A second, forced to forget his own name, has his features wiped out, condemned to 'forever question your identity and forever search for answers you will never find'. The Question.
A woman is given '... an eternity of loneliness. An eternity of pain. An eternity of being told I AM evil ... because I opened a box.' Pandora
In present day Detroit, dormant extraterrestrial technology in the government's top secret Red Room is becoming active. STAR Labs scientists Sarah Charles and Silas Stone disagree as to whether they should ask the latter's son, Justice League member Cyborg, for assistance.
In Washington, meanwhile, JL liaison Colonel Steve Trevor is called to the government's clandestine Black Room - same deal as the Red Room, but with supernatural objects of power - where an unknown woman is stealing Pandora's Box. 'Reclaiming' may be a more appropriate term than 'stealing', given that the woman is Pandora. The arms of Trevor and his military aides prove no match for Pandora's mystic pistols, and she gets away and opens the box, revealing a golden skull with three eye sockets. She vows to deal with the box once and for all.
In 'the near future', Batman wears the skull on a ribbon around his neck, as an unfamiliar Green Lantern fights to grab it from him. Superman, yielding a ruddy great stone column, puts paid to that idea. And he's not alone, we're in the midst of a massive superhero battle also involving Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Arrow, Mera, Aquaman, Black Adam, Deadman, Hawkman, Atom, Cyborg and Vibe.
Yes, Vibe! The character find of 1984, dead since 1987 but occasionally seen in alternate realities and TV cartoons, is making his DC New 52 debut. And he's bringing Element Woman, one of the more interesting debutantes from last year's Flashpoint event, with him. We can expect to see the Before and After of this big battle as part of DC's upcoming Trinity War storyline, and this taster has done its job and gotten me eager to see it. For it's a sad fact that pretty much all DC has to do to grab my attention is toss a little continuity porn at me.
So as well as the revelation that the previously unknown third person in the Trinity of Sin is The Question, we get mentions of Black Orchid and Dr Mist as associates of Steve Trevor, learn that someone from Earth 2 is signaling across the multiverse, see the Haunted Tank in the Black Room and find out that Trevor has a sister ... it's sad but true, no snippet is too tiny to get me smiling. And just what is The Circus which Trevor is so desperate to protect?
As for the main plot writer Geoff Johns is seeding, I'm definitely grabbed by Pandora's quest, and how it links back to the Flashpoint event which gave rise to the New 52 Universe. I'd definitely like to see her bring down this latest version of DC's mystical court, the Quintessence, as they seem a right bunch of cosmic asses, yelling hysterically at the so-called Sinners, only one of whom - the man who becomes The Question - shows neither regret nor humility. Pandora's crime amounted to curiosity, while the Phantom Stranger played his part in a drama whose ending was written by God himself.
The art is by an all-star cast of illustrators: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and colourist Rod Reis handle the judgment opening; Kenneth Rocafort and Blond take us to STAR Labs; Gene Ha and Art Lyon look after the Trevor and Pandora sequence; and Jim Lee, Scott Williams and and Alex Sinclair close with the future battle, most of which is a four-page fold-out poster panel revealing the combatants. It all makes for a good-looking 16-page story, with the only thing I don't like being the design for the guy who may be Shazam - he looks like a Rio drag queen.
As I say, I'm all over this comic, it's sharply crafted superhero fun. I've no idea how any new people brought into shops by the freebie promotion will react, mind - they may be put off by the barrage of characters and concepts, they may be charmed by the promise of a world of weirdness to be discovered. Certainly DC deserves some credit for not going the lazy reprint route for Free Comic Book Day, instead gifting readers an entertaining set-up for what looks likely to be a blockbuster event.