Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Week 21: Thunderbird Rides the Lightning

In honor of Eliza, the Thunderbird of the new Infinity Inc., I wanted to link to a special theme song for this issue: "Speed," the big rock-disco-biker-fetish-gang production number from the greatest science fiction disco musical ever made, The Apple. Sadly, the closest thing I could find online was a YouTube video of a drag queen called Suppositori Spelling lip-synching it. It'll sort of give you the idea, anyway.

Eliza's speech about how she doesn't care about Wonder Woman and Superman, she always wanted to be one of the speedsters, is curious, especially since Superman and the Flash are about equally matched, speed-wise. That does raise the question, though, of what's so special about super-speedy types in the DCU.

Of the four major Flashes the DCU's seen to date, the one I have the deepest attachment to is Barry Allen--he was the one I imprinted on, of course, but he had something Jay and Wally and Bart don't. The Barry Allen Flash stories were stories about physics and chemistry: Barry was a police scientist, and he usually resolved the story less through using his speed than through some scientific principle or other. (I love the bit in, I think, one of Mike Baron's issues of Flash where Wally is remembering how Barry always used to tell him "Flash Facts." The All-New Atom, in places, is trying for the same sort of feel.) Barry's "rogues" were generally science-based types (Dr. Alchemy/Mr. Element, Captain Cold, the Mirror Master, etc.), too. One of the first issues of The Flash that I bought was this one--not only is that an amazing cover, but the guy's name was Roy G. Bivolo. I never forgot the sequence of colors after that.

The other theme in the Barry incarnation of the Flash was time and its perception--Green Lantern got to go to 5700 as Pol Manning, but the Cosmic Treadmill could take Barry to any point in time, and even from that first story where the villain is the Turtle, Barry seemed to have a broader understanding of time and its meaning than almost any other character. (Thanks to Abra Kadabra, he even understood more about the relationship between magic and technology than most of his contemporaries.) Wally was a good, interesting character qua character, but aside from some of Waid's storylines and a few terrific issues like this one, I very rarely got the sense of why it was important that his power was super-speed in particular. Is Eliza's attachment to speed just that Bart was her hometown hero?

As long as I'm talking about subtexts, I should probably get into Infinity Inc., whose logo on this cover is a riff on Infinite Christmas rather than its old appearance. That whole series wore its theme on its sleeve: not-entirely-voluntary legacies--the "blood brats" that Fury III is talking about. The various iterations of Teen Titans have only rarely gotten into why kid sidekicks should start a super-group together, although Johns seems to be playing with that idea right now--but the difference between the groups is the difference between hereditary successors and hand-picked successors. But of course Luthor would be attracted to the only super-group with a corporate name--and of course he bought the rights to it. Does that mean he also owns the rights to the tech in the Cosmic Converter Belt, which Sylvester Pemberton invented? (And might that have something to do with Supernova's powers?)

A kind of obvious thing that occurred to me after I posted the question about the Joker card last week: how many playing cards are there in a deck? really? aren't you forgetting something...?

Odd that we get 22 pages of lead story and no secret origin this issue--it's not as if what there is in the way of plot is super-compressed. I was hoping the backup had been squeezed out by a 32-page story or something along those lines.

Incidentally, I've been loving the conversations going on in the last few weeks' comments, but I'd also like to see some new names in there--if you're a regular 52 Pickup reader and you've got something to say, jump in!

More notes:

Cover: I wonder: is there anyone whose job it is to make sure the scrolling copy on the bottom of the cover has anything to do with the issue's contents? Oh, right, the editor.

Pg. 1: Do we know who "James" is, or what this conversation is about? We saw Eliza talking about taking "sharp" in week 17; I could swear it was a plot point in some old issue of Flash, but maybe I'm confusing it with Velocity 9 and its sequel Velocity 10, which induced super-speed instead of suppressing it. Might it have been named after Golden Age Flash artist Hal Sharp?

Pg. 2: Yet another teddy bear! Remember: teddy bears are an underused symbol for innocence! In panel 5, Eliza's got an old comic cover on the wall behind her: it's All-Flash #16--you can see the full version of it here. The cover in panel 6 is Flash #225, an allusion to this... Geoff Johns citing his own comic's cover!

