Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Week 33: Come Light the Wrong Menorah

A nice breather of an issue--there are enough seasonal touches that it doesn't matter that not much is really happening that we didn't know about already. (Charlie's declining: check. The Suicide Squad's going after Black Adam: check. Luthor's a bastard: check.) And the title "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" is a reminder that we haven't seen Diana yet, outside of the Waid/Hughes origin. But everything slows down around this time of year, really, so I'll just think of this issue as a delivery system for what I fear is the penultimate Montoya/Question scene.

Good cover this time, too--I like the lighting and the ice-rink/tree idea. Still, that Batwoman is running around Gotham beating up monsters while wearing high heels is tough enough to believe, but that she's doing it in the snow, as on the cover, beggars the imagination. At least we never see her feet on the inside of this issue. And Nightwing would be a lot less likely to be falling to his death if, for instance, he were holding some kind of visible Bat-line.

While you're wrapping your holiday presents, why not have a look at vicsage.com, which has put up a fine little Schrödinger's cat of a home page? Or the latest updates to Ralph Dibny's diary?

And speaking of holiday presents: This week's Publishers Weekly Comics Week included PW's poll of comics critics for the best graphic novels of the year, but didn't include our individual lists. (Chris Arrant and Dan Nadel have posted their own lists elsewhere.) Here's mine:

1. Alison Bechdel: Fun Home (Houghton Mifflin)
2. Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie: Lost Girls (Top Shelf)
3. Kevin Huizenga: Curses (Drawn & Quarterly)
4. Grant Morrison et al.: Seven Soldiers of Victory vol. 1-4 (DC Comics)
5. Jaime Hernandez: Ghost of Hoppers (Fantagraphics)
6. Bryan Lee O'Malley: Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness (Oni Press)
7. Scott McCloud: Making Comics (Harper)
8. Carla Speed McNeil: Finder: Five Crazy Women (Lightspeed Press)
9. Hope Larson: Gray Horses (Oni Press)
10. Eddie Campbell: The Fate of the Artist (First Second)

I mean, the year's not over yet (and there's still an enormous pile of books on my shelf waiting to be read, including the three books from PW's shortlist I haven't gotten to yet), but all ten of these hit it out of the park as far as I'm concerned.

(Hey, commenters--I'd love to see your personal 2006 graphic novel hit parades, if you want to post them!)

So back to notes on the issue at hand:

Pg. 1: Ralph is boozing it up in the Flash Museum, which first appeared here--although they're actually in the rebuilt version, since it got blown up and then rebuilt here.

I can't recall a story involving Ralph, Edgar Allan Poe and Jack the Ripper, although Ralph and Poe appeared in the same story in this excellent comic. (Anybody want to help out?) Edgar Allan Poe also guest-starred in this issue of The Atom and this just slightly pre-Kirby issue of Jimmy Olsen--no Ralph in sight.

The "personal effect" is of course the "Anselmo case" gun I mentioned last week.

"Fella could get accustomed to this sorcery stuff"--what, didn't we establish recently that in the Tenth Age DCU, there's no such thing as a free lunch, sorcery-wise?

Pg. 2: James Pierpont wrote "One Horse Open Sleigh" in 1857.

Pg. 3: We still don't know whether this Nightwing is Dick or Jason, but I lean toward Jason, since 1) he was unabashedly checking out her rack in a rather un-Grayson-like way a few weeks ago, and 2) he's much more likely to be willing to speak for the entire Bat-family than Dick would be, considering how uneasy Dick was about taking over for Batman a few weeks ago.

I do appreciate having the entire lyric to "Joy to the World" running through this scene.

Pg. 4: If it's laser-honed and never loses its edge, do you really want to catch it when it's flying?

Pg. 5: No record of a Luis Dominero anywhere in the literature (cough). But you'd think that with all Luthor's technological savvy, he'd come up with with a way to deal with the blatant bad lorem ipsum that's all over his scenes this time...

Pg. 6: Luthor's "Energy Readings" are precisely the same as Dominero's. Some of the worst figure drawing I've seen in a major-company comic book in a while on this page, by the way.

