As the DC crossover event "Trinity War" kicked off last week in Justice League #22, the hero's death wasn't completely unexpected. After all, the creative team behind the crossover had warned readers long ago that a hero would die in the issue.
But they neglected to mention that the real surprise was who did the killing.
[Spoiler warning for Justice League #22!]
The death of Doctor Light was caused by none other than Superman, who got all defensive about the good doc's attack on his girlfriend, Wonder Woman. Superman used his heat vision to fry Doctor Light's brain.
Or at least, that's what the events appeared to be, as dozens of DC heroes witnessed the death. More than one clue in Justice League #22, however, indicated the killing wasn't what it seemed, but was instead something involving The Outsider and his Secret Society of Super Villains.
The issue also shared a glimpse of the future, seen by Madame Xanadu. As Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman look over a decimated city and discuss someone they need to save, the narration says it's the "aftermath of a great war" and "one word... defines it: trinity."
But after Xanadu shares her prophetic vision — and some nifty magical cards — she becomes the victim of a villainous explosion. Meanwhile, we're shown that The Question is investigating the whole thing, asking, "who is the evil behind the evil?"
So what does it all mean? And how does this week's second chapter, Justice League of America #6, continue the story?
In our first installment of "Trinity War Weekly," we talk to Brian Cunningham, the event's editor, to find out what's up — and what's next.
Newsarama: Brian, how did the idea emerge and evolve to have the catalyst for the "Trinity War" story be Superman killing Doctor Light?
Brian Cunningham: Superman killing had been part of the story from the very start. Part one needed something truly shocking to kick it off, and this uncharacteristic surprise fit the bill.
Of course, not all is what it seems. There are lots of other surprises ahead!
Nrama: But poor Doctor Light! He said he was sorry. No matter what actually caused his death, he does seem to be really dead.
Cunningham: Yeah, poor guy. He was built as a really good guy, a good family man with a conscience. He was so likable that it's a shame he's gone. But he was made very likable so that readers will truly care that he's dead.
And his story is not entirely over. Phantom Stranger #11, in stores August 7, has a group of Leaguers follow the Stranger to find Doctor Light's soul and learn about what really happened in the moments before his death. The consequences of that side-trip will continue to haunt Phantom Stranger, too.
Nrama: Yeah, Phantom Stranger was told recently to stay away from the afterlife — or else. And when God says "or else," it's usually for real. But let's talk about the way Doctor Light died. You've set up quite a mystery around Superman's actions. Was it the after-effects of Pandora's box? Was it something to do with Dr. Light's powers? Or did the Secret Society do something else to fool everyone? How does that "murder mystery" drive the story going forward?
Cunningham: The mystery will unfold as "Trinity War" continues. And readers will get answers between now and the end of "Trinity War." But sometimes those answers only lead to more questions. I can't wait to get there and get asked them!
Nrama: Oh, we'll keep asking. In this issue, though, it felt like Superman was a little too overprotective of Wonder Woman. And although she made it clear that she condones killing when necessary, this killing seems extreme even for a warrior like Diana. How does she deal with what happened?
Cunningham: If I were Wonder Woman, I know I'd be conflicted. But her feelings for Superman are the prevailing emotion. Love conquers all. The question is: Should it?
Nrama: We've been told how important the Wonder Woman-Superman story is to what's coming in the DCU. How does their relationship play into the "Trinity War" story going forward?
Cunningham: It plays in quite a bit. But that's all I can say right now.
Nrama: Besides the all-out battle, we also got an introductory scene with Madame Xanadu. Where did she get all her cool DC collector cards?
Cunningham: I know, right??
The cards are a really cool motif that continues throughout the story. Mikel Janín illustrated a really cool shot of them in Justice League Dark #22. You have to see it to believe it.
Nrama: Does that mean you guys will be selling those soon?
Cunningham: Ha! That would be cool! It's on my wish list, that's for sure.
Nrama: I assume the explosion at Xanadu's will play a role in the involvement of the Justice League Dark. Can you describe where they show up in coming issues, and what gets them involved?
Cunningham: The destruction of Xanadu's shop is exactly what gets the Justice League Dark involved. But it quickly gets more complicated than that.
Nrama: One little detail we noticed on Madame Xanadu's cards, though, was that "Hero" is scratched out on Superman's card. Is that imply that by killing, he's immediately not a hero?
Cunningham: It certainly looks that way, doesn't it?
Nrama: It does. But that's no fair, answering a question with a question. But as long as we're talking "question, it was cool to see The Question show up. Can you describe what he's doing and what his role is in the story?
Cunningham: He's asking questions that don't have easy answers. He gets more involved in Justice League of America #6's Part 2.
Nrama: "Involved" implies that the Question is going to do more than just ask questions. What else can you tell us about what's coming up in "Trinity War?"
Cunningham: Major fallout from what Superman did. The Justice League and JLA finally have their epic showdown. New alliances are formed. Friendships are strained. And the bad guys do even badder things.
Check back next week when we talk to Cunningham about the events and aftermath of this week's Justice League of America #6 in the next installment of "Trinity War Weekly."