Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Week 21: Thunderbird Rides the Lightning

In 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!

More notes:

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.


At 11:03 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

You get these books early, don't you. :-)

At 12:09 PM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...

LOL....Yeah, I think he does.

As for the Infinity, Inc question. I took it to mean they only bought the rights to the names and nothing else.

I think that the Xolotl significance is that Ralph is getting into the underworld (or so he thinks), with Fate's help. I still think that this is happening through Ralph on a subconcious or spiritual level. In fact, I think someone is using him as a conduit to get into the Underworld. If not, this could provide a means for Ralph to meet up with the space heroes in the future.

Blockbuster seems to me an engineered 'everyman' by Luthor.

Five will get you ten that it will be Albert Rothstein that is heavily involved in the massacre (hinted at) in Khandaq....this also ties in with the four horseman theme if it is indeed Checkmate behind it. And I think Herakles became 'Nuklon' after a makeover.

And you mentioned Avasti and her knack for delivering news....anyone else find her extremely suspicious? First, the blown test tubes (destroying any evidence John might have had) and then last week's odd comment about seeing John on the news. I think she too is a plant, at the very least to distract Irons from Luthor's mechinations.

And I think the spirit theme ties in with ALL the heroes, I just can't prove it. Between stuff like this, the Tarot stuff and even on down to the Sundoller's coffee sizes, there's seems to be different aspects of spirituality in every story. I'm not that well versed in this stuff but there's some pretty obvious clues.

Regarding your question about Tarot Decks, Douglas. Yes, it occurred to me as well. Marseilles was also a major center for Tarot and playing card manufacture at one there's more than one connection.

Also, Steve Wacker stressed the importance of Marseilles in response to one of my 52 questions over on Newsarama.


At 12:50 PM, Blogger Paul I said...

Latest Supernova theory: what if Supernova is Luthor -- using the everyman programme on himself. Which would explain the slight arrogance last issue ("Keep out my space,") and why Supergirl thinks it's Superboy (they share the same genes or something, don't they?).

At 2:35 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

Infinity Inc.
Lex Luthor.
Infinity == 8

At 2:39 PM, Blogger Eric said...

Speaking of Stephen Wacker, he's no longer working for DC.

At 2:43 PM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...


What am I missing here? I am freakin' dense today and what you wrote made no sense. :)


At 3:09 PM, Blogger Batiduende said...

And Hot Spot/Isaiah is the former Joto

Finally! The guy changed his name. Joto in Spanish is a very pejorative way of saying someone is gay.

And I was getting tired of hearing El pendejo es un JOTO! JA JA JA! at the local comic shop.

At 7:53 PM, Blogger Scott said...

Wasn't the Cosmic Converter Belt adapted from Ted Knight's Cosmic Rod technology? I would imagine the Knight estate, which now devolves to Jack, would still hold the patent, even though the Thinker is evidently selling pirated knockoffs...

At 12:58 AM, Blogger Douglas Wolk said...

I cannot tell a lie. I usually get 'em the day they're published, but this one I got a day early.

At 6:57 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

For the blind and those who cannot see bold formatting:
Lex Luthor -> L.L.
Infinity Inc. -> I.I.
11:52 from last issue -> 1.1.

L -> I -> 1 -> l -> i

Just another strange symbolic analysis for someone else to pick at.

Anyone notice the increasing number of machine intelligences?

At 8:43 AM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...

Thanks Squashua, I just couldn't wrap my head around it yesterday.

And yes, I've noticed the increase. And the tease for next week promises even more.


At 10:22 AM, Blogger Scott said...

I think 52 is the first time Sharp has been mentioned. I find it an interesting contrast (intentional or otherwise) to the Apokoliptan drug "Flat" that showed up in Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle.

Wasn't the Conglomerate (of "Booster Gold and the Conglomerate" from Justice League Quarterly #1) also a corporate super team?

At 12:41 PM, Blogger rachelle said...

I'll join the discussions, since you asked for some new people. I've been reading 52 since the beginning and have been enjoying this blog for almost as long. I'm just lazy with the commenting sometimes.

