Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Week 17: I Can See the Light, Just Not the Sun

Chris Batista (Pencils), Ruy Jose (Inks), Jack Jadson (inks), and David Baron (Colors) delivered the art this week, giving us a servicable performance. While spectacular art is too much to expect with the deadline for each issue, the lighting in the space sequence was driving me out of my mind. I simply could not stop thinking about it as I read.

I'm not a Teen Titans fan, so I'm unfamiliar with Starfire, but exactly how do her powers work? I read in a guest apperance once that she seemed to emanate light, and I know her energy blasts are solar based. I've seen some artists draw a glow around her as she flies, and others not bother. But, isn't her skin supposed to be glowing rather than simply "shiny"?

Also, there's a number of sequences where light seems to be coming from above, or in front of her, while her energized hands are too low or too far behind her to be casting that light. The shading seemed more intent on highlighting her feminine body than showing a consistant scene. I know its outer space, but seriously, where is the light source when she's facing Lobo and both of their faces are lit?

Art aside, this was a good week for me to fill in. The space story appealed to me while I'm on my "Cosmic DC" kick, and so much panel-time for Starfire gives me a chance to flex my Feminist Art Critique muscles a little bit.

The Lobo's origin backup, as I'm not particularly interested in the character, didn't catch me. It isn't new information for someone who's read enough DC space stories, or the main plot of this issue. Adam and Kory tell Buddy everything you need to know about Lobo in the actual plot.

More Notes:
Page 1: "Luthor's American Dream Team" would be a suitable name. The green and purple, and their facial expressions make them look as ominous as they're meant to be.

Page 2: Each of Luthor's Rent-A-Hero team gets a panel introducing them, and showing them in action. As I'm willing to bet more than one of these people will appear as guest-villains in upcoming books, its worth going over them once again here.

Erik Storn from Gary Indiana "whose claws seem capable of slicing through anything they touch." His character design, long claws and a shadowy purple facemask with white eyeslits, seems especially sinister.

Eliza Harmon from Manchester, Alabama with superspeed. I doubt that her hometown being the setting of the 90s Impulse comic is a coincidence.

Hannibal Bates of Gotham City, shapeshifter, seems unremarkable so far. The name Hannibal is loaded, though, between the crossing of the Alps and Silence of the Lambs. The last name of Bates is loaded from Psycho.

Gerome McKenna of Los Angeles, super-strength. (Seriously, where is the light coming from in the art? McKenna's biceps are lit from the point of impact where those two Kobra members are being slammed together, up and to the right, but his ear and the back side of his face are lit from a light source to the lower back left that is not illuminating any other part of his body!)

Jacob Colby of Oklahoma city "who can ride the winds." He's shown flying, but this could also be an elemental power. If you notice how the Kobra members behind him are moving (apparently lit by a different light source than he is), this seems quite likely.

Natasha Irons of Metropolis, whose light powers may be the reason for the art weirdness on this page.

Page 3: I'm unsettled by the amount of time Luthor spends commenting on Natasha's appearance. An entire panel. Jacob Colby also mentions her looks, more subtly, early on in the page.

Page 4: Nice to seee Mercy in action again.

Page 6: Lower right panel. I think an excessive amount of artistic effort was spent shading Kory's breasts. Time and thought that could have been spent on more important art details, like light sourcing.

Page 8: They've been in space since Day 7 of Week 16, that's five days, at most, if they left in the morning on Day 7 (Week 16) and this scene occurs in the evening of day 4 (Week 17).

Page 9-10: Grant Morrison's Animal Man Vertigo series is in continuity here. The concept of Existential Isolation Trauma (becoming "Void-Sick") is interesting. I wonder if Green Lanterns are susceptible.

Page 13: Gross.

Page 14: The smoke from Lobo's cigar can rise with no atmosphere.

Page 16: I'm really glad they cut out the dialogue for this sequence.

Page 18: I like Lobo's little hat.

Page 19: The 52 thing again, this time from Red Tornado's mouth. I wonder if any Australian readers are annoyed that "Mate" is shorthand for their accent. I also fully expect that Aboriginal Australian man to have a cell-phone next issue.

