Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Week 32: Holiday Charm

The 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.)

More notes:

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."

28 Comments:

At 7:23 PM, Blogger Jeff R. said...

Well, there are two things 'written' in that scene. Obviously the message on the grave, but we know that Ralph didn't write that one. The other is Sue's Obituary, which it's at least plausible that Ralph might have written.

(Way back when this started, by the way, I seem to recall one of the writers mentioning that Sue's middle name was significant...)

 
At 7:28 PM, Blogger raphaeladidas said...

I would imagine that Talon is supposed to be Owl-Man's Robin, so I guess the anti-Earth is still extant. Haven't they shown the anti-matter universe post-IC? Can someone tell me what was up with Ultraman and Owl-Man's appearance in the Superman/Batman annual? I only flipped through it but the last page seemed to suggest the story was a goof and not necessarily in continuity.

 
At 7:54 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

Hey Jeff, I was about to wonder if Ralph puts HIMSELF through this quest of self-discovery. Somehow he travels back in time (shadowy figure watching himself hold straw-Sue), and ends up being the one to draw the upside-down S-Shield on Sue's headstone.

 
At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is the way Nanda Pardat works.Back in Strange Adventures,it was established that spirits regain form there.

Brian

 
At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that's a good guess, squashua. I really thought it was Devem watching Ralph from the shadows before, but now that Devem has been exposed as a fraud a time-traveling Ralph seems like a good guess - the silhouette even looks like it's wearing a trench coat.

 
At 9:47 PM, Blogger Josh said...

I think that Ralph 'died' in the hotel, and his spiritual guide is not Dr. Fate, but the Phantom Stranger in disguise. After the failed resurrection of Sue, it's pretty obvious that he was lurking in the shadows.

The Stranger is granting Ralph a second chance; not to bring Sue back from the grave but come to terms with her death. When he accepts Sue's passing I think the Phantom Stranger will finally reveal himself and reunite them in the afterlife.

 
At 10:32 PM, Blogger Douglas Wolk said...

That Superman/Batman annual is indeed very goofy, and probably non-continuity--it's a rewrite of Superman #76, with, um, Deadpool injected into the proceedings. (It's really funny, too.)

 
At 11:28 PM, Blogger Filby said...

Something I noticed recently, but which isn't really related to this issue...

At no point in 52 is Charlie referred to as "The Question." Just "Charlie." In fact, "The Question" doesn't appear anywhere in the story at all as a name (this isn't counting the covers), unless you count Bruno Mannheim's cryptic exclamation of "The Questions!"

Significant? I have no idea.

 
At 1:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

filby, good eye! As far as I can remember, he hasn't been referred to as the Question. Granted, most of his interactions have been with Montoya or with Tot and Richard Dragon, but dude was really, really open to being unmasked around Black Adam and company. I think this is treading very close to "reading too much into things", but it's interesting nonetheless, imo.

 
At 7:07 AM, Blogger David C said...

IIRC (I could very well be wrong, though, so don't take my word for it), the Question was seldom explicitly referred to by that name in his own DC series, except in odd ways ("Who are you?" "Good question.")

He was often called "that no-face guy," which I always liked....

I rather like that "Dr. Fate's Helmet is really the Phantom Stranger" theory. For one thing, it always seemed a little odd to me that "Dr. Fate" would exist as a distinct *third* entity other than Nabu or Kent Nelson. And I'm not sure what to make of the "Helmet of Fate" in upcoming comics being the *half* helmet of Fate. In the only explanation of that particular helmet style I ever read (in All-Star Squadron), it was explained as specifically just a plain ol' helmet, worn by Kent Nelson instead of the Helm of Nabu, at a time when he was worried about being dominated by the helmet.

 
At 10:15 AM, Blogger Filby said...

I really liked the interaction between Freddy and Osiris this week (and it made this week's Trials of Shazam all the more distasteful in comparison :P). It has a nice symmetry to the meeting between Cap and Adam in the Rock of Eternity, and Mary and Isis before the wedding.

Regarding the "trigger gene"... a link between the Great Ten, Intergang, and Luthor, perhaps? All are involved in weird genetic engineering.

 
At 1:01 PM, Blogger Dante Kleinberg said...

One thing that struck me as interesting, and I may be wrong, is that Accomplished Perfect Physican is the first person besides Ralph to acknowledge Dr. Fate. He called him "your spirit guide" or something, yes?

Every other issue, the characters dealing with Ralph never looked or noticed the floating helmet. Even the monk in Nanda Parbat though Ralph was talking to him in this issue.

