bit more useful to the Secret Society.

Using his superb signal-interpretation skills, Signalman’s trying to track down Pandora, which turns out to be remarkably easy as she’s trying to track down Vandal Savage, hoping his dark heart will enable him to open the box. But first: Violence!

The theme for this battle is injury to the eye, as the un-killable Pandora tosses an exploding machete into Giganta’s giant eyeball (Signalman, using some sort of super-iPad, is able to read the injuries Giganta and Pandora sustain in real time, but Giganta’s dialogue, “OOUUGGODD My EEYEEE…” is pretty straightforward).

After a few pages of gun-shooting, bullet-dodging and kung fu, Pandora literally shoots Savage’s eye out.

Those little misunderstandings out of the way, Pandora hands Savage the box to see if he can open it, but it just knocks him down and makes him cry. Apparently, his heart is neither strong, dark or pure enough either.

AND SO…..

Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger #11
Written by J.M. DeMatteis
Art by Fernando Blanco

The Phantom Stranger suggests to Batman and his team that instead of participating in all the League-on-League-on-League violence, maybe they should try and interrogate Superman’s victim Doctor Light to find out just what the hell is going on in this crossover. But since Doctor Light is deader than the Dingbats of Danger Street, that’s pretty much impossible, right? Not for the Phantom Stranger, who, after an intense conversation with Batman in the House of Mystery, agrees to take a team up to Heaven to question the deceased Doctor Light! The best part of their conversation? When the Stranger, who in the New 52 is literally an immortal, super-powered Judas Iscariot, calls Batman out for talking about Superman “as if he’s some kind of…messiah!

In addition to Batman, the Strranger takes Katana and Deadman — “You’re familiar with the realms of the dead, so you’re with us” — with him to Heaven, where they face such dangers as the recently deceased who dwell in “Heaven’s basement” and try to suck emotions and experience through “tendrils of themselves” and disappearing into their own personal heavens. Or something.

For Katana, heaven is a PG-13 sex scene with her late husband under a waterfall… which Phantom Stranger totally spoils in a breathtaking move of c***blockery, stepping between them and screaming, “Back, wraith!

The sexually frustrated Katana responds by impaling the Stranger and cutting his head clean off. But then she apologizes.

Batman’s heaven is even weirder. It consists not merely of Bruce Wayne as a little boy spending a Christmas at home with totally alive and not-murdered parents, but of the full-grown, adult Bruce Wayne, dressed as Batman, hiding in the shadows behind the Christmas tree, spying on his own little boy self and his parents as they celebrate Christmas together.

Once they regroup, Batman and company locate the late Doctor Light, but he doesn’t remember much more than getting a face-full of heat-vision. That’s when Phantom Stranger comes up with a novel way to solve a murder case: Why not just bring Doctor Light back down to Earth with them, restoring him to life and essentially un-murdering him? (I’m not sure if that would be enough to clear Superman of a murder wrap; that’s probably one for the guys at the Law and The Multiverse blog).

Even Batman approves of this course of action …although it’s kind of curious he doesn’t ask if they can maybe grab his parents and dead son Damian while they’re bringing dead people back to life.

New 52 Zauriel and the other angels aren’t down with this at all. They send the Justice Leaguers back to Earth, sans Doctor Light, and then erase Phantom Stranger from existence (but presumably only temporarily, as there’s another issue of the book next month).

One strange thing about this book, although not nearly as strange as Batman’s idea of heaven being his adult self creeping around his own childhood, is the creators credits section on the first page. This likely has something to do with contracts signed at certain times in DC’s publishing history, but Batman, Katana and Deadman all get “created by” credits (Bob Kane, Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo and Arnold Drake, respectively), as does Superman, who only appears in a few flashback panels. But Zauriel, Doctor Light and even the title character, the Phantom Stranger, lack “created by” credits (they would be Grant Morrison, Howard Porter and John Dell; Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky; and John Broome and Carmine Infantino, respectively), which, at least in the case of the Phantom Stranger, really stands out given the distinction given to his guest stars.

Justice League of America #7
Written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire
Art by Dough Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Marc Deering and Walden Wong

We open in a high-tech prison cell, where a scarred an incarcerated Lex Luthor is wearing an orange jumpsuit and shackles and being annoyed by a half-dozen of his lawyers while trying to read the latest issue of The Daily Planet. Maybe instead of the Planet, Lex should pick up a copy of Superman Unchained #2. If he did, he might realize he just escaped from prison a few weeks ago.

The Planet’s front-page story is that Superman has been accused of manslaughter over the whole killing-Doctor-Light-thing, which is of great interest to Luthor. He gets distracted from his reading by Pandora, who introduces herself like this:

Luthor’s pretty dark of heart, right? Maybe he can open the box?

Elsewhere, Superman’s squad of Leaguers tracks Doctor Psycho — whom they suspect might have mind-controlled Supes into the fatal eye-beaming incident — to a cave in Pittsburgh. There’s eight of them and only one Psycho, so the fight doesn’t last too long, even if Superman is pretty much useless by this point.

Luckily, Martian Manhunter has all of Superman’s powers and then some, and is thus able to read Psycho’s mind: Apparently, he’s not the real culprit either, but the Outsider-lead Secret Society wanted the League to think he was. When Superman and Cyborg learn that the Justice League of America was really put together by Amanda Waller to take down and eventually replace the Justice League, it seems maybe she was behind all this, so they return to A.R.G.U.S. headquarters.

Then a pair of twin climaxes occur! With one-third of the Justice Leaguers back at A.R.G.U.S., the Outsider has his agent Plastique blow-up Doctor Light’s body… somehow… which causes a big explosion that probably won’t kill anyone! (She couldn’t even kill Madame Xanadu in the first chapter; certainly Plastique’s not going to take out Superman, Martian Manhunter or any of those guys)

Meanwhile in Luthor’s prison cell, Wonder Woman and her running crew arrive just in time to snatch Pandora’s box away from Luthor, causing Wonder Woman to transform!

Now with an eyeball growing out of her tiara, bigger biceps, a gigantic Final Fantasy-sized sword chained to her, and pink lighting shooting everywhere, Wonder Woman declares, “I have the box! And the box…has me!

What does that mean? Your guess is as good as mine…until Justice League Dark #23, the fifth and penultimate chapter of Trinity War, ships next week!

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