By Francis Manapul and Steve Wands
If you look at that cover, Manapul is the only creator named (no room for the letterer?) but that is almost fair. Manapul is all you really need…
So my expectations for this issue were pretty low. I hoped the art would be great, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it and the story were just ok. For a proper critique I have to discuss the two together because THIS is actually what writer/artists should be doing when they add writing to their skill set.
Manapul has been given a co-credit with Brian Buccellato in their past works and its clearly deserved as the story here is exactly what’s needed to be for a series like this. Writing a Superman and Batman book is hard enough, throwing Wonder Woman on top of that only exacerbates things. Manapul manages to keep everything tightly moving in just about every way and makes the strong case that this Trinity will succeed where other similar titles fell short.
It’s a simple story of three old friends reconnecting over a quiet dinner and it captures the right tone, brings back the classic DC magic that the current books are often devoid of, and it looks gorgeous. Too often I see artists trying to draw scripts that they wrote that are a little beyond their means and its frustrating because it’s been too long since we’ve had a Miller, Cooke or an Eisner. The closest we’ve got are Lemire and Kindt, and not to diminish their respective talent, it’s still discouraging in a new Golden Age of comics. Surely we’ll see another person rise to that same status as the greats one day? Manapul may or may not reach that, but this issue impresses me for several reasons.
As I said already, this is story involving DC’s Trinity and them having a quiet dinner together in Smallville where the old-new Superman is living while his family slowly fills in where that family lived. Batman and Wonder Woman are each approaching the situation with their own context, Diana feels they should reach out to the man who will be their Superman and Bruce is reserved since this is not the same man he literally fought beside in battle. Clark remembers his Bruce and Diana, but knows these aren’t the same people so there’s awkwardness on both sides since they’re caught remembering things the other party doesn’t. Clark remembers a distinctively Silver Age Batman that the new 52 Bruce just can’t comprehend.
Manapul’s art and script are almost the same as they’re both being used to tell us about these characters, from who they were to who they are and the gulf in-between them. It’s Geoff Johns “hope and optimism” with the mythic status of the characters coupled with Manapul’s rich artwork. It’s a comic we shouldn’t see right now, it’s not “modern” or “important” or “ground-breaking” but the type of comic DC should be publishing more of. That wouldn’t mean much without the proper execution and Manapul delivers on every front (continuity references, emotion, humor, characterization AND pencils, inks, colors, storytelling). There’s the Silver Age rainbow Bat-suit and Clark’s secret tunnel that goes from the ocean to the Kent barn. There’s Jon Kent struggling with keeping his powers a secret and Diana breaking down the emotional barriers between her teammates.
Now it might be unfair to expect every issue to be like this, but that’s the standard I’m holding Manapul to from now on. Since his run on The Flash and Adventure Comics with Geoff Johns pre-New 52 to now, Manapul has never delivered a bad issue of art and with an strong story as this, he makes a convincing case that he’s ready to write solo as well. I’m willing to wait an extra month or accept this series not lasting indefinitel, and I’m also going to double-buy it since I need to see this artwork in solid form to truly appreciate it. The panel composition is way too striking for a controlled viewing on a touch screen. I want to see more of what Manapul delivered here, whether its every other month and/or for less than a year. THIS is Rebirth, THIS is classic DC, THIS is the Trinity.