And that's all for this issue. Douglas Wolk will be back next week for some more plotcentric commentary.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Week 16: Oliveyoogh

A good setup this week, and a potentially exciting convergence of plotlines, badly marred by major lapses in narrative logic. The biggest one is that Montoya makes the cognitive leap that "Intergang's going to hit the wedding" based on the presence of rat poison in the Intergang-related site... but a) not only had the wedding not been announced at the time they found the rat poison, Adam hadn't even proposed to Isis yet, and b) if Intergang's got access to Kirbytech guns and things that transform people into were-beasts, what the hell do they want with a low-tech/low-budget option for causing mayhem like a shrapnel bomb with anticoagulant coating? The bomb-at-the-wedding plot also assumes that there wouldn't be extensive security at a royal wedding, and that the other super-types there, including Captain Marvel Jr., wouldn't notice the commotion once Renee started yelling about the kid having a bomb, and that the stampede Renee and Charlie worried about wouldn't happen if she just screamed that there was a bomber and shot her. (It also really bugs me that this story is making the lazy jump from "Middle East" to "suicide bomber," but that's another issue.)

The other missing pieces of the puzzle are in the Adam/Isis love story, which is just about as forced as the Black Panther/Storm love story other commentators have been roundly mocking. We've seen so little evidence of why Adrianna should be attracted to Adam that we get a scene of Mary Marvel commenting on it so that Adrianna can explain it all away--and it doesn't work. At least I've got some hope that there'll be some explanation on this front later. As for this week's title: "Uhebbuki" seems to be a transliteration of Arabic for "I love you," as spoken by a man to a woman, although it's far from the most common way of spelling it. ("Ohiboke" is much more common.)

Hope everybody's been reading J.G. Jones' cover blog over at Wizard--this week's is a particularly interesting exegesis of a particularly terrific cover. As Wally Wood noted, a three-stage composition always works, and Jones has come up with a smart way to get a lot of depth into a scene where everything is actually pretty close together. (And he works in another Soviet propaganda poster design, while he's at it!) He does note, though, that "[t]he flowers that are raining down are a clue that Isis is overhead. When she flies around she is creating flowers and greenery wherever she goes like Mother Nature." That's a great visual effect, and it would be even better if, for instance, we'd ever seen it inside the comic. Also, I should know better by now than to complain that neither Montoya nor Charlie are wearing on the cover what they're wearing on the inside, but surely Tot could've thrown a khaki button-down shirt for her into that big ol' shipping container. And "who's she wearing"?!? Not the best question for Isis's outf--oh wait. Her belt-piece is red, black and yellow...

Black Adam's origin: nicely done, although I'd really like it if more of these two-page origins mentioned the characters' creators, who in this case are Otto Binder and C.C. Beck. Adam, it's worth mentioning, appeared in exactly one Golden Age comic--this one--whose cover features the same "vs." formulation Grant Morrison makes fun of in this fascinating interview. (I think I first encountered the story here--a much more affordable alternative, if tinier.)

And one other cool little surprise on the DC Nation page: it appears that the previously posted cover art for Week 17 is only a detail of the full image, a very cute parody of Week 1.

While we're at it, there's lots of 52-related material in Justice League of America #1. SPOILERS AHOY AGAIN FOR THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH. The most important one, I suspect, is that it suddenly makes a bit more sense what the significance of the "artificial soul" is: as in the case of Red Tornado and the Metal Men, it is capable of resurrection, since if its body is destroyed it can return once the body is reconstructed. Also, things look grim for Animal Man ("We should pay a visit to Ellen," Superman says, noting that Buddy's not available). And the Question is... open. Vixen gets a note from ?Q, and assumes that it's a come-on ("Firehawk said he's a pain in the ass. That means he's good in bed"), then asks for "him" and gets the answer "Ain't you gonnna be disappointed... the Question ain't operated out of Hub City for over a year." Of course, the "disappointment" could also easily be that ?Q isn't a "he" at this point. Plus: there's a "hush tube" and a "father box"!

More notes:

Pg. 1: I don't think we've known before that Isis's brother's name isn't Osiris but Amon--another Egyptian deity, associated with wind and "the breath of life," whose cult was pretty much overtaken by the Isis/Osiris cult. He's the first "A" among the gods who give Black Adam his S.H.A.Z.A.M. powers. Also, I wasn't familiar with lychnis before I Googled it, but how could I resist a link with a name so much like "Guy Gardner"?

