Trinity War Correspondence, Week Six: “What’s In The F—ing Box!?” [Spoilers]
And we're back for the final time as Trinity War reaches its epic conclusion, no doubt resolving all of its many mysteries and conflicts, tying up all of its loose ends and definitely not just leading directly into the next big DC Comics event. Right?
When we left off Pandora was trying to find someone capable of opening the skull-shaped "box" and restore the world to its pre-sinful state. She thought to try old "more powerful than a locomotive" himself, Superman, but touching the box turned him so (temporarily) evil that in a stand-off with between the Justice League and the Justice League of America, the Man of Steel accidentally killed fellow superhero Doctor Light and started getting really, really sick.
That sent Wonder Woman and the magical heroes of Justice League Dark after Pandora, but everyone who touched the box also went evil. A few issues of flying around, arguing, and fighting later, the box, all three Justice Leagues and the behind-the-scenes villain calling himself the Outsider all found each other in the same place at the same time.
And then what? Then we read the last installment of ComicsAlliance's Trinity War Correspondence to find out!
Justice League #23
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert and Eber Ferreira
The final chapter of Trinity War begins with a recap of previous events -- but rather than a recap of previous events in Trinity War, it recaps the mostly off-panel history of the New 52 Justice League, and of the villainous Outsider's off-panel history during the same period. It's a nice info-dump in which we learn that when Darkseid came to Earth to beat up the superheroes a few story arcs ago, he weakened the borders between parallel universes such that the Outsider and another person from a third universe -- as in, not the New 52 universe and not Earth-2 -- traveled into this storyline. While the Justice League was busy recreating Silver Age covers like those for 1960's The Brave and The Bold #28-#30 (see the Starro homage below), the Outsider began recruiting supervillains for the Secret Society and searching for Pandora's Box.
The Alfsider's—Outsider! The Outsider -- master plan was to have the three Justice Leagues find Pandora's Box for him, which they do in the ruins beneath the Temple of Hephaestus, where Pandy found the box so many thousands of years ago. The box is leaking some kind of ambient evil that's infecting everyone in all three Leagues, at least according to John Constantine, who's currently got his hands on the ball. He's completely unaffected by it because, as he says, he's already a pretty bad guy (although I notice he's also wearing leather gloves in Athens in August for some reason. Maybe the gloves absorb the evil?). The fight gets intense in the first of the book's many double-paged spreads, and the first of two that require the reader to turn the book on its side to see right-side-up, like a centerfold in a gentleman's magazine.
The evilness of the box has corrupted whoever's touched it so far. We've seen it turn Superman gray and violent, we've seen it give Wonder Woman a third eye when she touched it, and we saw it turn Shazam's costume black and give him a third eye when he touched it (after letting go his extra eye was gone, but his costume's still black). Sexual jealousy is aroused in poor Steve Trevor as well as Superman, and Kal-El becomes obsessed with the notion of Wonder Woman "going to" Batman should he perish.
For the Man of Steel's part, he rams his fellow Leaguers with a Corinthian pillar like in that Jim Lee-drawn teaser image for "Trinity War" that appeared in a Free Comic Book Day comic from like 25 years ago.
I'm sorry, there's a mistake in that previous sentence. It actually looks like it might be more of a Doric pillar.
Then, in the book's most superfluous of its double-page spreads, Superman shouts that he "WON'T STOP [punching things] UNTIL BATMAN IS DEAD!" This 10" x 13" drawing is nothing but a giant image of Wonder Woman punching Superman in the solar plexus in front of Batman. At least the last sideways splash had 23 superheroes and the credits on it. Anyway, Wondy punches her super-boyfriend so hard that she turned the Box off for a minute, sort of like when you slam something down really hard next to a CD player and the music stops for a few seconds. Everyone stops fighting long enough for the villains to come forward and reveal their plans.
Are you ready for the spoilers and twists, some of which are slightly more surprising than others?
First, Firestorm suddenly realizes why Superman looks like hell with gray skin, red-rimmed eyes and ropey veins: there is apparently a microscopic sliver of Kryptonite embedded in his brain.
"I put it in there," the Atom cheerfully explains. She jammed it right into a nerve when Superman was yelling at Doctor Light all the way back in part one, which triggered his heat-vision and set-off the events of the last few issues.
Yes, the Atom is a traitor, and not working for any of the Leagues... at least not any on this earth!
And she's not the only traitor, either. So too is Cyborg, or at least his robot bits, which eject Victor Stone's human parts in really gross fashion before transforming into an evil looking robot calling itself: Ultron. No, wait! Wrong crossover—the evil robot is really called Grid.
Finally, the Outsider, the pale-skinned, purple-wearing guy who dresses a bit like an English butler and who shares a name with a villain Alfred Pennyworth became in a long-out-of-continuity story from 1966 and (depending on which artist is drawing him) has more than a passing resemblance to Alfred Pennyworth, strolls up, picks up the box and continues explaining the plot from where he left off on the first few pages of the book.
