I’ll get into it in more detail when I review the two Mage books, but I will say that Matt Wagner’s Mage: The Hero Discovered had a huge impact on me after scoring most of the issues while interning at Wizard. I recently came into a pair of different Wagner-created books that both happened to be from DC Comics and figured they’d made for a good Trade Post.
In the pages of Trinity, Wagner takes an early look at Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. In this incarnation of the DCU, Bats and Supes have been on the scene for a little while, but we see Diana meeting them both for the first time. Instead of going the tired old route of teaming Lex Luthor up with the Joker as you might expect from something like this, the story instead revolves around Ra’s al Ghul hatching a plot to nuke the world into a more natural state of existence. To do this, he’s enlisted the help of Bizarro and Artemis — a teen Amazon from a desert tribe with a general mad-on for the world.
What I like about this book so much is that it not only tells a pretty epic story, but also really seems to get what makes all three icons tick. A lot of times a writer will understand one or two, but not all three and you can tell, but Wagner’s in the headspace of all three, literally, as we see plenty of dialog boxes explaining their thoughts. The nice thing about these mental boxes is that, unlike some writers, Wagner doesn’t use them to just reiterate what’s going on or give pointless information, he’s instead giving you the important thoughts going through their heads, adding nice layers to the story instead of just more words.
Artistically speaking, it’s fun seeing Wagner draw these characters. He’s known for his creator-owned characters like Mage and Grendel, dipping into the DC pool a few times here and there — gotta get my hands on his Batman books — so it’s cool seeing him draw these big, bold, colorful characters with an almost animated style. He does a lot with a few lines and I’m a big fan of that economy of style. He also works well with shadow, darkness and negative space that’s reminiscent of Frank Miller’s work, but can also be seen in Mage.
I feel like Wagner’s Trinity would be a great book to hand someone who’s interested in getting into superhero comics, either with no experience or coming from an indie POV. It’s got three of the most recognizable characters around going on a cool adventure against formidable foes that they might be less familiar with, but still offer the heroes plenty of opportunities to show what they can do and who they are.
Obviously, this one’s not technically a trade, but I can’t resist a good theme post. By 1987 Wagner had finished up the first round of Mage stories and started work on Grendel. He had apparently made enough of a name for himself to get the attention of DC where he wound up writing a four issue miniseries based on Jack Kirby’s Demon character also known as Etrigan. I did a little looking around online and discovered that aside from a few appearances here and there, including arcs in Detective Comics and Swamp Thing, the character wasn’t used much after Kirby’s initial series ended.
I’m glad I read the Jack Kirby Demon Omnibus before this because it both picks up a lot of those threads and also takes a completely different look at the character as presented by The King. Kirby’s Demon is a kind of bright, bold, almost fun look at demonic possession with some melodrama thrown in, but Wagner’s is a much darker, harder take on the idea of a regular guy unwillingly attached to a demonic entity. In fact, that’s what the whole story is about: Jason Blood and his lady Glenda trying to figure out a way to separate the two entities. Along the way, we wind up learning more about Etrigan, Jason Blood and the demon Belial.
Wagner’s art style is also super different from Kirby’s. You most likely have a pretty good idea of what the King’s art looks like, well Wagner’s is the exact opposite. Instead of hulking creatures, this mini features more sinewy and creepy bad guys. There’s a more lithe, acrobatic quality to the figures and action than a street fighter one. The pencils, while still minimal-in-a-good-way, look a lot more like his work on Mage: The Hero Discovered than the ones on display almost two decades later on Trinity.
There is one thing about this book that kind of got on my nerves, though. There’s a narrative device used throughout where someone or something is telling the story while snickering AND torturing an old man whose identity isn’t very surprising if you’ve read any Demon comics. Anyway, this narration got a little old pretty quickly. I think that might have been more a product of reading all four issues fairly quickly instead of monthly as they were originally intended, but there you have it.
I’d love to see this story get a proper reprint with new coloring and whatnot, but even if that doesn’t happen, I’ll be keeping my issues and maybe getting them bound along with the Garth Ennis run of Demon I’m trying to put together.