Pg. 2: There doesn't seem to be an actual diamond that plays a significant part in the Caesar-and-Cleopatra story, but there is a line in George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra, in which Apollodorus says "Friend Rufio threw a pearl into the sea: Caesar fished up a diamond." (The "diamond" in question is Cleopatra!)

Pg. 4: Is the box labeled "FRAG" (later "fragile") what Lobo is hiding inside?

Pg. 6: How does Isis change back to Adrianna, anyway? ("Oh not-so-mighty Adrianna!")

Pg. 7: Perhaps Billy's stabler the more distance he puts between himself and the Rock of Eternity. Perhaps this is just another one of those inconsistencies. And if his "authority as keeper of the Rock" means he gets to perform weddings, wouldn't the wedding have to be at the Rock? It's not like ships' captains get to go around marrying people wherever they feel like it.

Pg. 8: We keep seeing Kahndaq's residents with headwear of various kinds; wouldn't this be a good opportunity for Charlie to indulge his fondness for hats?

Pg. 9: Tawky Tawny, just as promised! And Uncle Dudley! But where's this guy? I ask only because his appearance here gave me a laugh I still remember 25 years later...

Pp. 14-15: An almost-fumbled bit of pacing here--the lightning that appears when they all say "SHAZAM" is a lot more dramatic the first time than "let's have some more lightning." Otherwise nicely suspenseful, though. The suicide bomber's prayer is, of course, a retelling of the first part of Genesis 4. (Perhaps you know it from the Golden Age version; it wasn't really covered in the '90s revamp.) It's worth noting, though, that the rock in question isn't actually in the standard Bible text; it's a traditional holdover from the Manichaean version. (Last time a Grant Morrison-related project had "archons" and "Manichaean" on the same page, one of his characters had this to say about it.)
Cain, of course, went on to a very successful career at DC. Actually, is the "rock" meant to be conflated somehow with the Rock of Eternity?

Oh, and "all universes"? Very interesting. Maybe Billy knows something we don't.

Pg. 17: Looks like the Kirbytech gun blew a hole in the bomber instead of vaporizing her as it did the creature at 52 Kane.

Pg. 18: One Adam carries his virgin bride across the threshold (followed by, dear Lord, a visible trickle of blood--subtle much?)...

Pg. 19: ...and another one can't get his rocket off the ground and claims that "this has never happened to me before." At least the "time slows down" thing makes a good excuse for the tabled-ness of this plot.

Next week, as I mentioned, I'm not going to be anywhere near a computer. (If you're in Black Rock City, stop by Vanilla Pod in Groovig at Chance & 4:30 and say hi.) Instead, we'll have a special guest star doing 52 Pickup; anyone who says "fill-ins suck" is way, way off the mark. As you can see by the sidebar, it's none other than the amazing Ragnell! See you in two weeks.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Week 15: Hapax Legomenon

"Ballostro" appears to be a hapax legomenon. "Protocrustacean" isn't quite one, but it's close. The same goes for "frigly," which seems to be a euphemism for a euphemism; as the ad a few pages later puts it, whudafxup with that? Or perhaps Sanjay means "fragly." Come to think of it, "outshined" probably would have a much lower public profile without Soundgarden.

A little more seriously: Ballostro is a use-once-and-destroy sort of menace, and a newly invented character (or thing-from-another-world) is curious in the context of a project like 52 that's supposed to map the DC universe. It's sometimes maddening for new readers to keep running into ancient bits of continuity that they're "supposed to" know about to get what's going on; conversely, it's obviously a pleasure for experienced superhero readers to hit some reference to some long-ago story and think "oh, yeah: that one!" Even so, it's a mixed pleasure: comics that drink too deeply from the pulpy rivers of memory risk becoming nostalgia projects. I like the buzz of recognition, but I also like the shock of newness--when it's actually surprising. Which is another way of saying that Ballostro would've been a lot more effective if it were either a familiar concept or something worthy of repeated use: either way, there'd be more depth and history to it than "tentacle thingy." (And if somebody wants to point me at an Aquaman story where it appeared before, I will not only post the reference here, but leave this paragraph up as a badge of shame.)

