Week 6: Sent Forth from the PowerIt's pretty clear that the Johns/Morrison/Rucka/Waid team has a comprehensive grasp on DC history, and therefore probably understands that whatever they create here will be part of an evolving canon as long as there's a company that owns it all. I mean, they remember Casey the Cop, who appeared in one-page gag strips in such classics as Detective Comics #233, the first mainstream comic to star a lipstick lesbian (heels not visible on this cover). They even remember Silverblade, the Cary Bates/Gene Colan limited series that I'd mercifully blotted out of my memory, and Sonic Disruptors, the limited series that abruptly got even more limited. So why are they giving us the not-quite-fully-baked Great Ten, who are close to being a terrific idea but still short of the mark?
The problem with the Great Ten isn't really that they're all about look-how-Chinese-we-are--that never stopped the Freedom Fighters or Captain America from being interesting, and I'm dying to see more of the Accomplished Perfect Physician, the Ghost Fox Killer, etc. (I also only count nine of the Ten, since the Shaolin Robots are the August General's enemies, per the description that's circulated.) The problem, I think, is that another solid four hours of research and thought could have knocked down the dopey Orientalism factor considerably. I'd have loved them to be Chinese rather than "Chinese," if you see what I'm saying. To quote a wonderful comment that Little Light left on a previous entry here:
"In re the Great Ten preview--augh on Mother of Champions, and not just because her concept is, if unique, a little horrifying. I hate to be the one who points this out, but their notes on the colors of her costume--'yellow for the life-giving waters of the Yangtze'--is utter bullshit. It puts the Western four-elements scheme and made-up colors into pseudo-Chinese language and projects it right on, when anyone who was willing to crack pretty much any book that mentions Chinese cosmology ever--as someone designing costumes for a sometimes-mythologically-linked Chinese superteam ought--ought to have noticed that not only do the Chinese have an entirely different system of basic elements, a list of five that does not include air, but that they a: function completely differently than the Western set do and b: have very specific colors assigned to each of them, colors which have remained canonically stable since, oh, before the Han Dynasty. The designer has not paid attention to this, and that makes me wonder if they've done any research about Chinese history or anything much at all. The guy who supposedly works for the PRC government wears a Tibetan religious symbol? Does the Shaolin Robot pray? Is it too much to ask DC to do their homework when writing about other cultures? To talk to the Chinese-American intern in Accounting, who could maybe call her grandpa and ask real quick?"
(A bit of additional explanation here: Wikipedia's got a breakdown on the Chinese five-elements schema and their colors-- fire is red, earth is yellow, metal is white, water is black, wood is green.)
Plus Thundermind, who works for the PRC, not only wears a Tibetan religious symbol, his whole M.O. is straight out of Tibetan Buddhism--about the last thing the Chinese government would want to associate itself with. The "om mani padme hum" mantra does indeed mean something like "hail the jewel in the lotus," and a Siddhi is indeed a kind of psychic power in the Tibetan tantric Buddhist tradition. Morrison is not unfamiliar with this stuff, as those who've read The Invisibles know. Still, it'd have been nice if he could stick to some of the major Siddhis: Parkaya Pravesh is essentially (the pre-reboot) Deadman's power, Vayu Gaman Siddhi is maybe how Thundermind flies, Madalasa Vidya is Henry Pym's power (minus the part about the ants), Sura Vigyan is kind of a combination of Element Lad and Sun Boy, and Kanakdhara Siddhi is pretty much Scrooge McDuck's power. Giving people bright purple headaches is not really one of the classical Siddhis. Not to mention that Thundermind's name seems to be derived from a Gnostic poem.
It also bugs me a bit that the Great Ten's dialogue, even in translation, is rather like old yellow-peril-type supervillains--"flamboyant fools"? The Mandarin could have said that!
Here, by the way, is J.G. Jones talking a little about designing the look of the Great Ten. They do look pretty awesome, I have to say.
Two double-page spreads in one 20-page story (plus four mid-fight-scene four-panel pages)--no wonder there's no room for John Henry or Ralph or Montoya or the Question. Wasn't this comic supposed to have at least six starring characters? At least now we know we'll be seeing Montoya and her Kirbytech gun next issue...
Pg. 1: Wow--Booster's really on the decline. Exploiting knowledge of the future for profit is one thing; Astroturfing an enemy is another...
Pg. 2: Not about dollar figures, but about action figures! Nice to see that the Martian Manhunter figure still has a curved head, though. For an issue in which chemical numbers are important it's odd that the razor company would be named after promethium, element 61, which is nasty, radioactive stuff. Did Booster manage to write Bill's name right on the check? Who's the woman washing dishes?