In turns out Pandora's Box is just like one of Darkseid's Mother Boxes, a gateway to another universe, the same one Outsider and the traitorous Atom come from: "The Birthplace of Evil." And only someone from that universe can open it, as he does, declaring "As you say on your world... THE BUTLER DID IT."
That's right! The Outsider really is Alfred Pennyworth! Well, a version of Alfred Pennyworth. In a typical Geoff Johnsian reveal, it's a "remix" of an old DC story plot point, played more seriously than original.
As mysterious figures begin to step through the portal, Madame Xanadu finally explains the "Trinity" in the comic's title. It doesn't have anything to do with DC's so-called Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman; nor the so-called "Trinity of Sin" of Pandora, Phantom Stranger and the Question; nor even the fact that there are three Justice Leagues fighting or three eyes on Pandora's Box and whoever it possesses.
"It was the number...the true number of evil," she says. "Three. Earth-Three."
It's an all-new, slightly-different version of The Crime Syndicate of America from Earth-3!
No idea who that is? Well, "the evil opposites of the Justice League from a parallel, evil version of Earth" pretty much covers it. Long-time DC readers— with "long-time" being defined here as "pre-New 52" -- will recognize them as recurring (and oft-rebooted and re-tooled) antagonists of the Justice League. Gardner Fox and MIke Sekowsky created them way back in 1962 to use as antagonists in one of their regular Justice League of Earth-One/Justice Society of Earth-Two team-ups. Their original line-up consisted of Ultraman (evil Superman), Owlman (evil Batman), Superwoman (evil Wonder Woman), Johnny Quick (evil Flash) and the imaginatively-named Power Ring (evil Green Lantern), and they would bedevil the heroes of the other Earths off and on until they bought it during the Multiverse-condensing events of 1986's Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely re-introduced a new, post-Crisis version of the Crime Syndicate in the 2000 original graphic novel JLA: Earth-2, and that version made occasional reappearances in the DCU off and on right up until the New 52 reboot (some notable appearances include Kurt Busiek and Ron Garney's 2005, eight-issue JLA story arc and James Robinson and Mark Bagley's 2010 arc from Justice League of America, collected as JLA: Syndicate Rules and Justice League of America: Omega, respectively). That version of the Syndicate, with a widely expanded roster, was also featured in the fight-tastic 2010 animated film Justice League: Crisis on Two Worlds, featuring James Woods as Owlman (note to Zack Snyder: Dude, you should totally cast James Woods as Owlman in your Batman/Superman movie).
This version seems to have the same core five members of the pre-52 Crime Syndicate, but with only mildly redesigned costumes, although Owlman's new look is sticking out as particularly poor (and hey, not to constantly keep complaining about New 52 Superman's costume or anything, but New 52 Ultraman's costume looks a lot more like a Superman costume than New 52 Superman's does). This Owlman costume has a more generic bird head-shaped helmet, lacking the "ears" and "googly" eyes of the Quitely design. Call me crazy, but I've always loved the original Owlman's wild-ass costume, which looks like Sekowsky designed it while an editor had him in a headlock, demanding he draw a villainous Batman named Owlman this very second, and so he just drew a dumpy-looking guy in an ill-fitting Batman costume and with what looks like it could have been the actual head of an actual dead owl sitting atop his head like a terrible toupee.
Anyway, other members include an evil Firestorm named Deathstorm, which is the same name of the Black Lantern Firestorm that appeared throughout Geoff Johns' Brightest Day series; an evil Aquaman who for some reason didn't survive the trip from Earth-Three; and, of course, the traitorous Atom, who is actually called Atomica. With Grid, Evil Alfred and Evil Alfred's Society, the Crime Syndicate's got a pretty formidable army waiting to help them conquer Earth-New 52.
That's a lot to wrap up in the last three pages of this crossover series which, it turns out, wasn't really on the agenda anyway. Trinity War ends with another splash page, this one featuring the Crime Syndicate posing, Ultraman shouting, "This world now belongs to The Crime Syndicate!" and a tag reading "To Be Continued in Forever Evil #1."
Which...I don't know, is that even legal? I know Marvel has been seeding the beginnings of their next big crossover storylines into the endings of their big crossovers for a while now, but can a crossover end with the words "To Be Continued In Another Crossover" like that? Should there be a flag on the play, or should Geoff Johns have to sit in a penalty box for a few minutes or something? At any rate, this no doubt explains not only what exactly Forever Evil is going to be about, but also why this September is "Villains Month" at DC and why the company's fall solicits have all dealt with a world free of Justice Leagues and ruled by supervillains.
Naturally, if Trinity War is going to continue under a different name then so too will Trinity War Correspondence! We just don't know what that is yet! But whatever we're calling this thing, I'll meet you guys back here in... wow, one week. At least DC's not going to keep us in suspense for long!
Custom graphics by Dylan Todd.