Week 21: Thunderbird Rides the LightningIn 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!
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.