Triumph #1 (June, 1995)
Writer – Christopher Priest
Pencils – Mike Miller
Inks – John Stokes
Letters – Chris Eliopoulos
Colors – Lee Loughridge
Assistant Edits – Alisande Morales
Edits – Brian Augustyn
Cover Price: $1.75
Today we’re dipping into the Files of the Forgotten Founder… of the Justice League of America… Triumph!
This is one I’ve wanted to talk about for a while now, and just never got around to it. Probably because every time I attempted to read this, I’d stop about eight pages in out of sheer boredom. I love Christopher Priest’s work, but this… is kind of a bear.
One thing I’m interested to learn is how the internet feels about this Triumph feller. We’ve talked before how on the internet and social media we sometimes huddle around an “unpopular opinion” to the point where it suddenly becomes the popular opinion… and yet, we continue to pat ourselves on the back for daring to hold the “unpopular opinion”. I’m wondering if this might be the case for Triumph. A character and concept that was pretty soundly poo-pooed back in the long ago… I have a sneaking suspicion I’m about to hear at least a handful of folks who share in the “unpopular opinion” that Triumph’s maybe… not quite so bad.
Let’s find out together!
Our story opens… with a flashback! This is some years back where we join Jimmy MacIntyre and Doctor Cobalt attempting to flee from the police long enough to stash a box full’a loot. There’s an attempt at some sort of banter here, but it kind of falls flat for me. Jimmy the Wheelman drives toward an older house that has been slated for demolition. He’d spied this joint out because it’s equipped with an old bomb shelter, where they can stash the MacGuffin for now.
We join the police, who are working alongside Hourman. Jimmy Mac and Doc Cobalt try to blow past the roadblock, but are literally stopped in their tracks by the pill-popper. Cobalt goes to blast the good guys, but gets socked in the face by Jimmy. Hourman thanks him for the save, and we learn that Jimmy Mac was simply returning a favor to Rex. I assume more will come out of that deeper into the series.
We jump to a trailer park, where it’s li’l Willie MacIntyre’s birthday… and he’s been waiting for his father to return all day long. His mother calls him inside… and, slump-shouldered in the knowledge that his dad ain’t comin’, he obliges.
Not long after, the police start rollin’ up. Mrs. MacIntyre shoves li’l Will to the floor and tells him to stay down while she deals with the cops… the boy does as he’s told, and we begin our segue into the “present day”…
… which is, unfortunately, just about as tonally different as anything we’d just read.
Triumph, which is to say, William MacIntyre, is doing some Mission: Impossible type stuff here. He’s connected via an earpiece to… seemingly dozens of people (it’s not quite that many, but it sure feels overwhelming at first!), and is scoping out a freighter that is working with the Russian Mob to illegally transport folks into the United States… and by “folks”, we’re talkin’ like thousands of people crammed into this tub! Triumph and Company save the day… without even breaking a sweat. Makes you wonder why Triumph doesn’t just work alone.
He radios into… Wilma… or maybe it’s Fang… or maybe it’s even another person. This dude’s gotta lotta voices in his head. He asks about Father Rocko, who was supposed to check into Rivera’s Bank. Long as it’s not Rivera’s Vault, I’m cool with following this story thread. This takes us right to the good father, who is sniffin’ around some shady-looking place. One fella in particular, a “Brother Mark”, doesn’t really appreciate his line of questioning… and so, he shoots the Padre point-blank in the chest. Unfortunately for him… it’s not very effective.
Next, we learn about another Triumph associate, Eddie X. Wow, they’re sure dropping a ton of cast members I don’t care about on us right off the bat. Feels like we’re back reading the Black Canary bits from Action Comics Weekly! Anyhoo, Eddie X is currently on board a train car… shooting a bunch of fools, while speaking Spanglish.
He then takes a seat at a table with a couple of shifty-looking fellas. They share in a mildly-contentious chat before Eddie shoots one in the chest with a special “gel” bullet. Apparently, this ammo really screws with your CNS. We learn that this conversation is happening in the first place because of a little girl named Bonita Phillips… yeesh, yet another name we have to remember. Turns out, Bonita was a nine-year old girl who these baddies hit with their car while fleeing the police.
