- Colonel Steve Trevor
- The Justice League… it’s just a matter of time before this all comes crashing down.
Synopsis "Trinity War Prelude (untitled)" (16 pages)
Mankind’s’ earliest warlocks and wizards believed that it was their moral duty to protect the world. Their “Council of Eternity” would meet to pass judgement upon those who would threaten civilisation. They labelled their three greatest enemies as the “Trinity of Sin”, a woman and two unnamed men. The Council used their power to condemn the first man to be an eternal stranger and the second to have his identity erased from even his own mind (by implication the Phantom Stranger and Question). The woman Pandora was scared and repentant, but the wrathful Council would not accept her pleas and sentenced her to an eternity of being told that she was evil merely because she opened a box.
That was centuries ago, yet today Pandora refutes the Council’s judgement and seeks the Box that bears her name. She ghosts through STAR Labs’ “Red Room”, the warehouse of captured alien technology run by Silas Stone, as scientists study the remains of the android Amazo (newly delivered by the Justice League). She sees fragments of life from a parallel world (Earth 2) on the Monitor Machine, but passes on when she cannot find the Box. Her next port of call is the “Black Room”, A.R.G.U.S.’s matching repository for captured magical artefacts. Steve Trevor, the leader of A.R.G.U.S. and one of the men responsible for originally securing Pandora’s Box, tries unsuccessfully to stop her from leaving with it.
Pandora now has the Box and believes that she knows how it must be dealt with. Her actions, however, are watched from afar. In the near future, the Justice League will have split. Batman will be in possession of Pandora’s Box and hero will fight hero.
- By implication the Phantom Stranger is the biblical Judas, although this is never said so explicitly.
- A.R.G.U.S. maintain a series of “Rooms”, warehouses for captured artefacts. The Red Room stores technology, the Black Room stores magical artefacts. Another room called the “Circus” is mentioned. The Black Room is overseen by Doctor Mist.
There really isn’t much to review in an issue like this. Its purpose is clear, to provide a pivot point for the New 52, something that showcases as many cool things and references as many ongoing plotlines as possible. It does that quite well and provides us with 3-4 nice scenes. Its the middle sequence at ARGUS that really stands out for me. It links in well with the current Justice League issues and makes this issue really feel like Justice League #8.5. For me, as a Justice League fan, that’s great. However, it does somewhat limit the appeal of this issue to readers who don’t follow the JL franchise or line of books.
The most contentious part of this issue will be the new origin for the Phantom Stranger. Now, from the start I should put my hand up as somebody who believes the Phantom Stranger shouldn’t have an origin. It takes away too much of the character’s mystique. Just as making him beholden to a group of human mages limits him too much. That aside, the origin Geoff Johns gives the Stranger is problematic. He’s managed to team-up one the Biblical Apostles with a woman from Greek myth and Jack Kirby’s New Gods. This is almost as big an ecumenical pile up as that time Wonder Woman had to team-up with Angels and the Hindu Gods to stop the elder Greek Gods from storming the Abrahamic Heaven.
The art in each second jumps between a roster of Justice League artists — Jim Lee the regular artists, Gene Ha who illustrated Justice League (vol. 2) #7 (May 2012) and Ivan Reis/Joe Prado who supplied a few pages for Justice League (vol. 2) #8 (June 2012). They are joined by Kenneth Rocafort, the current artist on Red Hood and the Outlaws.
Reis art is typically intricate and shows off the beautifully designed Council of Eternity. I’m particularly intrigued by these figures and hope we learn more about them individually. Rocafort has the unenviable duty be be sandwiched between Reis and Ha. He’s normally a great artist, but these two pages feel a little jarring – it’s as if this sequence should have been twice its length. Ha’s sequence is interesting for what it shows us of the “Black Room” and really ties this issue into the sequence running through JL issues #7 and #8.
We finish with Jim Lee’s four page gatefold of the League fighting. Its probably got some people excited, but it doesn’t do too much for me. I’d rather of had four more pages of Ha’s sequence or four more pages for Rocafort to stretch his legs.
Surveying the Internets
KevinMLD (My Latest Distraction) notes that the sequence with the Trinity of Sin actually raises more questions that its answers:
This issue is in effect the secret origin of the mysterious Pandora and yet we learn very little about her. Are we to believe she’s the actual mythological Pandora? And if so how is opening her box specifically tied to the Phantom Stranger? Why are these three individuals and their alleged crimes linked?
