By Louie Hlad
In June 2016, DC Comics kicked off the start of its Rebirth initiative. After a wave of criticism surrounding the way they have treated their characters’ rich histories since 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC has decided to rebrand. They hope that by restoring their characters’ pasts, they will restore readers’ faith in them as well. Do they succeed? That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu and entertainment editor Kyle Pinion are here to discuss. Book by book. Panel by panel.
THIS WEEK: Louie dives into Trinity #15 and Bombshells #6.
Note: the reviews below contain **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Writer: Rob Williams
Pencils: V. Ken Marion
Inks: Sandu Florea
Colors: Dinei Ribeiro
Letters: Tom Napolitano
At the end of the day, comics is a business and DC Entertainment understands its business. They’ve got a lot of smart people who have been doing this for a long time. They know if you want to boost the sales of a comic book in today’s market, throw an image of either Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman on the cover. Trinity is a book that seems to be born of this wisdom. Obviously I wasn’t in the meeting but I suspect the original story pitch went something like: “Create a book that features our big three and put them on every cover, story TBD.” Hard to blame them for doing it, it’s like printing money. One of frustrating things about comics is that the question “How do I sell it?” sometimes comes before the question “What do I have to say?”
Business-wise, Trinity has been a financial success. It debuted to strong numbers in August of last year, coming in seventh with nearly 100k issues sold. No surprise there- along with sporting the big shiny #1 and a Rebirth banner, it had a dramatic shot of you know who on the cover. It was outsold by only six books that month, including three issues of Batman and a Justice League (that featured Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman on the cover). By January sales were halved, and the numbers have dropped steadily this year. This month’s issue #15 will likely be just under 30k in sales. Ignoring the downward trend, selling thirty thousand issues of a comic is an achievement. Trinity is on par with books like Doctor Strange, Daredevil, and my beloved Green Lantern.
Creatively, I see this book as unnecessary because it doesn’t have anything important to say. Each arc has a closed door mystery feel to it, in that there aren’t any recurring supporting characters between arcs.The creative team doesn’t “own” the characters editorially and has to coordinate with those who do, so the heroes of the story aren’t likely to change in any meaningful way. The main point of this exercise is to enjoy seeing the Big Three work as a team to solve an immediate threat. It’s the kind of book you’d buy as a gift for a friend you don’t know too well.
In the current story arc, the heroes face twisted versions of themselves in the form of Bizarro, Jason Todd, and Artemis. They then face the real masterminds: Lex Luthor, Ra’s al Ghul, and Circe. It’s all very paint by numbers. The good guys win.
Over in Wonder Woman, Diana is getting to know her newly discovered brother as her siblings are being hunted by a demigod. In Superman, Lois and Clark are raising a superpowered son and taking unintentional trips to Apocalypse. And in Batman, Bruce is engaged (no, really) and dealing with psychotic ex-girlfriends. These solo titles have plenty of superpowered fights and suspenseful moments and fun guest stars. Trinity isn’t holding my attention and I feel I can safely stop paying it.
Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artist: Sandy Jarrell
Colorist: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Let’s take a break from the Dark Multiverse full of Dark Batmen to check in on our favorite alternate reality story, Bombshells United!
This series has been so much fun. The tone reminds me somewhat of Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey series from about ten years ago: stories that are clever, hopeful, and personal. It’s intoxicating to be immersed in a world that is more yin than yang, yet still feels balanced and complete. The heroes are well developed and they don’t take themselves too seriously to smile and appreciate what they are fighting for.
Bombshells United #6 takes a breather from the narrative to do some world building. The whole thing amounts to not much more than a roll call, highlighting the different heroes in the Bombshells universe. Some get a panel, some get two or three pages. If that sounds boring, you don’t realize just how many compelling characters Marguerite Bennett has to play with (I count about 30 who get screentime in this issue). The most exciting to me is an old school Star Sapphire; Carol Ferris being possessed by a proud alien queen. If you never knew this character before the ridiculous slutty jumpsuit you’re in for a treat.
Cynicism is not welcome in this story. Things never get too dark or too irreparable, even when dealing with serious evils like hatred or bigotry or war. The action is snappy and so is the dialogue. Even in this issue’s lull between arcs you can feel the cohesive spirit of the series: defiance and fearlessness and attitude. Batwoman puts a baseball through a dictator’s window and Katana casts a spell on her magic sword. Black Canary sings about revolution while the Suicide Squad hides in the audience planning their next move. One assumes all of this build-up is leading somewhere exciting, though the only clue we see is Dawnstar and Wonder Woman sensing an approaching invasion.
Honestly, I don’t care if it’s going anywhere important. I’m just glad this book exists. The world needs hopeful, uplifting stories right now and the Bombshells remind us, no matter what, to remain united.
- Justice League #33 is the final chapter of “Bats out of Hell” storyline, a Dark Knights: Metal tie-in. While the whole team is present throughout the story, this issue sure does focus a lot on Cyborg, as he upgrades his already ambiguous power set in order to fight off the twisted Batmen from the Dark Multiverse. It’s less exciting than the main event and has its share of cringe-worthy lines (“Cyborg one million, baby!”). As you might guess, the story never reaches anything that feels like a resolution. It just adds some color and then punts the reader back to the Metal finale next month.
- On that note, we finally got the origin story of “The Batman Who Laughs” in a one-shot of the same name. It’s exactly what you expect. This whole premise seems pretty thin to me, like that Marvel event where everyone got a hammer. What’s strange (and almost enticing) about this event is how these Dark Batmen have been a sideshow to the Metal story. You can ignore all of these one-shots and tie-ins and focus on the fun stuff you really want: Barbatos hunting Batman through time.
- The kids get a new clubhouse- I mean headquarters- in Super Sons #10. I’m surprised how well I’m taking to this new intergenerational DC Universe. Tomasi is at home writing family dynamics and this book portrays a side of the superhero life we seldom see as Jon Kent and Damian Wayne forge a playful friendship. It’s like Superman and Batman, but lighter and more fun.
- The Wild Storm #9 has one of the best fight sequences I’ve seen in a while. It’s a one-on-six samurai sword fight in the rain and it’s totally Kill Bill. This is why we love visual storytelling. Let’s have some more of this.
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