Week 25: The Sudden Return of the Unreliable NarratorHow about that Seven Soldiers #1, huh? I won't spoil it for those of you who haven't read it, but the final image suggests a rather strong tie-in to some plot and thematic points that are starting to get hit over and over in 52. (If you haven't been reading Seven Soldiers, you will find that #1 is very pretty and makes no sense whatsoever. If you have been reading Seven Soldiers, and I heartily endorse it, you will find that #1 is very pretty and that you'll have to spend weeks decoding it. But it's worth noting that "Dark Side" does indeed wear an omega tie-pin that looks, as a few people have noted, more than a bit like the 52 logo.) And we get at least three allusions to the project this week in 52...
So at last the "Four Horsemen" (who "will end her rain," according to Rip Hunter's chalkboard) have been mentioned elsewhere. The most obvious reference is a Biblical one: the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. While you're looking at that page, make sure to check out the Albrecht Dürer image of the horsemen: George Pérez, eat your heart out!
DC doesn't have much in the way of "four horsemen," aside from one twenty-year-old licensed role-playing game, whose title is so apropos a pun that I can't believe 52 isn't going to use it: "Four Horsemen of Apokolips."
A good title this week, too: "liminal times" are the times when magic is strongest and worlds can come into contact with each other. (And I am far from the first person to think this, but I'm now fairly convinced that 52 is the number of parallel earths--I'm guessing that the "return of..." that Dan DiDio teased a few weeks ago isn't a person, but the coolest concept DC ever had.) Halloween is one of those times--the big one, in some traditions. The concept also suggests moments when one state of being is giving way to another, as with the Ninth Age of Magic making way for the Tenth Age (the Ralph/Fate plot), or the government being replaced by Intergang, or Checkmate moving from the U.S. to the U.N., or the first half of 52 turning into the second half, which I'm gathering will be significantly different from the setup.
All this behind probably my favorite cover of the series thus far: it took a minute to notice that the Booster kid is carrying Dr. Fate's helmet, and the Steel kid is making another Marvel reference. (Well, it could be an even more oblique reference to the guy on the lower left here, but the costume doesn't match up.) This is almost a New Yorker-type cover: a cute seasonal gag that references the series' (nominal) protagonists. At least one of them isn't dressed as Ralph and carrying a bag in the shape of All-Straw Sue's remains.
Pg. 1: Bruno "Ugly" Mannheim is yet another Jack Kirby creation, introduced in an issue that also featured the official introduction to the DCU of another character with a long and distinguished history. In front of a cityscape so freaky and smoky I almost expected it to spell out "THE SPIRIT,"* we begin and end this issue with Biblical references, and with conflation of crime and sin--"crime is the moral standard"? Virtually every philosopher ever would have something to say about that... Again, we're seeing the phrase "new world order" invoked--does that ever signal anything good? And apparently there isn't only one copy of the Crime Bible, since the Question's now got another one.
*If anybody happens to have a link to a more appropriate Eisner page, like the splash page of "Showdown with the Octopus" or something, please let me know.
Pg. 2: The Mirage getting the kibosh here isn't the one who first appeared here, he's the one who first appeared here--and since he's a master of illusion, there's the possibility that what we're seeing is what he wants us to see. But probably not. Have we seen Laszlo before, or is he just a random assistant cannibal? Cannibalism is a taboo rather than a crime as such, right?
Pg. 3: I don't recognize any of the dead guys besides Kite-Man; somebody want to run the IDs? The "dark angel made of living granite," I don't think I even need to tell most of the people reading this site, is Darkseid (or "Dark Side" as he's referred to in Morrison's Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle): has his proper name been uttered in the series yet?
Pg. 4: Our second Seven Soldiers reference of the issue: Frankenstein! Neron is a Waid creation, and... maybe not the most exciting of Satan stand-ins (I believe by this point Lucifer had abdicated the throne of hell over in Sandman). But his early appearance had yet another tie-in with Ol' Stony Face.
Pg. 5: Yes, I do realize how nit-picky it is to complain about week/day numbers not matching up with our own, but while Day 3 of this week is when a lot of Halloween parties are being held, Halloween it is not. And Mary's not quite right about the "nature's toothbrush" thing.
Pg. 6: Of course, Halloween is just bad for teeth in general.
Pg. 8: The "Judeo-Christians" (great line) include a Chris Ware robot!
Pg. 9: Hey, it's some Jimenez and Lanning overspill! I'm not gonna complain about that! Nice gimmick to explain wandering away from this storyline from months on end: oh, oh, oh, it's magic. Count Marisius and Bous3dra don't seem to have any previous comics references--or any at all I know of. But this confirms that what we're seeing in this part of Ralph's arc is analogous to Dante's Inferno. Still, I don't think Dante specified a circle of hell for the vain; the fourth ditch of the eighth circle was where people (including Simon Magus) went for sorcery, not for "abusing magic." (Read a translation of the relevant canto here.)
Pg. 10: Felix Faust first fought the JLA in this fingertastic issue, and appeared in 2001 in the rather forgettable JLA: Black Baptism miniseries (in which he was finally separated from the influence of Hermes Trismegistus) and again briefly in Day of Vengeance. His "addict's cycle" has never really been mentioned before. My first exposure to him was in this 1980 story, in which he'd gone straight and become a librarian. And Ralph had the backup that issue! This is a good sign that Fate's helmet may be what's known in the biz as an unreliable narrator... note also that the helmet is considerably higher off the ground than head-level here.
Pg. 11: Etrigan's not in the soul-buying business, is he? Klarion (Seven Soldiers ref. #3) is really not in the soul-buying business, is he? And who are the other two buyers in the panels below Klarion? PLUS: Would that be a teddy bear the defenseless little girl is holding? Remember: teddy bears are an excellent sign of innocence!
I think we need to add "teddy bears" to "sports bras" in the 52 drinking game.
Pg. 13: Yup: unreliable narrator.
Pg. 14: Thought I could be the first to catch this, but Wizard's 52 Roundup beat me to it: the bank's named after Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson! And look to the right of that top panel: our first glimpse of Hawkman post-IC. Well, not really. Also, the Icicle/Tigress, um, "'ship" was revealed here.
Pg. 15: Iron Heights is near Keystone City; for crimes committed in Metropolis, wouldn't they be more likely to go to Stryker's Island?
Pg. 16: Not the John Byrne Matrix, I'm guessing. But somebody's wearing a Supernova outfit...
Pg. 19: The first version of Plutonium (before the one I mentioned a few weeks ago) appeared in the story that Chris at the ISB describes memorably here. And here we have, I think, the first suggestion that Intergang actually has designs on "the government."
Pg. 20: It appears that the Egg Fu here is less likely to be Egg Fu as such than to be Dr. Yes (here again is that Dial B for Blog link)... but "Chang Tzu" is an interesting name for him, since it's an alternate transliteration of the name of the pacifist Taoist philospher whose most famous quote is "Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man." He was also an anarchist, but that's very different from wanting to replace the government with a philosophical devotion to crime.
The Origin of Nightwing: Wait! I was just kidding! Please don't eat your heart out! Not much to say here, except that it's great to see a preview of the Brave and the Bold team, and that I appreciate the two out of three classic trophies that show up in the Batcave panel (Scipio over at The Absorbascon recently posted the definitive rundown on them). And I only resent the incursion of the Monitor/"you're supposed to be dead dammit" business a little.