I was a little late to the game with by own Annotations, but the length of them and the amount of material to cover in just a dozen or so pages does high light one problem with this issue. As Doug Zawisza (CBR) puts it
One thing that is easy to tell is that this comic is directed towards fans in the know or at least slightly out of the insider bubble. How else do you explain the appearance of Vibe? [...] In the end, what should be an open invitation [to "new or lapsed readers"] just comes across as an inside story, one that only long-term fans are going to get or appreciate.
Doug also noted, along with several reviewers, that this issue is setting up a storyline that won’t materialise until 2013. To pay that off is going to be hard. As Minhquan Nguyen (Weekly Comic Book Review) says,
Whoever’s in charge must believe that whatever story they have up their sleeve must be big and important enough to keep you intrigued for twelve or more months, and they must be pretty certain they can build up the tension properly until then.
|Character Site||Jason Kirk||3.5/5|
|Digital Comics||Comixology||1501 ratings||4/5|
|Reviews Portal||Comic Book Resources||Doug Zawisza||3/5|
|Community Site||Comic Vine||3 reviews||4.2/5|
|Magazine||Impulse Gamer||Jose Castellanos||7.5/10|
|Blogs||Comic A Day||Rick Silva||6/10|
|Blogs||Comic Reviews by Walt||Walt||6/10|
|Blogs||Fandom Post||Chris Beveridge||B|
|Blogs||Florida Geek Scene||Scott||10/10|
|Blogs||Weekly Comics Book Review||Minhquan Nguyen||C+|
The Rock of Eternity
Page 1. Panel 2. The Rock of Eternity, or at least scenes set there, first appeared in Whiz Comics #2 — Captain Marvel’s first appearance. It has traditionally been the home of the wizard Shazam. It was a diamond shaped rock floating in ethereal space and was comprised of a mountain from Heaven and a mountain from Hell sandwiched together to form a prison for The Three Faces of Evil. The New 52 spins the Shazam concept up into an entire council of wizards as shown here. This Council of Eternity and the events in this sequence were first referenced in the “Pandora” back-up feature in Justice League (vol. 2) #6 (April 2012).
Shown here are seven individuals in distinctive ethnic dress. They appear to be (left to right) an Arabian man, a Celtic woman, a Chinese woman, an Aboriginal Man, an Egyptian Woman, a pre-Columbian American man (foreground), and a Japanese man. Which, if any, of these seven is Shazam is not clear although he may well be the dark skinned man in the centre. The Shazam lightning motif is included in each characters costume as either a chest emblem, tattoo, or clothing detail.
The seated figures are all sat on massive stone throne like chairs. These hark back to the throne that Billy Batson first sees Shazam sat upon. This circle of thrones is shown again in the back-up to Justice League (vol. 2) #7 (May 2012) where we hear a man relate how he was abducted by the wizard and brought to the Rock. In his recollection most of the thrones are shattered and only Shazam’s remains.
The number of seven is symbolic in the DC Universe as it is the number of founders of the Justice League and of the Seven Soldiers who are periodically called together by fate.
Page 1. Panel 3-4. The “Trinity of Sin” was another phrase referenced in Justice League (vol. 2) #6 (April 2012). There we learnt that two of Trinity were the Pandora and the Phantom Stranger. The last member of the trio was just referred to as the third sinner.
Page 2. This would appear to be the new origin for the Phantom Stranger. The Stranger first appeared in Phantom Stranger #1 (Aug-Sept 1952) and pre-dates the Silver Age and even the Martian Manhunter. His portrayal has wandered between that of a simple messenger who is forbidden to interfere to a full blown protagonist in his own right. Traditionally little has been revealed about his origin, ergo “the Stranger” moniker, but in Secret Origins four-different contradictory origins were shown for him. The most famous one was an origin by Alan Moore which depicted him as an angle who remained neutral during the Satan’s rebellion and was thus spurred by both Heaven and Hell.
