Week 9: In Paradise, Everybody Speaks EnglishThere's a pretty neat essay in Umberto Eco's book Serendipities: Language and Lunacy: "The Language of the Austral Land," about people's attempts to imagine an ideal or divine language, in which words would directly represent what they mean according to some logical system. (There is, of course, the problem that "heretical" ideas, or ideas outside the internal dictates of the system, would then be impossible to express in that language, but that's another issue.)
In comics, the ideal language seems to be English, which everybody speaks everywhere. Oh, there have been occasional attempts to explain it away with things like Rannian translators and the Thanagarian Absorbascon, but let's face it: the language DC Comics are written in is the lingua franca (oh, hey, another Eco reference) of the DC "U."
What's weird, though, is that Adam, Buddy and Kory don't seem taken aback at all that the gigantic being that's attacked them on Planet X (I am no longer sure that it's Adon, although I still suspect so) is talking English to them. Now, it's not news that Devilance speaks English, as all the residents of New Genesis and Apokolips seem to. He said things like "Taste the power of Devilance---and perish! HAHAHA!!" in his first appearance. Although here he's actually speaking archaic, idiomatic English--"the two score and twelve walls of heaven" is a 52 reference, but it's also something somebody with only basic English would never say.
Still, before I remembered that he's been an Anglophone all along, I imagined that it'd have been cool to see Kory translating what Devilance and her companions were saying to each other--I believe it was established in one of her first appearances that she can absorb languages through physical contact. (Here's how she learned English, for instance.) If the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is true for Tamaraneans, they have to have the broadest world-views of anybody anywhere.
The other notable development this issue is something that might tie the outer-space storyline together with the Montoya/Question plot: the "targeted by Intergang" bit on the last page. It's not like Gotham City doesn't have enough trouble with organized crime already--and it's curious that Metropolis's mafia would be trying to move into Gotham, or that they'd need Kirbytech to do it. On the other hand, it now makes sense that Renee's gun is indeed Kirbytech. Intergang first appeared here--in one of the first comics Kirby did for DC during his '70s stint there--and they were acting as Darkseid's agents, trying to dig up the Anti-Life Equation for him. That first appearance of Devilance that I linked above was, of course, in the final issue of Forever People, one of Kirby's other "Fourth World" series.
I've honestly never understood why the Fourth World stuff has become so much of the core of DC mythology (well, aside from the fact that Infinite Crisis avoided it beyond a one-panel cameo by Shilo Norman). I mean, it's lovely-looking stuff in Kirby's hands, but Kirby's particular command of spectacle let him get away with the fact that most of it either makes no sense at all or is blitheringly obvious, and almost everyone who's played with those concepts since then ends up either doing watered-down Kirby or missing the point entirely. If there's anyone who's qualified to mess around with Kirbyisms at DC right now, it's Morrison--the scene with Metron at the beginning of his Mister Miracle really did give the sense of encountering something too huge to understand--but this version of Devilance just makes him a great big dude with a spear, some ropes, and eyes that are more consistently the same color than Adam's.
The other curse of Kirby in mainstream comics is the thing that afflicts this issue: endless, tiresome fight scenes with great big panels. The four- and six-panel layouts in the John Henry/Natasha fight this week are a holdover from Kirby-style page design (in his Fantastic Four as well as the Fourth World comics; when Kirby did them, though, they were dynamic and exciting, which these really aren't (although I bet they look better when we get to see Giffen's layouts for them at 52thecomic.com). And a ten-page fight scene? If there were some plot or character advancement here beyond an argument between uncle and niece that could've been dispatched in a page, or even if we'd been introduced to the other members of the Luthor League, I wouldn't be so annoyed. But in a series with this many plot threads that are struggling to find space, it's a bummer. With a little more recompression, we probably could've seen what Ralph, Booster, Adam, Rip Hunter, Casey the Cop, Air Wave and the Frogmen were up to.
As far as this week's title goes: "Dream of America" is a strange phrase--the only direct source I can find for it is a political dot-com I'm not going to link here whose home page quotes Pat Buchanan approvingly--although it made me think a little of Allen Ginsberg's poem "America." (Well, maybe the last line of it relates to the gay-bar scene this issue.) It'd have been more appropriate for the Fourth-of-July-week issue--but the Fourth was day 7 of week 8, yes? We've already established (via Montoya's "Sunday was Father's Day" speech a few days ago, and the day-by-day timeclock on the official 52 site) that we're following the same timeline as this year on, um, Earth-Prime...
I wonder, though, if Luthor's quasi-patriotic rhetoric about "every man becomes a super man" being the new "a chicken in every pot" might suggest that the operative concept of his Justice League of America is that they're somehow American--hence, perhaps, the word being spelled out in the forthcoming series' title. I actually sort of like the idea of Luthor's group being the American answer to the Great Ten, and I wish we knew who any of them were besides Natasha and Herakles. Plus isn't Herakles, you know, Greek?
Pg. 2: Did John Henry shave off his facial hair between last issue and this issue?
Pg. 3: It looks like several bystanders have gotten hit by the ricochets off John Henry's skin, and he's not looking at all concerned about it. Not like him.
Pg. 4: As you can see here (hey, Terra-Man!), here (scary!), and here, the new JLA is wearing Luthor's favorite color scheme. And I see why Natasha went for Luthor's plan--he gave her a costume with a pocket! Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a superhero costume in a women's size with a pocket?
Pg. 6: I'm willing to accept the possibility that Luthor's machines made Natasha age, or her body change its general appearance, but the character in the lower right-hand panel is simply not the teenage girl we've come to know. Dept. of Wishful Thinking: the fact that Natasha's chest doesn't have the metal burns she got last issue could mean that this isn't really her. (Unlikely, I know.)
Pg. 14: Adam has no eyes right now, yet he seems to know the exact moment to trigger his jet-pack. Or, to be more linguistically specific, his glispach. (And here I thought I was the only person who'd been fool enough to translate that whole storyline into English.)
Pg. 17: "Dixieland" is such a perfect name for a gay bar, I'm amazed it hasn't been used already somewhere. Or has it? And wait: less than a week ago, Green Arrow was vehemently denying that he had any intention of running for mayor, and now Oliver Queen's leading the seventh-inning stretch as a candidate?
Pg. 18: I don't know that any friend of Vic Sage's calls him "Charlie," although his real name is Charles Victor Szasz. But maybe we haven't seen him in much of a friendship-type situation before. Anyone more up on the Question want to correct me? Also, Montoya sure seems to be giving the reader the stinkeye in that last panel... Plus: the return of the "Vic asking Montoya who she is" meme, repeated on the next page. WE GET IT.
Pg. 20: Once again, the Batwoman costume would've been a lot more surprising if it hadn't been spoilered from here to, um, Adon. Although it looks like next week we get Clark taking a dive, the Great Dismemberer putting the moves on someone I'm guessing is the young woman from Week 3, and--oh, man, who'd have thought of this? Booster angry about something!
As for the backup story: Donna Troy Weeps Again! Two more weeks of this left to go. That's bearable, right? (Right...?)