Week 19: Rabbit ReduxTrying 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 http://52thecomic.com , you might want to--they've started posting outtakes from each issue, too, and they're kind of fascinating.
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.