This age reveals fragments of the back-story of the Stranger. These include a forgiving man and a handful of silver coins. The obvious reading is that the man in the blue cape is actually Judas Iscariot. In Christian mythology he was one of the Twelve Apostles and is said of have betrayed Jesus to the Roman authorities in exchange for 30 pieces of silver. Those coins appear here, thrown at Judas/Stranger by the Aboriginal wizard, and are transformed into the necklace that the Stranger wears.
Theologically the Phantom Stranger’s identification with Judas is problematic. There is an interpretation of scripture which says that Jesus knew and allowed Judas actions — predestination and all that — because they followed through on the Father’s plans. In that case, Judas’s personal guilt is debatable. It certainly wouldn’t be the place for a group of self elected wizards and witches to pass judgement upon him. Also consider that not one of the seven magic users could be identified as a Jew or Christian. Having them pass judgement on Judas implicitly makes them subservient to the Christian religion. That’s an ecumenical mess that I don’t even want to touch.
The identification of Judas as one of the Trinity of Sin parallels his appearance in Dante’s Inferno. In that work Judas appears in the Ninth Circle of Hell as one of three sinners perpetually chewed in the mouths of the triple headed Satan. The other two sinners in this case are the assassins of Julius Caesar, Brutus (“et tu Brute?”) and Cassius.
Page 3. The red-headed man sits up strong and rages whereas the Stranger looks repentant. His skin is lacerated as if he’s been in a battle or dual. He claims he rose to power once and that the worlds fears his name. His transformation is startling and rather unexpected as his face heals over. He then vanishes in a question mark shaped puff of smoke. The implication here is that this map if the New 52′s Question.
The original Question was one of the Charlton Comics characters and was created by Steve Ditko. That version of the character, Vic Sage, was just a normal man in a special mask and served as the archetype for the Rorschach in the Watchmen. Sage was succeeded by Renee Montoya as a female Question. Both those characters appear to be MIA or not present in the New 52, although Montoya has been referenced in Batwoman.
Page 4. The final sinner shown here is the woman Pandora. The original Greek myth says that originally there where only men. These men had attained the gift of fire after it was stolen for them from the gods by Prometheus. Mankind had to be punished for their ownership of fire so Zeus and the gods created a second race of mortals, womankind, to torment the men as a punishment. The first of these women was named Pandora. The gods gave Pandora a jar (incorrectly translated in the middle ages as a box) which contained all the evils of the world. The smart thing to do would have been to keep it closed. However, Pandora was curious and peeked, thus freeing death, torment, and disease upon mankind and womankind.
The DCU Pandora first appeared in Flashpoint #5 where she is shown manipulating history as Barry Allen tries to restore the proper timeline. She merges the Vertigo, Wildstorm, and DC Universes to create the New 52 universe and spin-off the JSA into a new Earth 2. She then cameoed in every since first issue of the New 52 books where she was passively watching all the evens. The back-up to Justice League (vol. 2) #6 (April 2012) featured a confrontation between Pandora and the Phantom Stranger. It was made clear that Pandora no longer accepted the punishment handed down by the Council of Eternity.
Page 5. Panel 1. Pandora says that she is “..not evil. Not relatively. ” This is an allusion to Justice League (vol. 2) #6 (April 2012) where Darkseid is searching for his daughter on Earth and its implied that its Pandora that he’s looking for.
STAR Labs, the Red Room
Page 5. Panel 2. The Red Room is shown here. This first appeared in Justice League (vol. 2) #3 (Jan 2012) as a secret facility in STAR Labs created by Silas Stone, Cyborg father. It is the alien technology within the Red Room that Silas uses to save Victor’s life by turning him into Cyborg. The man who Silas address as Thomas is Thomas Oscar Morrow, aka T.O. Morrow, who is still working with Stone five-years after the events of Justice League (vol. 2) #6 (April 2012).
The Red Room contains a large number of artefacts, but a lot of them look fairly generic. The body on the table is the Amazo android which was defeated by the Justice League in the opening sequence to Justice League (vol. 2) #8 (June 2012). About the only identifiable object is a suit of golden armour with a crest-like helmet which is encased in a red bubble. He appears similar to a holograph which appeared in Aquaman #5. Additionally, just coming into view in the top of this panel is the bottom of something which could be the stylised A (for Atlantis) on Aquaman’s costume.