What did work in this issue is the time-travel-paradox formula that never gets old--the one where you go into the past and change the future. That seems to be the deal with Booster: the information he's been getting from Skeets is about known historical disasters that he's gone on to prevent, and I bet a cascade of those could break the future something fierce. (What does it say about DC cosmology, though, that denying the documented truth of predestination "breaks time"? You could get yourself tied up into theological knots in that one in a hurry.) This time, of course, we see him actually causing the things he's declined to prevent (the carjacking and the blackout). And I see why the 52 writers have been saying they're enjoying writing the Booster scenes so much: he really is a petulant brat--the bitterness that comes off that first page is palpable--and it has to be fun to write the guy who always does the right thing for the wrong reasons.

Like I said, there are plenty of possibilities for this sort of plot--my favorite lately was this awesomely hilarious story (which has nothing to do with its cover), in which our heroes have to go back in time and make sure Abraham Lincoln gets assassinated on schedule. Another version of it you occasionally see is the one where the hero ends up fighting another version of himself. It's a decent assumption to make here--Supernova certainly seems to have it in for Booster in a personal way, not to mention that he's talking about "a genuine crisis." And either he's got some pretty advanced light/illusion powers or he's got teleportation powers ("I zapped it away"--yeah? where? and how did it get to midtown anyway?), but I'm starting to suspect the former. In which case, the monster may have been a bit of a setup anyway.

Also, I'm a little slow sometimes, but I think I'm now going to have to surrender to the theory everybody's been bringing up except me, about the Booster of 52 not being the same one who went home to the future during The OMAC Project. The evidence? Note the cybernetic patch the artists are careful to show us under the torn-away bit of Booster's right sleeve, before and after he goes boom. Note also that Booster lost his right arm hereabouts, got a cybernetic arm, and then later on made a deal with Monarch, in the course of which he uttered this deathless line, developed saliva strand syndrome, and got his arm grown back (in addition to turning into some kind of tentacle-monster--hmm). It looks like that's the time-period of the Booster we're dealing with--and it's also worth noting that we have yet another character who's come back from the dead here: Booster flatlined in this Waid-written issue, shortly after losing his arm.

(As a side note, does there seem to be a little motif of circles and rings in this series? Ralph's ring, the ring with the jailers' keys, Green Lantern's rings, the circles around the 52s on Rip Hunter's board...)

A solid origin for Steel--it'd have been nice to know a bit more about his armor, but maybe we aren't going to be seeing that any more now that he's Colossus instead of Iron Man. (We only get one panel of Silver Surfer Irons, fighting random robots, which maybe we'll actually see sometime.) It also appears that 52 is one of his "essential storylines"; perhaps it should get a chance to be demonstrably essential for him first? Curious that Luthor thought that powering up John Henry would mean "the end of Steel"; you'd think he'd just have poisoned him or something instead of making him stronger and "virtually indestructable" (sic).

More notes:

Pg. 1: I'd love to know what the "...als clause" in the contract is; it's also interesting to see that Kyle Rayner's lookalike signed the letter herself. Too bad that Booster's about to short out his special anti-perspective laptop. And does anyone want to suggest what "...EAK THUM..." is?

Pg. 2: Where did all of Booster's money go? And what's he doing living in the East Hope Hotel and eating out of a can Rorschach-style, anyway? ("Shorp. Lep.") He's still got at least two active endorsement deals, judging from his outfit.

Pg. 3: Ballostro's one of those great Cthulhu/Jim Woodring monsters, I see, with a color scheme a bit like the beastie from the end of Watchmen.

Pg. 4: "More questions." Dogs know it!

Pg. 7: I love those old-fashioned rings of old-fashioned keys that open both cell doors and handcuffs. And who's holding it in the final panel?

Pg. 8: Googling "atlantis aquaman" yields 185,000 hits, so Sanjay's Google-fu is very strong.

Pg. 9: Oh no! It's the Plummeting Head of Kal-L! Or is this a different statue from the one in #1?

Pg. 10: You know, if Booster really wanted to follow in Superman's path, he could've copped this pose. Failing that, there's always this pose. As long as he doesn't use Miracleman's car-throwing technique from this issue, though, everything's cool...

Pg. 16: Much as I like the theory that Supernova is the gentleman on the right, the speech pattterns don't fit.