Pg. 3: And speaking of lightning, Xolotl is traditionally the god of lightning in Aztec/Toltec mythology--see Wikipedia--and he's supposed to be the psychopomp who guides people to Mictlan, rather than guarding the gate. (According to the Aztecs, everyone went to Mictlan when they died, except for warriors who died in battle--e.g. Eliza--women who died in childbirth, and people who were killed by being hit by lightning. Speaking of lightning.) I won't get into Mictlantecuhtli's story beyond the link, except to say that it could become a very interesting bit of mythology for this series to play with... and it looks like Ralph does have some gingold on hand after all.

Pg. 4: How's he going to open the door if he's tied into knots?

Pg. 5: The new Blockbuster is actually the third one. The first one, Mark Desmond, first appeared here (and later in this issue, with one of the all-time great Carmine Infantino covers), and died here. His brother Roland subsequently became a new Blockbuster here, and got killed here.

Pg. 8: The original Nuklon is now calling himself Atom Smasher (and is pals with Black Adam, although he was in jail for a while for killing the president of Kahndaq), but does that mean the name's in the public domain, since this Nuklon doesn't seem to be Al Rothstein? Or did Lex manage to buy that too? Ripping off the Mohawk: not cool.

Note that Lex's project is the Everyman project, and that his shape-changer is called Everyman too. (Everyman, as a name, is a neat contrast to Superman...) Plus he's the only member of the team still rocking the purple and green (although so does Gar). And he's bald. Also, what happened to Herakles?

Pg. 9: Once again, the "film the fight and fix it in post" routine that we saw in Week 3... and, before that, in Civil War #1. Well, it's a decent joke, anyway, and more proof that it's still possible to lay an egg even with four writers.

Pg. 10: Perhaps Eliza should just have called herself "Ballbuster." There was a Fury in the original Infinity Inc. too, of course, but a very different one. And there was a Golden Age Skyman--turns out his first story was by Gardner Fox and Ogden Whitney, two names I never expected to see together, although the Skyman (or Sky Man) being referred to here is the Star-Spangled Kid's adult alias.

Pg. 11: Here's Kalinara's breakdown of the interim Titans--I'm a few issues behind on reading that series, so I can't say much about a lot of them (although, hey, there's an Osiris hanging out with someone who looks rather Black Adam-ish; apparently that is where the Isis plot is going). Power Boy is apparently going to be Supergirl's new boyfriend, and it sure looks like he's from Apokolips (there was also a Golden Age Power Boy, who doesn't appear to be this one)... and "Little Barda": excellent! They've even got a Mother Box, as we see later. Ping ping ping.

Pg. 12: If the new rules of magic are that you don't get something for nothing, perhaps Zatara shouldn't be going "sgnidliub riaper" quite so cavalierly?

Pg. 13: Zachary Zatara, per Teen Titans #39, is Zatanna's cousin. And Hot Spot/Isaiah is the former Joto a.k.a. Slagger--another Dan Jurgens creation, first seen here.

Pg. 14: "Changed your mind" (also referred to on pg. 19): was there an earlier conversation?

Pg. 19: "Go practice our magic": groan.

Pg. 20: Those are rather Deathstroke-esque colors Fury wears, aren't they? And he leaves his mask on at the funeral? I see John's picked up Kala Avasti's habit of attempting to deliver crucial exposition in person, although with less success. Here's a hint for both of them: E-MAIL.

Pg. 21: "Johnny Warrawa," huh? Here's a line from the 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica: "The religion of the Tasmanians, when cleared from ideas apparently learnt from the whites, was a simple form of animism based on the shadow (warrawa) being the soul or spirit." Perhaps this ties in with Ralph's plot?

Next week's 52 Pickup might be a day late (or it might not). Just warning you right now.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Week 20: Language Is a Virus from Outer Space

The title of this week's issue is, of course, a riff on Nietzsche's famous rhymelet "Gott ist tot", which inspired one of the all-time great magazine covers forty years ago. (Since Time just put up their entire archive, you can actually read the story!) But as I've mentioned before, the DCU is an odd place to make that particular assertion even as a joke, since it's crawling with gods both old and new, from the Spectre's Judeo-Christian boss to Rama Kushna.

This was one of my least favorite issues of the series to date, partly because of the badly garbled fight scene but mostly because so little happened to advance the overall plot. Unless I'm missing something major, you could really boil it down to pages 2, 6 and 18-20 without losing much. Also, a small thing that kept bugging me: some consistency about the representation of alien tongues would be nice. Do they say "roklipi opto yok mikka yop yok," as pg. 8 would have it, which is a little close to Winsor McCay's Imp for comfort? Do they say "mama," as per pg. 13? Or do they talk in indecipherable marks, as Ekron does on pg. 16? (Actually, it's not all that indecipherable: as a cryptogram, the first three words he speaks match the letter pattern of I WILL KILL...)