Page 6. The Monitor Machine appears to be a device that can be used to look into parallel worlds. The name is a reference to the Monitor from Crisis on Infinite Earths and the Monitors from Final Crisis who were a cosmic race responsible for safeguarding the Multiverse of parallel worlds. The world they are watching is Earth 2.
The top panel depicts the Earth 2 Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman battling their own invasion from Apokolips as shown in Earth 2 #1 (June 2012). This took place five-years ago and is referenced by the normal DCU Superman in Justice League (vol. 2) #6 (April 2012) when he says he saw a Multiverse and images of himself. Also shown in this panel are the Earth Two Supergirl and female Robin. As shown in Worlds’ Finest #1 they get thrown through a Boom Tube and became trapped on the normal DCU. This Supergirl and Robin changed their codenames to Power Girl and Huntress to avoid awkward questions.
The middle and bottom panels shows present day events. The middle panel shows Alan Scott, the Earth 2 Green Lantern, receiving his powers from Earth 2 #3 (June 2012) while the bottom panel shows Jay Garrick, the Earth 2 Flash, from Earth 2 #2 (June 2012).
A.R.G.U.S., the Black Room
Page 7. Pane 1. This is A.R.G.U.S., the Justice League’s baby sitters as shown in Justice League (vol. 2) #7 (May 2012). This sequence is illustrated by Gene Ha who also illustrated that issue. The mention of Green Arrow and Amazo is a reference to the events in the first sequence of Justice League (vol. 2) #8 (June 2012).
Page 7. Panel 4. Etta Candy references several events. The super-human teens loose in Alaska is from The Ravangers, one of the second wave of New 52 titles. Talia Al Ghul is the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul and the mother of Daiman Wayne, the current Robin. A reference to her activities would be to events in Batman Incorporated where Talia has been set up as the big-bad. The social call with Steve Trevor’s sister forms the back drop for events in the “Villain’s Journey” starting in Justice League (vol. 2) #9 (July 2012).
Page 7. Panel 8. The book is Justice League: Gods Among Us. In Justice League (vol. 2) #6 (April 2012) the Justice League save a man called David Graves from Darkseid’s attack. Graves was a writer who specialised in the strange and paranormal so he wrote an account of the League’s early days. It was that book, as much as anything else, which helped establish the Justice League’s popularity. Graves subsequently changed his opinion and became the villain in the aforementioned “Villain’s Journey.” Justice League (vol. 2) #7 (May 2012) ended with Graves concluding that Steve Trevor is the League’s weakest link. The book is his way of playing games with Trevor.
Pages 8-9. Panel 1. The Black Room the magical/mystical counterpart to the Red Room. The Black Room was first referenced in Justice League (vol. 2) #7 (May 2012) when Graves broke into A.R.G.U.S. and stole the Orb of Ra. It was during that break-in that Spore (with villain in Justice League (vol. 2) #7 (May 2012)) gained his powers. That robbery is reference in the previous panel by the soldier who says “it’s happened again”.
Gene Ha’s version of the Black Room (click the image to enlarge).
Gene Ha’s magnificent and detailed spread allows us to identify many artefacts from the real world and from the DC Universe. Working left to right these are:
- South American or possibly Celtic snake-head statues.
- A display rack of weapons without handles or shafts. The top weapon is the Spear to Destiny, the spear that pierced Christ’s side whilst he was on the cross. In DC Mythology it absorbed eminence supernatural power through that association and remains the only weapon capable of injuring the Spectre. The lower weapon is a curved sword minus its grip.
- King Edward’s Chair from Westminster Abby – otherwise known as the Coronation Chair, it is the chair/throne that the Kings of England sit upon while being crowned. The shelf beneath it contains, or contained, the Stone of Scone.
- The Black Diamond, otherwise called the Heart of Darkness, under a large dust sheet. This is the prison for the demon/spirit Eclipso. Its size would imply that it is apparently intact.
- Chinese terracotta warriors (background). Statues of warriors and servants created to serve the First Emperor of China in the afterlife.
- A large wooden crate (foreground). It’s marked fragile and is on its side (“This End Up”) — the marking clearing indicate its meant to be stood up. It’s not the Ark, that’s shown in a later panel and is in a crate of a different design.
- Bones of a large dragon, possibly one of those from the first arc of Demon Knights.