Pg. 17: If you Micks Liquors, you're just going to get sick.

Pg. 19: Might there be some kind of problem with, I don't know, radioactive fallout? Note Clark's first-person plural... he's allied with Supernova, apparently.

Pg. 20: Flesh stripped away, bones and costume intact--even though the costume got ripped seven pages earlier. Something's amiss here.

Unrelatedly: some dude from Publishers Weekly Comics Week who's been hanging out with my family a lot interviewed me about 52 Pickup a few days ago. He says to remind everyone that subscriptions to PW Comics Week are free.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Week 14: A Way Out of the Blood and Sand

Now that's more like it. This was one of my favorite issues of the series so far: actual stuff happening, actual character development, plot threads coming together, and plenty of Montoya-and-Charlie action. (By "action," I mean interaction, not shooting stuff.)

The Question, in fact, gets what I suspect is the key line of this issue: "There's no such thing as crazy... just behavior that society has deemed unacceptable." That's a pretty good one-sentence summary of the best-known views of Charlie's namesake Thomas Szasz. (The best comic I've seen about Szasz--okay, the only comic I've seen about him--is Chester Brown's "My Mom Was a Schizophrenic," which you can view here.)

Given the last couple of issues, I'm tempted to make another joke about inappropriate grins, but it's worth thinking about how the crazy/unacceptable divide applies all around here--not just to the Question's general danger-courting behavior, but to the madness of the missing mad scientists, as well as to Will Magnus's former breakdown, the "crazy" behavior of the freeze-ray guy who tries to escape Haven, and maybe even John Henry's obsessive work on Natasha's new armor. The specific kind of "craziness" that Szasz mostly wrote about was schizophrenia, and once again, given the range of unusual experience people routinely have in the DCU, they have to think about it a little differently. You know, if you talk to the dead, maybe you're friends with Boston Brand (whoops, not any more). If you hear God's voice in your head, maybe you're actually the Spectre.

It's also worth thinking about what constitutes "behavior that society deems unacceptable," and how that fits into the Kahndaq situation. Black Adam's been insisting that he's not Kahndaq's king (this issue is the first indication that he "rules... as Kahndaq's god," although that may be Montoya misunderstanding)--I imagine it's just that he prefers to be recognized as ruler because of his actions rather than because of his lineage. But he's also taken a "l'état, c'est moi" sort of position: he is society. He determines what's socially acceptable or not, and unilaterally enforces it every Wednesday. Cross Black Adam? You'd have to be crazy!

Good title this week, especially since "sand and rust," as the coloring of the title emphasizes, are the muted versions of the colors of Superman's logo, and the Steel plot, at least, touches on the idea of who's fit to wear the "S" we see on the front cover. Oh, right, that front cover. A very nice composition, even if it looks like John Henry's pants (tan on the outside, blue on the inside) are about to fall off him. Too bad the helmet he's holding is totally different from the one on the armor he's built inside the comic. Also, "Are you ready for the wedding of the Century!!"--yikes--that's like a trifecta of infelicities: capitalization, punctuation, and the fact that the Adam/Isis wedding isn't even mentioned inside...

(And "The Origin of Metamorpho with Eric Powell"? Curious, first of all, that the Jon Bogdanove Steel origin that was solicited for this issue & would've been formally appropriate got swapped with the Metamorpho origin solicited for next issue, which seems sort of apropos-of-nothing. Also, is it me or is the form of the cover credit a little odd? I see why it would be weird to have Waid as the only cover-credited writer, and "by [artist]" wouldn't quite work either, but something's amiss with this too.)

More notes:

Pg. 1: Vic has fallen asleep on Montoya's shoulder; so sweet! Is the writing on the magazine actual Arabic, or just quasi-Arabic? Should Montoya still be wearing an arm-brace? And is anybody going to remember her birthday in a month?

Pg. 2: Interesting that Shiruta seems to be so prosperous all of a sudden--was it always this well-off, has Black Adam radically improved the local economy inside of the first quarter, or is this a San Lorenzo sort of situation where everyone knows they'll be plucked like a cluster of grapes next Wednesday if they don't put on a happy face or if they leave flower petals in the street after sundown?

Pg. 4: "Luthor's trademarked heroes": nice.