Triumph enters the train car to further press this interrogation… buuuut, winds up getting shot in the back by some lunatic. To add insult to injury, he tells Eddie-the-X that he’d kissed his mama five times. Gasp… the absolute villain!
A firefight breaks out… and naturally, Triumph is… uh, triumphant. He calls Eddie X an idiot for letting this escalate the way it did… though, in fairness, it seems with Eddie, what you see is what you get. It really shouldn’t have been a surprise that when the goin’ got tough, he’d just start squeezing the trigger.
From here we get three entire pages of Triumph trying to stop this train. Three pages… of train-wrestling. Yeesh.
From here, we jump to Bonita’s funeral. Triumph is in attendance. As he gazes upon the mourning family, for a brief moment… Doctor Cobalt appears! When he looks back, he’s gone.
Later on, Will decides to have one of his operatives check into Doctor Cobalt. Man, just how many geeks does he have working for him? Anyhoo, it turns out that… Doc Cobalt is… dead! He contracted Cancer while in prison, and passed away within half a year. Will decides to have them run some more names through the system… including Big Daddy Jimmy Mac. We learn here that Will’s Dad is… at large, having escaped from the clink a month ago!
After a flashback to his childhood, where Li’l Will sees his father hauled away to jail, we wrap up in the present… where, William fires Eddie da X! Ooooooh. Imagine if we gave half a crap about this guy?
This was… uh, somethin’.
Definitely a bit of a slog… especially for a first chapter. We just had way too many disjointed scenes connected by way too many new and unknown characters. I’m trying to connect the boat scene to the train scene… and, outside of one happening first, it feels like there was no reason for both to have occurred here. Actually, by the time we wrapped up the train scene, I’d forgotten all about the smuggling ship!
I get that Priest was going a different way with this… because, if we’re being honest, Triumph, outside of his “secret origin”… just isn’t all that interesting! Like, at all. Heck, I’m sure many people think his retconny introduction as a founding member of the Justice League of America isn’t all that interesting either! Well, uninteresting or infuriating… take your pick.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with the Zero Hour retcon. It reminds me quite a bit of Marvel’s Sentry… which, I’m certain I’d read before even putting two and two together on Triumph. Thing is, Sentry… just like Triumph, is only interesting in his “forgotten character” origin. Everything else about him… kinda sucks.
I’ve used “Dagwood Sandwich” as a descriptor a time or two before, when discussing stories that are just crammed with far too many layers of “stuff”. As with any actual sandwich Dagwood Bumstead might create, you wonder why there’s a sliver of hard-boiled egg under like 8 lbs. of cold cuts… it’s not like it’s going to actually add anything to the experience, right?
That’s kind of what I’m feeling with this story… the only thing is, it’s like a two-foot tall sandwich, filled only with olives or something. There’s no “meat”, but there’s still too much “stuff”. Ya follow?
While doing some of my (shallow) research, I came across a missive written by Christopher Priest that deals with some of the frustrations he’d faced in co-creating and writing for the character of Triumph. He makes it plainly clear that nobody liked the guy… fans, readers, even DC staffers. They wanted this character gone. He also writes a bit about this very miniseries, where he actually has some of the same gripes I’ve already discussed above!
Too many layers… from the man himself! There’s some validation for your favorite idiot blogger. He’s right on the money. This was just too many elements being jammed into a story that simply wasn’t interesting enough to carry it. He mentions that the creative team didn’t quite gel… which, I dunno… I thought, outside of the “story”, all of the nuts and bolts were there. I really liked the art… and felt it was able to tell the story Priest was looking to tell pretty well. It’s just that… the story, like the titular character, isn’t all that interesting.
I will say, I was pretty captivated during the flashback portion. That opening half-dozen or so pages was quite well done, and is usually about as far as I’d usually get though when trying to read through this in the past. It’s only when we get to Triumph, with skatey-eight hundred voices in his ear scoping out that freighter where my eyes begin to glaze over.
Sorta surprisingly, this miniseries doesn’t appear to be available on DC Digital… though, it’s probably plentiful in the next quarter-bin you decide to dig though. Is it worth a read? Ehh. I didn’t care for it, and feel absolutely no desire to read the subsequent 3/4’s of this thing… but, as always… your mileage may vary!