Scott Snyder's mega summer event has been surprisingly restrained so far, crossover-wise. While 'The Joker War' weaves an intricate web across multiple bat-books, Dark Nights: Death Metal has kept relatively to itself – with only an arc on Justice League and a pair of anthologies to back up the main event so far. Death Metal itself is taking the month of September off, but Snyder soldiers on this week with Trinity Crisis #1 – a hefty beast of a one-shot that proves itself essential to the Death Metal event.
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Francis Manapul and Ian Herring
Lettering by John Napolitano
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman head to Castle Bat to capture Crisis Energy. Mined by the Batman Who Laughs through the creation of three perpetual Crisis worlds, the heroes seek to control the flow of Crisis energy to rob Perpetua of her world-ending powers.
Phew. You still with me?
'Nuff said, this is a plot-heavy book. Characters freely discuss the events of Dark Nights saga so far, with only a single editor's note to clue-in the unaware. The climax hinges on prior knowledge of the three main Crises, and the effect is lost entirely if you miss the subversion.
As in the main Death Metal book, Scott Snyder keeps the general tone light despite the grim setting. Jarro, Jonah Hex, and Harley Quinn are on hand to fulfill the quip quota. Just as you're thinking, "these guys shouldn't really be hanging with the Trinity," Snyder is there with an answer. It's a blockbuster of a script, and there's a self-awareness here that stops it from descending into parody.
Visually, this script demands the world – cramming in tens of characters at a time to illustrate the various crises and asking for splash page after splash page. Luckily, artist Francis Manapul rises to the challenge. He is in his element here – flexing his skills in composition to effortlessly illustrate legions of heroes and world-ending threats with panache. He's rock-solid in the DC house style, doing a great rendition of Capullo's outstanding design work. His sense of texture also lends a real tangibility to the issue - portals ripple, pavements crack and dusty bones turn to ash on the wind. Colorist Ian Herring works well here too, filling empty background with flat color to emphasize the action and working in bright greens and blues that highlight the best of Manapul's artwork.
When Snyder and Manapul finally get us to the Crisis worlds, it's cliffhanger time. This is billed as a one-shot, but it serves almost entirely as connective tissue from Death Metal #3 to #4. It only opens threads, rather than concluding them, and that makes it somewhat of a frustrating read. It's the first time Death Metal has really leaned on being a classic summer event, rather than a premium limited series. Last month's Legends of the Dark Knights and Death Metal Guidebook were the definition of optional, but Trinity Crisis demands you buy it to get the whole Death Metal story. Still, there are some fulfilling character moments here for both Swamp Thing and Jonah Hex, even if the promise that Death Metal #4 is going to pick right up where Trinity Crisis leaves off might leave a sour taste. As a continuity-heavy book, your mileage will entirely depend on your fondness for Crisis on Infinite Earths, Final Crisis, and Infinite Crisis, as well as your investment in Death Metal so far.
Frustrations aside, this is a fun little detour for Death Metal. As with the main series, it's loud, ostentatious, and a whole heap of fun. There is perhaps a whole lot more Harley Quinn than one would expect from a title like this, but Snyder's script does well to realize how poorly she seems to fit, justifying her presence in a compelling manner. In fact, Harley Quinn, Jonah Hex, and Swamp Thing quietly make up the heart of Trinity Crisis, until of course, that final page. This is the opposite of your average big event tie-in: it counts, almost feeling like it should have been called Death Metal #3.5. If you've been following Snyder's wild ride up until now, Death Metal: Trinity Crisis is essential – for the bad and the good.