Review: DC’s Free Comic Book Day Special – With Spoilers

DC's Free Comic Book Day SpecialDC’s Free Comic Book Day Special came out Saturday, and if you got to a comic book shop early enough, you got a copy. But if you were one those dim wits (like, uh… me) who didn’t go because you figured you could just download it digitally on Comixology or something, by the time you found out it wasn’t available online, all the copies in your neighborhood were gone, and you were SCREWED.

Or at least, I was, until one of my friends let me read his copy. So now I’m all good, thank God.

So… what’s it like?

It’s some good a$$ readin’, THAT’S what it’s like!

Especially the first part.

DC Comics The New 52 #1 is a collection of stories, most of them previews of what’s included in the New 52’s “Second Wave” of releases, like Dial H for Hero #1 and Earth 2 #1. But it’s the first story, the teaser for DC’s upcoming “Trinity War” event, that makes the book worth picking up. It’s the storyline that will affect the spine of the New 52 universe, and Geoff Johns wrote the hell out if.

Here’s what you get… WITHOUT spoilers.

The story reveals why Pandora has been wandering in and out of the New 52 books since the relaunch, and what her relationship is to other mystical / godly beings like the Phantom Stranger. Johns gives you her status, as well as that of other more established DC “fringe” characters (you know, those quasi-all-knowing people who are perennial outsiders and always seem to know everyone’s business, and they pop up during storylines at just the right moment to give our heroes vague bits of cryptic information about impending doom).

Pandora’s place in the multiverse is linked to the origins of DC’s cosmic universe, and thus every DC character who exists right now. Johns gives her a goal to achieve, but, of course, her pursuit of that goal will likely cause DC’s next big event storyline, the “Trinity War,” the reason the Justice League is fighting in that huge four-page spread image Jim Lee drew the hell out of that was released last week. It’s also inside the free comic book day special as well, and a marvelous sight to behold in your bare hands.

Click the link below to see the full-scale version from Bleeding Cool in another window.

Now here’s what you get… WITH spoilers. (Y’all have been warned).

Pandora is THE Pandora. The one who opened that damn box eleventy-bazillion years ago and let all those pesky negative emotions and impulses out that made life less idyllic for people to live in.

According to Pandora’s narration, DC’s original magic users and guardians, the Circle of Eternity (as they’re called in Justice League #6), brought her to the Rock of Eternity and punished her for her transgression by sentencing her to an eternity of pain, although it is unclear if she means literal physical pain or if she is using a dramatic metaphor to describe an eternity of isolation. But the magicians also punished two other people for other transgressions: the Phantom Stranger for having greed that darkened the world, and the original Question (or some guy who looks a lot like the original Question) for some unnamed transgression.

See for yourself what those punishments were and how upset those guys were about receiving them.

The Phantom Stranger’s sentence….

And now the Question’s, whose crime and real name are left unrevealed for the time being…

The magical guardians called Pandora, the Question, and the Phantom Stranger the Trinity of Sin on the very first page, so perhaps they’re the trinity at the heart of the upcoming war, and not DC’s most popular trinity, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, as most people might have guessed when the name “Trinity War” was leaked earlier this year.

You probably don’t need to be told how major these revelations are, but, well… I’m going to tell you because I’m weird like that.

It seems like DC’s using the New 52 relaunch to weave together various elements of their continuity and character library more tightly than they’ve been woven in the past. Johns has apparently linked three incredibly important cosmic / mystical beings to the origins of magic on Earth, which means they all have direct relationships to the larger tapestry of the universe’s cosmic reality in a more carefully crafted fashion.

You could argue that at least one of them, the Phantom Stranger, already had a prominent role in DC’s mystical / cosmic milieu before the relaunch, but his exact origin was never clearly spelled out. He was just this strange guy in a suit, a cloak, and a hat with these weird omniscient powers who showed up here and there. Now DC’s starting to tell us how he got that way, and they’re firmly rooting him in the new mythology in the process.

