Trinity War Correspondence, Week Three: Batman Forgets To Ask Nicely and The British and The Bold Team-Up [SPOILERS]
The story so far? When the hero Shazam entered Khandaq in order to spread the ashes of his fallen enemy Black Adam in the sands of the villain's home country, the Justice League (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, those guys) sprang into action, hoping to avoid an international incident by kicking Shazam out of Khandaq. At the same time, the Justice League of America, a team of second-stringers assembled by the government agency specifically for the task of taking down the other Justice League, arrive with the same idea.
In the midst of all the arguing that ensues, Superman suddenly loses control and uses his heat-vision to kill Dr. Light, a member of the rival of America League. Superman surrenders himself and is imprisoned by Amanda Waller, leader of the ARGUS (Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate) and the of America squad, and all the Leaguers convene to try and figure out what exactly what happened between Superman's eyeballs and Dr. Light's face.
Superman's current girlfriend Wonder Woman thinks it had something to do with his coming into contact with Pandora's Box, an actual box—although it's shaped more like a skull—that belongs to an actual person named Pandora. She sets off to find a third Justice League that specializes in magic stuff, the so-called Justice League Dark (Because "Justice League Magic" just sounds silly).
Meanwhile, Superman receives a msyterious visitor in his cell, a mysterious villain mysterious monologues and Madame Xanadu got blown up. And that brings us to to chapter three of "Trinity War," and the third installment of Trinity War Correspondence...
Justice League Dark #22
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Mikel Janin
This chapter opens as the previous two have, with the mysterious villain we're so far calling The Outsider. Here he has Madame Xanadu, who seemed to have been blown-up in the first chapter, blindfolded and bolted into an extremely sturdy-looking chair, not unlike the one he seemingly shot Catwoman to death in during the build-up to "Trinity War" in Justice League of America. It turns out that, as was the case with Catwoman, reports of Madame Xanadu's death have been greatly exaggerated (As Mark Twain's ghost live-tweeted while it was reading Justice League Dark #22 Wednesday afternoon).
Meanwhile, at ARGUS (Advanced Research Group Uniting Superhumans) HQ (headquarters), Amanda Waller and Firestorm are trying to find out if Firestorm can use his powers to FWOOSH up some Kryptonite, in case Superman goes all Superman unchained again (he can, it turns out), and Martian Manhunter and Cyborg are still conducting their autopsy of the dead Dr. Light, while Batman, Zatanna and Steve Trevor look on.
They don't seem to have gotten very far with their autopsy since last issue; in fact, they haven't even taken Dr. Light's costume off his corpse yet. This may be because neither Cyborg nor J'onn J'onnz are medical examiners, and neither of them have the first idea of how to go about doing an autopsy, so they're sort of stalling until a real ME shows up.
Suddenly, luminous smoke seems to pour out of Dr. Light's neck-hole (or maybe just on the other side of the table; the staging is ambiguous), and The Phantom Stranger splash pages his way into the crossover. With Pandora appearing in the first chapter and The Question in the second, we now have all three members of the Trinity of Sin in play.
Phantom Stranger warns all in the room that Wonder Woman is hoping to recruit "the mystical adventurers you may knows as the Justice League Dark" (because "Shadowpact" and "Sentinels of Magic" don't generate the kind of sales that "Justice League" does) to help her look for Pandora and her box (you know what I mean, perverts). And should Wonder Woman locate Pandora, The Stranger says, "It will be the death of all."
And so Batman and Steve Trevor spring into action, assembling their teams! Batman takes Flash to go after Wonder Woman, leaving new League recruits Firestorm, Atom and Element Woman behind, because they suck (Or "They are not ready for this," as Batman says, but you know what he really means).
Trevor tells Martian Manhunter, the only one on his team who could probably take a punch from Wonder Woman, to stay behind, while he takes Vibe, Katana and the others to help stop Wondy.
In another room at ARGUS, The Question frees Superman, who is looking rough, what with his pale, translucent skin, dark veins and red-rimmed eyes, and hands him a newspaper clipping that makes him so eager to hit the road that he punches his cell door open, knocking Cyborg and a bunch of ARGUS guys down with it.
Yeesh. You know, you hear a lot of talk about the redesigned costumes the superheroes of The New 52 sport, but will no one speak up for the poor villains?
Dr. Psycho used to be such a well-dressed villain, a macroencephalic dwarf who dressed to the nines in a tuxedo, and whose secret origin was the stuff of 1980s cable-ready comedies: Despite his appearance and some likely reluctance to changer her name to "Psycho," beautiful co-ed Marva agreed to marry him while the two were both still in college. But school jock Ben Bradley, who fancied Marva, stole some radium from the school lab and framed Psycho, and the little guy was sent to the big house.
While there, he devoted himself to the hatred of "all women," and after taking revenge on the villainous jock, he became a renowned spiritualist and medium who could summon ectoplasm through his now-hypnotized and experimented upon wife Marva, and despite his burgeoning fame and the movement springing up around him, he embarked upon a plot to discredit women serving in the armed forces. And then Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor and the sorority girls they used to fight Nazis and gangsters with took him down.
I'm not sure what his New 52 origins are—it looks like his "photo" was taken by artist Brett Booth though, so he's likely appeared in previous issues of Justice League of America or possibly Teen Titans—but I'm fairly certain they don't involve a scheming school jock or a pack of two-fisted co-eds.
He sure doesn't dress as fancy anymore.
Realizing that it can't be a coincidence that Psycho, "a telepath and mind controller," was in town at the same time Superman laser-visioned Dr. Light to death, Superman and The Question lead all the left-behind heroes—Green Arrow, Cyborg, Element Woman, The Atom and Firestorm—on a hunt for the supervillain, over the violent objections of Amanda Waller.