Since there's not a lot worthy of in-depth thematic discussion going on this time (and also not a lot I can make my usual smartass allusions to old comics about), perhaps it's time to try to make a canonical list of dangling (or at least open) plot threads in 52, aside from the "52 Spoilers" list I revisited a few weeks ago. If I've forgotten or misconstrued any, please chip in...

Who's playing the Joker card (on the first page of the first issue)?
What's wrong with time?
What happened in the "52 missing seconds"?
Where is Wonder Woman?
Why are the Bats out of town? Where are they?
Who's kidnapping mad scientists? Why? What do they have to do with Egg Fu?
What's the significance of "artificial souls"?
What has Mr. Mind evolved into?
Why did Vic choose Montoya for whatever he's chosen her for? What's the answer to "who are you" that he's looking for?
What is Intergang up to? Where are they getting their Kirbytech and beast-man tech? What's their connection to 520 Kane St. and to Kahndaq?
Who is Devem and what's he up to? Where did he get all his Kryptonian gear? Why would his cult want to revive Sue as a dry run? Was that actually Sue they revived?
How did Lex acquire and alter Alex Luthor's corpse?
What's up with the Great Ten?
Why the Freedom of Power Treaty?
What happened to Adam Strange's eyes?
What happened to Alan Scott's eyes (including "the one that isn't his," which may have been answered here)?
How did Hawkgirl get big?
How did she get normal-sized again?
How did Firestorm and Cyborg get un-merged?
How did Adam, Buddy and Kory end up wherever they were in space?
Why was Devilance on Adon with them?
Why was he pursuing them?
What happened to the Red Tornado? How did he end up with one voicebox in Mal Duncan's chest and another one attached to his body in Australia?
Where and when is Rip Hunter?
A question that is actually many questions: What the hell does everything in Rip Hunter's HQ mean?
Who is Supernova? Is he Kon-El and/or Connor? How does he know where the Batcave is?
How did Kate get to be Batwoman?
What's the story with Isis's brother? Is he Osiris?
Why couldn't Green Lantern's ring find Ralph? Who was watching Ralph from the fence? Is Ralph sane? Who was it who helped him out after his collapse? What's his connection to the Dr. Fate helmet?
What's Lex up to with the power-creating/removing genetic stuff and his personal JLA?
What's Cain's connection to the suicide bomber?
What exactly happened to Booster?
What exactly happened to Daniel?
Why is Lady Styx after the space heroes?
How did Lobo end up getting religion?
Who's the "he" of "he knows," and what does he know? And what's Skeets up to?
What exactly is 52, anyway?

Meanwhile, readers of the official site know what the 52 missing seconds, excuse me, missing page in week 18 were: this page--I thought the segue between pages 4 and 5 that issue was a little abrupt! I'd be mighty curious to know at what point it was decided that it wasn't okay to show those two characters drunkenly cavorting in the printed pages of the comic; I'm guessing fairly late in the day. (And I also suspect it wouldn't have had that problem if Zalika had been Zalik.)

Lots of good discussion going on in last week's comments; have a look. As Squashua pointed out, if you look at "52" the right way, it becomes "SZ." To me, this means one obvious thing: an allusion to Roland Barthes' classic structuralist/post-structuralist essay S/Z. And if you're not careful, I'm gonna have to do a Barthesian analysis of 52 one of these weeks.

Also, Ragnell has posted her own response to the DC Tarot Challenge here, and yes, it totally counts.

More notes:

Cover: "Wayne Manor robbed?!" What? The first two pages don't suggest that Supernova's stealing anything...

Pg. 1: I'm guessing that Alfred went along with Bruce, Dick and Tim on their mysterious jaunt, since everything in the cave is covered up--although wouldn't it be more likely to have guano than dust on it? The "new vigilante" seems to be Batwoman, but given Supernova's presence in the cave (note in panel 6 that he's hovering rather than walking), it might be him, too...

