Week 20: Language Is a Virus from Outer SpaceThe 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.
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...")