Trinity: Third Time’s the Charm for DC’s Weekly Comics?

Review by KC Carlson

In keeping with the “power of three” aspect of Trinity #1, it looks like the third time might be the charm for DC’s much-maligned weekly format. Having been thrown into the deep end of Countdown halfway through, it probably didn’t take editor Mike Carlin long to figure out the obvious editorial minefields of weekly comic book publishing. After all, he refined the format in the late ’80s-early ’90s with the four, and occasionally five, regular Superman titles, which were, in practice, one weekly Superman title.

Trinity #1 cover

Here are just a few of the things that appear to be “fixed” for Trinity:

One Writer: As a stunt in 52, the round-robin style of four (really five, counting kibitzing layout man Keith Giffen) worked out pretty well. For Countdown, not so much. Trinity‘s go-to guy is Kurt Busiek, no stranger to the DC Universe, especially in the last several years. Busiek’s strengths lie in the the ability to craft epic-level, multifaceted stories without forgetting the quiet, personal moments of characterization, as shown in such classics as JLA/Avengers, Marvels, and especially Astro City. This 1,000+ page work will push his talents to the limit.

The Numbers Game: Probably the biggest stumbling block to both 52 and Countdown was the inconsistency in the artwork from issue to issue, a necessity due to the number of pages of art — and number of artists — needed each month. But could a single artist do a weekly 22-page comic? Let’s put it another way: Assuming a five-day work week, could an artist pencil 4.4 pages a day for 52 weeks straight without a vacation? Probably not, although I do know of artists who can (and have) pencilled this fast, but I doubt they could do it consistently. Plus, would you really want to read it? However, consistency is always something to strive for, so a format change for weekly comics was needed.

The Two-Tiered Format: Standard issues of Trinity will break down into 12 pages of the main, ongoing storyline, while the remaining 10 pages will feature lots of background material to support the main story. Or, as seen in issue #2, pretty much directly flow out of the opener. This will allow speed-demon artist Mark Bagley the opportunity to be the consistent artist on the main part of the story. (Based on a five-day work week, Bagley will be pencilling 2.4 pages per day, for you number-crunchers out there.) After handing the 18-times-a-year Ultimate Spider-Man, Trinity will be no sweat for him.

Trinity #2 cover

Three rotating teams of artists, including pencillers Scott McDaniel, Mike Norton, and Tom Derenick, will pencil the backup material. All three artists share some similar artistic traits, strengthening the consistency. In addition, writer Fabian Nicieza will be scripting the backups over Busiek’s plots. This is a brilliant stroke, as both writers have frequently and effectively worked together — most notably on Thunderbolts — and should Busiek get bogged down with the occasional deadline, Nicieza could ably step in to help plot, as the two writers’ basic styles are similar.

There’s Something to Be Said for Professionalism: Everyone who works in comics can claim themselves as a professional, but there’s often a very wide gap between being a professional and acting in a professional manner. Foremost in the latter is the concept of working “honest.” And that concept includes such things as working to the best of your abilities, meeting deadlines, and being honest with your co-workers. Modern corporate comics are not done in a vacuum — they are produced by a team of hard-working craftspeople, hopefully all working for a common goal. Too many major projects in the last several years from many different publishers have been lessened — or even scuttled — by people who do not work “honest.” (For instance, any project where the highly promoted ending doesn’t appear for months because one of the creators had other priorities, whatever they were.)

I don’t believe that to be the case with Trinity. The key creators involved have been assembled with care and forethought. Most of them have a rich background of quality output, backed with a work ethic that shows on every printed page. Even the younger members of the team have proven themselves capable of good, solid monthly work. Simply put, that’s what’s needed to keep a weekly deadline and keep the quality level high.

The opening to Trinity #1 itself is quite nifty, what with big giant cosmic heads, unsettling dreams come true, and an all-star luncheon for three, served up with lots of fanboy fun. Mark Bagley handles the main characters (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, for the record) well, and it looks like Busiek will give him plenty of DCU guest-stars — like the Flash Family in #1 and GL John Stewart in #2 — to make him feel at home at DC fast! In the backup, we meet our main villains, as well as a couple of new characters — and mysteries. In #2, the creators put a couple of the new guys through their paces in a big way! Keep a special eye out for the titles of the various segments, pulled directly from the dialog. Issue #2’s are particularly odd… but fun. (They’re fodd!)

As with events of this type, there are the usual internet issue-by-issue annotations and interviews, but in Trinity‘s case, they’re a supplement to the series, rather than an explanation of what isn’t on the page. We’re only 1/26th of the way into Trinity, but this is a good solid start.

6 Responses to “Trinity: Third Time’s the Charm for DC’s Weekly Comics?”

  1. Nat Gertler Says:

    Of course, with a limited series one need not keep up the speeds suggested (although Bagley probably can, it’s not much different from his page speed for Ultimate Spider-Man) nor go without vacation. One merely has to start with a longer lead time. Start with a month extra lead time, and Bagley can get some time on the beach. And having a rested artist is better than having one that flips out and draws all the characters as monkeys in issue 41.

    Oh, wait. No it’s not.

  2. KC Says:

    Lead time?… In comics?

    What’s that?

    BTW, I loved that issue!

  3. James Schee Says:

    Good to hear this one has a better start to it at least, and I hadn’t even made the connection before about Carlin having edited a weekly serial with Superman. (you did too as I recall)

    Countdown was such a mess. It was weird as I love alternate history stories and it starred three of my favorite characters Kyle Rayner ::ducks::, Donna Troy and the Atom Ray Palmer. Heck I had kept a streak alive of having ever single appearance of Kyle I liked him so much.

    Yet Countdown was SO horrible, that the streak ended really quickly.

    I think this approach sounds much smarter. I don’t like the characters being used enough to follow it, at least weekly, but at least they have learned some lessons from past efforts.

  4. Michael Says:

    I’ve often discussed a lot of the basics of professionalism in my own commentary, and yeah, most modern corporate comic people are not professional in any sense of the term. So it is good to see all the good ones in one place like this.

    As always, thank you for offering some of the best and most intelligent commentary online.


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