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 Bl├╝dhaven 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?


At 3:20 PM, Blogger Garrie Burr said...

You know... I could have sworn someone already guessed about Renee becoming the new Question. All those points (the smoking, the "Who Are You", etc.) seemed so familiar that I never brought it up myself. Oh, well.

Re: Monster Island... Isn't that the place where dinosaurs roamed during the War That Time Forgot?

The wicker-Sue was indeed quite creepy and effective, but where the heck did they get that picture for her face? I thought it was Jean Loring at first glance.

It seems that I've become somewhat of a minority on the last few issues: where the concentration on only two areas of concern has brough t the series "up" in the view of others, I think I preferred the multiple scenarios we got in the first few issues.

Zoning in on only two subplots makes them, to me, seem more padded -- like the first more focused issue with the Steel-centered fight scene.

Take care out there...


At 5:52 PM, Blogger notebook said...

I think the lonstanding character making his/her first DCU appearance is Batwoman -- after all, we just read The History of the DCU, and she ain't in it.

And I can think of Shift, Air Wave and Hawkman still unaccounted for in space -- anyone else?

And let me say how much I'm enjoying this blog, though sometimes I wish the issues were strong enough to warrant the scrutiny. Maybe you should blog Fables or something...

At 7:08 PM, Blogger Mark said...

The longstanding character could be Isis, since there was a TV version (even if they have "no connection," Wizard may not have cared or have realized) - strikes me as making more sense than Batwoman (although i've been known to be wrong).

At 11:08 PM, Blogger Eric Newsom said...

Thanks for the site plug!

Those points may have been raised already...but I didn't see them in the comments. If two people noticed, I guess it's pretty obvious.

I concur with Mark that Isis is probably (and anti-climactically) the character referred to in the Wizard spoiler.

I agree that this issue lacked some of the fun I've had with other issues. I hope things don't take a turn for the ridiculous / depressing for the rest of the year. I did like the line from Ollie, "You'd be surprised how often this happens when someone lets me into a church."

I hope that Dibny doesn't get his Wizard-prophecized ugly-bumpings from a stack of hay with his dead wife's picture printed on the front. Although I'm sure a fetish group exists for that sort of thing.

At 6:49 AM, Blogger Garrie Burr said...

Eric: Re-reading my post, it seems a little snotty. Sorry about that. I'm not sure where I thought I previously saw the other clues about Renee and the Question. Being a long-time Question-fan I might have just subliminally picked them up on my own.
You -are- to be congratulated for some excellent insight.

One thing I forgot to say previously was that your and Douglas' pondering made me more hopeful about Vic's eventual fate. Rather than seeing him get killed, things do seem to be setting him up for retirement from masked adventuring -- with him becoming the -mentor- of the new Question.

It would make sense, in a "rising and advancing of the spirit" sort-of-way...


At 8:41 AM, Blogger Hypersimulation said...

The SDCC panel audio reminded me how much I'd liked the early weeks of your 52 blog, so I popped over to see if it was still going. Now I have a whole morning's worth of quality reading! Thank you!

Do you mind if I link to your posts from the LJ community I maintain about 52, in my weekly link roundup posts I've been doing on Wednesdays? I'm happy to credit you in any way you'd like in the link.

These are gold though, good for you.

And we're a quarter of the way through 52 already! Yay!


At 9:30 AM, Blogger acespot said...

p.2 Wouldn't the cultists notice a few people wearing masks?
p.2-4 Why wouldn't Ralph fill everybody in on the particulars BEFORE calling them in? As if:"Hi it's Ralph, come meet me at this cult gathering."/"Okay! See you there!" and that's the end of the conversation? No details, no nothing? Uh huh...
p.7 Why does Hal refer to Ralph in the third person? I was the one who brought the Elongated Man into the JLA. It must have been some other Elongated Man. Maybe a clone!
p.8 TYPO!!! co-N-fused
p.10 So Adrianna's brother has a classical Egyptian name? Amon? What real Egyptian is named Amon nowadays?
p.12 What suddenly convinced Ralph to drop all pretense?
p.14 It doesn't matter to Cassie that the rope is yellow, if it were brown she'd try the same's her primary weapon. And isn't it supposed to have electrical properties?
p.15 Oh my god, it worked? No, wait - the post-crisis Dev-Em had extremely strong mental powers which he could use to shape reality to his whims, to the point that he remade himself into a superbeing. He probably used them to animate the wicker Sue.
p.17 Yeah, look at Devem's face. He has no emotion whatsoever...he's definitely trying to fuck with Ralph's mind.
p.19 Why would Ralph leave his wedding ring behind?
Overall, a very coherent story, but it's over too quickly and completely ignores everybody else (except Adam - which, truthfully, was a waste of space). And the story completely ignores all days of this week except the one.
p.22 Yeah! It WAS a meta capability that allowed Ralph to be able to use the Gingold extract to its full potential, instead of dying from it.
When was an "Oceanographer found murdered in one man bathysphere"?
According to Waid, Ralph HAS abandoned Gingold...but apparently COULD still use it if he wanted to.
The last story panel proves Ralph is crazy...she's six feet down. Duh!
Lateral thinking which he hasn't been using recently. He's basically just been stumbling around and having things happen to him for the most part, without completely researching what he's getting into, or taking his investigations beyond their most fundamental level.
p.23 So Donner is going to be on Action? Great. But I still want Busiek working with Nicieza on Superman, NOT with Johns. Nicieza has a sense of humor which Johns lacks, and has a talent for producing consistently great comics, rarely producing stale issues. Please, DC, bring Nicieza to Superman! Please, please, please.