Pg. 2: The first case he uncovers is a couple of umbrellas--I'm guessing from some case involving the Penguin. The second, obviously, is "good soldier" Jason Todd's Robin outfit, which evidently hasn't been retired since his resurrection. And the third is Luthor's gauntlet (built by the Calculator), which has four pieces of Kryptonite: red, green, blue and black. This Wikipedia entry has a lot of information on Kryptonite, but I think the crucial piece is the black K--we've seen in Supergirl that it can split Kryptonians into two entities (might Supernova in fact be the split-off half of Connor, or even Clark?), and Luthor claims he got his piece from Darkseid. Which brings us back to the whole Apokoliptic thread going on in 52.

Pg. 3: How perfect would it have been to bring Fireman Farrell in here? And does anyone who knows more about firefighting than I do want to evaluate the way this scene was written and drawn? From what little I know, the breathing apparatus seems fairly accurate.

Pg. 6: So Luthor can de-activate the metagene that gives people superpowers. How dangerous is that? Maybe not very. Let's have a quick look at the DCU solicitations for December, and see what exposure the named characters have to risk:

No superpowers to take away: Batman, Catwoman, Nightwing, Robin, Batwoman, Oracle, Manhunter, Green Arrow, Jonah Hex, Connor Hawke, Wildcat, Arsenal, Elongated Man (at this point), Captain Comet (?)

Not human: Superman, Supergirl, Metal Men, Red Tornado (at this point), Martian Manhunter

Superpowers from a magical or technological source: Blue Beetle, Atom, Captain Marvel (I can't bring myself to call him Shazam), Wonder Woman, Firestorm, Hawkgirl, Hawkman, all the Green Lanterns, Black Adam, Cyborg, the Atomic Knights, Starman, Zatanna, Vixen, OMAC, Ragman, The Spectre, Blue Devil, Kid Devil, arguably the Flash

An open question: Aquaman, The Creeper, The Weird, all the new Freedom Fighters

Might actually be in trouble: Damage, Doctor Mid-Nite, Black Canary (does she have her canary cry these days? I forget), Black Lightning

Pg. 9: I'm guessing the script here said something like "draw a zillion crab creatures coming out of the sky," not "draw a bunch of wavy lines."

Pp. 10-15: This is terrible storytelling--I had to go over it a few times to get any sense of what was going on, and it's still not clear what Buddy's up to with the "phitt-phitt" business, or what Adam's doing with the spaceship other than vaporizing the crabs around Buddy, or if the first alien to pick up the Eye gets vaporized, or why if that's the case Kory doesn't, or why she would even have any idea what the Eye was or how to use it. The "seeya" gesture Lobo's making on pg. 12 looks like a Giffenism, but doesn't make much sense with the dialogue...

Pg. 17: The little-kid aliens are way too cute and too human-looking--baggy overalls? And the teddy bear with antennae is really pushing it. I believe there was one of those in here. With three eyes. But this is basically just following the 52 rule in which little kids are required to carry teddy bears (cf. weeks 5 and 7).

Pg. 18: I do like Lobo being waited on by his dolphin-butler, and call-and-response whistling for his bike.

Pg. 19: Amusing that Lobo's apologizing for cursing when everything that's come out of his mouth is a euphemism... and I love that after almost 40 years (the Eye first appeared here, in 1967) we're finally finding out what Ekron is. It turns out, by the way, that it also has a Biblical referent, although I really don't think that's what was intended here.

The Origin of Adam Strange: Nicely drawn, if a little bland--note that Nowlan avoids ever drawing Adam's eyes--although that distant cityscape at the beginning of the second page is a total Carmine Infantino Silver Age enormous expanse. But it did remind me: have we seen Adam, almost as much a family man as Buddy, mention his wife and daughter? I'd also suggest Swamp Thing #57 and 58 as an essential storyline for him--and as a very good way of dealing with the "what language do aliens speak?" problem. (Waid neatly alludes to the story with the caption that starts "Eventually, Adam learned...")

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Week 19: Rabbit Redux

Trying to relive moments of youthful glory and ending up trapped in a tight little recursive loop: isn't that what superhero comics are all about these days? Daniel is Precut Archetype #14, the Ex-Jock Who Wants to Get Back That Moment of Athletic Majesty, and he's not subtle about it--even Harry Angstrom didn't obsess that much about it. This is far from the only comic I've seen in the last few years that's got some sort of grim and not-too-carefully-masked metaphor for the state of long-underwear stuff; to return to the Seven Soldiers references I was making last week, part of what's so valuable to me about the 7S project is that it suggests where the superhero concept can go next--ways to use the idea that respect the past but are forward-looking rather than backward-looking.