Pg. 8: For more people complaining about the unfairness of their lives in the wintertime, please see this video (long, but worth watching the whole thing).

Pg. 10: Okay, one major gripe to get out of the way before the good stuff (and I'm not even going to complain about the timeline/what-year-is-this problem). The menorah in panel 1 (and on page 13, panel 7) has seven branches, and it's the one Kate has been using (there's melted wax on it). But that's the kind of menorah that was associated with the old Temple in Judaism--see this page for details. It's not a Hanukkah menorah, which is the kind Kate would use, and has nine branches. That's sort of the point of it, really: the middle candle is the shamash, which lights the other ones, one for each of the eight nights of the holiday.

If you'd like to see what a Hanukkah menorah looks like in a comic book: Colossal Boy and his family use one in the 30th century.

Now to the heart of this issue: Charlie's delusional monologue, which is actually one reference to his past after another. The poem he's reciting at the beginning of the scene is a slight misquotation of a frequently misquoted poem by William Hughes Mearns, the father of "creative writing."

The rest of the scene is mostly lines from the final few issues of the marvelous Dennis O'Neil/Denys Cowan incarnation of The Question, which take place around Christmastime too--several pages appear in this thread. The "leaving Hub City"/"Mommy told me" bit is from a scene in this issue, in which the badly beaten Vic Sage is telling his lover Myra about a dream he had about his mother. Myra doesn't really look the way she's drawn here; she wasn't wearing earrings in any of the relevant scenes, either. Three cheers for reference!

Pg. 11: Jackie was Myra's daughter, who died in this issue--although this Rucka-written issue claimed she was still alive. Anyone want to identify the "son, can you hear me?" panel?

Pg. 12: The "I couldn't say it" business fills in a blank from this issue, the last one of the monthly Question series (followed by the short-lived Question Quarterly). Myra, undressing and getting into bed with the sleeping, recovering Vic, says "We've never said the words, have we? Even in the heat of passion, neither one of us has ever mentioned love. I don't know if that means we're brave and honest people--or cowards. I used to think it didn't matter. Now, I'm not sure. I wonder if saying the words aloud might not make the words true. You're not awake. That's good, because I wouldn't be able to say these things if you were." (She kisses him.) "I wouldn't be able to finally say, 'I love you.' I do say it, Vic. For what it's worth." And he says "Myra?" Cut to the next morning--Christmas morning, actually... and a scene in which he says, among other things, "We're going to play in the snow, Tot," and "after last night, I should hope so."

Incidentally, the last three issues of The Question were $1.50 apiece at my local comic shop. Mile High Comics currently has most of the series very heavily discounted, and if you throw in the half-off THANKYOU code word mentioned in their latest newsletter, you can pick them up for pennies.

Pg. 14: I'm guessing Morrison wrote the scene with Ellen Baker on her front porch, because Americans say "Merry Christmas," not "Happy Christmas." This page is the first we've seen of Bea in a good long while. I like the look of that junkyard dog in the panel with Red Tornado's head. And apparently Guy Gardner doesn't know what a Hanukkah menorah looks like either.

Pg. 15: Selina is looking very pregnant for somebody who's not due until May. I hope the fact that the Steelworks' lights are out is a sign that John Henry's having fun with Kala somewhere--after the end of his series, he deserves a break love-life-wise. Commissioner Gordon's also back a little early, since as of One Year Later, which would have to be May, it's been three months since Gordon's return to the GCPD.

Pg. 16: Rather pointless recap, except for the "crocodile tears" bit.

Pg. 19: As I've noted before, the case for Black Adam as an "international terrorist" is very weak, I think; I still have yet to hear a good argument for it--or any argument at all, actually. Anyone want to make one?

