Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Week 10: You've Got Me? Who's Got You?

Alternate title: "Clark Kent, you're a mean drunk."

Somebody gets called a "terrorist" twice in this issue: Adrianna throws it as an insult at Black Adam, and Clark Kent straightfacedly mentions a crew of "Bahdnesian terrorists" who've stolen an ATV. In the first case, it seems questionable; in the second, it seems kind of ridiculous. "Terrorist" gets used as an all-purpose bogeyman these days, not least in mainstream comics, and it's worth pointing out what's wrong with the way it's being used here.

A good working definition of terrorism is the one that's currently at the top of the (contentiously edited) Wikipedia entry: "a strategy of using violence, or threat of violence to generate fear, cause disruption, and ultimately, to bring about compliance with specific political, religious, ideological, or personal demands. The targets of terrorist attacks typically are not the individuals who are killed, injured, or taken hostage, but rather the societies to which these individuals belong." In other words: terrorism is a tool used in the service of an idea about the way the world should be, and it's intended to make a society conform to that idea out of fear of violence. (The first comic I read that actually involved somebody explaining that they were a terrorist in the name of a political goal was this one--Plastique was then a Quebecois separatist.)

So. Is Black Adam a terrorist? The only person he's committed violence upon in the name of his ideology (at least in the current storyline) is Terra-Man, whose post-COIE, pre-IC incarnation (sigh) was more or less an eco-terrorist himself. So what's the society that's supposed to be fearing future violence from him? The Secret Society of Super-Villains and the Monster Society of Evil don't really count as societies in that sense, do they? Adam also appears to have killed Terra-Man on what's effectively Kahndqian soil (at least their embassy), for acts committed in Kahndaq's airspace, and what he's putting together in this issue sure seems like a legitimate, if scary, political coalition. If someone can offer a good argument that what he's up to is terrorism, I'd love to hear it, but it doesn't seem like it to me.

As for Supernova's punching bags: Bahdnesia is a tiny little country. It's sort of an analogue for Tibet, but not really--for one thing, it appears to be an island. (It's where Johnny Thunder was born, and picked up his Thunderbolt.) So what are "Bahdnesian terrorists" doing trying to steal an American ATV in the U.S.? How would that be terrorism instead of theft--what kind of fear might it inspire? What sort of political goal would a Bahdnesian terrorist want? ("We demand a monthly Johnny Thunder comic, or... we'll steal more cars!") If Bahdnesian terrorists are doing destructive stuff in the U.S. in the name of the Bahdnesian government, aren't they more or less begging for an American military response? And, more to the point, if you're stealing a military ATV in the middle of Metropolis, what the hell are you going to do with it, anyway? Drive it onto the next boat heading to Bahdnesia? Again, if somebody can make a case for this being a believable terrorist act, I'm all ears.

Greg Rucka, in particular, is very good with geopolitical stuff--he's been dealing with it beautifully in Queen & Country, and Checkmate is at least sorta promising so far. So it bugs me to see 52 using "terrorist" as an all-purpose synonym for "bad guy," without going at least a little deeper into means and motives.

As for this week's "History of the DCU," I have three things to say: "It all fits together..." may be the most inaccurate thing anybody has said about the entire run-up to Infinite Crisis; to say that "Wonder Woman killed Max Lord for his crimes" totally misses the point of that storyline; and "to be concluded next week!" is the single most promising line of this entire backup series.

More notes:

Pg. 1: So we know that saying "Shazam" doesn't do anything to Black Adam any more. Has he tried "Kimota"?

Pp. 2-3: Wizard identifies the August General in Iron (not "General August"...), a Rocket Red, Cascade from the Global Guardians, a version of Ibis the Invincible, some woman in a Kobra-related outfit, Sonar, and somebody called Lady Zandia (can anybody tell me more about who she is?). Nobody yet from Bahdnesia, although it's mentioned later in the issue, or Vlatava, Santa Prisca, Bogatago, KooeyKooeyKooey, Bhutran, Austanberg or Gorilla City--thanks to this page for reminding me of some of those names--and we already know that Bialya isn't happy about Black Adam.

Pg. 4: Panel 2 has the return of surprise lines, which I don't think we've seen in a while; panel 8 looks a whole lot like a Kevin Maguire drawing, esepecially Adam's face and jaw-line... As for Spittin' Isis-To-Be:Wizard says her name is Andrea Tomaz, and that's the name that appeared on Giffen's layouts for #3 (and in the early script for #3 that I saw). But in the actual printed comic, she's Adrianna Tomaz. (One name gets Google hits for a real person, the other doesn't.)