Meanwhile, in New York City, in the ruins of Xanadu's exploded office, Wonder Woman makes her pitch to the Justice League Dark, the roster of which currently consists of John Constantine, Deadman, Frankenstein, and the redesigned Black Orchid, who know looks a bit more like Red Cabbage than she did in her previous designs:
These, of course, included the naked purple lady of her Vertigo iteration:
And the flower-meets-Carnavale of her original costume:
After two pages of debate, which ends with Wonder Woman lifting Constantine off the ground by his throat, Batman, Trevor and company arrive.
Batman, Wonder Woman's long-time Justice League teammate, tries to calmly and rationally explain to his colleague why seeking out Pandora might not be the best course of action at this point in time: "You have to stop this, Wonder Woman ...or we'll have to make you stop."
Standing behind Batman in various action poses, weapons drawn, are Aquaman, The Flash, Zatanna, Stargirl, Katana, Hawkman, Catwoman, Vibe, and Green Lantern Simon Baz. Phantom Stranger and Steve Trevor are there, but are at least not crouched for action, and the hero formerly-known-as-Captain Marvel is there too, his hood up, which is a common teenage signal of sullenness.
Despite Batman's less-than-elegant conversational skills, Wonder Woman does talk to them for a sentence or two, before lassoing Phantom Stranger around the neck with her magical garrote of truth and demanding he tell her that if it's not Pandora's box that's making Superman so murdery, what is.
You may recall in the last chapter she used her lasso on her half-brother Hephaestus by sneaking up behind him and wrapping it around his throat. Apparently, the lasso of truth only works if you're actively choking someone with it.
Before this League vs. League confrontation dissolves into a brawl, Constantine saunters up to Shazam and talks him into walking off into the fog with him (more on them below), and Wonder Woman wins a few of the other Leaguers over to her new JLD team, including Hawkman and Aquaman (who like her less talking, more choking people strategy of addressing the threat of Pandora), Stargirl (whose rationale boils down to Chicks Before Dicks: "Uh...sorry, Steve, but this is Wonder Woman") and Zatanna (who just wants to do the opposite of whatever Constantine suggests).
So now we're at the half-point of the Trinity War, and we've got three different Justice Leagues with three different objects, each involving one member of the Trinity of Sin, but the Leagues have at this point been scrambled into new rosters.
And it's all going precisely as The Outsider planned! Or so he gloats on the final page, declaring that the Justice League can't stop him because he has a mole on the team.
My guess? Element Woman, because like The Outsider, she played a role in Flashpoint. That, or maybe Firestorm, since he can manipulate molecules, and you can't spell molecule without the a "mole" can you? Think about it.
But wait! That's not all the Trinity Warring that went on this week! There was also a tie-in issue, billed as "A Trinity War Interlude."
Written by Ray Fawkes
Art by Renato Guedes
So John Constantine and Captain Marvel walk into a bar. This is not a joke, it is the premise of "Stealing Thunder," which shows us where these two disappeared to while Batman and Wonder Woman were picking teams for the second half of the crossover.
The bar's closed, and belongs to a friend of Constantine's. As he narrates, there's some "trouble with the costumes," and he needs to take Billy Batson "off the board right quick." His solution? Lure a troubled-teenager in the form of a Superman leaking lightning and wearing a hoodie/cape into a bar with promises of information on the boy's real family and a plot by Black Adam or something.
Once he tricks Shazam into saying "Shazam!" and turning into Billy, he uses a voodoo doll to swap voices with him; so now Batson has Constantine's voice, and Constantine has Billy's, and thus his magic word and access to the powers of Shazam. He handcuffs Billy to the bar and that would be that, were it not for a plot development from the pages of Constantine interrupting.
A big demonic monster bursts into the bar and starts beating on Constantine, who uses the magic word and turns into....I'm gonna say Captain Hellblazer....?
Guedes' art is pretty nice, and has the proper amount of grittiness for a dark, supernatural superhero title, but it's kind of a shame neither he nor cover artist Eddy Barrows and their colorists give us a more pure Constantine/Captain Marvel mash-up, with the simple, smooth brightness of the colorful Golden Age hero mixing with the late-eighties, chain-smoking anti-hero's Vertigo palette of brown, gray and black.
Still, Constantine with the powers of Shazam: That's worth the price of admission, right?
Not used to the power—or maybe not fully authorized to use it—the Shazam power tries burning its way out of Constantine's now spandex-encased body, and the demon has him on the ropes, until Batson's uses' Connie's voice to trick the demon into coming after him instead, leading to the second best part of the book: Hearing Batson try to use British slang to sound more like Constantine.
Naturally, the good guys win and the demon
is defeated has its head torn off, and the resourceful if annoying Batson gets his hands on the voodoo doll and gets his powers back.
Constantine tries to honestly warn him about the dangers of Pandora's box, calling it a "global bomb," but Shazam's not really in any mood to listen, telling the title character "You're lucky I'm not kicking the crap out of you for what you did," and then flying off with a "you're a real jerk, Constantine. I hope I never see you again."
Constantine, meanwhile, collapses on the floor in a pool of his own blood, leaking out of a wound in his stomach he sustained during the demon battle. Compared to Shazam, Constantine comes out of this one looking pretty good then, but then, it is his title.
"Trinity War" mostly takes the next two weeks off, with only a tie-in issue of Trinity of Sin: Pandora and Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger being released on each of the next two Wednesdays, with the fourth chapter coming in August 14's Justice League of America #7.
Trinity War Correspondence graphic by Dylan Todd.