Pg. 20: Atom Smasher's incarnation of the Suicide Squad appears to include the not-yet-reformed Owen Mercer/Captain Boomerang II; Cole Parker/Persuader; Plastique, who actually was a self-described terrorist for a while, then reformed and was pardoned, and hasn't done anything we've seen that would have landed her back in Belle Reve, although she's turned up in Rucka's Checkmate in the Suicide Squad too; the Electrocutioner, who according to Justice League of Meltzer #1 has since teamed up with Plastique as the Bomb Squad; and Suicide Squad stalwart Count Vertigo, who's also been appearing in Checkmate. Which is to say that Persuader is the only one who stands a chance of getting killed on this particular mission.

The Origin of Martian Manhunter: I'm still not sure why he's wearing one of the leftover costumes from Grant Morrison's X-Men, and I've never read Justice League of Englehart #144. But now I know what I want for Hanukkah.

25 Comments:

At 12:04 AM, Blogger Eric said...

Hey! I had to do something. I can't tell my wife we can't travel for the holidays because I had to update my comic book fan site....

Good catches on all of those O'Neil series references...I expected to annotate them here in the comments, but once again, you've done your homework so the rest of us don't have to. Great work again. This weekly posting is much appreciated.

 
At 5:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Notice in the origin of the New Skrull on the Block, in the Justice League panel...that's Diana! Is she back in continuity as one of the founding members of the league? Is Canary out? What's happening? Aargh? My brain can't handle so many divergent timelines....going to explode..........

KAPLOOEY

 
At 6:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It will be interesting, when all is said and done, to go back and see how many hints and critical events are hidden in the downtime issues like this week's. I bet there are quite a few.

Some speculation on the Question thing next issue:

They've got a guy in this story who they hung a big, flashy "I CAN CURE CANCER" sign on - why even have the Perfect Physician around unless he's going to tie in to the story of the lead character who's dying of cancer? It's an obvious connection, so it's a candidate for becoming a red herring, but I'd bet on the "Charlie's gonna die" thing they've been screaming at us being the actual bait-and-switch.

So, if they take that route and have the Accomplished Perfect Physician save Charlie, Charlie's gotta be really important to major events to motivate the APP to go halfway around the world and save this one guy he's never met before. I mean, if the Perfect Physician can cure cancer, I'm sure there's ridiculous demand for him in his part of the world already.

So yeah, I doubt he can go trotting off to Gotham to save this one guy unless it's really important, so I'm wondering if this is where they'll follow up on Mannheim's confirmation that the Question(s) are in the Crime Bible's prophecies and that they came into play earlier than expected. We might get some big revelations about the extent of Intergang's threat and further prophecies in the Crime Bible next week as a way to motivate the APP into saving Charlie.

Wow. Long post. Anyways, just felt like sharing some speculation :)

 
At 7:07 AM, Blogger raphaeladidas said...

Diana was reestablished as a founding member of the JLA in Infinite Crisis.

Douglas, have you read the 16 questions with the 52 writers in the new Wizard?

 
At 8:38 AM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...

Douglas,

Lots of great catches to the Question references. I inferred much of what they were trying to say in this sequence but not having read that series way back when, I had to reread it to make sense of it.

But how come you made no mention of the teaser at the end....Question being rolled out on a gurney and a bloodied Isis about to be cleaved by the poor man's Persuader? Someone is going to die next week...

And I REALLY wanted to know what evil Skeets is up to during the holidays....

As to the Ralph being dead theory from last week? Not possible, as he interacts with too many people after the point he receives the call about Sue. My 'Ralph is Delusional' theory was originally a 'Ralph is Dead' theory and I went back and reread the sequence of events a few months ago.

Of course, a call from Elysium Fields could be taken many ways...I took it as in intentional intervention.

Good call on the APP. It makes sense.

Jamie

 
At 11:04 AM, Blogger Douglas Wolk said...

I actually haven't seen the Wizard piece--any juicy revelations (or promising teasers) in it?

 
At 11:34 AM, Blogger nemo said...

5.2 on 52 week 32 addresses the Ralph is Dead/6th Sense angle, but does little to confirm or deny (shocker!). The "Anselmo Case" gun sure seems like someone else's gun. Which leads me to believe that Ralph wasn't supposed to/didn't shoot himself. I think Ralph needs to shoot someone else.