I could go on about the poisonous effects of nostalgia on superhero comics, and one of these weeks when I've got more time I probably will. For the moment, I'll just note that one of those poisons is a sort of stylistic leveling. A lot of my other favorite new comics of the moment are projects like Finder and Fell and DMZ and... well, I haven't really warmed to Casanova yet, but I'm still buying it. What I like about them is not that they aren't superhero stories or even that they're not wildly intertextual the way 52 is (obviously I'm probably a little too into intertextuality), but that they've all got incredibly compressed narrative urgency, and they all read like nothing but themselves--they're forward-looking in terms of the way they work as comics. 52, for all its mystery and momentum, still hasn't really found the kind of distinctive storytelling voice that I love about certain comics (including, actually, a lot of comics involving its writers); I read it because I'm dying to find out what happens next, but not because of the way it'll be expressed, if you see what I mean.

This week's cover has its own issues with the past, and with past incarnations of the future. Others (especially on Newsarama) have already analyzed the significance of the dates Booster's dashing through, but to recap:

*85,271 is the setting of DC One Million (one million months after Action #1)--smart of Jones to have its "5" and "2" offset just slightly from the numbers in the cover logo

*1938, 1939 and 1941 were the first appearances of the Missing Big Three

*1935 was New Fun Comics #1, the first comic published by the entity that became DC--and somehow I wouldn't be surprised to see Jack Woods pop up in this series...

*1985 was Crisis on Infinite Earths

*3006 is now + 1000 years = Legion time

*the significance of 4006 and 5252 aren't clear

A year I was hoping to see show up that didn't: something from the 5700s, the era of Pol Manning, Hal Jordan's future alter ego. Also notably absent: the 25th century (home of Booster and Skeets), and the 64th century (home of Abra Kadabra). And whenever Alix Harrower's ancestor, "Earth's first superhero," was active, cf. Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer.

This issue is also, I think, the first time we've seen Skeets actively breaking his own experience of time: if Daniel's caught in a time loop until the year 1,000,000, he's not going to get out in time to become a direct ancestor of Booster, is he? So who's going to ferry him 500 years into the past? And we're in "Chronocops" territory!

Reliving a particular moment indefinitely has been used as a device in a lot of other comics--Strontium Dog and the ending of this mystery in space come to mind--but it also reminds me of the monster in the time-stream in this issue, whose dialogue was even more screwed-up than the The All-New Atom's aliens', and included probably my favorite all-time line of awful comics dialogue: "IS/WAS HUNGRY! MUST/WILL/HAVE EAT!" Gerry Conway, thank you for traumatizing nine-year-old me. (Actually, there was an even more traumatizing line in an earlier issue of Superman Family, but I'm gonna have to dig through my old issues to try to find it.)

I'm happy to see that the DC tarot challenge I suggested last week yielded a couple of responses (and I'd be happy to see more): for those of you who don't read the comments, Dr. Obvious made a card for The Hermit, and Jonni made one for The Devil.

Also, if you haven't been looking at Keith Giffen's layouts at , you might want to--they've started posting outtakes from each issue, too, and they're kind of fascinating.

More notes:

Pg. 1: Skeets meets his own primitive ancestor! Also, it looks like Daniel's high school was in Manchester--perhaps the Alabama home of Bart Allen and the speedster from last week's Luthor League. Anybody who read Impulse more closely than I did want to tell me if their high school football teem was indeed the Spartans? I'm doubly curious because my home town had the real Spartans. Well, not "real," but you know what I mean.

Covington, OH is a real city, but it's a little surprising that Daniel lives there--I thought it had been fairly firmly established that Metropolis was on the East Coast (one of the step-sisters of "Cinderella City" New York).

World's Finest Weekly seems to be another one of those Brave and the Bold-type DCU magazines. I wondered at first why Booster would be on the cover (the obituaries section in the new issue of my wife's alumni magazine includes a very short, deadpan obit for Ken Lay--he didn't make the cover, either...)--but I'm guessing it's an old issue from the "Booster Talks!" headline we see later.

Pg. 3: Of course his number was 52.

Pg. 4: Skeets, head-on, looks a little bit like an airplane, doesn't he?

Pg. 6: Q. Why is Kory still bothering to wear Buddy's shirt? A. To keep Buddy from getting embarrassed, I'm guessing.

Pg. 8: "Kettles in blue grass"? Seriously, the "I can't describe this using English" routine makes me think Buddy's about to bust out the 64-character alphabet.

