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...")

26 Comments:

At 11:12 AM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...

Okay folks, coupla new theories this week.

Supernova is Ambush Bug (Squashua still thinks it's Booster, tho.)

Isis is really Amazing Grace and her brother is really her brother, Glorious Godfrey.

I haven't read this issue through yet but I have thumbed it. Have we seen the head before?

Man, I really need to blog this stuff.

Jamie

 
At 1:12 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

Always called Adrianna being a New God, and I guess this is where the concept of using Amazing Grace as a potential match comes up, though I haven't yet read this week's issue.

I do support the Ambush Bug theory and would totally accept it if it could be explained properly. I believe all of SuperNova's powers can be simulated via Teleportation or Time Travel simulating Teleportation.

I summarized all the Booster Gold appearances and think that he's been setting Skeets up for a fall ever since visiting the time travel lab. I think that Booster Gold (in the lab) somehow brought Booster Gold (of the near future) back in time from the point of the submarine explosion; they then discuss things and the first Booster Gold leaves to begin deceit against Skeets, while the near-future Booster Gold dons the Supernova costume.

No matter what Wonder Girl might think.

In answer to How did Lex acquire and alter Alex Luthor's corpse?, you need to read the last issue of Infinite Crisis where LL and The Joker ambush Alex in a dark Gotham alley. A shot (or multiple) rings out and someone may or may not have died offscreen.

 
At 1:53 PM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...

Squashua,

Actually, Sean just pointed that out to me. He gets full props from me for coming to the conclusion first.

I'm actually with you on the Booster saving himself theory. Heck, I'm even willing to believe that a later Booster wrote the clues on the chalkboard and the Booster in 52 recognized his handwriting. :)

Of course, he's one of my favorites, so I'm up for any chance that he may actually make it out of 52 intact.

I think we'll see Michael again and it is very possible that it is him under the Supernova costume.

 
At 2:23 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

It's not a race. :-)

 
At 3:03 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

Cassius6303 furthers his proposed Ambush Bug theory on Newsarama with the following tidbit:

Ambush Bug's first appearance?

DC Comics Presents #52


Ooooooooooh.

 
At 4:52 PM, Blogger Jeff R. said...

From the two 'next week' pictures, it's looking like I was right about Power Boy/Gerome McKenna. Or there's a good chance of that, anyhow.

I wonder if they're going to 'remember' that there were two emerald eyes floating around outside of the Emerald Head back in the L.E.G.I.O.N. years, and thus that it lost both, then recently recovered the one and is looking for the other...

 
At 8:08 PM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...

Squashua,

Just want to make sure people get credit where credit is due. :)

And Jeff? Lobo used the phrase "yer Stone Age spaceship" this week. Further proof that they are in the future? It would explain some of the oddities the space heroes have seen.

Anyone else have any luck with the cryptogram? So far I have"

I will
kill you in
a wey_! The _ might be a 'q' but I'm not sure.

If it does, then it sounds like 'week' when said aloud.

Any other ideas?

Jamie

 
At 10:48 PM, Blogger Eric said...

I translated it to say: "Damn, I look like a decaptitated Predator."

Not a tarot card set, but interesting idea, nonetheless (though not mine): 52 card sketches.

 
At 9:58 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

You all do realize they're going to have a Holiday issue during the week of Christmas, right? And Christmas is on December... 25. Oooooooh.

Yeah. it's a slow 52 week. The peoples are declaring Devem to be Supernova.

 
At 10:24 AM, Blogger Scott said...

About the relative dearth of metagene characters - you'd think so by the specific origin stories, but last time they had a metagene storyline during the whole Zod saga in the Superman books, they had throwaway panels showing that characters like Captain Marvel and Dr. Fate were depowered along with everybody else. Doesn't seem to make sense, but there it is...

 
At 3:18 PM, Blogger rfaires said...

First time to post, but I've been enjoying this since Week 1. Thanks for all the great commentary, Douglas.

What made this issue work for me was the sense of heroes stepping up to the plate after weeks of inaction. This John Henry was the one that caught my interest way back during the "Reign of the Supermen," someone who felt a responsibility to do something to help people. And I got some of the same feeling from Buddy, despite how awkwardly that sequence was executed.

This issue also pushed me a little further along on the series' overarching themes of identity and transformation. "Who are you?" is Vic's big question to Montoya -- and it may, as has been speculated, lead to Montoya assuming the mantle of the Question -- but it could be applied to almost every major character in the series, either because of their emotional/spiritual crises (Ralph, Black Adam, Renee, Booster) or because of some literal physical transformation (John Henry's steel skin, Adam Strange's eyelessness, Mr. Mind's reported evolution).