Pg. 6: I do like what little we know of Dr. Avasti, and John Henry definitely needs a new girlfriend--preferably one who's not in bed with his enemies this time (cf. the Christopher Priest run of Steel, which I'm going to keep referencing until all of you go out and buy up the available supply of it from the quarter bins--you ever wanted to see a hospital administrator wearing a Hugo Boss battle suit? this is the comic for you!).

Pg. 8: Nice visual of the dripping back of Mercury! The responsometer seems to have assumed a slightly new shape: this Metal Men page has a couple of images of the old-style ones. (Military types looking for new generations of smart weapons seem to be a Morrison theme, too.)

Pg. 10: Who's the guy with the freezing ray? He doesn't look like Captain Cold or Mr. Freeze, and he's got a certain Golden Age-ish look about him.

Pg. 11: And... wait... ice cream truck... wolf-like creature... eagle... what? Should I recognize these characters? I mean, I probably should. What I mean by "should I" is "do you?"

Pg. 12: "the sort of case [Ralph] specializes in": Exactly! Hope he can stop muttering "try again" long enough to get to the bottom of it.

Pg. 13: The return of "Tot" Rodor! Note that his backstory involves 1) third world nations, and 2) government agents trying to get ahold of fancy tech, both of which we're seeing elsewhere in this issue. But it seems weird that there'd be a hotel in Shiruta with a name as specifically Anglo as "Coldridge"--is that just a Warcraft reference? Timeline's a little wonky, too: twenty-plus hours later and we still seem to be on day 6.

New drinking game, by the way: every time we see a sports bra in 52, drink.

Pg. 14: What's a "comdex container"? Nice detail with Montoya checking out the girls who are trying on Isis-gear; anyone recognize the guy following them in panel 6? (He doesn't really look like Abbot.) I love Charlie talking about "keeping our relationship a secret" right before he returns to the "who are you?" routine--guaranteed to drive her up a wall.

Pg. 15: "I swear before this is over I'm gonna hold his dead body in my hands." Foreshadowing! Good literary device! Will be used more later!

Pg. 18: Montoya doesn't seem to have her Kirbytech gun on her--she's got so little in the way of pockets that she's stashing her cigs in her rolled-up sleeve. Just as well; she'd have had a bear of a time getting that thing past airport security and customs. Again, can anybody say with certainty if that's Arabic, or what it says?

Pg. 19: What day is it, anyway?

Pg. 20: "The only metal that is liquid at room temperature": Of course, that's what Mercury always used to mention in the '60s Metal Men comics. Guess Morrow's code worked.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Week 13: Another Mad Smile

This week's theme song, courtesy of the Velvelettes and this issue's title.

The line I gravitated toward in this week's "Origin of Elongated Man" (nice Kevin Nowlan art, by the way--reminds me of how much I miss Jack B. Quick): "Ralph specializes in a gift for lateral thinking that even The Batman cannot match." That's true of the Ralph I remember--the one in that Showcase book. But "lateral thinking" is something he hasn't even vaguely approached in this series so far. Even straightforward thinking seems to be beyond him here: why wouldn't Ralph just call up somebody who knows something about Kryptonian theology, and has died and come back to life, namely Clark? For that matter, why wouldn't he quiz Devem a little more about what he intended to do, how he intended to do it, what the "sacred writings" are, where the water and the Kryptonite and the rituals came from, and most of all why he'd picked Sue as his trial case, instead of calling in his other JLA pals without telling them what was up? It'd be easier for me to accept that he's showing poor judgement because he's overcome with grief and desperation if he were acting even a little bit more like himself.

The needle-in-a-haystack reference of the title suggests that resurrection is a rare thing, which it definitely isn't in the DCU. There's an informative Wikipedia article on "comic book death", which links to a list of characters who, like Generalissimo Francisco Franco, are still dead. For your amusement, here are the list's significant DCU characters who died sometime after their first appearance (hence Abin Sur and Boston Brand don't count) and before Identity Crisis, and are still dead: Azrael, Commander Steel, Constance D'Aramis/Crimson Fox, Beth Chapel/Dr. Midnight, Barry Allen/Flash, Fury, Hawk & Dove, Hector Hall, Ice, Tommy Monaghan, Wesley Dodds/Sandman, Adrian Chase/Vigilante, and Yolanda Montez/Wildcat. That's really not a lot.

