Friday, July 21, 2017

Trinity Angels #1

It's Maguire, so it has to be good

"Trinity Angels"
Writing and pencils – Kevin Maguire
Inks – Dan Panosian
Letters – Comicraft's Dave Lanphear
Colors – Atomic Paintbrush
Assistant Editor – Alex Glass
Editor – Fabian Nicieza
July 1997

Ask me why I love Justice League #1 (1986) and I will have a hard time picking just one thing. Everything about those first twelve issues seems so perfect. I say that with the hindsight of the last thirty years of comics history. Plot, dialogue, character mix, editing...all of those pieces meshed in a sublime cenergy of storytelling. But somewhere around issue two I would have said it was the art.

It was Kevin Maguire's pencils.

Of course he was just one of many elements, but there was something special about what he brought to the craft. A proper description of his character's facial expressions would have to note that they capture every emotive tick and squint. He's great with human forms, fantastical backgrounds, and details too. I'm not cutting him short there. But no one brings their character's faces to life like Kevin Maguire.

You need look no further than the wrap-around cover of Justice League: A New Beginning collected edition to see what I mean. Astonishing isn't it?

Maguire is one of my favorite artists.

When he left that title, I and a huge fanbase wept bitter tears of sadness. He's returned to Justice League at various point while gaining a list of working credits in single issues as long as my arm.

He's even done that thing that artists sometimes do that makes old SoC very nervous: writing.

That's right, Maguire has put pen in hand at least a couple of times now that I can attest to. He created the excellent fun series Strikeback! which the Crapbox will get around to reviewing one day soon. The other series is the one I hold in my sweaty palms: Trinity Angels.

Is it any good? Well, Maguire gives us both words AND pictures so fans of his should find something to love, even if that isn't the writing. I liked both fine, although I had many doubts upon starting. Let's just say the book begins looking like many first writing efforts I see in other, less well drawn works in the Crapbox.

Let's jump right in, shall we?

We find trouble from the start as we are introduced to the first of the Trinity Angels and she seems bewildered.

I don't feel like we are getting off on a strong opening here. Beginning with a character slightly disoriented about how they got wherever they are is fine, but follow along as we meet the other two Angels. See if you don't pick out how this story could go horribly wrong in the hands of another writer.

We will call our first awakened beauty "Blue". She appears to have major short-term memory loss, not know how she got here, where she got these clothes and this appears to NOT be her body. I'm okay with most of this. It's okay to start your reader and your character out on the same footing, which is not knowing what is going on and teasing out the mystery as you go. It's hard though. And to make it even harder…

…you take any characters who might could tell the main character what is going on, such as Green here….

…and you make them just a clueless.

Kevin had me worried with this beginning. I've seen less talented writers paint themselves into a corner using this technique. Especially given that all three of our trio appear to be affected.

Red appears to wake up on the wrong side of the bed as well as the wrong side of the forest. Three beautifully drawn ladies with amnesia. How could this go wrong, you ask? Well, for starters we have very little clue as to the stakes of their predicament. Nor do we have knowledge of their individual backgrounds to make them interesting or to differentiate them from each other.

This is something very difficult Maguire is attempting to pull off. He runs the risk of the audience losing patience with the solution or with the characters becoming interchangeable. I've seen other books do this and ended up getting bored by page six. Maguire has more chops than I give him credit for, however.

Bear with us a moment while we deepen the mystery and also make Maguire's job even harder.

First a little bit of conflict …because, yah know, comics. This confrontation sets up a few interpersonal quirks that I hope deepen in upcoming issues. And those interpersonal quirks become all important in just a bit.

And then a chapter out of the "if things are getting boring" guide to writing. That chapter being entitled "Adding A Dead Body."

Which causes a round of the blame game and ends with Red taking off through the forest warning the other two to "BACK OFF."

All well and good, but what we are missing is the same thing the characters are missing – "backstory!" It's an important thing, so important that Maguire knows it and knows what he is doing. He teases us with just a bit and then uses some action to distract us from getting too much, too fast. We get a first name and, more importantly, a last name: Barbella.

