As Free Comic Book Day approaches this weekend, DC Comics is heading into a Justice League crossover that readers have been anticipating since last year's Free Comic Book Day.
Titled "Trinity War," the crossover was first teased in May 2012, but the story's origins are as old as the current DC Universe itself. After all, when DC rebooted its entire universe, it was Pandora who created the new, younger universe in-story. And Pandora appears to be one of the major players in the upcoming Trinity War storyline.
The story will kick off in Justice League #22 on on July 3rd (which is, notably, just before a long weekend for most workers in the U.S.). The action continues in six issues that cross between Justice League of America, Justice League Dark and Justice League.
The Justice League title will penned by writer Geoff Johns, with art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, while Johns will co-write JLA with Jeff Lemire and artist Dough Mahnke. Justice League Dark will be written by the current team of Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes, with art by Mikel Janin.
While the event will be limited to just those three titles, it will affect the stories going on in other tie-in titles, like Constantine (a featured member of the Dark team) and the Trinity of Sin comics that center on Pandora and Phantom Stranger.
While we've got a couple months before it all begins, DC has already started to hype the event, and a lot of the preliminary set-up for Trinity War is being put into place.
So what else do we know about "Trinity War," and what can readers expect from the story? Newsarama takes a look at what we know, what we guess, and everything in between, so hold onto your seat, because there's a lot of ground to cover as the DCU heads toward "Trinity War."
A Hero Dies
All the recent promotions for Trinity War have pointed out that a "hero dies" to kick off the event — and the speculation about which hero is dying has everyone from Martian Manhunter to Wonder Woman kicking the bucket. (Again.)
One of the most popular guesses online is that the Trinity War death is related to Justice League of America #5, because that issue's cover features a coffin.
Along with the coffin, the #5 cover also shows the hands of Martian Manhunter, Hawkman and Green Lantern Simon Baz, implying that none of those three are inside the coffin.
That means that if the coffin has a hero inside, it would most likely be Catwoman, Green Arrow, Steve Trevor, Stargirl, Katana or Vibe. (Considering that almost all those heroes have their own ongoing titles right now — save Steve and Stargirl — it's hard to believe one of them would die already in the New 52. Plus, most of them show up on future covers. But this is the post-Damian DCU — and if they'll kill a beloved child Robin, they'll theoretically kill anyone. Plus, it's a comic book death, which means it might not be permanent.)
However... we're not so sure the coffin on JLA #5 is even related to the death in Trinity War. Johns has indicated that the death in Trinity War occurs "in the first issue." That points toward a death in July's Justice League #22. But the death in JLA (according to promotional copy) happens at the end of May's JLA #4. That doesn't line up.
Instead, we're guessing that the death in Trinity War happens in Justice League #22, and because of the growing League roster and all the guest team members they've attracted lately, it could be just about anyone.
A clue might be found within the massive battle depicted in Ivan Reis' "triptych" covers for the first three issues of "Trinity War." There are a few heroes missing from that image, like league-associated character Black Orchid and others.
Of course, covers don't always accurately depict what's happening inside the comic. But one thing is clear from the covers (and every other promo piece for the event): The Justice Leagues will battle. And they'll battle hard.
So why are they fighting? The aforementioned death seems to serve as a call to battle for the other heroes, as copy claims "the death of a hero ignites a violent war among the Justice Leagues!"
But Johns also called Trinity War an "action mystery," and that mystery appears to be centered on how the hero died — or maybe who killed him/her. As Lemire said: "It's hard to explain the actual plot mechanics of how [the Justice League Dark] get[s] involved without spoiling things, but some of the mysteries around the death in the first issue need their expertise."
Yet "mystery" is only part of Johns' description. He also says "action." And it's obvious that lines are being drawn between the various teams. "It's going to be really interesting when these characters do come together, because some of them haven't met, some of them have, and what happens and unfolds in this is going to force them to choose sides," Johns said.
OK, so what "sides" are the Justice League members are choosing?
That question points us toward one of the biggest clues about the event: its title, "Trinity War." Phantom Stranger recently told John Constantine that there is an upcoming war "among the three." What three? Fittingly, there appears to be three "trinities" that might fit the bill:
- The "trinity" of Justice League teams: JLA, JL and Dark. There have been hints that there's all kinds of trouble coming up within the ranks of the teams. We already know someone is trying to undermine the Justice League from within, and Lemire has pointed out that there's ongoing tension between Zatanna and Constantine on the Dark team. Teases also indicate there will be members switching teams and going rogue, and we've been shown that Martian Manhunter is exerting mind control without telling his team.
Plus, the very formation of Justice League of America points toward a team-related battle, since Amanda Waller specifically chose individual members of the JLA because of their match-up capabilities against members of the Justice League. "This Trinity War is really the event that forces the Justice League of America to become aware of that plan and take on the Justice League."
However, Johns indicated the "trinity" battle "isn't what it seems." So we're thinking it's more important to look at the other two Trinities...
- The "trinity" of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Geoff Johns pretty much confirmed that Superman and Wonder Woman, who have been "dating" lately, are splitsville. "The thing about Wonder Woman and Superman is when their relationship ends, it's going to end badly," Johns said. "There is no good way for this one to end." We've already seen that Batman didn't approve of the relationship anyway, so the battle's leaders could be the good, old-fashioned DC Trinity, and other heroes might just be following the lead of Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman.
