Comics are full of superheroes being thrown through entire buildings, being dropped into the Earth from outer space and leaving craters the size of small cities on impact. Superhero fights often look like a game of pinball, with men of steel bouncing from one obstacle to another and taking no real damage for it.
This month’s TRINITY OF SIN: PANDORA, written by Ray Fawkes with art by Francis Portela, is basically a 20 page fight scene exploring a different approach to superhuman brawls. As Vandal Savage, Pandora and Kincaid duke it out, ribs are broken, limbs snapped, holes are blown into chests, people are slammed face-first into concrete, and the pain is really felt thanks to a very direct approach to the art and strong narration to complement it.
We’re so used to seeing invincible characters flying like wrecking balls through steel, glass and cement that it’s gotten kind of boring, almost abstract. In recent superhero movies it often feels less like we’re watching a city being destroyed, and more like we’re watching, well, exactly what we’re watching: stacks of 3D objects being knocked over without even the tension that comes with a good game of Jenga.
PANDORA’s solution, in a fight sequence that leaves the surrounding environment relatively unscathed, is for every punch, throw and bodyslam to be felt by the combatants themselves. The narration is vivid, almost splatterpunk, describing legs “tangled and broken.” A Muay Thai style knee to the chest is accompanied by “Something ruptures, I am breaking apart inside.” One action shot replaces a sound effect with narration reading “The sound of bone snapping.”
Where another comic might use gorier artwork or more sound effects to depict violence in such a direct manner, PANDORA uses the narration to really sell every broken bone, every ruptured kidney and pierced lung. By putting it in our minds, instead of on the page, it becomes a lot more sensory, a lot more visceral and gruesome than it might otherwise have been.
I’ll admit that I’m not deeply invested in TRINITY OF SIN: PANDORA. The characters, the story arcs, they sort of get lost in the mix for me as I read about a half dozen other monthly series. In many ways, PANDORA is just another superhero comic. While the series isn’t bad, I don’t find any of the heroes, villains or plotlines truly remarkable, surprising, or inventive. There’s some effective pathos here as Vandal ices Marcus and mocks Pandora for caring about the death of a mortal, but I’m not really that invested.
It’s not that PANDORA lacks inventive ideas, or that it is completely without style or interesting characters, it’s just so up-to-par. As with the first issue of INFINITY MAN AND THE FOREVER PEOPLE last week, this is a series that I wish would take more risks.
That said, it’s worth checking out if only to see a refreshingly brutal approach to the staple of the superhero slugfest.
An inventive, brutal and visceral approach rejuvenates the stale superhero slugfest trope.
I’m just not that invested in the characters and storylines. Beyond the series’ direct approach to action, there just isn’t much in PANDORA for me to get excited about.
Though TRINITY OF SIN: PANDORA has failed to stand out from the New 52 pack in terms of story, concept and character, it’s a competent entry worth checking out for some strong action bolstered by intense, splatterpunky writing.