The release of the first issue of John Byrne’s Trio was a divisive moment. On the one hand there were those people who hailed it as the triumphant return of one of comics’ living legends. On the other hand you had people who were critical primarily critical of the writing and, to a lesser degree, the art. I came down more or less on the positive side of the rift. It was the most I had enjoyed a Byrne comic in quite some time, and I was willing to overlook some of the writing tics and enjoy the old-school feel of it all. The real question for me was, would the second issue prove to be as enjoyable?
For the most part I was pleased with the second issue. Whereas before I had compared it to both Byrne’s run on Fantastic Four and his run on Alpha Flight, this issue seemed to come down squarely as a Fantastic Four issue. For anyone who has ever said, “what I wouldn’t give to see another John Byrne Sub-Mariner vs the Fantastic Four comic,” this is the comic you have been waiting for!
The Sub-Mariner stand-in proves to be more than capable of handling the super-powered Trio, while his giant monster continues to wreak havoc on the un-named metropolis below. It is a dynamic, action packed battle that is a feast for the eyes.
I must pause here because I can already hear the chorus from the aether. Yes, the book is over-written. There are plenty of superfluous caption boxes which needlessly explain in breathless detail what is going on in the panel. But I must say that is part of the fun. Yes, I said it: fun. The first narration box in the book reads “Another time, Another place…” This book is not from 2012. This book is from 1985. Before Watchmen. Before Crisis on Infinite Earths. Before the deconstruction of super-heroes and the rise of angst and grit and “reality”. This comic is a reminder of the way comics used to be. So, if you can enjoy the “retro” feel of it, you will have a great time. If you cannot get past the caption boxes, you are going to have a difficult time with this comic.
The art steals the show. The book is 80% fight scene meaning that there is little character development. The sub-plots from the first issue are not advanced here, making room for more pages of smackdown. The book ends on yet another cliffhanger, ensuring that things will only get more difficult for our heroes. Instead of feeling like Byrne is stretching things out or succumbing to the modern trope of decompression, it feels like this story continues to build. Just when you thought things could not intensify, Byrne ratchets it up once again.
Not everything is perfect with Trio. I am beginning to have a serious reservation about one of its characters, Paper (or “One” as she is called in the book). In two issues she has been incapacitated and required rescue and medical attention twice. So far it appears her only job on the team is to get hurt. I would be bothered by this fact if it was any character, but the fact that it is the only female character is particularly annoying. It plays in to every stereotype there is. Byrne has written strong and confident women in the past, so it makes me wonder what is the deal with this character constantly being the damsel in distress.
The only other female in this issue, a plucky tv reporter, also finds herself in danger and in need of rescue. I am not going to ring an alarm bell just yet and claim that Byrne has something against women or that this is part of some misogynist plot. However, it is a little bothersome that Byrne could not come up with something more interesting for either of his female characters than to put them in danger so they could be rescued.
Trio continues to be an enjoyable reminder of the way comics used to be. It is a throw-back to a time when comics were fun. Good guys fought bad guys for the fate of the city, and a man named Byrne was on top of the world. If Byrne can sort out something to do with his female characters other than have them be in need of rescue, then Trio will truly be something to watch for!