Pg. 9: I guess Ted the Bug has a big sister, too.

Pg. 10: Lots of little Biblical allusions here--"follow the fish," indeed!--and I'm curious to see what the "Stygian passover" was, since "passover" implies that something was spared for a particular reason. "Sector 3500" would be out of the 3600 sectors that the Guardians divided the universe into in old-fashioned Green Lantern continuity; it's not mentioned here, so I'm assuming it hasn't been mentioned before.

The particularly interesting word is "Vegan," though--Vega, in the Giffen-plottedInvasion project, was home to the Warlords of Okaara, the Citadelians, and the Guardian-linked Psions. Also, the Khund invasion's beachhead was Australia...

I don't mind the quasi-Catholic iconography popping up--as Matthew pointed out elsewhere, extreme ridiculousness is not just acceptable but necessary in Lobo stories--but what almost spoils this scene for me is the artwork. Some of Olliffe's faces are really sloppy--the ones at the top of this page, for instance.

Pg. 11: The Wizard blog identifies the entity they're running from as Lady Styx, although she's never quite named that way on panel. And it sure looks like Lobo's "splendid eye" is indeed the Emerald Eye of Ekron.

Pg. 12: I thought the Weather Wizard's big fear was no longer jail but Hell... this scene feels grafted-on--it's pretty much an excuse to get Supernova and Wonder Girl together so she can ID him, but the fight with the Weather Wizard doesn't seem to serve the greater storyline at all.

Pg. 14: More awkward faces. And as funny as "Skeetles" is, it's kind of like an ice cream bar named after Kato Kaelin. "Respect my personal space, please"? A weird thing to say under the circumstances.

Pg. 15: The Flash T-shirt is a nice touch.

Pg. 17: A terrific reveal--a clue I've had shoved in my face for weeks & have been reading wrong anyway. Well done.

The Origin of Animal Man: Eight whole Brian Bolland pictures! I am not complaining, though. I was hoping to see Jog's suggestion of Waid writing Morrison realized, although I didn't actually expect it--but it would've been nice to see some hint of Buddy's unique metafictional position. If 1935 and 1985 are important years within 52, he's more likely than most of its characters to understand why.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Week 18: Magic Is Not Thermodynamics

Bizarre that we only seem to have gotten 19 pages of lead story this issue--I hope this won't be a continuing trend.

As I understand, the rules for the "Tenth Age of Magic" have been determined by a monograph written by Michael Moorcock for DC, and the gist of them is that you don't get something for nothing (or, as the Dr. Fate helmet explains to Ralph, "nothing comes without a price")--that there's a law of conservation of, I don't know, phlogiston or orgone energy or something. That would make some sense if we're talking about this guy, who gets in under the "any sufficiently advanced technology" rule, but somehow it doesn't quite ring true for me. Magic, it seems to me, is all about getting something for nothing, or at least redefining nothing so that it becomes something.

(In fact, it consists in great part in setting the rules by which things are perceived. My favorite magic character in the DCU is John Constantine, at least in his initial version, in which he was always making things happen but we never actually saw him doing anything in contravention of physical laws.)

Grant Morrison did a nice job of outlining the rules of magic--or at least its about-to-end Ninth Age in the DCU--in Seven Soldiers: Zatanna; I won't spoil the rules as he presents them there for those of you who haven't read it yet, except to say that the last one he proposes, "think yourself lucky," applies well beyond the borders of Earth-One. They weren't quite coherent enough to act as signposts for other writers, I suppose, but if you make the rules of magic coherent enough to involve axioms, reproducibility, etc., then what they're outlining isn't really magic any more, is it? I suspect the kind of magic that works for stories involves a certain amount of rulemaking but also some loosey-goosey stuff.

I see that Moorcock's Tenth Age seems to have something to do with tarot, too, following the example of Promethea, although honestly did Giffen & Barrows have to stick to the same old Rider-Waite designs? I like these much better. Or these.

Actually, here's a challenge for 52 Pickup's readers: design a card for a Rider-Waite-style tarot deck whose image is an unaltered panel, or fragment of a panel, from a DC comic.

Thanks again to Ragnell for filling in last week. At least J.G. Jones pays attention to light sources...