Along this line, we're continually seeing identities being blurred: regular folks are given meta makeovers, someone we already know (presumably) has assumed this new persona of Supernova, Renee looks as if she may become the new Question, Ralph takes on the Dr. Fate helmet, Lobo gets religion. So for me Starfire wearing Buddy's costume has less to do with misplaced modesty than a blurred sense of who she is. And is her act with the Eye the first step toward turning Kory into a new Emerald Empress?

The big disappointment for me this week was the Adam Strange origin. Love Waid, love Nowlan, but their take on Adam, one of my all-time favorites, felt clumsy to me, a rather cold retread of what made the original Silver Age series so beloved (as you noted, Douglas, it was a romance!) and a tepid attempt at tapping the energy of the Planet Heist update. On the heels of last week's gorgeous Bolland Animal Man two-pager, this left wanting like a certain interplanetary traveler missing a big kiss from his beloved because the zeta beam wore off.

 
At 6:17 PM, Blogger T.H. said...

I took the cryptogram to be "I will kill you in 7 ways!" which is both pretty lame as threats go, and disturbingly precise.

 
At 6:39 AM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...

Oooh....I'm gonna have to look at that again. You may be right tho.

Also, I someone pointed out to me that Ekron's Head kinda looks like Yuga Khan, Darkseid's father. It does resemble it but it's not a particular match.

The reason it came up is I wondered if that was maybe the Moebius Chair in the domed part. Those wings on the side, certainly have a Kirby feel to them....and they look a LOT like the Worlogog.

Jamie

 
At 2:25 PM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

Oh, there's definitely a captain's chair in there.

Re: the new vigilante in Gotham...I took that to mean Harvey Dent, who was shown in the OYL Batman snoozer to have taken Batman's place as Gotham's Guardian while Bruce took his boys on a boat ride.
(furthermore, the Jason Todd Robin costume is still under glass because in one of the Red Hood storyline issues, Alfred asked Batman if he should take it down, but Batman's all, "nothing's changed, Alfred, nothing's changed" even though, obviously, everything had changed thanks to Geoff Johns punching the damn universe)

Ambush Bug as Supernova...would love it. Maybe he can get the Cult of Conner to reanimate Cheeks, who might be the only who can stop Skeets.

 
At 2:55 PM, Blogger Mario Di Giacomo said...

Given the series, I think it's more likely Ekron is saying "I will kill you in 52 ways."

 
At 6:39 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

Seeing as how it's a weekly series, it's most likely that Ekron announced that it will kill him in seven days.

 
At 6:52 AM, Blogger Mario Di Giacomo said...

Can't be. The symbol is the same as the W in "will".

 
At 8:09 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

Could be "days". :-) We're debating over an alien language that might not translate appropriately to english. In certain languages, the same glyph could mean different things depending on the surrounding glyphs. If followed by 3 glyphs, it's a W; if followed by 2 glyphs, it's a D. :-) Of course, it certainly isn't interlac. All this aside, I like to think that the insectoid-style aliens are related in some way to The All New, All Different Blue Beetle.

 
At 7:14 PM, Blogger Mario Di Giacomo said...

Or a specific font from Comicraft :)

http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/comicraft/gobbledygook/

 
At 8:37 PM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...

Good catch, Mario!

i will
kill you in
52 ways!

D'oh!

Thank you sir!

Jamie

 
At 7:07 AM, Blogger Mario Di Giacomo said...

Happy to contribute.

Of course, this begs the question "Why does he need 52 ways?" :)

 
At 9:04 AM, Blogger Filby said...

Here's an interesting tidbit from Steven Wacker's latest interview: The space heroe's journey runs parallel to The Odyssey.

That would mean that the paradise planet was the Land of the Lotus-Eaters, Devilance was Polyphemus, and Lobo is Aeolus. I'm thinking that Lady Styx and Ekron are Scylla and Charybdis.

Next up on their trip should be the Underworld. I wonder who their Tiresias will be?

 
At 10:18 AM, Blogger Mario Di Giacomo said...

Tiresias was blind....

My guess is it'll be something like "Adam takes them through a region of space where ghosts can appear."

 
At 10:38 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

After reading The Odyssey analog, it gives me home for Animal Man, assuming he is Odysseus. Of course, Adam Strange also has a family he needs to get back to, though we have not seen them within the confines of 52 as we have seen Buddy's family, meaning that Adam could be Odysseus.

Anyway, it gives me hope, regardless of the remark in JLA.

 
At 10:39 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

...gives me HOPE for Animal Man...

 
At 2:35 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

52 Addiction Continues.

On Page 1 of Week 20, the clock in Wayne Manor reads 11:52

 

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