With last week's Justice League Dark #22, DC's Trinity War event reached its halfway point, and split the Justice Leagues into three different teams who are looking for answers about why Superman killed Doctor Light.
The issue featured more than one conflict between League members, as the Trinity of Sin also became a big part of the story, with Pandora, Question and Phantom Stranger each becoming associated with different segments of the League.
Last week also saw the release of Constantine #5, a Trinity War tie-in that featured John Constantine taking over the power of Shazam, warning about the disaster that could follow if young Billy Batson continued to control the power.
In the next installment of our "Trinity War Weekly," we talked to DC Editor Brian Cunningham to find out more about the events of both Justice League Dark #22 and Constantine #5 — as well as what readers can expect from the next few installments in Trinity War.
Newsarama: Brian, let's review where we are now, as far as the "teams" and "Trinity" are concerned. We've got Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman each going in a separate direction and opposing the others. Is this a reflection on the youthful state of their "new" New 52 relationship?
Brian Cunningham: It is at least for now. And it's only going to get more strained as the stakes escalate.
Nrama: The "Trinity" of superheroes are also lining up with the different members of the "Trinity of Sin." We've got Superman working with the Question, Batman working with Phantom Stranger, and Wonder Woman searching for Pandora. Are these going to be the battle lines?
Cunningham: It all fits nice and easy, right? Keep reading — it goes from bad to worse for these characters. It gets bleak.
Nrama: Why does Batman trust Phantom Stranger's warning so much? Or rather, does Batman trust Phantom Stranger? Batman doesn't seem like the trusting type...
Cunningham: He's not. But in situations like this, he's a little out of his depth. He's no longer the authority figure he's accustomed to being. So if the Stranger has the means to shed more light on things, Batman must make a choice — take the leap of faith or not. But if he doesn't take that leap, the clock is ticking on Superman's declining health and the risk is that much greater.
And that's not to say the Stranger is on the money, either.
Nrama: Batman says "we all need to work together," but he doesn't seem willing to do anything but what he wants to do. Is that inherent to the character of Batman, or is this just a sign of his youth?
Cunningham: Ha! Well, that's just "Batman being Batman." He likes to have all the answers, even when he knows he really doesn't. But these other characters will help him fill in the blanks. I don't believe Batman intends to be a "user" of other people, but it kind of works out that way with his Alpha Male personality. And that behavior seems to bite him in the end every time. It's a compelling character flaw to me.
Nrama: Amanda Waller seems to have reached a dead end, deserted by all her super-human weapons. Then again... is she? Does Amanda Waller still have a plan?
Cunningham: Amanda Waller always has a plan. And several backup plans. Amanda is a survivor. If anyone ever thinks she's at a dead end, she's likely just projecting that image to her advantage. She's a tough, smart cookie, and it's one of many reasons why she is so amazing. Big kudos to writer John Ostrander for this gift of a character he gave to us back in 1986.
Nrama: Well, one thing she has Kryptonite now is Kryptonite, thanks to Firestorm. Is it safe to assume that will come into play, since we were shown the scene where
Ronnie and Jason were successful in creating a piece of it?
Nrama: At the end of last week's Justice League Dark #22, we found out that the Secret Society has a mole in the Justice League. hen he says "the Justice League," does he mean that team, or does he mean all the leagues?
Cunningham: Uh-uh. You'll have to find that one out for yourselves. But I promise when it's revealed it will be one of the coolest and grossest moments in DC history.
Nrama: Have there been clues as to whom the mole is in the Justice League?
Cunningham: Yes there has. Very, very subtle ones. So subtle I doubt anyone would see it until after the fact. But I've been surprised by our readers before, so I should never doubt anything! I've often been blown away by some readers' astute dissection of mysteries and secrets that I thought were impenetrable. I know nothing, Jon Snow.
Nrama: Well, they're too subtle for me right now. Could you share any hints about where we might look for those clues?
Cunningham: Hmm…nah. They're there, that's all I can say.
Nrama: Let's talk briefly about Constantine #5, which was released the same week as Justice League Dark #22. Why is John Constantine so convinced that Shazam's power will be a problem now?
Cunningham: For starters, the power of Shazam is big-time power to wield. Also a tremendous responsibility to use. And it's all in the hands of a 15-year-old kid, which — I don't know about you — but if this were the real world and a kid had access to that power, it's enough to give anyone pause. So John is naturally very wary about Billy Batson wielding this enormous power irresponsibly.
So, "Constantine being Constantine," he steals the power for himself instead. But what he finds out about the power surprises even him. Oh, and the power of Shazam hurts like a mutha if you're not the chosen one to wield it. A small price to pay, though.
And there's another reason John took Shazam away from the main "Trinity War" scene. One that ultimately backfires in so many ways.
Nrama: He's also warning about the power of Pandora's box. How does he know about Pandora's box?
Cunningham: John knows lots of things. Don't test him.
Nrama: Hmmm. OK, what does he know about Pandora's box?
Cunningham: You'd have to ask him.
Nrama: Very funny. OK, so we've got two weeks until the next League issue (JLA #7). Is it necessary to read this week's Trinity of Sin: Pandora #2 and August 7th's Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger #11 to know what's going on in Trinity War?
Cunningham: It's not vital to read any of the tie-ins. But they definitely add a stronger sense of context to the overall story. I know that's said a lot in these types of crossovers, but I mean it. Pandora fights the Secret Society in her issue (Giganta and Vandal Savage really mess her up). Phantom Stranger, with Batman and crew, gets some answers from the deceased Doctor Light's spirit. (Poor Doctor Light. Man, I still feel for the poor guy.)
It's also an opportunity for readers to sample these other DC series — and I believe folks will come away impressed with what they see. Pandora is a fairly new character with a compelling mission. She's a very tragic figure searching to end her millennia-old curse of immortality. She's paying for a "crime" -- opening up the Box and letting evil escape it to taint the world -- and she may have been set up. Her punishment — as meted out by the Council of Eternity — is so extreme that it begs to be explored. And so that's what writer Ray Fawkes is doing, and doing in very cool ways. Issue #2 and #3 have some very clever moments.
Phantom Stranger has been a very emotional series, with extremely difficult choices being made, particularly the last couple of issues. This series makes you feel something, it's very primal in that way. Writer J.M. DeMatteis has really impressed me with the quality of his stories. And in issue #11, the Stranger takes a huge risk by helping the three Leagues…and there are ginormous consequences in doing so.
It's a good time to jump aboard the series. I really believe in this stuff, in this material.
Nrama: After talking to J.M. DeMatteis earlier this week, it sounds like Phantom Stranger is going to feel some big ramifications from his Trinity War tie-in. And Pandora continues to tie-in, right?
Cunningham: Pandora #3 ties in directly with the last act of Trinity War.
Phantom Stranger #12 and beyond explore how screwed the Stranger is as a result of participating Trinity War. I'm sure he's grumbling, "Gee, thanks, Trinity War!"
Nrama: Then to finish up, what can you tell readers about what's coming up in Trinity War over the next few weeks, when the Justice League titles return?
Cunningham: The Crazy-o-meter jumps up several notches with JLA #7 and JL Dark #23. Just when you might think you know what's what…it's not that at all! The last page of JLA #7 is so…agh, I can't give it away, but it's one of the coolest Doug Mahnke pages I've ever seen.
But more than anything else, I so want folks to read the end of Trinity War! That just opens up so many conversation points. I'm sure you'll be back for that one asking me a ton of questions.
Nrama: You can count on that.
Cunningham: I will do my best to answer with aplomb and panache!