Pg. 5: But 912 isn't even evenly divisible by 52!... It's not clear what story, exactly, the Daily Star got. "An exclusive on the investigation"? Maybe it's just the first photos of Supernova, but shouldn't he hassle a photographer about that instead? If there hasn't been an interview with Supernova yet, there's not much of a story to tell anyway.

Pg. 6: I can believe that Perry might have pulled this as a motivational stunt to get Clark back on the case. But if his pink-slip letter is just lorem-ipsum text, as it appears to be, you'd think Clark would have called his bluff...

Pg. 7: Clark is a star reporter and a bestselling novelist! His name sells papers! The worst Perry would actually do, most likely, is tell him to take a break, yes?

Pg. 8: "Great Caesar's Ghost!"

Pg. 9: J.G. Jones says on his Wizard 52 blog that he made careful notes about the cover's color scheme, and this image indicates that the tie's supposed to be dark blue with yellow and red stripes--the same colors as his Superman costume, which is a nice touch. (On the final cover, it's black with yellow and red stripes.) So couldn't somebody in the path of this issue's production made sure that Clark was wearing the same tie on the outside and the inside, or that his jacket could be unbuttoned on the inside too, or that the pants he's wearing aren't standard dress slacks but khakis?

Pg. 10: More surprise lines!

Pg. 12: Perhaps there will someday be an explanation of why a woman from Cairo is named Adrianna.

Pg. 13: I wish there were a clearer explanation of what exactly the Freedom of Power Treaty is supposed to do--it's still awfully nebulous. But I do like the Cary Grant/Kate Hepburn-but-with-the-constant-threat-of-dismemberment tone of their banter. "You're not just a terrorist, you're lonely!"

Pg. 14: Anger lines! I know Lois falling out a window and being caught by Superman is an iconic image, but I'm trying to think of any comics where it's actually happened, other than "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" Anybody in the audience want to point me to more examples? I don't think we've ever heard of "Meta-Human Journal" before--and it's very odd that "metahuman" gets a hyphen; as I recall, the standard superheroes-and-their-doings magazine in the DCU is called The Brave and the Bold. Also, if Clark's just been chopping the vegetables, why did he put the knife down with the blade pointing toward himself?

Pg. 15: "Sweetie, hot!" Love it.

Pg. 16: "A peculiar eyebeam."

Pg. 17: Is Lois left-handed? She's holding her fork with her left hand.

Pg. 18: More anger lines!

Pg. 19: Yes, "sivanium"--it originally appeared here, in a story that's been reprinted a couple of times. And I really like the idea of hybridizing that witth the Metal Men. Also great: the name "Tuesdays with Morrow" that Stephen Wacker used last week in his Newsarama Q&A. Looks like Morrow's been allowed to have some books again: a classic futurist-dystopia, a classic mad-scientist story whose title is set in old-school Macintosh Chicago, and a dreadful but cheap one-shot with a pretty good Atom story in it.

Pg. 20: "Mad Docter Sivana" (sic)? I'd write this off as just a typo, and maybe it is, but one of the first Google hits for "mad docter" is this page, which (once you click to expand) cites "a worm with a white coat, nuke goggles and a pipette." Which at least suggests Mister Mind, who is pretty obviously what went into the cocoon--and, to paraphrase that Wacker interview, probably not what's going to come out.

Next week is likely to be a little late, since I'll be heading to San Diego for Con on Wednesday. In the meantime, why not pass the time by leaving a comment here, especially if you've never commented before? I'm curious to find out how many people are reading.


At 10:32 PM, Blogger The Fortress Keeper said...

I've added you to my blogroll. Your recaps are great, especially the "Hepburn and Tracy but with the threat of dismemberment" bit!

At 1:05 AM, Blogger TheDancingCookie said...

If we're talking Pre-COIE (which I assume we are since you reference Whatever... as an example) Lois would often throw herself out a window in her own magazine. In fact, in one imaginary story (those were the days...) her car breaks down and she's so sure Superman will save her that she jumps off a cliff into the sea. Superman doesn't happen to be flying by at that particular moment, she brains herself and is in a coma until a reformed Lex cures her.

I assume Clark doing the same thing is homage to those innocent days of yore though even as a homage it feels awfully goofy.