And then a truck.

Really keeping from us unraveling the mystery of how these girls came to be wearing superhero bodies in the middle of the forest with no memory of how the last several hours went down.

This is the thing that worried me: I've seen so many first attempts at stories from young, aspiring comic book writers that leave off character backgrounds or use the amnesia ploy to cover things they haven't thought of yet, that I got concerned. It makes for really amateurish results. Little should I worry, as Maguire picked up quite a bit on how to expertly craft a good tale in his time working with Giffen and DeMatteis. Either that or he came by it naturally, neither being anything to sneeze at. Can't tell you how happy that makes me.

And knowing YOU have nothing to worry about, that all this crazy lost memory stuff DOES have a very understandable source, means you can sit back and enjoy the scenery. By that I mean Maguire's art and humor.

Green gets interrupted in chasing Red by that pickup by three "normal people wearing normal clothes" as she later puts it.

Blue arrives and one of the guys makes a remark that sparks a memory for her.

The meaning of the word is lost on Green, even after Blue tries to politely (and un-politely) to get away her to move away from the men. Which means Green is totally unprepared when this happens.

Whoa! Never go full Jar-Jar, there guy.

The three gentlemen mutate into horrifying creatures, each different from the other and attempt to restrain the two girls. Green is quite literally "tongue-tied."

Blue is little better, given she has two monsters to contend with by her lonesome. She decides to run off for help.

Even that might not save her, as one of the beasts can extend his neck like some kind of spring-loaded kid's toy.

You have to stop for a moment and admire all of Maguire's work on this title. It was something I loved about Strikeback! too. Even without the familiar trappings of characters we know, Maguire is able to bridge an emotional connection using is art. He EXCELS at conveying a sympathetic resonance with his audience. It isn't always facial expressions either. Maguire just "gets it."

Every time I see his work in a book, even just a few panels, I pick that sucker up, no matter if it is a character I like, dislike, or never heard of, because I know his art is worth VIEWING. I say that about very few artists.

Out of my musing and back to the story at hand…

And just in time too, because old long-neck is in for a surprise as Blue tags him with a wrist mounted ball bearing on a string. That konks him out for a bit, and while she sneaks into a drainage ditch, Rubberneck and Trenchmouth pass by in their search.

While Blue starts thinking this is all a dream and half-remembering these other two girls as her sisters, Green still finds herself in a very "licky" situation.

Until Red shows up and uses that blade to cut through her problem. Also, Red remembers her name. Is it any surprise that it ends up being Gianna Barbella…note the last name is the same as Green's, er…Angelina's.

And Blue makes the same discovery while hiding in the drainage ditch, remembering she's Maria Barbella. Maria's still trying to play this off as some kind of nightmare that Freud and Jung are co-writing for her. She applies that logic as Trenchmouth finds her, although she's forgotten his name.

He gives her a reminder that is likely to stick with her for awhile.

His acid spit may be gross, but poses her cape little danger. She runs off as more misshapen help arrives for him, ending up trapped on the center of a railroad bridge.

The flying head-bird startles her so badly that she falls over, her wrist bola-thing saving her from plummeting to her doom. 

While Trenchmouth lends the situation a bit of spit'n polish, we learn an important fact: the girls "disturbed" something called the Trinity Gems. Which if you notice that each of them is wearing a gem embedded between their…um, breasts. I noticed that on page one. I mean, you know casually noticed. Not like I was staring or anything.

So perhaps these gems somehow caused their current predicament. Maybe even put them in these super heroine style outfits and bodies. Who knows?  

But with a bit of our mystery perhaps solved, we can rest easier. Except it might be a bit too late as that acid in his spittle eats through the railing and we watch Maria begin a deadly decent.

Good issue! I had some worries it would end up going the way of many in the Crapbox that are meaningless drivel, but Maguire has the chops to do this and pull it all off. I've only found one other issue of this in the bins, but it was during his run on the book, so even though it is two issue later, I'll count myself lucky.

As for you, Maguire-fans? Get out there and start looking.

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