Week 7: All-Facial-Hair Special!Hey, there's another blog about this series called "52 Pickup"! How'd that happen (rather NSFW link), as Dan Savage says?
Evidently the exhaustion affecting our lost-in-space "Lost"-in-space crew this issue is catching--the fancy opening credit sequence is gone now, replaced with little text boxes and last-names-only. (As Jog pointed out, last week the "of" didn't even bother to show up to the title the "History the DCU" feature.) And the title this week? "Going Down"? There's something a little smarmy about that for a story whose emotional center is Montoya and Kate's relationship--I know the idea is that it's also about every other character being on the decline, but it's obvious that that's the main referent. Plus American Virgin is already using the same title for their current storyline.
(A side note: it's interesting that I think of Montoya by her last name, and Kate by her first. Ralph, John Henry, Booster-even-though-that's-not-really-his-name, Black Adam, The Question--I can't call him Vic... Montoya. Maybe it's a cop thing.)
The thing that makes this issue work, though, is that it's basically the first time we've seen a payoff, rather than just a setup, in the whole series: the return of Manthrax (God what a terrible name), and Booster's takedown, has been coming for what feels like a good long while. It's also, I think, the first time we've seen any two of the nominal main characters interacting, other than Montoya and Monsieur Q.
But what's really going on in the Montoya-and-Kate scene, and to a lesser extent in the Booster-and-Ralph scenes, is the weird kind of pleasure that comes from seeing a familiar formula play itself out. DC's Mort Weisinger-era superhero comics tended to get over on mixing routines and clichés with WTF? moments, which is strangely like the way 52 seems to be working so far. If DC hadn't already shouted to the world that Kate Kane was Montoya's ex (or that she was going to be Batwoman), there might have been a little bit of buzz in discovering it after they'd interacted for a couple of pages. Instead, it's the Poor Girl Visits the Mansion routine, followed by the Difficult Confrontation Between Ex-Lovers from Opposite Sides of the Tracks routine: "You can show yourself out." "You know where to find me?" "Yes... I always have..." Cue a slightly wobbly-from-overuse tape of the theme from Love Story, you know?
Still, the last time we got to see Montoya--her scene with Maggie Sawyer in Week 5--was also a formula scene: The Hard-Bitten Cop and the P.I. (well, the wannabe P.I.). And the thing I loved about her to begin with was that she was such an unexpectedly human character so much of the time--that her interactions with other characters didn't often play out according to familiar formulae. I really want to see her surprise me again.
(Plus is it just me, or is Kate Kane's head disproportionately large for her body, like Nancy Reagan's? She's heading toward MODOK territory! On the other hand, the two strands of hair that are always falling down into Montoya's face make me think her big secret might just be that she's going to become the new Ambush Bug. We have been told that the Bug's going to be showing up in 52, after all...)
As far as the History of the DCU goes, it's just totally embarrassing now--it makes no sense at all as a story on its own, as a getting-up-to-speed guide for new readers, or as setup for some potential future story. The caption this time that makes me throw my hands up in despair is "Battles raged as entropy ate away at both ends of the timestream, working toward your present. In less than three days, it would be gone." It reminds me a little of the bumper sticker that says "My Other Car Made the Kessel Run in Less Than Twelve Parsecs." I'm still really looking forward to the origin backups, although it looks from the new solicitations as if there aren't going to be 40 of them, since Week 21 is a "special full-length story."
And, left over from last issue: yes, I do think, as Jamie Ott suggests in the comments to last week's entry, that there are some clues pointing to Egg Fu--talk about cultural sensitivity--! EDITED TO ADD: It is Egg Fu!
More notes on this issue:
Pg. 1: Buddy's still shaving, but Adam isn't?
Pg. 2: Not enough that they're on Adon--Kory's trying to talk a man named Adam into eating a fruit that will change him? And "that mysterious power output we detected"--do we have any idea what that is?
Pg. 3: I see that Montoya's back on the sauce. Speaking of clichés, how long until the inevitable throwing-bottle-against-the-wall scene ILC keeps joking about? "Rangers From Tomorrow": seems to have been something invented for this reference, and looks like the sort of thing that was substituted at the last minute for, I don't know, Battlestar Galactica.
Pg. 4: "Catwoman 'Robs' Pharmacy"? There's a story in those quotation marks, I imagine. Too bad about the lorem-ipsum explanation underneath it.
Pg. 5: It's the introduction of the All-New, Grim, Bearded, Righteous Elongated Man! Wiith a vest under his jacket! Is this what's Ralph has become from the part of his personality that was built around Sue being stripped away? And if Booster's so into future-tech, what's he doing with a mobile phone that looks like something from 1987? Couldn't he get an endorsement deal from Sprint or something?
Pg. 6: Plus is the fact that we get 75 seconds, tops, worth of dialogue between Skeets' nine-minute and three-minute warnings another indication that something's amiss with time, or that the writers aren't sure how long it takes to read their words? The "just called"/"number not in service" thing suggests there's some sort of reality-slip happening...
Pg. 8: If Ralph has learned anything from hanging around Green Arrow, it's how to point his finger. That little "boom" in the background: is it the tanker from later in the story, or a boom tube?
Pg. 9: Story/art disconnect: Montoya "ironed [her] shirt" before going to see Kate? So why is she wearing her usual V-neck T-shirt, leather jacket and jeans? Did she burn the shirt while ironing it?
Pg. 10: Here's another case where a little more digging into DC history might've done some good. There actually was a Hamilton Rifle Company, although the idea of a whole lot of family money coming from a rifle company is probably an allusion to the Winchesters. As it turns out, the DC Universe already has a knockoff of the Winchesters: the Cambridge family, whose Winchester-Mystery-House-like mansion was seen in Swamp Thing #45...
Pg. 11: So Kate punches Montoya with her left hand? And do most people tend to respond to a single provocation from an ex by hitting them?
Pg. 15: Are little kids in 52 now required to be carrying teddy bears?
Pg. 18: I'm guessing that the woman talking to Ralph in panel 2 is Ami Soon, named on the previous page. And it sure looks like she's the woman hanging out with Ralph and Detective Chimp on the cover of Week 18. Could she, perhaps, be the new romantic interest for him that's been hinted at?
Pp. 19-20: Sort of a relief to see a wordless sequence, although this one seems a little long for its content, and the last panel looks very much like the cover of Week 9--is the situation going to remain static for the next week and a half?