At 7:54 AM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

On the Kahndaq welcomes the world spread, there is a fellow who looks suspiciously like Ruman Harjavti, former Dictator-for-Life of Bialya. I seem to recall Rumaan was killed in the conclusion of the Batman-undercover-as-Bruce Wayne/Max Lord classic thriller in JLI, only to be replaced by his identical brother Sumaan.
But, then, wasn't Bialya wiped off the map at some point?

At 9:21 AM, Blogger Brian Hibbs said...

I'm reading every week and loving it.

There's a "Zandia" is the DCU -- connected to H.I.V.E. if I remember? Mm, and doesn't it factor in the more recent Brother Blood stories in TITANS?


At 9:42 AM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

Oh yeah, wasn't that the nation run as a haven for supervillains?

At 10:54 AM, Blogger Prof-Fury said...

Now that my Ted-Kord-is-the-Question theory seems to have been disproven, I'm moving on to Ted-Kord-is-Supernova.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...

Anyone else notice the books that Morrow were reading?

"A Brave New World" and "1984"....

Dystopian futures anyone?


At 2:25 PM, Blogger acespot said...

Leave a blank entry next wednesday so that we can get together to comment okay? You can always post later.

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Ian Myles Slater said...

Come to think of it, Bahdnesians have apparently been bent on world domination since long before they kidnapped the infant Johnny Thunder in 1917. A year (and day) not only of mystical signifance, but a time when it probably seemed more reasonable that a puppet with a Hex-bolt could easily take over whatever was left of the planet, when the Great Powers were finished trashing it.

Presumably their leaders still have the same hopes. Exactly what stealing an ATV would have to do with it, I have no idea. Perhaps they've just branched out to support their operations. Of course, given the nature of the old Master Plan, it is not surprising that an identifiable Bahdnesian terrorist cell would be a little vague on the concept of "terror."

At 3:37 PM, Blogger TheDancingCookie said...

I think Zandia was first seen in The New Teen Titans back in the 1980s and was a haven for super villains. From memory Madam Zandia is a larger than life (literally and figuratively) titular head of the nation (which is off the coast of Africa - or at least that's where I always imagined it was!). The Brotherhood of Evil were based there originally though they've been working more recently in Europe.

At 4:26 PM, Blogger T.H. said...

Lady Zandia last appeared in Young Justice, running a country populated by super-villains, which makes her a pretty unexplicable ally in this situation.

Oh, and in the Bahdnesia's last appearance, it was destroyed by a volcano, with only one native survivor, Kiku. (This was in the Parobeck-drawn JSA comic of the '90s.)

Similarly, KooeyKooeyKooey was destroyed by a tsunami in Giffen's suicide squad, and I Vlatava was the Spectre's genocide victim in Ostrander's run on the title. It was a tough decade to be a fictional place in the DC Universe.

And no one remembers Gorilla City exists anymore, Flash included.

At 4:41 PM, Blogger acespot said...

Lady Zand:
The aristocratic ruler of the nation of Zandia, inhabited almost entirely by criminals, Lady Zand is a powerful vampiric creature, who can literally become the soil of her homeland.

At 6:09 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Nobody got this one? Andrea Thomas was the secret identity of TV's Isis, back when she was on Saturday mornings.

At 6:39 PM, Blogger Dan Mishkin said...

Well, Douglas, here we finally get an issue of 52 that I thoroughly enjoy and you go and pick it apart! Not that the things you say aren't sensible, but they seem minor.

My working theory for a long time has been that we forgive many failings in the things we like, and see all the flaws in the things we don't; that is, critical judgment lags overall appreciation rather than informing it. (Put another way, no amount of rational discourse will explain why I'm a "Star Trek" fan and not a "Star Wars" fan.) And if you give me a Clark and Lois story that feels true, I'll ignore all the details that don't. This issue did that for me.

At 7:03 PM, Blogger E said...

The fact that Batman appears so prominently on the cover of that magazine makes me wonder if the "urban legend" Batman has been retconned.

At 8:05 PM, Blogger Paul I said...

Hi Douglas, enjoying your postings.

I thought I noticed Rumaan Harjaviti (or is that Tumaan?), but is that also (noted DC comics fan) Salman Rushdie on the edges of page 2?

Lois falling out of things is more of a Superman movie meme, isn't it -- doesn't she try to throw herself off Niagara Falls in the second film?

At 9:27 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Lois using her fork with left hand doesn't mean she's left handed, it just means she has European or continental-style table manners.

At 10:20 PM, Blogger Jim said...

The Clark/Perry scene was the best part of the series so far.

