Week 13: Another Mad SmileThis 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 vicsage.com, 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.
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.]
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?