You referred to the wikipedia entry on "Comic Book Death". My favorite listing in that article is:
Dazzler: died in New Excalibur #6; returned in New Excalibur #7
Yes, that's right...with no explanation whatsoever!!! And now that Claremont's gone, we may never know how/why!!!

Vivian D'aramis is dead too...she was killed by Mist II in Starman vol.2 #23(?)
Speaking of, both Ted and David Knight are still dead, as is Wesley Dodds, the original Mr. Terrific, the original Dr. Midnight, Zatara, Sargon, The original Mist, The original Rag Doll, Dinah Drake Lance, the original Red Bee, and some others as well.

Batman and the two Robins went to Africa and Asia to work on the relationship thing. Eventually, I'm sure we'll be seeing a "Batman Family: The Lost Year" miniseries.

Reddy is still MIA, presumed KIA. But we know he'll be back in JLofA.

#43 Maybe it's Samurai from the Superfirends! It can't be Isis, since there WAS a short-lived DC book, which has not explicitly been removed from continuity.

Rao IS Krypton's sun. See the Despair story in Sandman: Endless Nights.

No, it can't be the Phantom Stranger, he's not wearing a hat...maybe it's Constantine???

None of the links work, and the first hotlink in the article is also broken.


At 11:24 AM, Blogger Thomas L. Strickland said...

First, Ragnell's Written World? Look here, instead.

Second, I'm thinking that the only reason that Hal didn't find any traces of Ralph is because something (magic?) was preventing him from being found. Why else give us that piece of news in a panel otherwise occupied by the stolen wedding band? Combine that with the shadowy figure standing off and to the right of kneeling, broken Ralph, and I think we've got something bigger at work here.

And here's something else ... Ralph brings along his four compatriots to determine the validity of this cult. They do so to the best of their ability. The give him facts. Now, Ralph's decision is a very big one, particularly for a "linearly thinking detective." Does he go with what he can empirically prove? Or does he take a leap of faith?

He chose proof, obviously (and tragically?).

Thirdly, I'm not sure if I like the idea of the Question mantel going away from Vic Sage, though perhaps that's the reason behind his "Charlie" identity. He's getting used to life outside of the mask. But I hope they don't kill him off. Of all the Charlton heroes, The Question has remained mostly intact. Be nice to keep him that way.

At 12:10 PM, Blogger Holz said...

Something that occured to me upon reading this issue is in regards to Devem's motives and the Blood Kryptonite. If the BK tok some sort of life essence from the cultists, it may have been used to take a portion of the meta-powers form Cassie & Ralph, so Devem could use it to bring back Connor.

Dev will need a body, so perhaps Elongated Man's "meta-power" that was unlocked by the Gingold will be used to mold out a body, and Cassie's strength would be infused into the construct... so the whole thing was a show to just get their powers. Of course, now that the block is destroyed, not sure how it'll work... just a thought.

At 3:18 PM, Blogger Douglas Wolk said...

Written World link corrected. Sorry, Ragnell!

Hypersimulation (and anyone else): feel free to link posts here anywhere you like. appears to be down right now, which is why those links don't work...

At 7:39 PM, Blogger Steven said...

Zauriel died and came back in his miniseries and again in JLA: World War III (and apparently again in Infinite Crisis).

And Clark may have been asked to join, but turned them down due to, y'know, not being all that Super right now.

Also, doesn't the cover of 52 #15 (and the quote from 52 #19 imply Booster bites the big one, not Vic? (I cannot get used to calling him Charlie, I don't know why.)

At 9:39 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

Well-established character? I thought that'd be The Spirit (disproven), but Isis or Batwoman totally qualify if you think about it.

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

By the by, only one person started the fire at the temple, and it was fairly deliberate, if the action lines are to be taken as evidence. And it wasn't a former JLA'er or Teen Titan.

At 11:42 PM, Blogger acespot said...

Oh my God, squasha, you're absolutely right! Devem DELIBERATELY KICKED OVER THE FIRE!!! And then shouted "This way! Hurry!" Great catch!

At 12:03 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

Thanks. Anyone got a good anagram for ARISTOTLE RODOR ? All I can get is TAILOR'D ROOSTER, or some crap with SOLDIER. LEAD RIOT ROTORS? OLD TRAITOR ROSE? Help search...

At 12:05 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

O SOLDIER TRAITOR? I give up; just put you in gear and on track.

At 1:53 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

My lack of knowledge regarding "The Question" shows - it's no anagram, but the guy's actual name, or so Google informs me.

At 6:15 PM, Blogger ? said...

I'd bet my sourdough on the Phantom Stranger appearing next time we see Ralph.

Dibny, is going to enter the magic world, and who better to act as his guide than The Phantom Stranger?


PS. I'm doing a blog examining theories about what the 52 are, I'd love it if you would contribute a theory for one of the weeks.

At 7:21 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

I don't think that's the Phantom Stranger behind Ralph. I think it might be a time traveller ala Morrison's Animal Man series.

If it was Stranger, we'd see a hat, right? :-)

At 4:54 PM, Blogger The Mighty Robolizard said...

Its pretty clear who the dead character is going to be, considering IGN pointed out that he won't be on one of the two upcoming JLA covers. So the Question isn't gonna die because... THERE HE IS, BEHIND SUPERMAN! I also see Elongated Man, Booster Gold and Animal Man. Isis and Black Adam wouldn't be part of the JLA, but we do see a sane Capt. Marvel on there, so my guess is Isis dies and Adam replaces Marvel in the Wizard's lair. Or Montoya. She hasn't shown up in any One Year Later Batman comics so far... [or has she? Nah. In fact, it explains why Bullock is the main assistant cop there...]. Anyway, whoever dies, it won't be those characters.

At 4:55 PM, Blogger The Mighty Robolizard said...

Hey, sorry, here's the link-->


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