Even so, seeing Ralph holding the charred corpse of his wife again reminded me of a line from my favorite comic of this week, flawed as it is, Casanova #2: "The last comic I read, there was a lot of rape and crying. Kinda harshed my boner for fun, you know?" At the DCU panel in San Diego, Dan DiDio asked the panelists what their favorite current comic that they're not working on is, and I think over half of them answered All-Star Superman, where you're a lot more likely to see awesomely cool impossible things than people having nervous breakdowns over their spouses' burnt, limbless wicker bodies. There's a distinct absence of fun this issue, which is one of my ongoing frustrations with the Ralph and Black Adam storylines, in particular--even little gestures like Montoya whacking Vic's head last week go a long way toward keeping me interested in their stories.

A couple of leftover bits of business: you'll notice that the sidebar now includes, a site devoted to guess who. I got a great note from Eric, who runs the site (and notes that it will officially open Oct. 1, although there's a forum already going there). He writes:

I've wanted to address a few things you've brought up, re: the Question in your blog, and throw in a theory of my own. All of them add up to Renee Montoya being the new Question.

1. The Question asking Renee who she is. This was an old gimmick in the O'Neil series. What he's waiting for is Renee to say, ironically, "Good Question."

2. "Charlie." As was pointed out in your comments section, this was the name that the Q?'s old mentor Tot used. It's use here mirrors the playful mentor/mentee relationship, except Q?'s gone from mentee to mentor.

3. Vic's constant comments about Renee's smoking... well, compare this panel from 52 #11 with this one from O'Neil's The Question #1.

Very interesting!

Plus, speaking of people named Vic, everyone's keeping up with Ralph's diary, yes?

Also in last week's comment section, there's a fascinating note from Ragnell, who runs the excellent Written World site, to the effect that "I am Isis" counts as a "prayer of alignment." Unfortunately, Googling "prayer of alignment" only yields three hits, none of them too helpful; can anyone tell me more about this, or another name that a prayer of alignment might have?

One more thing: now that we're a quarter of the way into this series, let's take a look at the "52 Spoilers about 52" that Wizard published back before the first issue, and address the ones that are still open questions; I'd love it if commenters this week offered their predictions.

2. Wholesale Destruction: An entire country within the DC Univerise will be leveled by a known power player, killing every man, woman and child within. [Given that Kahndaq will now be occupied by wide-eyed orphan kidlets, I think it's safe to assume that it's toast. Which "known power player"?]

5. Star Wars - A new villain will be introduced in the outer reaches of space. Early word has this new tyrant giving Darkseid a run for his money. [Not Devilance--he's hardly "new."]

10. For Freedom! - From the ashes of the original team's gory demise in Infinite Crisis, a new team of Freedom Fighters emerges to take up the fight! [I'm assuming that this got moved over to the Battle for Blüdhaven miniseries, but maybe we'll see them here too.]

12. Girls Gone Wild - Down-on-her-luck Montoya will see her bed become a revolving door of lovers -- one of whom will make her mark on the DCU before all is said and done. [Here's hoping that Nameless Chick in #2 plus Kate ten years ago doesn't count as a "revolving door"--that phrase again!]

14. Dynamic Duo: M.I.A. - Batman and Robin won't step foot in Gotham for the entire year. What's keeping them away? [A genuinely open question, I think.]

25. Final Farewell - Some members of the team Donna Troy took into space during Infinite Crisis won't be back by the first issues of 52, and some won't be coming back at all. [Do we know who's not accounted for? Anyone besides Jade?]

29. Ralph Gets Some! - Mr. Dibny finds himself getting busy with somebody other than his beloved Sue. Who's the lucky lady (or fella)? [C'est Hay! See also #41, I expect.]

30. Fate - With Hector Hall out of the picture for the time being, someone new will step up to the golden mantle of Dr. Fate and become the world's most powerful sorcerer. [Note that "dead," above, has become "out of the picture for the time being."]

33. Monster Mash - Lex Luthor changes the face of humanity forever through a series of experiments on Monster Island. [I'm guessing that this is where the Intergang/hybrid-monsters plot is going--but what's Monster Island in the DCU?]