- The Trinity of Sin, made up of Phantom Stranger, the Question and Pandora. This one has the best chance of being the real "Trinity" at the heart of the story. When "Trinity War" was first teased in last year's Free Comic Book Day issue, it was accompanied by the introduction of the Trinity of Sin. And all three feature prominently on Reis' triptych Trinity War covers, as does Pandora's box, which is at the very center of the art.
As Newsarama pointed out earlier this week, which Trinity is truly at War is still up for debate, but we're betting the title refers, at different points in the story, to all three.
Wizards and Boxes
It's notable that magic appears to play an important role in "Trinity War." Not only is the "death of a hero" somehow linked to magic (which would necessitate Constantine and the Justice League Dark being involved in solving its mystery), but the Trinity of Sin itself is magic-centered.
Pandora, Phantom Stranger and the Question were sentenced to eternal punishment centuries ago by a group of powerful wizards called the "Circle of Eternity" — a group that is also linked to the characters featured in the current "Curse of Shazam" story.
But Pandora wants to get out of her predicament, claiming that she was innocent when she opened her box (yes, that Pandora's box) and got in trouble with the wizards.
During her brief appearances in recent DC comics, she's been setting a few things in motion. She rebooted the DCU universe. She told Phantom Stranger that she wants to imprison "The Strange." And she vowed to get help from the Justice League, whether they like it or not.
She also worked very hard to get back her box, which we know will be important in Trinity War, although she cannot open it. The wizard (from the Shazam story) told Pandora that "only the strongest, or darkest of heart can open the box." That points toward lots of characters.... but considering the speaker, the safest bets are Shazam [strong] and Black Adam [dark].
Black Adam was one of the earliest characters to be confirmed as part of Trinity War, as he showed up in a teaser image long before his first story in the rebooted DCU. And Johns has publicly highlighted Shazam as an important character in Trinity War. "He's got no allegiance to anybody," Johns said, "and you'll see him come into conflict with Superman in a very big way."
We also know Pandora is going to offer her box to at least one hero, because in a series of teaser panels in Justice League #12 last year, Pandora was shown offering her "box" to a pair of gloved hands, saying, "Open It." Maybe it's Batman? The teasers in the 2012 Free Comic Book Day issue featured Batman carrying the box on his back, so he's certainly a leading candidate, although not the only "strong" or "dark" guy available at DC.
There also a wild card out there that Readers shouldn't forget. Way back in August's Justice League International Annual #1 (written by Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio), an older Booster from the future (wearing, notably, an A.R.G.U.S. patch) traveled back in time to warn the current-day Booster that Superman and Wonder Woman have to be stopped. But young Booster and old Booster won't be able to stop it, because they faded as Wonder Woman and Superman kissed, implying their future has somehow been erased thanks to the romance.
The future Booster also insinuates there's someone who shouldn't have been trusted, which points toward the turmoil in Trinity War — or at least toward the traitor that has been teased in Justice League stories so far.
There's been no indication since then that Booster is involved in Trinity War, but we do know that he's in the past of the DCU right now. He's with Jonah Hex (as shown in All-Star Western #19), who is going to be time-traveling to the present day in upcoming issues.
And although Western writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray stopped short of telling Newsarama that Booster's involved in Trinity War, they did indicate Booster's important to the future DCU.
With Booster being one of Johns' favorite characters (he launched the character's most recent solo title), and the Booster of the future knowing so much about the Justice League, the chances are good that the man in gold will show up at some point. And when Booster's around, heroics ensue.
But teases also indicate that, while the Leagues are fighting, "an impending darkness approaches the DC Universe."
Is the Trinity of Sin the darkness? Probably not, since Phantom Stranger and Question are usually portrayed as somewhat "good guys." Is it related to Darkseid, whose return has been implied for months, what with his daughter imprisoned on the DCU Earth?
Maybe, but the story in Trinity War also involves the Secret Society of Super-Villains, which Johns has been introducing in his Justice League of America title (though, for this event, they're teased in the solicitation of Justice League).
"The truth behind it all will lead to an evil that threatens every hero on the planet," solicitation copy for Trinity War says. "And what does the Secret Society of Super-Villains have to with this? Everything."
Although the villain in this event is still a bit of a mystery, one villain-related thing we can guess with some certainty: Trinity War will help set up the Villains Month event coming in all DC books in September.
As Johns told USA Today about Trinity War: "It's not going to end wrapped up in a bow. Something really, really major happens that kicks off some pretty crazy stuff at the end of August."
That sure sounds like it's setting up something big in September.
Keep in mind that ever since DC rebooted its universe in September 2011, the publisher has an annual tradition of scheduling major events in September. And this year, news reports indicate that "evil takes over" for the whole month of September in DC comics, as the titles feature villains.
Does that mean the Secret Society of Super-Villains end up winning the Trinity War? Or will Pandora's box get opened to spill even more evil onto the universe? Or does Pandora meddle with the make-up of the universe again, giving evil the chance to rule?
Whatever turn the story takes, the real power behind Trinity War is its effectiveness in building the Justice League franchise. Pardon the comparison, but it's similar to the way Marvel's 2006 event Civil War helped spin off several new Avengers comics to help strengthen that franchise.
And just like the Avengers comic book strength served as a precursor for movie success, DC's Justice League-centered Trinity War comes just in time for Warner Bros. to begin talking about its development of a Justice League movie.