(Oh, and I can’t tell you you many spoilers are down below.)
DC Comics Trinity War has ended with an explosive bang, and wrapped up with Geoff Johns’ answer to the knotty question: “where does evil come from?”
Before we get to his answer, let’s go back to two companion issues, Pandora #3 and The Phantom Stranger #11. If readers will remember, Pandora is the one who (accidentally) started The Trinity War when she made it her mission to destroy the evil she released from her box. Further, something made Superman kill Dr. Light, and no one knows how it happened. Many of our super heroes blame the box, but some aren’t so sure.
In issue 11, The Phantom Stranger (Judas Iscariot, doomed to wander the earth because he betrayed Christ), takes a few Justice League and Justice League of America members to the realm of the dead. They’re trying to question the soul of Dr. Light to see what happened with Supes. (In an interesting side note, The Phantom Stranger and Batman address whether Superman is a Christ figure. They both answer no.)
What we find is that heaven is what everyone imagines it to be, giving us some interesting insights into the characters, especially their deepest hopes and dreams. Through a series of events, each league member slips into their own heaven. Batman’s heaven is the most emotional and beautiful. We see him as a boy, parents alive, and reading to him in a warm Christmas setting. In all of his darkness, he just wants to be a little boy, safe, warm, and happy.
The Phantom Stranger is not supposed to be in heaven. He is forbidden, and he is sacrificing himself for the sake of others.
An angel catches him and asks, “Why didn’t you tell them? And why did you do it? Risk all you are for people you hardly know?” (echoes of 1 Peter 1:12 which tells us the angels long to look into the mystery of salvation)
The Phantom Stranger thought, “I had no answer. It was, as the angel said, a foolish act. But once, two-thousand years ago, I served a Man that some called a fool. And, I think, perhaps that He might be pleased with what I did here.”
When the angel zaps The Phantom Stranger, a huge burst of light appears, and the angel bows before it, a great visualization of God’s presence.
In Justice League of America 7 and Justice League Dark 23, everyone is racing after Pandora’s Box. How do they stop evil? In Justice League of America, a super-villain who can read people’s minds says, “I’ve searched for years for someone who is free of selfishness, hate, and perversion. But NO ONE is unsullied, no one is without evil thoughts, and it only takes the slightest push for ugly thoughts to transform into ugly deeds.”
Jesus in Matthew 15:18-20, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. “These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man
Hmmm, amazing how similar these views are, eh? Indeed, all the heroes find out very quickly that Pandora’s Box is not responsible for evil at all; it’s a gateway, a gateway that enhances the evil already present in the heart. In Justice League Dark, we see the box bringing out everyone’s dark side, full of the seven deadly sins. Only the people who recognize their own capacity for evil seem immune to the powers of Pandora’s Box.
This idea played out in Pandora 3, when we get a little of her back story and her journey to fight evil. In her centuries of travels, she learns that evil is just the absence of light (St. Augustine is quoted) and is a leech on all that is good. Still, she can’t figure out how evil came about or how it can be defeated. In the present day story of the Trinity War, we see Pandora’s perspective as she watchs the heroes battle, and she sees the seven deadly sins as evil spirits delighting in the conflict and “feeding” of the sin in everyone’s hearts.
Finally, all of Pandora’s centuries full of lessons click in. SHE is the problem. Pandora realizes that she has been full of envy – one of the greatest sins – and she repents. She finds her answer, evil begins in the heart – just like Jesus says in the Gospels.
Everyone realizes that the box is not the cause of evil, but enhances what is already in the heart.
So, there you have it, folks. DC Comics, full of Jesus and grace. On Friday, I’ll post my concluding thoughts on the Trinity War (after part six comes out this week), and how all the heroes deal with the revelation that evil lies in the human heart.