- A partially covered painting, it could be the painting from The Picture of Dorian Gray.
- An ornate bell (“Do Not Ring”) in the Tibetan style. Its got a greenish tinge to it so this could be the Green Bell of Uthool, if so it’s look better than it has in years — the old version was just a simple hand-bell.
- A suit of armour (Etrigan’s from Demon Knights).
- The doors to the room are warded with markings. The Roman numerals read MDCCLXXV, i.e. 1775, the start of the American war of independence started. The words read “Annult Coeptis” and translates loosely as “he approves of our undertaking”. The door is ringed by a circle embedded with 13-stars (the original number of States). A top the circle is the all-seeing Eye of Providence. A number of these features are copied from the Great Seal of the United States as found on the one dollar bill.
- A bone chandelier matching one from the Sedlac Ossuary, an amazing Roman Catholic chapel in the Czech Republic.
- The tank is a US Army Sherman tank from the Second World War. In the DC Universe this particular model was haunted by the ghost of the original General Sherman and was known as the Haunted Tank.
- An old galley (hung from the ceiling), the holes on the side make it appear to be a oared ship. Possible the boat once owned by Kanjar Ro.
- Chinese tiger head mask (foreground)
- A Red Lantern power battery.
- A stack of orbs.
- The Medusa Mask. The weapon of the Psycho Pirate. Anybody who gazes upon the mask feels whatever emotion the wearer wants them to.
- A giant Roman coin in the style of Batman’s giant penny.
Pages 8-9. Panel 2. Dr Mist is an African magician from the old DCU — he was originally the leader of the Global Guardians. The missing Mist eventually turns up in Justice League Dark #9 (July 2012). He’s in South America tracking down Felix Faust’s cult.
Pages 8-9. Panel 3. The crate beneath the box Pandora is looking for is stencilled OSS 9906755. OSS was the Office of Strategic Services, a WWII era US intelligence agency. That particular catalogue number references the crate that the Ark of the Covenant was packed into at the end of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Pages 8-9. Panel 5. Pandora references the Spear of Destiny and the Black Diamond (both seen in the first panel), but she also mentions the Seven Spells of Shazam. Possibly something that hasn’t appeared yet.
Pages 8-9. Panel 9. Pandora’s Box. Note the three eyes. This same face was shown on the cuff-links of an unnamed supervillain in Justice League (vol. 2) #6 (April 2012).
Page 10. Panel 2. Steve Trevor has quite the history in special operations. His link to Pandora was referenced in Justice League (vol. 2) #2 (Dec 2011) as him being part of “Operation: Pandora’s Box” which presumably retrieved said object. Then in Justice League (vol. 2) #8 (June 2012) Etta Candy mentions that Trevor was part of Team 7, the special operations unit which was formed after Superman’s first appearance.
Page 10. Panel 5. This is the first reference to facilities beyond the Red and Black Rooms and the first mention of something called the “Circus”. The mention of Black Orchid and the command to find John Constantine feeds into Justice League Dark #9 (July 2012) where Steve Trevor drops in on Constantine and talks him into finding Mist in exchange for a private look into the Black Room.
Page 11. The clouds in the sky over Pandora form a face with a beard. Is she being watched by Shazam?
The Near Future
Page 12. We are now into the section with Jim Lee art. This is described as the “Near Future”. Note that Batman now has Pandora’s Box on a strap attached to his utility belt. The Green Lantern is new, he appears human so his official designation is probably Green Lantern of Space Sector 2814.5, being the fifth Lantern after Hal, John, Guy, and Kyle.
In the last panel you can see that he has a tattoo on his forearm written in Arabic script. Some translate it as “courage”, but I’m surprised that it wasn’t willpower.
Page 13-16. That is one massive 4-page gate-fold. We have the members of the Justice League (minus Hal Jordan) fighting not only seven other heroes, but they are also fighting each other. From left-to-right the new characters are Vibe, Black Adam, Deadman, Element Woman, Hawkman, Atom, Green Arrow, and the new Green Lantern. This is the first appearance for Vibe and Element Woman.
The split between the two sides isn’t obvious. However, Wonder Woman and Aquaman appear to be on different sides. Element Woman, Atom, and Green Arrow are fighting Cyborg. Hawkman appears to be fighting on the same side as Cyborg.