I like paul i's theory that Supernova is Lex Luthor. Probably not true, but fun to think about.

I think it's Alfred.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger Filby said...

The most disturbing thing about Trajectory's death, for me, was the way Mercy kept grinning at Lex the whole time.

By the way, you may find this interesting.

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Erich said...

I had a feeling the whole time that Eliza was doomed, just because we were getting to know her so well. I recognized that I was being manipulated...but it still worked. I really liked the kid.

At 5:30 PM, Blogger Ookla the Mok said...

Could Supernova be one of Superman's handy robot doubles, as he's used in the past when out of town or unavailable?

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Ookla the Mok said...

Dealing with Xolotl, is anyone a little bothered that Ralph kicks him down those steps without untieing him? Kind of non-heroic behavior. I do like that they're playing with South American myths for a change, but is Ralph trying to get into the Aztec Underworld in particular, or will any myth do to get him into a general "netherplains" realm? Why Aztec? Also, after reading that Alex Toth critique, it strikes me that the floating helmet "character" is way too small on the establishing panel, I had to look for it.

At 12:53 AM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

Doesn't Ralph's second EVER adventure (as recently seen in Showcase Presents) deal with Aztec monsters (or badscience recreations thereof)?
Or am I blurring that with a Showcase Teen Titans episode?

At 6:24 AM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...

"Also, after reading that Alex Toth critique, it strikes me that the floating helmet "character" is way too small on the establishing panel, I had to look for it."

I looked back at this last night and it seemed in proportion to the rest of the page. However, it is interesting to note that the helmet always seems to be at the height that someone wearing it would be. It never appears taller, nor shorter than it does in that establishing shot.

Scott, the Conglomerate was a corporate superteam much like Power Company and the Captains of Industry. Booster had a falling out with the JLI and joined them for a bit.

Emmett, I looked through the EM archives and could not find a reference to any Aztec creatures that Ralph may have fought. You may be right in remembering this but I could find anything.



At 1:17 PM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...

Okay peoples, this is bugging the heck out of me. On the cover of Issue #21, the Titans of 52 are shown in the yellow shards on the cover....but who is in the middle left shard?


At 2:08 PM, Blogger WildCard said...

"who is in the middle left shard?"

Good question, Jamie. I looked through the issue again and that person is not with the rest of the Teen Titans. Was someone removed from the story after the cover was done for some reason?

At 11:31 PM, Blogger J Pennington said...

First time poster here, actually joined just for the fact of getting in on this blog, I have no desire to do much else. But I saw earlier people declaring that Supernova is Lex, but in the previews for the next issue of 52, Lex is shown standing in front of a window, while Supernova floats on the outside. A charged Luthor drew a Superman symbol on the window in front of Supernova's chest, showing that it isn't Luthor at all. I'm still pulling for Superboy, personally.

At 1:19 AM, Blogger Filby said...

I could be proven wrong, but going by some speculation on Newsarama, just as the Space Cases are acting out The Odyssey, apparently Ralph's little field trip is an allusion to The Divine Comedy.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

...or possibly Futurama?

At 1:48 PM, Blogger austinspace said...

Your mention of the Wally West issue where he rescues the woman falling out of the plane resonated with me. I remember reading that when it first came out and realizing I'd read a great unique story, way different than the other stuff I'd picked up that week. I wish I could say that more often than I do.

At 10:03 AM, Blogger Eric said...

If the writers of 52 take into account the whole of the Divine Comedy and not just the Inferno canticle, then Ralph will wind up in Paradiso, a.k.a. Heaven, with his ideal beauty as his guide, e.g. Sue for Beatrice?

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Matt said...

Odd...this isn't the first time Red Tornado's popped up in Australia. And I wonder why that is...???

(The first time I've seen is in Primal Force. If anybody actually remembers that.)

At 1:24 AM, Blogger MaGnUs said...

A little late here, I know; but just wanted to point out that yes, Flash and Superman were pretty matched as speed went, in Pre-COIE continuity. Nowadays, Flashes are always faster than Supes.


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