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.


At 1:19 AM, Blogger Derek said...

"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!"

Also, on the page before, "Well, that's the question, isn't it?" could be read as "Well, that's the Question, isn't it?"

Charlie's conversation on the phone earlier when he says Montoya (presumably) "has potential", coupled with the other two clues, makes me worry greatly about the future of my favourite conspiracy theorist.

At 8:00 AM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

ice cream truck... wolf-like creature... eagle...
Just a guess, but aren't those Easy Co. analogs?
Re: Foreshadowing
I can't tell if I'm just overly sensitive to it from reading this blog, or if the 52-4 are just laying it on really thick (probably a bit of both). It's at the point where I'm pretty sure it's misdirection.

At 8:33 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

I've got nothing helpful to add to this week other than it was a good issue, and it was nice to see a longer Magnus arc. I'm thinking "Dead by Lead" might refer to Metal Man Lead, and am curious about how and/or if they're going to explain Veridium.

At 9:43 AM, Blogger spirit of louis st. said...

Pg. 19: What day is it, anyway?

This came up at the SDCC!
Transcript from The Pulse:
QUESTION: Have you guys ever met anyone else who reads the days in the book on the days it takes place in real life?

ANSWER: No. But we were wondering about that ....

QUESTION: WACKER: Does the week go from Wednesday to Wednesday or Sunday to Sunday?

ANSWER: Fan: Wednesday to Wednesday.

RUCKA: We'll have to throw in a week of Sunday to Sunday just to throw you off.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger acespot said...

p.1 Why did it take so long (~two weeks) for Montoya and Vic to get around to flying to Khandaq?
I didn't realize Renee could read Arabic.
p.4 Nobody's heard from John Henry in a month? How convenient. Any character they omit for a while can have their exclusion explained away by "nobody's seen you for a month".
p.6 When did John Henry develop such a close relationship with Dr. Avasti? Why is John 's skin patchy?
p.10 Magnus leaves his home with people in it? Who might steal the metal men?
p.11 "The Haven". Doesn't the Haven remind you of the facility in "The Prisoner"? Especially when agents pull up in an ice cream truck?
p.15 anger lines!
p.23 Waitaminit...Metamorpho can only transform into the elements found in the human body? Can he combine them however he sees fit? What about a cloud of chloroform? Or other things he's changed into before which aren't components of the human body?

Doug, what happened to Boston Brand?

Magnus isn't holding a responsometer, he's holding a piece of junk to fool the government agents.

p.19 Day 7 should be a Tuesday, as Didio has state that 52 runs on a Wednesday to Tuesday week.
This issue was not bad. Still just OKAY, but showing signs of improvement.

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Just FYI, ComDex is one of the DCU FedEx equivalents, I believe.

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Thomas L. Strickland said...

I'm sure that Vic is apprenticing Montoya to become the new Question, but she's got a long way to go. And after years of being privy to the thoughts in Vic's head (Ditko's run, O'Neill's run, the odd series from last year), does anyone else find it disconcerting to keep up with The Question second hand?

Interesting that Mercury -- the hot-headed Metal Man -- is the first to wake up. But really, we're all just waiting for Red Inferno to make an appearance, aren't we?

(One more thing ... I'm catching up on Seven Soldiers now. Have any of the 7 appeared in 52 so far?)

At 11:14 AM, Blogger spirit of louis st. said...

(One more thing ... I'm catching up on Seven Soldiers now. Have any of the 7 appeared in 52 so far?)

Week 1: In the swirly crystals that form New Earth there is Frankenstein's head. Later at the memorial we see Bulleteer, Frankie, Klarion, a Mister Miracle, and Zatanna.

Week 5: Ali Kazoom is visiting someone with long dark hair in the superhero hospital. Hard to tell if it is Zatanna, Justin, or Misty.

At 11:33 AM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

Metamorpho can only transform into the elements found in the human body?
I think that's the original M.O. of M'o, I'm pretty sure that the Shift toenail guy in the Outsiders (odd that he wasn't mentioned?) can transmute into anything, howev.

what happened to Boston Brand?

Deadman has moved over to Vertigo, where he's being completely reimagined. By Bruce Jones, I think.

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Scott said...

"Pg. 1: ...Should Montoya still be wearing an arm-brace?"

No, she should have been out of any sling, cast, splint, etc. about 6 weeks ago.

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Eric said...

While there is a new Vertigo Deadman, it appears Boston Brand is still with us. According to Newsarama's report on the Vertigo panel at WW Chicago, "The new Deadman series in Vertigo by Bruce Jones, and featuring a new interpretation of the character will not preclude the Boston Brand “Deadman” character from appearing in the DCU."

At 7:19 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

p.6 When did John Henry develop such a close relationship with Dr. Avasti? Why is John 's skin patchy?

That's rust, dude. Like the title of the story, "Rust and Sand", IIRC. He's rusting.