36. Rising Star - Don Kramer came out of nowhere to wow fans as artist on JSA for the past two years--now he'll get to ply his knack for drawing sprawling casts on an even bigger stage. [Kramer hasn't drawn any of 52 so far, has he? He seems to be filling in for J.H. Williams on Detective right now...]

41. JLA=S.E.X. - Two former Justice Leaguers you would NOT expect will bump uglies by year's end. Awk-ward! [Ralph and Beatrice do seem to be spending a lot of time on the phone--but wait, I'm expecting that one. This is one of those paradoxes, isn't it?]

43. Crossing Over - A well-established character with a lot of history will make their first appearance in the DCU. [I've been reliably informed that this is not the Spirit, as much as I was hoping for the character who's spent more time in an American weekly comic than any other.]

50. Don't get too attached - One of the six leads of 52 won't see the end of the year. Who'll bite the dust? [I'm gonna spin the wheel and say Vic, since as Eric notes, all the foreshadowing points to Montoya being the new Question.]

More notes:

Pg. 1: Rao, of course, is the Kryptonian sun and/or sun god. And that simplified "S" banner looks a bit like the S on Superman's uniform in Kingdom Come, doesn't it? Incidentally, in this now out-of-continuity issue, I believe, we find out (via Superman's ancestor Jaf-El) that Rao was not in fact the sun but kindled the sun. So "whose crimson light" might refer to the "heavenly starshine," not to "Rao"--except I'm pretty sure that in post-Crisis continuity Rao is just the name of Krypton's sun.

Pg. 2: Telepathic earplugs are old-school Legion technology; smart of Hal to invent them a thousand years early, although Bart Allen did get a set of them from Brainiac 5 here.

Pg. 3: The photo of Sue taped onto the dummy's face seems to have been a Keith Giffen idea. Creee-py, and kind of brilliant. Which reminds me: this image is so much more exciting as a first full look at Batwoman than the one that ran--or maybe I just like the idea of a Kirbyesque Batwoman.

Pg. 5: I still can't find any non-52 references to the river Memon. Or "the fires of Threntar." (Although I do get the sense from this issue that Devem's act is mostly smoke-and-mirrors covering up something genuine.) I don't quite get the "your afterlife has a revolving door" bit, aside from Zauriel's apparent death in Infinite Crisis--why invite one of the Spectre's boss's angels to a Raoist shindig? (Oh, right, it wasn't supposed to be him, it was supposed to be Hawkgirl, and yes, that would have looked cooler.)

Pg. 6: "Blood Kryptonite" appears to have been the title of a two-part episode of the Justice League animated series. I know I've run into the "everybody gives up just a little of their 'life essence'" thing before; where? Was it something with Brother Blood?

Pg. 7: Ralph joined the JLA later than I remembered--it wasn't until this issue. (Ollie doesn't seem happy about it on that cover.) And it is indeed fairly hypocritical of Hal to be saying he doesn't think trying to resurrect Sue is a good idea, given that Hal/Parallax is the one who resurrected Ollie himself!

Pg. 9: "Southwest Asia"? A little more specificity would be nice.

Pg. 11: Also, if Black Adam is such a rule-of-law guy that he's getting hot & bothered about border crossings, what's he doing flying all over "Africa. The Middle East. Asia" dismantling slavery camps?

Pg. 12: When exactly did Ralph and Rex appear in a story with Kanjar Ro and his Gamma Gong? I'm sure there must be one, just not sure which, and Wizard's 52 blog seems baffled too.

Pg. 13: So Ollie breaks the ceiling and Hal disintegrates some stuff and everything gets set on fire--and then they start worrying about how to evacuate the place? You'd also think that a ring that can make telepathic earplugs could put out a fire.

Pg. 19: Given that Ralph is a few hundred yards away, you'd also think that a ring that can make telepathic earplugs would be able to locate him. Or at least locate Ralph's ring, which certainly has traces of him, speaking of sympathetic magic.

Pg. 20: And, of course, we again get the inappropriate grin as the sign of insanity as Ralph cuddles up to the Smoking Torso of C'est Hay. Oh dear. Also, who's that mysterious figure hanging out by the wire fence? Could it be this dude, who wasn't too keen on Hal trying to resurrect Ollie? Did he finally pick up that sourdough?