Week 23: Black Adam and Grey TheologyFor a comic that, as a few of the writers' interviews have suggested, may not have room for the exploration of religion in the DC universe that they intended, 52 does seem to have a lot of religion in it. The Cain cult seems to take off from the cults in our world based on the idea of sin (e.g. Satanism), and on the long-running seductiveness of the idea that good and evil are artificial constructs, that the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom, etc. (Grant Morrison dealt with that a little bit in The Invisibles too, with the Marquis de Sade sequences and others--and actually I'm curious how many people who read this blog a. have read The Invisibles, b. haven't read it at all, or c. made it partway through and gave up. It's one of my favorite comics ever, although I'm always a little hesitant to recommend it to people.)
But here we have something else altogether: a cult based not just on "do what thou wilt" or even "evil" but crime, on the supposition that fidelity to the divine involves breaking secular laws whatever they may be. (Or maybe not, since it's named after Cain and one of its catchphrases is "the red rage and the rock"--Cain's murder of Abel, at a time when it's safe to assume there weren't any secular laws to speak of. The existence of the DCU Cain and Abel just makes that more complicated.) The cult's ritual is a straight-up parody of an Anglican church service, right down to the "here endeth the lesson." A crime cult is a very weird concept, but I kind of love it--especially since the DCU's heroic ideals have always brushed up against the distinction between "crimefighting" or criminal justice and actually doing right, and sometimes conflated them. (The "Justice League" or "Justice Society": what flavor of justice would those be? The Spectre does divine justice specifically in contrast to secular justice. Etc.)
The cult's HQ isn't just a temple, though--it's an "Intergang reeducation camp." Which makes it look like Intergang is trying to brainwash the orphans it's kidnapped into doing wrong for wrong's sake, rather than the goals that gangs generally have: mutual benefit, money, power, that sort of thing. Admittedly, Intergang's got ties to Apokolips, which is less concerned with normal gang-related activities than with doing whatever it takes to assemble and use the Anti-Life Equation. But it raises the question of what exactly Intergang's motive and intended goals are. I also have to wonder how effective Intergang's brainwashing techniques would be on the starving orphans chained to the speaker's platform in Yemen, given that the reading from "The Epic of Moriarty, Book of Crime" is in English, which I'd guess that very few of them speak--Amon doesn't, until he gains "the wisdom of Zehuti."
The title of this week's issue is a riff on this book by the amazing writer Rebecca West's boyfriend. (Although it does make me wonder if T.O. Morrow's actually got a doctorate, as the cover suggests; that'd make for a funnier title. "Professor"? He was obviously a teacher somewhere, since Doc Magnus was one of his students--was he just an adjunct or something?)
Interesting that "what you get when the world's maddest scientists are given an unlimited
budget and encouraged to let their imaginations run wild on the finest mind-expanding narcotics available to man" is so much like what we saw in the full flowering of the DC Universe's go-go checks era. Which leads to the broader point that the Silver Age is the source of so much of what we're seeing in 52--was there some kind of failure of imagination that happened as Silver gave way to Bronze? Or is there some other reason that the creations of the late '70s and '80s and '90s were fewer or more sedate or less interesting to revive as points of continuity?
Nice cover "Pieta" homage, and once again, there's a discrepancy between what Amon is wearing on the cover and on the inside... I'm also not sure how I feel about Montoya being "the Answer" with a capital A--I like her too much as a non-superhero character--but I'm not sure if that's supposed to be a clue about where that storyline is going.
Pg. 1: Believe it or not, this is not a new robot. Its name is B.O.L.T.S., and it first appeared here, and again here. Which we'll be seeing more of in a moment. (Sorry about the weird links; comics.org doesn't seem to be working right now.) It also looks like Prof. Morrow has access to the Dr. Moreau-like creatures that signal Intergang involvement.
Pg. 2: Oolong Island isn't new either. In fact, it first appeared in Wonder Woman #157--as the secret island headquarters of the diabolical Egg Fu, the Very Most Racist Super-Villain of All Time. (We briefly saw him back in the second "Tuesdays with Morrow" sequence.) Do follow that link for Dial B for Blog's essay on his history with both Wonder Woman and the Metal Men.
Where do the beach bunnies come from? Are they mad scientists too? Please tell me so.
Pg. 3: So wait, the "Cricketron" incinerates a bunch of people and everyone's still just hanging out under their "Penguin Umbrellas" on the beach?
Pg. 4: Anyone know who "Bugsy" might be? Dr. Rigoro Mortis seems to be somewhat the worse for wear since he first appeared in House of Mystery #165. What's up with Doc's appearance? We didn't see him get splashed with anything last issue--and chloroplatinic acid is not nearly as easy to make as just dumping aqua regia on platinum, although that's a step in the process.
Pg. 5: "Ira" is Ira Quimby, a.k.a. I.Q., who first appeared in Mystery in Space #87 (written up here). His origin, interestingly, has to do with a bit of stone from the planet Rann; maybe he has something to do with the Adam Strange plot? Also, he fought the Metal Men back in DC Comics Presents #4, which looks like it's getting reprinted in Superman: Back In Action next January. Anyone know the story behind the giant robot in the last panel? Or what the headless little-boy robot Sivana's chasing is?
Pg. 6: "Moriarty" would have to be another mad scientist--a math professor, actually: Prof. James Moriarty. He's appeared in at least one DC comic (outside of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen): this one. Any others? I can't find a source for the passage she's reading (about Moriarty torturing Holmes?!)--the "weak ye are revealed, and thus choice ain't for ye" bit is a mixture of high and low speech that reminded me a bit of what Mark Twain makes fun of in "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses." Love that forked-tongued bookmark, though.
Pg. 7: I still want to know where she holsters that thing, or if she's just been wandering around the streets of Yemen clutching her big Kirbytech gun.
Pg. 11: Sports bra! Drink! And why would Montoya and Charlie have gone ahead to Dangerous Place Central without Adam and Isis already present to back them up?
Pg. 13: Oh, look, it's another talking tiger with a member of the Marvel family...
Pg. 15: And apparently you have to be crippled if you want to be a Captain Marvel Jr. analogue.
Pg. 17: "I am Osiris... even though I am not sure what that yet means." For one thing, it means his theology's confused: Amon-Ra and Osiris were two different gods, at the toppermost of the poppermost of the Egyptian pantheon. For another, it means you're going to marry your sister, dude, and after that things are going to go downhill.
Pg. 18: "Seeing if it's contagious": awesome!
Pg. 20: I'm sorry, but a happy-looking Black Adam just freaks me out.
The Origin of Wildcat: Jerry Ordway was a perfect choice for this one. Ted's looking at the cover of All-American Comics #16, although I like the color scheme of the Earth-Prime version better. It was specifically Green Lantern that inspired Ted in the original story, though. But "the finest boxer who ever lived"? What about Superman's other sparring partner?