But the Question’s inclusion here is stunning. In the 1960’s comics, that character’s origin as Vic Sage the street fighting detective didn’t involve any mysticism–he got that added to him decades later in successive storylines, but it wasn’t anywhere close to what DC’s made him now. If the guy we are seeing here is indeed THE Question, they’re taking that character in an extremely different direction. He’s gone from a crime fighting, ninja type to one of the pillars of DC’s cosmic-mystical universe. That’s a MAJOR overhaul, if I’m correct.

It’s possible that DC wanted to change him up because he needed it. For those of you who don’t know, the “old” Question was a dude who wore a mask of something called pseudoderm that was like this, cloth-skin hybrid. It was flesh-colored material that he put on his face that covered his mouth and eyes so no one could recognize him, but it was thin enough for him to talk and see through. It just looked, to an outside observer, like he had skin growing over his mouth and eyes even though it was really just an advanced mask.

But that sounds an awful lot like Rorschach from the Watchmen, doesn’t it?

Rorschach also covers his face with something he can speak and see through, and he’s a street fighter as well. But he’s a lot more famous in pop culture these days, so he’s eclipsed the Question in popularity, so if DC wanted to bring the Question back in the New 52 relaunch, they probably felt like they needed to adjust him so he didn’t seem like a Rorschach copy. (Which would be ironic, since the Question came first in comics and was one of the characters Rorschach was based on.)

So in order to save the Question from being thought of as another Rorschach, DC’s given him a cosmic upgrade and, presumably, a new back story and power set.

DC’s Creating Mysteries and Adjusting Mythologies

It appears as if Trinity War, and the New 52 in general, will continue to revamp and adjust established characters while more closely connecting them to each other, and in the process, create a more coherent, tightly woven DC Universe.

Soon after we’re told about the Trinity of Sin in the DC Comics The New 52 #1, the storyline jumps forward to the present day, and we see the Black Room: a top-secret government location where mystical artifacts are locked away where federal agents and bigwigs can study them and keep them out of the wrong hands. If you remember that giant government warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where they locked away the Ark of the Covenant with all those other crates of supernatural artifacts, then you’ll understand what the Black Room is. (Or you can just watch a few episodes of Warehouse 13 or, if you’re SUPER nerdy, the old Friday the 13th: The Series show. And 100 points to anyone who watched that show and appreciated it for the underrated sci-fi / horror gem it was.)

Pandora breaks into the Black Room, steals the box, takes out some federal agents in the process, and leaves. And we get to see what’s inside the box now, too: a strange golden skull, probably the same one Batman has in the far right of that ginormous Jim Lee four-page spread I mentioned earlier.

Geoff Johns is using this storyline to link numerous DC Universe characters to the new continuity through new roles, and possibly new origins. Steve Trevor mentions in the Black Room scenes that Dr. Mist is supposed to oversee the artifacts’ safekeeping. Dr. Mist being the man who, in the pre-launched DC, was the sorcerer member of the Global Guardians who later got wound up in other magical shenanigans in other DC storylines.

And after Pandora makes off with her loot, Steve “Exposition” Trevor mentions John Constantine and Black Orchid, two other DC magical luminaries, as folks to call on to help fix this mess. And guess what? Someone else has broken into the Black Room in the past, too. An unidentified male who absconded away with the Orb of Ra, the object that, if you recall, turned Rex Mason into Metamorpho the Element Man in the old days. Steve also mentions another room called the Circus, which… well, we don’t know what that room’s about yet, but I have a feeling it doesn’t involve magical space clowns.

But in any case, we’ll find out what all these things mean, what Pandora plans to do with her box, what that skull is, and how this all causes the Trinity War eventually, I’m sure, and it’ll probably involve lots of crossover books and superhero  smack downs as well.

Geoff Johns did an excellent job setting everything up in an exciting way, and I can’t wait to find out where everything goes for the rest of this year and into 2013.

This article’s original version was published on Superheroes are Awesome on May 6, 2012.

About the author

Hilton Collins

Loves all things science fiction and fantasy, and if he had to choose between video games, comic books, movies, TV shows and novels, he’d have a brain aneurysm. Check out his blog at Twitter: @HiltonCollins

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