It appears to be the week for the Superman Universe to explore the joys of domesticity. In Superman #7, Peter Tomasi takes his readers on a trip to the Hamilton County Fair in the company of Clark, Lois, and Jon (now all using the unfortunate last name “Smith”). In Trinity #1, the first of a new series designed to replace Batman/Superman and Superman/Wonder Woman, the family bliss is of a different kind and scope, but in some ways runs even more deeply. Writer and artist Francis Manapul pulls off a tour de force not just of technical skill but of characterization as he presents an evening at home with the Smiths and their guests, Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince.
It is such an obvious idea that you wonder why more writers don’t employ this kind of thing. Perhaps the admittedly old-fashioned sensibility, already out of fashion by Flashpoint, has not set well with modern editorial requirements. If that is the case, hopefully the Rebirth era will mark a basic change of heart. True, there is little plot to speak of in this first issue, and the characterizations are not novel. Jon is excited and adorable, Clark worried and admirable, Lois motherly, Diana regal but warm, Bruce grumpy but gradually bending. However, the nature of Rebirth, and especially of the current Superman, dictates that these qualities be established as quickly as possible.
But Manapul does not cease with the sketching of individual characters, no matter how compelling. He rapidly weaves a skein of relationships,, exploring the wary dynamic between Clark and Bruce as Batman adjusts to a Superman very different than the one he had known. Meanwhile, Diana and Lois cautiously explore the possibility of friendship between women who have loved two different iterations of the same man, and Jon finds himself compared rather unfavorably to Batman’s wards.
The rebuilding goes beyond personal relationships. A hallmark of Rebirth is the emphasis on complex continuity. Trinity #1 expands the new histories while testing their limits. Clark bolsters Jon’s confidence in the face of Bruce’s criticism by regaling him with the story of the rainbow Batman from Detective Comics #241, published in 1957. Bruce denies any memory of the incident, although of course, he would. Diana meanwhile fills Lois in on the confusion about her own past and identity she has been exploring in alternate issues of Wonder Woman. Thus continuity literally from the Silver Age seems to be on the table. And the final page suggests other doors into the past are opening,
Manapul’s art is in the classic style, emphasizing relatively realistic figures with faces that lack the mobility and emotion of, for instance, Patrick Gleason. But the very traditionalism of the images reinforces the sense of history solidifying and a past becoming real. At the same time, Manapul proves adept and believable at the few movement sequences he depicts, promising that future issues will provide action to support character.
The new TRINITY comic has a large task. Any book dealing with the three most important figures in the DC universe will, perforce, carry an outsized portion of the world's mythology. Whether Manapul succeeds or not, he has put the necessary foundation of character and relationships solidly in place.