Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman: |
by Matt Wagner
(DC Comics, 2005)
There is something magical about the number three, especially when it applies to the Big Three of DC: Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman. On their own they are, in their individual ways, among the most unique crimefighters ever to grace the world of superheroes; together, they are an unbeatable combination, a theory writer and artist Matt Wagner explores, with some quite decent results, in this three-part miniseries.
Characterization is more the star of this show than pacing, plotting and action, which is a welcome break from the rather shallow portrayals of all three that seem to be such a staple of their respective monthly titles. Wonder Woman's characterization is spot on, and Wagner's take on Superman, a well-meaning but somewhat bumbling hero still trying to sort out the business of superheroing, goes right to the core. Although he makes mistakes, he's intelligent enough to recognize his errors, which gives us a more charming and realistic Superman than has been evident for some time. And for once, Batman's mixture of paranoia and vulnerability is portrayed as far more believable than the mean, angry shadow who graces the pages of the regular series, perhaps because Wagner knows exactly how to "shade" Batman's darkness with the right amount of emotional vulnerability. It's good to see Batman as a hero and not the anti-hero DC seems him to want to be these last few years. For these accomplishments alone -- humanizing three of DC's most misunderstood and poorly written characters -- Wagner deserves an award.
The neat, swift, well-strung-together plot is also a treat. Wagner gives us three equally well-rounded villains, somehow adding depth to Bizzaro (no easy task), more menace to Ras al Ghul (when it would have been easy to make him a stock madman-type) and a heady mixture of boldness and regret to Artemis, who is more real here than she has ever been. The story opens early in the history of the three heroes, before they knew each other. Ras al Ghul has created a formidable army of villains in an attempt to disrupt world communications, a very standard bad-guys-vs.-good-guys plot, but it's fast, light on its feet and easy to read, with loads of action and dialogue that's nearly perfect in that it gets the story across with as few words as possible.
There are a few contrivances, which are forgivable; overall, the book has the delicious feel of a return to a more enjoyable, less angst-ridden age that somehow remains very engaging and modern in its approach. The artwork is sparse and clean but perfectly conforms to the story and helps it flow beautifully. It doesn't rely as much on detail; instead, it relies on clear, bold lines, which works wonderfully with the fast-paced action and light dialogue. From its elegant art to its engaging storytelling, Wagner's Trinity is a very worthwhile read and a good introduction to the worlds of DC's greatest triumvirate.