At 11:04 PM, Blogger Dennis Culver said...

Supernova = Lightray

At 2:19 AM, Blogger acespot said...

Here I go again with my weekly addition to Doug's critique. Doug, you and I have different page numberings. Are you counting the double page spread as ONE page?

Cover: Since the scene is a near representation of one that occurs within, why not have the cover artist dress Clark the same as he is inside?
p.1 Since Freddie and Mary got reduced to their human/mortal forms when the wizard Shazam was destroyed by the Spectre, why wasn't Black Adam as well? And couldn't Black Adam merely change into a suit? Why EVER go back to being a mortal? Do the clothes not come off?

p.2-3 Who else is present?
A Rocket Red for Russia
Sonar for Modora
Cascade represents Indonesia
Ibis the Invincible represents Egypt. This has to be a new Ibis, as the original was shown being killed in Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #1.
Kobra? The original was killed by Black Adam, who ripped his heart out, in his Himalayan hideout. One wonders what happened at that point to his twin brother. According to Wizard she's a representative of India???? The old Kobra never was representative of ANYWHERE!
Wizard erroneously identifies the August General as "General August". They also erroneously name Lady Zand "Lady Zandia". Fucking morons.

p.4 I agree with you, Doug, the term "terrorist" should not be used as flippantly/lightly/easily as the writers seem to be doing here.
Plus, besides for the fact that probably no arab/egyptian in the history of the country had their given name as Adrianna, how is her last name Tomaz?

p.6 Remember that whole big commotion about product placement in comics? How it detracts from the art? Whatever. I'm just saying that unless the made up brands are really going to play actual roles in the DCU, why not make a little money, and possibly lower consumer costs by replacing Sundoller coffee with Starbucks? Just a thought.
Again with the Lorem ipsum crap? Why not use a little imagination, and actually show us what the "Notice of Termination" says? And why in the world would it be that long?

p.9 Clark Kent must be the only white man in history to be able to pull off a YELLOW suit. Would somebody please edit the colorist?
And apparently Clark's band-aid FLEW OFF HIS FACE while he was falling. That's either the shittiest band-aid in the world, or the shittiest art in the world, I can't tell which.

p.13 Okay, the inclusion of nations which are run or havens to criminals now makes no sense. Sonar? Kobra? Lady Zand? Ibis? All criminals. Why would they even WANT to be part of this. If anything, they should be banding together to oppose Black Adam.

p.14 Clark and Lois are so lucky. Neither of them needs to be at work before 10:05AM!! And who has salad for breakfast? Unless it's supposed to be 10:05PM, and Clark is only JUST starting to prepare dinner, and for some reason, THE SUN HASN'T SET YET!!!
And why would Clark wear glasses in his own house? I have a prescription, and I don't even wear glasses in my own house.
And although Lois mentions that the world hasn't been put back together exactly as it was, we're ten weeks in and have still seen no indication of any differences.
On the cover of the "Meta-Human Journal" why are Flash and Green Lantern missing from the Big Seven? Flash is definitely missing.

p.16 Just had a thought - now that Superman is GONE, why doesn't Clark "switch to contacts"? It would make it easier to take pictures!
"Not even the camera could tell for certain"? Sounds like Jurgens' dialogue is seeping into the front of the books.

p.17 The letterer should have emphasized the word CLEAR, not PHOTOS.

p.18 Something I'm still not clear on...if Booster is getting paid by companies to wear their logos, then why can't he afford his lifestyle anymore? Nothing has changed regarding his sponsorship CONTRACTS has it? And I thought he was using insider information to make money on sporting events and in the stock market! So where is he spending all of THAT money? Is he blowing it on hookers?
I have never seen a moving company use actual wooden crates to pack things up.
So he's being forced out because he's a superhero? I don't think that actually qualifies as violating a lease agreement. In fact, I'm sure of it. A realtor/landlord has no right to refuse occupancy to any individual based on their PROFESSION. That actually violates several state and federal laws. Unless Booster brought a fight home with him, and there are no indications that he has, he has every right to sue anybody trying to evict him out on the aforementioned grounds.
Who leaves their house while there are movers there? What is he, an idiot? Okay, by all indications, maybe he is. Really, he has to manufacture a bad guy? There aren't enough bad guys who escaped during the Villains United Special?

p.19 I never realized that Professor Morrow was in prison IN A HOME IN THE SUBURBS!!! What???
Why would Dr. Magnus think he was hated? And by whom? And when did he go a little crazy? And, something I just realized, wasn't he trapped in a metal body too? As "Veridium"?

p.20 "Mad doctEr"?!

