Week 18: Magic Is Not ThermodynamicsBizarre 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...
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.