Week 12: What Drives Me to You Is What Drives Me InsaneActually I probably should've saved that title for Week 16, but the song's been stuck in my head all day.
I'm glad to see the chapter titles return this issue, especially since this one is so polyvalent. "Mighty": one standard DCU context for that word is exactly what Adam is doing on this page. In the introduction to the Superman TV series, we're told that Superman can "change the course of mighty rivers." But the reference is more obviously to another TV show, and the words Andrea Thomas said to become the previous incarnation of Isis...
One thing a couple of 52 personnel have mentioned in the last few weeks is that they're not sure whether they're going to get to do the in-depth examination of religion in the DC Universe that they'd thought they might. This issue is the closest thing we've gotten so far, and perhaps as close as we're going to get. As Greg Rucka mentioned back at WonderCon, the DCU's religious culture has to be pretty different from ours, since gods manifest themselves all the time--Montoya's old partner the Spectre is the Judeo-Christian God's agent on Earth, Wonder Woman's got direct ties to the Greek gods, Shazam's got connections to the whole pantheistic pantheon, and so on. It makes sense, then, that popular new religions and cults would spring up all the time, based on all the signs and portents and wonders that people keep encountering. Still, I can't really think of many prominent DCU-only religions predating 52 other than the Kobra cult, unless the New Gods count.
(The one really good piece of modern fiction I can think of about the way human behavior would be changed if divine intervention were a constant, verifiable reality is Philip K. Dick's A Maze of Death, in which there's a popular book called How I Rose from the Dead in My Spare Time and So Can You. Perhaps Devem's read that one too.)
Adam makes the distinction between political leader and religious authority on pg. 5, as he's done before, and insists that he's not a god--what is his religious affiliation, anyway? Does he have one? He's got the powers of Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aton and Mehen, all ancient Egyptian gods. (Some of those are fairly minor gods, or variant names--Zehuti, for instance, is better known as Thoth.) And the existence of the Super-Shaykh suggests that Islam is a significant force in DCU Iran; is it in Kahndaq?
There's a nice suggestion of the Question's Zen Buddhist background in the opening scene, and let's not forget about the Seven Deadly Sins, which are basically a Christian concept--here's a little history of them. (Note: they are not to be confused with the "Seven Deadly Finns" (RealAudio link), a fine non-album single by Brian Eno.) What does it mean to crush the face of greed, anyway?
Most importantly for this issue, it's worth noting that Isis was the center of a religion--a mystery cult, actually, that was popular in Egypt and caught on in Rome, too, from about the first century BC to the fourth century AD. If you went through an initiation, you got personal salvation: a direct relationship with Isis. (Apuleius describes an initiation in The Golden Ass.) According to this page, it was mostly based on the story of Isis and her husband/brother god Osiris, and had "rituals similar to those of Dionysus," which were eventually condemned as "pornographic." Mmm.
And the "simple prayer" Adrianna mentions? It'd be good to know what it is. "I am Isis" isn't really a prayer, even though it seems to work on the lightning principle that no longer functions for the Shazamites. ("Oh mighty Isis" isn't quite a prayer either, but at least it's an invocation.) Now, if you wanted an Isis prayer, you could always go for this or this or this, and actually Ovid had a good one too.
An important thing about the Isis-Osiris cult is that it was also a resurrection cult--along the lines of the cult of Adonis, or in fact of Cassie's one-time hookup. (Odd, also, that the Connor cult was originally supposed to be a "humanist religion," built around someone so distinctly superhuman--actually, built around anyone. I have some experience with "humanist religion," having spent my formative years being taken to services at a humanist Jewish congregation where, for instance, "Avinu Malkeinu" was sung as "We look for the right thing to do...")
I suspect, though, that the crucial point in this scene is that Dev-Em (okay, fine, let's call him Devem for the moment) has "found a method in the holy texts by which to raise the dead"--that opens up a big question of what the "holy texts" are. Just to take a wild guess: Where are superheroes' deeds documented? Comic books! We study them almost Talmudically, we cite them chapter and verse, there are endless debates over what's canonical and what's not... I have no idea if that's the direction this is going, but it does seem like a rather Morrison-esque idea, doesn't it?
The Origin of Wonder Woman: So glad to see this! Nicely written, nicely drawn, straight to the point. I don't know about the trading-card bit at the end--is it really helpful to name "essential storylines"?--but I'm looking forward to the rest of these. The one really eyebrow-raising bit here is "a uniform decorated with symbols representing a legendary Amazon heroine"; do we know who that would be? And, although it was established long ago, when's the last time we saw Diana use her tiara as a boomerang?
Pg. 1: New York has about 35,000 police, so this number looks about right for Gotham.
Pg. 2: "I.G. 36" and "I.G. 76"? It probably stands for "Intergang," but it doesn't look like the Question-Van has room for that many boxes; a storage space, maybe? Doctor Tyme, one of the missing mad scientists, first appeared here. And Montoya's got more than beer in her fridge now; perhaps Naked Zen Charlie's influence.
Pg. 3: Montoya's got a copy of "The Life Story of the Flash" on her bookshelf. I don't have my copy of the relevant issues of The Flash at hand; can anybody tell me if it's actually been published within the DC timeline yet, or if it's an artifact from the future? And Kahndaq isn't as specific a destination as Charlie might have mentioned; its capital city is Shiruta...
Pg. 6: "'Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation' yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation."
Pg. 7: I don't think we've heard of Super-Shaykh before, although I love the name. Dark Nemesis, on the other hand, appeared here. And it looks like DCU Iran has an active nuclear weapons facility...
Pg. 11: The phrase "Billy Batshit" comes to mind. Conspicuous by his absence from the list of Cap's adversaries: Mister Mind.
Pg. 13: The conjunction of "154" and "Where R U?" makes me think of the phrase you'll hear sung when you click here... and "Donna Prince"? That is indeed a pretty obvious alias.
Pg. 15: Ralph is no longer fidgeting with where the ring used to be, although he's good enough to avert his gaze as Cassie changes into what I'm guessing might be her cultist's robe. But why would Devem's cult want to revive Sue, as opposed to somebody whose personal effects would be easier to dig up? And the magic of "connective objects" is a standard magical trope, but the DC character most associated with it is one we've already seen on panel very briefly, at the beginning of Week 3: Josie Mac!
Pg. 16: Hatshepsut appears to have actually been a ruler in the Eighteenth Dynasty, but there are lots of things in the DCU that are different from our own world (on Earth-Prime, for instance, she didn't have Isis's powers). "You want to make me like you?" You mean like like?
Pg. 17: The return of the Keith Giffen nine-panel grid! How I've missed it! (I really have.)
Pg. 20: While I love the 52 solicitations simply being lines from the story, I suspect that the pull-quote from Week 23 already indicates where this particular plot is going.
Comments-wise, I'd be very curious to hear any thoughts y'all have on non-Earth-Prime religions in the DCU, in particular...