T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
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Trinity #5 arrived in readers’ hands last Wednesday, continuing the series’ opening Better Together arc with a tale called Deliver Your Children. The latest issue was the handiwork of Steve Wands, who did the lettering, and Francis Manapul, who did everything else. ComiConverse contributor T. Kyle King is here to examine the most recent story starring Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.
(Warning: Spoilers follow!)
Trinity #5 Review:
For fans of the Man of Steel, last Wednesday’s DC Comics publications more than made up in quality what they lacked in quantity. Superman #15 advanced its authors’ ambitious attempt to follow up on Grant Morrison’s The Multiversity, and, in Trinity #5, Manapul similarly sought to flesh out further an intricate plot involving callbacks to an iconic adventure, albeit a classic of earlier vintage: Alan Moore’s For the Man Who Has Everything.
Trinity #5 Synopsis:
In the wake of the events of Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death, Dr. Pamela Isley used the ability given to her by the Green consciously to enter her own dreams, where she met and grew to love a child from whom she later was separated by Mongul. Poison Ivy explains to Lois Lane that she came to the Kents’ Hamilton County farm — drawn there by the vast amounts of solar energy evidently stored at that location — to create a gateway to the dreamscape from which she was banished and to the daughter from whom she was thereby isolated.
Within the dreamworld, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman clash with Mongul, who explains how the internal illusion created for him by the Black Mercy ultimately produced for him an heir whom he could train as a conqueror. Poison Ivy’s arrival exposed the true nature of the delusion, inspiring Mongul to use Isley’s love of his child to gain control of the outside world. In Hamilton County, the youngster — ostensibly fulfilling the plans of both its “parents” — begins emerging from the Black Mercy-induced fantasy through Superman.
Trinity #5 Analysis:
Deliver Your Children, like all the best issues in the Better Together story arc, is unified by Manapul’s almost absolute creative control over the finished product: Trinity #5 was written, pencilled, inked, and colored by a single artist, resulting in a uniquely harmonious whole in which every element is integrated in the service of a common objective. Consequently, no incongruity intrudes to disturb the delicately balanced world crafted by its creator.
This is especially welcome in a story like Deliver Your Children, which draws from multiple sources and aligns them in contrapuntal tension with one another to establish a cohesive and clever adventure in which a variety of continuities are combined. Manapul has taken his time to arrive at this juncture, earning the audience’s investment in the tale and in its respectful treatment of each of its characters along the circuitous path to revealing the forces at work and the longstanding plot strands from DC Comics’ past that finally converged in Trinity #5.
Rarely, if ever, has there been a better time for a story of this sort. From the moment its details were announced, it has been clear that Rebirth, above all else, was about restoring DC Comics’ connection to its past… but without the true reboot the New 52 had embodied five years before. Hence, Cycle of Life and Death — which was published during the first half of last year, as the New 52 was being phased out in preparation for the current initiative — remains a canonical text and an influential experience for the extant iteration of Poison Ivy, but (as alluded to at the outset of Better Together through the pre-Flashpoint Superman’s anachronistic recollection of a Silver Age Batman adventure) earlier events and incarnations incrementally are appearing as Rebirth makes good on its promise and lives up to its nomenclature.
(Notably, the transition from the New 52 included the revelation that years were lost along the way. This leads me to believe that the underlying mystery involves the Chronovore, a creature that connects DC One Million to All-Star Superman, that eats time the way Brainiac 5 had Matter-Eater Lad eat the selfsame Miracle Machine that the Legion’s resident genius later would show to Superman so he could save the day in Final Crisis, and that — crucially — also links the work of Grant Morrison to that of Alan Moore.)
Morrison and Moore matter to the entire enterprise; their divergent views in many ways serve as synecdoches of the competing trends expressly set in opposition to one another in DC Universe: Rebirth #1’s overt in-continuity repudiation of Watchmen and the world it wrought. An awareness of that history is essential to a full appreciation of what Manapul achieves in Trinity #5, the richness of which is brilliant. As the Action Ace, the Amazing Amazon, and the Caped Crusader commence taking the fight to Mongul in Deliver Your Children, Batman makes the Moore connection explicit with this seemingly innocuous bit of narrative exposition: “Justice League intel has this guy last seen buried in Black Mercy.”
The context of this is critical. For the Man Who Has Everything — which ends with Mongul, ensnared by the Black Mercy, enjoying the dreamworld that Trinity #5 reveals would later come to bore him, giving rise to the child he and Poison Ivy now claim — was written by Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons, the collaborators who later would reunite to create Watchmen. The story appeared in Superman Annual #11 in 1985, as the epochal Crisis on Infinite Earths was getting underway, and it represented Moore’s second opportunity to pen an adventure starring the Man of Steel. The previous such endeavor appeared in DC Comics Presents #85, which paired Kal-El with Swamp Thing, providing us with a meaningful reminder that Moore also gave us the Saga of the Swamp Thing run that introduced the Green, which empowered Poison Ivy to enter Mongul’s dream and led her to Hamilton County, which we learned was sun-soaked in a Rebirth annual that brought Superman into contact with… you guessed it: Swamp Thing. The DC Universe works in circles, and Trinity #5 tries to be round.
In Better Together — Part Five, Manapul is hearkening back in multiple ways to the Alan Moore who antedated Crisis on Infinite Earths and Watchmen, and who was chosen to write the last Superman story before John Byrne’s 1986 relaunch introduced the Metropolis Marvel whom Rebirth has since restored. The author/artist even acquaints us with the offspring of the Black Mercy through a description of the “war-born child” and an image of the youth holding an oversized and blood-spattered axe, calling to mind the Rob Liefeld-fueled excesses of post-Watchmen superhero comics of the sort Superman serves to retort. The panel showing Mongul seated upon a throne of bones, surrounded by the dead Supermen of myriad eras, immediately allows us to pick up where the villain — and the rest of the pre-Crisis DC Universe — left off in For the Man Who Has Everything and Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
Panels such as that one demonstrate the sophisticated and subtle ways in which Manapul the graphic artist aids Manapul the scriptwriter in conveying the various layers of Better Together — Part Five. The ethereal quality of the visual imagery of Trinity #5 lends considerably to the tale being told, and Manapul’s clean simple figures appear arresting and appealing… thankfully, without veering into the objectification that marred Cycle of Life and Death.
Last, but far from least, a concluding word must be offered in praise of Manapul’s Lois Lane. Her role in Deliver Your Children, though small, is significant; consistently throughout this series, the wholly human Lois has been the speaker of truth to power, and she continues performing that important role admirably in Trinity #5. In short, between Multiplicity’s explication of Morrison and Manapul’s extrapolation from Moore, Rebirth is going all-in on big events, deep themes, historical continuity, and the centrality of Superman. Stories like Better Together — Part Five don’t just put the puzzle pieces into place with loving care and meticulous craftsmanship… they also reaffirm what it is in the storied past of these mythical figures that sustains their relevance in the present and provides hope for their —and our — future.
Did Trinity #5 leave you believing in the dream?
Break through into our shared reality in the comments and ComiConverse with us about the latest issue!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
Francis Manapul moves the story forward while looking backward, delving deeper into the dream while building a new reality in this excellent issue.