Every year DC seems to position it’s Free Comic Book Day offering as a preview of one of their upcoming events. Previous FCBD comics have focused on series such as Blackest Night and War of the Supermen. This year DC presented the origin of the new character Pandora who first appeared in the final issue of Flashpoint and went on to appeared in the first issues of every title that was part of the New 52. While this tale was indeed an origin story, it proved to be a secret origin that raised more questions than it answered.
Extensive spoilers will follow in our discussion below.
KevinMLD: DC’s FCBD book took a slightly odd look at the history of the New 52 DC Universe. It started out in the distant past looking at the origin of Pandora, stopped off in the present to hint at some of the government’s dirty secrets and then flashed a year into the future to preview 2013’s Trinity War event.
PTB: I liked the scope of the issue, but the major criticism I have of this year’s FCBD offering from DC, called The New 52 #1, is that it seems like more could have been done to distinguish and brand this book. The words “New 52” and Jim Lee images of the Justice League appear just about everywhere in DC’s marketing. My local comic shop put out a lot of free stuff last Saturday and I wasn’t sure I had the right thing.
KevinMLD: I see what you’re saying, but in retrospect the cover is kind of interesting in that it focuses not on the Justice League but rather DC’s trinity (Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman) and it announces an upcoming series called Trinity War. Calling the comic The New 52, however? That doesn’t make sense. It’s a term that doesn’t mean anything anymore. They can’t keep using that title forever.
PTB: Agreed. That said, it was pretty great and I really liked the way Earth 2 worked into it. I picked up Earth 2 #1 back on May 2nd as part of the New 52 Second Wave, and I was glad I gave it a shot. Unfortunately, Power Girl and Huntress are the characters I’m most interested in there, and it appears they’ll be starring in the World’s Finest series going forward. It would take Earth 2’s art to get me in the door with that book.
KevinMLD: World’s Finest #1 was better than I expected from a Paul Levitz comic in 2012, but you’re right. Nikola Scott’s art in Earth 2 was far superior to the art in World’s Finest. I know by saying that I’m inviting a storm of criticism from old school fans since Kevin Maguire and George Perez were involved with World’s Finest. They are definitely guys whose work I enjoy, but their art does seem a bit dated for better or worse.
PTB: Earth 2 has always confused me and a new history for it in the New 52 DCU doesn’t necessarily help. Do Huntress and Kara already exist in the New 52 continuity?
KevinMLD: Yes. They’ve both been in the New 52 universe for five years apparently. I’m a little unclear as to whether Helena was the Huntress from pre-New 52 continuity under a fake identity. But Earth 2 #1 shows us how they arrived on our world.
PTB: The name “Huntress” gets thrown around a lot, but Batman’s daughter from another timeline in a Robin costume is something I’m immediately on board with. I was really hoping Earth 2 would be her story.
KevinMLD: Pre-Crisis, the Huntress was Batman and Catwoman’s daughter on Earth 2. Post-Crisis the Huntress was a completely different person named Helena Bertinelli, a mobster’s daughter. I believe we are now seeing a sort of retcon that suggests Helena Wayne was posing as Helena Berinelli after arriving on the New 52 Earth. Earth 2 was originally announced as a Justice Society of America book and it looks like that remains the plan, though the appearance of the Trinity on the cover of Earth 2 #1 threw that into question in the lead up to the book’s release.
PTB: Does this mean the JLA and JSA will be contemporaries in separate universes rather than the Justice Society being a Golden Age team of heroes that came first?
KevinMLD: This seems to be the case. Though there doesn’t seem to be a JSA yet, so they could conceivably end up actually being stranded and forced to operate in our world when it’s all said and done. But this is all basically a restoration of how things worked Pre-Crisis. Though I think even then the JSA was a bit older than the JLA.
PTB: Trinity War is an interesting name and I wish that had been part of the branding on this book. It works particularly well when it could refer to DC’s established Trinity or this new Trinity of Sin.
KevinMLD: I have to assume its going to focus on the Trinity of Sin, but I would love it if they managed to do something interesting with DC’s main Trinity as well. DC published a weekly series called Trinity a few years ago that completely failed to be interesting, so we’ll see. But we need to discuss this Trinity of Sin in more detail because there are a lot of interesting things happening here.
The Rock of Eternity is a concept that comes from the world of DC/Fawcett’s Captain Marvel. It’s where the Wizard Shazam resides who first provided super powers to Billy Batson. So who are these people who are apparently the first to harness magic? Have they replaced Shazam in the New 52 world? Do they still control the Rock of Eternity in the modern era? If not, what happened to them?
PTB: Those are questions I cannot even begin to consider, but it did strike me that there are seven figures judging the Trinity of Sin, and I seem to recall the Justice League always focusing on seven core members through the years. Also, the one wearing an animal skin looks vaguely reminiscent of a time-lost Bruce Wayne following Final Crisis.
KevinMLD: 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?
PTB: With all the gods and deities running around the DCU (Greek or otherwise), I’m taking it that she’s meant to be the original. With Pandora’s timeline manipulation and her previous crimes, I can’t help but wonder if this all foreshadowing DC’s Trinity being be served a similar punishment if they start to explore the origins of the New 52 universe.
KevinMLD: As for the Phantom Stranger, this is the most definitive origin I’m aware of him ever having been given. In the past, he had many possible origins. The consensus online seems to be that the Stranger is Christianity’s Judas. I’m not sure this comic states that quite so explicitly, but if that were to be true… When does this scene take place? Certainly you wouldn’t expect Pandora and Judas to be contemporaries.
PTB: You wouldn’t, but cosmic powers don’t always work in linear timelines in comics. It could even be that all three committed their transgressions in separate timelines and were brought together for punishment, or that this is when the “history of heroes shattered into three” as Pandora described in Flashpoint #5. Doesn’t the Wildstorm Universe have a foundation of heaven/hell underlying everything?
KevinMLD: I actually don’t know much about the mythology of the Wildstorm Universe, certainly not enough to confirm or deny this concept. The identity of the third member of the Trinity of Sin who will forever question his identity and search for answers seems to be that of the New 52 version of The Question. The Question never really had a supernatural origin. In fact, prior to the recent relaunch Renee Montoya of Batman the Animated Series fame had taken on the identity of the Question. It’s all very odd. For a second I thought maybe he was a displaced Wally West from the pre-New 52 Universe, but that’s mostly based on the fact that he has red hair. Wally hardly seems like someone who “the world would fear” (though DC editorial might).
PTB: As I’m sure it’s clear every time we talk about the DCU, my knowledge is limited at best. The Question has always been a pulp-styled costumed adventurer from what I understood and I didn’t think it was possible that he’d be involved here.
KevinMLD: Finally, I have to ask: Who is this new Green Lantern and where is Hal Jordan? I hope DC doesn’t think they can get away with trying to sell us another replacement Green Lantern. No one is going to get invested in a new legacy character after the way DC displaced popular characters like Wally West, Kyle Raynor and Stephanie Brown (as well as how they treated less popular ones like Ryan Choi and Connor Hawke). As much as DC wants the New 52 to feel new and fresh, in recent years they’ve essentially restored an updated version of the Super Friends and Batgirl from the 1960’s Batman tv show.
PTB: Even without being a regular reader of DC Comics, I know not to get too invested in new characters taking up classic mantles. Honestly, seeing Batman carrying Pandora’s box (which appears to be a skull?) and on the run from a team of heroes in some dark future just caused me to chalk this up to the either hole JLA being replaced or that history had changed again.