Pg. 4: See, this is what I mean about not thinking things through: it's a nice touch that the Great Ten's command center is called the Great Wall, but does the Great Wall itself need to be in the shot? (I know from reading this comic that the Great Wall is the one man-made artifact that's visible from space... at least in the DC universe. Apparently, that's not so in ours.)
Pg. 5: Why is the Celestial Archer's bow-string on the wrong side of his arm?
Pg. 6: Cheongsam orientation problem solved by not including that part of Ghost Fox Killer's costume on panel! Nicely done... but there has to be a better way of phrasing "waiting for the green light to flash," given the situation... and the Super Young Team! And monsters destroying Tokyo--but what was the Socialist Red Guardsman doing interceding in a situation involving Tokyo?
Pg. 7: "Green Lantern Point One"? Since when does the internal GL Corps 2814.1 classification get generally applied?
Pg. 10: You can't make a hard-boiled egg without splitting the atom. No, wait. I do like the idea that we're going to be seeing a monthly meeting between Morrow and Magnus, though.
Pg. 15: Celestial Archer really likes that underside-of-arm bowstring placement, doesn't he? Would there be any archers in the audience who can confirm that that would really hurt? Also, the Great Wall of China really isn't very close to the Sino-Russian border.
Pg. 17: Hmm: maybe he is waiting for World War III, given the next page. As it turns out, in classical DC continuity (yes, I did just write that), World War III happened October 9-28, 1986--that's where the Atomic Knights stories in Strange Adventures set it, until this rather wonderful comic concluded that plot. We may also be getting a reference to the Morrison Justice League storyline of the same name. Also: Skeets speaking to his ancestor is hilarious, but wouldn't Rip Hunter have thought of that, being a time traveler and all? And what's with "I hate time travelers"? Not only is Booster one, but Rip Hunter made the tech that took him to our time!
Pp. 18-19: Ah, here we go. These pages have already been extensively annotated elsewhere, so I'm not going to say too much about them. The one thing I can add is that the woman with the little hat and the glasses--I'd thought it was a boy with a yarmulke, but no--is not Ethel Rosenberg, as has been suggested in the otherwise very helpful Absorbascon, but Rosa Parks (see the photo it's based on here. The other pictures are of a Civil War re-enactment society, some Spanish ships or other, an Elvis impersonator, a tea party and the opening of Jurassic Park.
A few other things of note in this spread:
*Five-minutes-to-midnight clock imagery: wow, I've never seen that in a comic book before!
*How did the Time Sphere get broken? I vaguely remember some story in which that happened, but I bet somebody reading this knows better.
*The phrase "sonic disruptors" is scribbled out halfway through--a sly reference to the fact that the original Sonic Disruptors miniseries was supposed to run 12 issues and got cancelled with #7.
*If we're going to see all these characters owned by DC that have never specifically been tied into the DC Universe roped in here, can we please see the Seven Seconds from Thriller? Please please please please pleeeeease?
*I love the idea of The Question being an "it."
*Te, as several people have pointed out, is tellurium, element 52. (Au+Pb) is Gold and Lead. Might this have something to do with "dead by lead"--a reference to the weakness of Daxamites?
*Why are all the entries on the right-hand chalboard prefaced with sigma signs?
*I think we saw the "Curry heir"--Aquababy--in the splintered-crystal effect at the beginning of Week One.
*The last "El" would be the final descendent of the Last Son of Krypton, right? Do we know of any beyond Laurel Kent? Not counting All-Star Superman #2, of course.
*The real surprise here is that sword we see printed on something in the lower left-hand corner: who'd have thought that Snakes on a Plane would be part of DC continuity?
*As far as time itself being broken in the DC Universe (or, as the backup story has never bothered to spell out, the DCU): well, yes, yes it is.
Pg. 20: Is it me, or is there a serious lack of visual continuity from the previous page to this one? Where's the graffiti/puddle section of the messy but basically well-maintained lab we've just seen? And is all this Booster's fault because he did whatever-it-was-he-did during Infinite Crisis?
"History of the DCU: Part Interminable": The swipes of Maguire/Austin, Aparo, Bolland, et al. are at least competently executed. So why does Donna look nothing like herself on the second page? Is it that Jurgens can't draw her right if she's not crying?
(Incidentally, I've been enjoying everybody's comments immensely--thanks so much for reading this! Keep commenting!)