At 7:59 AM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

He's rusting.
That's from all the tears he's been crying. Which is a pretty serious development in the GJ's bag of tricks. He's discovered that sadface doesn't always have to be shown, it can be implied.
Speaking of narrative Kahndaq essentially a Muslim nation? Does that mean there will be no bottles of booze for Montoya to smash against a wall for a few weeks?

At 8:29 AM, Blogger Dr Obvious said...

Chloroform is HCCl, all three of which can be found in the human body.

Now, what'sthe ice cream truck / wolf / eagle?

At 8:41 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

Per the other comment, Easy Company analogs.

Truck = Ice Cream Soldier
Eagle = Little Sureshot
Wolf = Wildman

The truck was a giveaway.

At 9:52 AM, Blogger Scott said...

I'm wondering if Montoya will meet up with the Huntress at any point in this series. The last person that Vic took in and mentored was the Huntress in the Rucka-written mini from a number of years ago.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

Further to the whole Montoya/Question question, just had this BRAINWAVE:
Remember the first issue of the O'Neil/Cowan Question series? Vic/Charlie DIED and had to be reborn etc. Symbolic shambala etc.
With Wacker's comments over at Newsarama about this week's issue ("only one of them will make it out of Kahndaq alive" or whatever), maybe it's Montoya who will die (symbollically) in order to be reborn (symbollically) as the Question.
Of course, she'll have to go visit Richard Dragon in Medicine Hat (or was it Red Deer?) somewhere along the way.

At 11:55 AM, Blogger WildCard said...

I liked that the poster of Black Adam was him genuinely smiling, not just forcing it for a publicity photo. Isis definately is having a good influence on him, I am glad to see. I like the complex character he has become since he was re-introduced in Power of Shazam and expanded on in JSA. Now if only he would just stop associating with super-villains!!

At 3:53 PM, Blogger acespot said...

I know that about the chloroform, I'm a Chemistry grad. It's just one of the more recent compounds Metamorpho has synthesized, so I was using it as an example. He has, in the past, synthesized compounds utilizing Uranium, Cesium, Plutonium, and others that I cannot think of at this time.
So I couldn't think of a good example at the time. Sue me.

At 5:45 AM, Blogger jonni said...

GrabbingSand/Spirit of St. Louis - Ali Ka Zoom is visiting Ystin (Shining Knight) in hospital (bizarrely, as he only really had one scene with her, had more to do with Zatanna, and IS DEAD!!!).

This is in the sidenotes to Giffen's layouts to that issue, which can be found at the

Re: Morrow's code - do we ever see/know what that is?

At 1:45 PM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...

Re: The poster of Black Adam.

I think it's ironic how much Adam resembles the Captain Marvel of old with the squinty smile that he shows here.

Re: Doc Magnus, I think that the Prozac bottles were switched in this exchange. Not much to go on but a hunch but we'll see.

And I'm with Derek's post about the fate of Vic Sage. It sure looks like a lot of heavyhanded foreshadowing here. But seeing as how there's a lot of misdirection between the covers and the story itself, I would be surprised if it is Vic holding Renee's dead body at the end of this.

Also, since I missed out on Week 13's discussion, that sure looks like Devem shadow on the last page looking over Ralph and the wreckage. And if he is messing with peoples perception of reality, it's quite possible that Ralph was the ONLY person that saw 'Sue' come back to life.


At 9:07 PM, Blogger acespot said...

Devem could have masked the other heroes perception of Ralph as well, thus explaining why the most powerful weapon in the universe, and its user, cannot find either Ralph or his wedding ring.

At 8:03 AM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

And there's also the question of whether or not the Straw-Sue was ACTUALLY animated, or was Ralph just halucinating again, as he was at the end of Identity Crisis?

At 1:18 PM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...


That's what I was getting at. Meaning Devem was messing with Ralph's head and the Straw Sue was not really alive at all.


At 6:04 PM, Blogger ? said...

Hurm. I have no idea why Devam never crossed my mind. I guess that's entirely possible. Good one, emmet matheson!

At 11:18 PM, Blogger acespot said...

I'm pretty sure that the animation of wicker Sue was due to the machinations of Devem's telepathy. Whether he actually animated it, or merely caused Ralph to believe it had been animated is irrelevant. In light of the evidence that is was Devem who in fact upended the brazier, Devem is seriously attempting to screw with Ralph's head (and succeeding in this attempt).

At 8:14 AM, Blogger Brandon said...


At 4:37 PM, Blogger Filby said...

"Speaking of narrative Kahndaq essentially a Muslim nation? Does that mean there will be no bottles of booze for Montoya to smash against a wall for a few weeks?"

Adam is a worshipper of the Egyptian gods, so while the majority of the population may be Muslim (it was a Muslim regime before he took over), he probably allows them a degree of religious freedom. Remember that suicide bomber in Week 1? I got the impression that he was acting out against the "pagan" running the country.

At 10:07 AM, Blogger alienvoord said...

It looks like Arabic at first glance, but it isn't.


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