The "Anselmo Case" could be a red herring or a clue. As seen here, the case

'...involved a large family, the Anselmo's, who have populations on both coasts. We can guess that maybe it had something to do with marital trouble, because there was surveillance on "Mrs. Anselmo" in a hotel.'

The case it self was never solved.

Did the Dibny's have an unresolved case? I have no idea but I'll throw it out there.

And if you want to read a bit more into it, why was Ralph in the Ambassador Hotel? Surveillance perhaps? Of whom? Perhaps a woman with a large family that lives on different coasts? Like say, the Marvel family? Maybe Ralph was investigating Intergang, and deduced that Isis was a plant? Maybe Ralph shoots Isis?

Or not. Thats a lot of conclusions to jump to based on a flimsy reference to a cancelled TV series, but I reserve the right to gloat if its true.

 
At 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Egg Fu didn't name drop the Four Horsemen prior to this issue, I'd be inclined to think that they refer to the four knights in Checkmate. Also, what puzzles me about "the Four Horsemen will end her rain" is that Isis makes rain when she is sad, so if her rain is ending, isn't it good for her?

I'd say Infinite Crisis would be one of my top 6 TPBs, if only because it was a vast improvement over the original issues.

 
At 11:39 AM, Blogger Tom Bondurant said...

JLA #144 is one of my favorite comics of all time. It's the "secret" origin of the JLA set in the late '50s -- kind of a proto-New Frontier, I suppose, featuring just about every major DC character of the period (Blackhawks, Challengers, Rex the Wonder Dog, Roy Raymond, etc.) and a Hal Jordan who's not yet Green Lantern. Well worth the back-issue-bin search.

Of course, it's almost completely incompatible with JLA: Year One, also in the 52 bibliography.

 
At 12:47 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

Douglas, I know you listed Persuader, but I'm pretty sure that Justice Society implies that new Suicide Squad member Atom Smasher is going to go down as well.

I got nothing else, other than Hanukkah possibly being transformed into 6 days due to time being broken. I just think it might have been a case of the artist using the wikipedia "menorah" entry and no one on the editorial being Jewish.

 
At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that Justice League of America #144 is not in continuity, and has not been for a long time.
The appelax origin holds (Triumph notwithstanding), as far as I am aware.


How can JLA:Year One be an essential storyline if it's directly contradicted by JLofA#144 and that panel with Diana? Anybody?

 
At 1:57 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

No idea. I enjoyed the Triumph origin redux. He was such a schmuck, even back then, but everyone was deferring to him, even Superman.

 
At 2:35 PM, Blogger raphaeladidas said...

No real juicy revelations in the Wizard Q&A (except maybe that we find out what 52 refers to in #52). I found it interesting because it makes explicit what editorial has denied but we all knew to be true: that each writer is doing certain parts of the story instead of them all working together on the whole thing. There were several instances where the question addressed a specific character or plot point and one of the writers would say they had no idea what was going to happen.

As to who will die, it's a toss-up. JSA does imply Al doesn't make it, Vic is in a bad way and it's just always felt like Isis wasn't going to survive the series. I'd actually rank Vic least likely because, as thedeadpenguin said, "They've got a guy in this story who they hung a big, flashy "I CAN CURE CANCER" sign on..." Those feet on the cover don't look like a woman's, but we know by now that doesn't mean anything.

 
At 10:01 PM, Blogger raphaeladidas said...

And I'd love to know how Hawkgirl shrunk.

 
At 11:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You noticed that too, did you? Maybe Ray Palmer had something to do with it.

 
At 6:37 AM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...

Also, did anyone else check out the 52-related series this week? Omega Men had a few hints as to what Lady Styx is about but Ion had dropped major hints that maybe Kyle (and his Mother) are both from another earth. And an Atom, Flash and another Green Lantern make an appearance.

Re: Hawkgirl. I think the effects of the boomtube finally wore off.

Jamie

 
At 8:52 AM, Blogger raphaeladidas said...

