Week 32: Holiday CharmThe big tease in this week's issue is of course the last page (page 21! hey, a bonus!): Ralph's declaration that he "already knew" that "'the end is already written,'" and that he'd written it himself "back in May, at the end of the Crisis, at the Ambassador Hotel."
So let's review: what did Ralph do at the Ambassador Hotel in May? It was way back in Week 1. On his bedside table, we saw Sue's obituary, the invoice and room-key from the Ambassador, a coffee cup, and two pill bottles. On his pillow, there were some wrappers from a package of mints. He got a voice-mail message from Bea, who we haven't heard from in quite some time; then he got the message from Elysium Mortuary, just as he was preparing to shoot himself, with a gun he acquired in the "Anselmo case" in 1995. (I was hoping that would turn out to be significant, but it's just a Moonlighting reference. Unless any DC-philes can tell me differently.)
One take on this is that, as Wizard's analysis suggests, Ralph would have been reunited with Sue more quickly if he'd just gone ahead and offed himself. Another possibility is that Ralph did in fact kill himself but it didn't take, since there are rather a lot of other people who were supposed to die right around then and didn't (Dick Grayson and Donna Troy among them), and that we're seeing some kind of Sixth Sense scenario. A third is that he killed himself and it did take (perhaps with whatever was in those pill bottles, rather than the gun?), and the whole series is a dying vision of what might have happened over the next year; not likely, but hey. (That might explain why the chronology of Ralph's story is so strange, though--didn't he tell Fate to take him to Nanda Parbat right after their encounter with the Spectre, more than a month ago? so why'd he detour via the U.S. first?) Another is that we're seeing some kind of metafictional "author/writing" gambit, although that's more Morrisonian than Waidian, and we're already seeing hints of that in the outer-space sequence, with Buddy talking about how the universe likes him. Or it might have something to do with Bea, or with the mints, or the coffee, or something; who knows what's a clue and what's not?
The title of this week's issue is a variation on Seven Years in Tibet--it's a book, it's a movie, and it's a song by David Bowie, which he also sang in Mandarin Chinese.
Two other interesting notes: the Snakes on a Plane daggers we saw in Rip Hunter's lab back in Week 6 are being wielded by a couple of the cultists attacking the beginning-of-career Batman on page 1 of Week 30. They look singularly un-useful for stabbing anyone very deeply, but there you go. And if you happen to be in New York and near the Jewish Museum, have a look at the Masters of American Comics exhibition--the "superhero" room curated by Jerry Robinson is hit-and-miss, but it does include Robinson's original design sheet for the Joker, which is precisely the same as the Joker card being held by a gloved hand on the first two pages of Week 1. (And while you're at it, do spend some time lingering over the Will Eisner and Jack Kirby and Chris Ware and Gary Panter etc. originals--it's kind of an amazing show, even if they do have a signed Basil Wolverton piece identified as a Harvey Kurtzman.)
Pg. 1: About time we hear Boston Brand mentioned. For those of you just joining the show, he (or rather his spirit) is better known as Deadman, and he can possess and control other people's bodies. A useful sort of ability to have if you're going to be involved with a super-being who isn't just one individual. Not that I think he's necessarily part of Supernova, but it's an interesting thought. (For further Supernova speculation, see the terrific comments for last week's 52 Pickup; I like the idea of Supernova being former series-mates the Atom and Hawkman, but the "nobody knows where Hawkman is" business that was going around a few weeks ago makes me doubt that one.) Most importantly, when Boston Brand visited Nanda Parbat, he took on physical form. Curious. Even more curious: Dr. Fate has definitely encountered Deadman before. While we're at it, how does Ralph know that what he's found is actually a mystical amulet and not just a holiday charm?
Pg. 5: Another variation on the "super-team membership drive" problem. Do the Titans have a charter? Is there something they've got a responsibility to do? Why would they need to hold auditions to scare up more members instead of bringing in people they already know? I mean, within the story, that's Steel's suggestion for some reason, but what would the public understanding of why they'd be holding auditions be?
Again, I refer you to Kalinara's breakdown of the missing-year Titans. On this page, we can see Young Frankenstein, somebody (next to him) who looks like he or she is wearing the armor Natasha was working on, Mas y Menos, Aquagirl, Miss Martian, Talon, Molecule, both Riddler's daughter (who looks like she's wearing a Question outfit) and Joker's daughter, Flamebird (not this Flamebird or this Flamebird or this Flamebird or this Flamebird but, I think, this Flamebird--and you can tell that that cover was originally trying to do this, can't you?--who is a.k.a. Bette Kane, which just go follow the link because my head will explode if I try to explain her relationship to the previous Batwoman) and, speaking of that cover, Kid Devil, as well as a bunch of others... I'm just going from what's on the board of Polaroids. Also, why does Titans Tower have a golden statue of Superboy kicking himself in the groin?
Pg. 6: Talon notes that he's from a different Earth. Interesting--both that there's a parallel Earth and that he's that up-front about it. According to Tony Daniel, he's supposed to "look a bit like Owl-Man from the Crime Syndicate"--who are indeed from a parallel (anti-matter) Earth, post-COIE and pre-IC--and Talon's a good name for an Owlman sidekick.
Pg. 8: A bizarrely awkward scene, although I like Sobek's Tawky Tawny-isms. "Every village in southern Modora" would not be a lot, since this issue established that Modora has a population of 400. (Sonar, incidentally, appeared in Week 10, as part of Black Adam's coalition.)
Pg. 10: Starfire's home world, Tamaran, was destroyed here.
Pg. 11: 9999 stairs!
Pg. 12: So either the monsters we've seen associated with Intergang have to do with this "atavistic trigger gene," or there's a big coincidence going on.
Pg. 13: A tongue click? Wow, it really was a bad idea for Charlie to leave Nanda Parbat.
Pg. 14: The year of the pig doesn't begin until Feb. 18, 2007. (We're currently in the year of the dog; the previous year was the year of the rooster.) "Equanimity" rather than "peace": interesting.
The rest of this issue is fairly self-explanatory, except as mentioned above... EDITED TO ADD: ...and except for the awesome little visual joke on pg. 19, which I didn't notice until several other people pointed it out. See comments.
The Origin of Him with the Big 52 On His Chest: All I can say is I love the word "chittery."