 
At 7:03 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

Cassie freaked a bit and there is an article on the 52 site of a bystander seeing the helmet.

 
At 11:41 PM, Blogger Douglas Wolk said...

In the Dept. of Aargh How Did I Miss That: Look very carefully at the background of the bottom panel on pg. 19 (where Rama Kushna is talking to Ralph). Cute! And a very nice allusion to the "Steranko effect" joke I've referred to here before.

 
At 1:24 PM, Blogger Andrew Dowdell said...

***Way back when this started, by the way, I seem to recall one of the writers mentioning that Sue's middle name was significant...***

It's not her middle name. It's her maiden name.

And it's incorrect.

Week One has it as "Dearbon." Her real maiden name was "Dearborn." Any significance?

 
At 1:26 PM, Blogger Hey Eddie said...

In re: the "nobody calls him the Question all series long..." thing?

I noticed the week that Booster died, that prior to the moment of his death and Skeets's big "MICHAEL!" scream, the little robot had NEVER called him Michael during the series, even when they were alone. Any reference was always "Booster." I divined from that, that Skeets was up to something (and of course two weeks later, it turned out he was evil). I have a feeling that if they're playing this game with Charlie/The Question, it's gonna mean something.

 
At 7:42 PM, Blogger Matthew E said...

I thought I remembered reading somewhere that 'Dearbon' was actually the correct one. But I have no idea why this would be significant.

 
At 9:58 PM, Blogger WildCard said...

What is with all the quote-slash-asterix's ("/*) that keep appearing in these comments?? Is this something that is being censored out for some reason?? I have no idea what they are supposed to be refering to.

 
At 1:47 AM, Blogger Andrew Dowdell said...

Re: Sue's maiden name

I have seen it as both "Dearbon" and "Dearborn"....is Superboy-Prime still hitting that interdimensional wall?

 
At 3:17 AM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

I think G'Nort's the one who's punching the universe these days. Or Howard Chaykin.

 
At 9:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On page 19, does it say "Heya Neal Adams Eeeec"? What does that mean?

I found it odd for most of this issue that the Perfect Accomplished Physician, who's obviously in tight with the Tibetans, should work for the Chinese. It's not so much explained as such, rather the dialogue alludes to him having made some sort of compromise regarding his ideals, for the sake of the greater good. But a little more exposition would have been nice - blame Morrison for its lack.
Also, I found it interesting that the PAP did not view Ralph's presence in Nanda Parbat as a violation of the superhuman whatever treaty, as the GL's were several months ago. Perhaps this comes to show us that although the PAP works for the Chinese, he still views Tibet as a separate entity, regardless of the politics of the region.

 
At 4:08 PM, Blogger Filby said...

Also, I found it interesting that the PAP did not view Ralph's presence in Nanda Parbat as a violation of the superhuman whatever treaty, as the GL's were several months ago. Perhaps this comes to show us that although the PAP works for the Chinese, he still views Tibet as a separate entity, regardless of the politics of the region.

I think that's because Ralph isn't a super-hero anymore, and/or the Physician is just more lenient than the rest of the Great Ten.

 
At 4:47 PM, Blogger Douglas Wolk said...

To spoil the joke altogether: it says "Hey, A Neal Adams Effect," a reference to Adams' "Hey, A Jim Steranko Effect" bit that he snuck into the background of a Deadman panel way back when. See http://www.dialbforblog.com/archives/150/ for details.

 
At 6:20 PM, Blogger Derek said...

Um, I dunno if anybody's mentioned this yet, but I didn't see it if they did.

Rama Kushna's visage in the first panel of pg. 19 looks just like the design on the Accomplished Perfect Physician's tunic.

 
At 6:57 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Any chance we could pick that apart and find that Accomplished Perfect Physician was so lenient because it wasn't APP, but really a physical incarnation of Rama Kushna (They are in Nanda Parbat, physically represented spirits are possilbe)?

It would explain APP not caring about the treaty...

 
At 7:17 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Waaait...

Early 52, Ralph is called out because his storage shed was broke into. If he was already dead at this point, why was he called and not a next of kin?

Sorry, bored and trying to speculate.

 
At 12:08 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

Everyman dressed like Charlie Brown? Classic.

 
At 10:45 AM, Blogger Mike Carniello said...

I thought the Anselmo case was a reference to the Firesign Theatre Nick Danger bit (the first one):

"Danger! I though I saw the last of you in the Anselmo pederasty case":
Lt. Bradshaw from "Head 'em off at the Past."

 

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