HOTDCU part 9:
Since we've just finished the crisis, how is it possible that Donna doesn't KNOW half this stuff already?

p.1 Why is there no mention made up front of the Lex Luthor from the Society of Villains actually being Alexander Luthor?
"EVEN Superman's secluded fortress..." apropo of what, exactly?

p.2 "so was the greatest of the Green Lanterns"? Who writes this shit? Okay, Jurgens...but when did he get so AWFUL?!
So they mentioned Jean Loring's "attempted murder", but they don't mention that it was SHE as Eclipso who goaded the Spectre into his crusade? I don't get it.
The Spectre wasn't REALLY stopped, was he? He kinda just had nothing left to kill anymore!
"They were friends. Ted trusted him."....bleargh...omg there goes my lung. Besides which, if the pronoun in the preceding sentence is They, the next sentence's pronoun should be THEM!

p.3 I don't recall Booster being on site when Batman presented Ted's goggles.

p.4 "Brother Eye's activity didn't end with Kord's death/Correct". One would expect a continuation of the activities of brother Eye, but noooo. First we have to talk about, wait for it, JASON TODD!
That's right, don't bother explaining the genesis of the OMACs, because if it really didn't make sense the first time around, then what chance does Jurgens have of making it comprehensible?
In next week's conclusion: Donna finds herself reviewing the history of her last nine week's review of history and gets caught in an endless loop. HAHAHAHAHA!!
Isn't it strange how in the very same panel, Jurgens draws Donna twice - as if she were TWO COMPLETELY SEPARATE PEOPLE!!!

I can't wait for week twelve, when we won't have to put up with Jurgens anymore. They should just move him to a senior citizen's home and never visit him. Seriously, he is AWFUL.
Again, the rest of the issue is EH. Really, with all the talent behind this project it should be sooo much better than EH, but it still hasn't been.

At 7:34 AM, Blogger Matthew Perpetua said...

One thing I didn't get in the "History" back-up was the reference to the new female Speedy in the Titans - what on earth does that have to do with anything?

At 9:27 AM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

She's probably Supernova.

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Duke said...

Jim said
The Clark/Perry scene was the best part of the series so far.

It was well-written. Unfortunatly, it completely contradicts Kurt Busiek's One Year Later story, "Up, Up and Away!" that ran through Superman and Action Comics.

In Busiek's telling, Clark Kent was a super-star reporter during his year without powers, presumably because he could focus entirely on his work without the distractions of being the world's greatest super-hero.

In Superman #654, Clark is in the process of reestablishing himself as erratic and undependable, so he can once again explain his frequent absences.

This has been particualy vexing for Perry White, who began the One Year Later storyline by praising Clark for what a great job he's done during the past year.

Mind you, that's "during the past year," not, "during the past year except for the first two and a half months when I almost fired you."

At 4:22 PM, Blogger Matthew Perpetua said...

There's no contradiction - Clark begins his journalistic hot streak in this issue, which carries through Up Up And Away.

At 7:30 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

Perhaps there will someday be an explanation of why a woman from Cairo is named Adrianna.

That's because Granny Goodness didn't have any proper point of reference when she named Adrianna. Infer what you will; this is my theory.

At 5:08 PM, Blogger Gordon said...

I've added you to my blogroll - at the very least, it's great color commentary for the series.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Garrie Burr said...

Doc Magnus went crazy at the tail end of the original series, thanks to Mike Sekowsky and Jack Miller. Because of his insanity, the Metal Men became "New" with human identities and a benefactor similar to Mr. Jupiter over in Teen Titans around the same time.

Magnus got better in the MM revival by Steve Gerber and Walt Simonson...

At 9:07 PM, Blogger Kip Manley said...

Catching up. The Eco was nicely done, and much appreciated.

I'm miffed I can't find the quote (I coulda sworn Jason Craft posted it over on earthx, but I can never find it when I look for it) about how superhero comics are like the news of this part of the world you're interested in, and you're not reading them because, you know, they do much of anything to you artistically or anything, but because it's the news, and you used to live there a while ago, and you like to keep up.

Anyway. Yeah.

At 11:28 AM, Blogger Kyle said...

"Greg Rucka, in particular, is very good with geopolitical stuff--he's been dealing with it beautifully in Queen & Country"

Well, Q&C does refer to al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein as being partners. I think that's a pretty big faux pas when it comes to geopolitical saVVY.


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