More notes:

Pg. 1: Since this is the House of Mystery, I think we can assume that the "Cain" to whom the suicide bomber dedicated her death a few issues back is this one. Stonehenge and Kaspar Hauser and Easter Island I knew about, Rennes I didn't. But it's curious that they're called the Croatoan Society, given the whole Croatoan business in Seven Soldiers: Klarion. And that picture is so not left-to-right.

I don't know who Edogawa Sangaku is, but Edogawa Rampo was the father of the Japanese detective story--his pseudonym is a transliteration of "Edgar Allan Poe"--and a sangaku is a kind of mathematical problem. Terri Thirteen's name is very much like Terry Thirteen, a.k.a. Dr. Thirteen, Ghostbreaker, who was killed in a magical accident at Baron Winters' rather House of Mystery-like house in Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #1; he had a daughter named Traci Thirteen, not Terri, who first appeared in this Geoff Johns-written issue... but I do like the suggestion that any mystical character who dies is promptly replaced by another version of the same entity.

Ralph we know. B.T. Chimp? B.T. stands for "Bobo The," it turns out, and he's wearing a "Grodd Is My Co-Pilot" T-shirt. Tim Trench was a minor Wonder Woman supporting character who appears to have appeared in two solo stories ever: one of them was here.

Pg. 2: The bald guy would have to be Edogawa, although he doesn't look a bit Asian.

Pg. 4: Curious that the crescent is the symbol of choice in what appears to be non-Muslim Kahndaq, given its historical association with Islam.

Pg. 6: Sports bra! Drink! At least Kahndaq doesn't appear to have a homosexuality taboo (that doesn't seem to be what Adam's upset about, anyway). Disconcertingly big grin on Charlie's face in panel 2.

Pg. 8: Montoya's still beating herself up over having killed the bomber, but really, a) she's shot to kill plenty of times before, and b) shooting someone who's two seconds away from blowing up herself, you, and several hundred innocents in her blast range is pretty much as far as you can get into "defensible violence" territory--which is to say that not shooting her would have done vastly, inarguably more harm than good. Not much of a moral conundrum there. I'm sure the Vic Sage of Mysterious Suspense would have mocked her for even having a twinge of remorse. Also, do we have any idea who the "pretty lass" of Shiruta is?

Pg. 10: Kind of hilarious that one of the lines of dialogue that appears to have been rewritten here is the one that was used for this issue's solicitation--it was originally "We found Shakespeare's GHOSTWRITER, we can find one of our own GUYS"... also, Holmes was indeed partly inspired by Joseph Bell, and the rest of the line is very funny. So who was it who gave Ralph help pulling himself back together? Possibly the woman from the cover, who might be the reporter from a few weeks ago? Or is the woman on the cover supposed to be Terri Thirteen? And what's up with the spying waiters?

Pg. 11: As people in the CBR forums have pointed out, Booster's pallbearers include the Blimp from Inferior 5, the Yellow Peri, Mind-Grabber Dude (with his outfit from Seven Soldiers: Zatanna--wow, that comic's coming up a lot this week--and still a desperate horn-dog), Beefeater II from JLE, some Abe Lincoln lookalike (can anyone identify him?), and best of all, the Odd Man--a Steve Ditko creation so obscure that he first appeared in one of the rarest DC comics ever (in a story later rewritten for inclusion in this issue, a follow-up to the story two issues earlier in which Kathy Kane/Batwoman was murdered, and now my head hurts). Love the "Herolist" thing, too.

Pg. 14: So we do have the Shadowpact active here. J.G. Jones' cover blog over at Wizard says he originally intended to use them on the cover, then wasn't able to because of continuity problems... wow, one hand really doesn't seem to know what the other one's doing, huh? As the cover puts it, "When is the Shadowpact?!?" is a good question, since the first issue of their series implies that they've sat out an entire year, but also that the year starts after Superman's return.

Pg. 15: Speaking of the Odd Man, the look of the Tenth Age looks rather Ditkovian, like a Photoshop upgrade of the Dark Dimension from Dr. Strange.

Pg. 16: Nice to see Atheist, Princess of Germworld put in an appearance, however briefly.

Pg. 19: The Emerald Eye, maybe?

The Origin of the Question: Again, it'd have been nice to have a little nod to Ditko here. Two little things Waid has dropped into the origin that I don't think were previously canon (correct me if I'm wrong): that Tot Rodor worked up pseudoderm from "the extract of the gingold plant"--this could be tied to Ralph's arc--and "from the notes of Gotham criminal Bart Magan," a.k.a. this guy.