That's the Tangent characters in Ion.

It was established in Infinite Crisis that Kyle was supposed to be on Earth 8.

I just flipped through the Ion, only reading the last page carefully, but I'm really wondering what the hell they are up to. I really don't think parallel earths are back. Perhaps Kyle and the Tangents are now just remnants of lost earths like Power Girl is a remnant of Earth 2.

Or maybe parallel earths are back. What do I know?

The Monitors make me confused about the original Crisis. Donna Troy is the only character who experienced the COIE and has seen a Monitor (but we haven't seen her reaction). When someone who's met the original Monitor meets a new one will they recognize him? Is one of the Monitors the original one? Have they ever given a post-Crisis explanation of what happened during the Crisis?

 
At 8:59 AM, Blogger raphaeladidas said...

The most interesting tidbits from the Wizard Q&A:

Morrison and Waid both say there are enough clues to figure out who Supernova is.

Morrison: "Ralph will get exactly what he deserves."

14. What will Renee Montoya become?
Rucka: "You have no idea what a good question that is, do you?"

 
At 9:23 AM, Blogger Jamie Ott said...

raphael,

I realized who they were but was trying to avoid any spoilers. What's interesting to note that of all the Tangent characters, the three heroes here have had multiple versions on multiple earths....

And I think they are hinting that Kyle's mom is from Earth-8 and now that there IS a multiverse again, this is the real reason she is wasting away. Just like the Earth-2 Lois.

I think however that the monitors are there to keep people from crossing over, to keep everything stable. Which is why they are so interested in Kyle, Donna, Lady Styx (as I'm sure we'll find out), and the Weird, if the silouette in Mystery in Space is to be believed.

I think we'll find the return of the multiverse is going to be central to the next big event. As it stands right now, we know it exists, as shown in Captain Atom: Armageddon but most of the characters in the DCU are still unaware of it.

Will this tie into 52? I dunno. It seems likely this is the case with all the jumps through time/place and some of the incongruities we have seen throughout the series...not to mention the introduction of Lady Styx.

Jamie

 
At 9:48 AM, Blogger raphaeladidas said...

I hope I didn't spoil anything about the Tangents, but anyone who read the previous issue of Ion shouldn't be surprised.

I don't think Lois wasted away because she wasn't on Earth 2. The point of Lois dying was that we all have to go someday and even Superman can't do anything about it. But maybe I should give the Ion a close read. That is a logical theory about the Monitors, however.

I got the impression that Infinite Crisis and Worldstorm served to "separate" (for lack of a better term) DC and Wildstorm. But maybe that's just my prejudice against the idea of multipled earths returning.

 
At 4:30 PM, Blogger Thomas L. Strickland said...

I've been trying to establish some context for Charlie's delusionary ravings on my own blog.

You've covered most of them already ('cause hey, that's what you do), but I can answer your question about the "Son, can you hear me?" line. That's from issue #36 of the original series. The speaker is supposed to be Aristotle "Tot" Rodor, though this week's artist shaved his face and head. I've up'd that page and others leading up to the line here.

 
At 5:48 PM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

JLA #144 is awesome! To the best of my knowledge it's the first appearance of Martian Manhunter without eyebrows (which is too bad, but maybe there's an opening there, maybe it will be revealed that the Martian Manhunter since then, including the one in the horrible, horrible current costume is an impersonator--like the Hawkman from JLI--or the J'Onn J'Onzz of Mars-8 or, and ol' eyebrowy will make a triumphant return, with Zook at his side, in whatever next year's Big DC Event ends up being.

 
At 5:48 PM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

[close parentheses]

 
At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay for Tangent characters! Since, in the original one-shot, the Green Lantern was able to temporarily bring back dead characters, maybe it's now able to temporarily bring back its dead universe.

 
At 8:22 AM, Blogger Kaizer - John Harvey said...

Hi, thanks for the Mile High tip, I just cleaned up on there as a Chrimbo present to myself, and the half off really helped! Loving the blog too, I read it every week. Keep up the good work!

 

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