Week 37: As Though to Protect What It AdvertisesBeautiful portrait-in-a-convex-mirror cover this week. (The poem in the second link came to mind as soon as I saw the finished piece...) I especially love Jones' detail of the additional reflections in Skeets' "legs," which Squashua tweaked so brilliantly last week.
The physical specificity of the cover, though, brings a question to mind, and the correct question is not, as it was posed earlier, "when is Rip Hunter?"--it's "where." The answer is Kandor. But where's Kandor? In the Fortress of Solitude. And where is the "leveled and abandoned" Fortress of Solitude? Um... from page 8, it sure seems to be somewhere icy, with a giant key nearby. (Speaking of icy places: sorry this is so late--Portland is currently totally snowed out, and none of this week's comics have made it here yet. I had to rely on air-mail service from Nanda Parbat to get my copy of this issue.)
A little Fortress of Solitude history (and I'm shaky on this stuff, so if you can correct me, please do--I've changed the commenting system so you don't need a Blogger login to comment): Back in the pre-Crisis day, everybody knew where Superman's Fortress was; it was up near the North Pole, with a huge key disguised as an airline flight-path marker, so heavy that nobody but Superman could lift it. (Grant Morrison riffed on that idea here.) Post-Crisis, John Byrne suggested that Clark Kent was actually Superman's lower-case "fortress of solitude." Then the Eradicator built a Fortress in the Antarctic here; it was pretty badly damaged hereabouts, then rebuilt, then destroyed altogether here.
The next Fortress, constructed with the help of one John Henry Irons, was built in a tesseract, as revealed here, and hidden in an ice field in the Andes. It was destroyed--it self-destructed, actually--in the (baffling) course of the "For Tomorrow" storyline, after Wonder Woman shrugged off its defenses off-panel. At the end of that story, Superman built a new and very public fortress in the Amazon jungle, loosely based on his "mountain retreat" from the very early days. Then Infinite Crisis happened; early on in the IC series proper, Kal-L, Power Girl, Superboy-Prime and Alex Luthor met at a fortress constructed by Alex at some icy spot that was located, Kal-L says, "where my fort was on Earth-Two." And post-52, as of this Johns-written issue, Superman's fortress is back in the Arctic, and its history is just like the one in the Richard Donner movies. Ditto for the Phantom Zone criminals we see inside Skeets' visor.
So where exactly is Kandor stored? I've only read part of this partly Rucka-written arc, but it seems to dodge the question. You wouldn't think that Superman would leave an entire city in a bottle in a self-destructed fortress when there was a perfectly good Amazon-jungle fortress he could move it to, would you? And you especially wouldn't think he'd leave it in the smashed-up Antarctic fortress for years on end, right? That's not exactly good stewardship.
I also have to say that Booster delivering a five-page-long tell-all piece of exposition to the murderous entity he's fighting for his life against, while they're fighting, including a "that's right, buddy" boast that he and Rip have been secretly operating out of the place where the fight is happening, is the sort of thing that routinely got made fun of in the Silver Age. (As I recall, Stan Lee used to defend it on the grounds that Shakespeare's characters flapped their jaws during swordfights, too.) In the context of a showdown in a secret headquarters someplace cold and in "the most remote location on Earth," though, that speech comes off a little "I did it twenty-five minutes ago," doesn't it?
In fact, the whole Booster-as-Supernova revelation opens up more questions than it answers, I suspect. For instance, let's take that scene with Supernova and Ralph in Week 31. Superman being out of the picture was the key to Booster having access to the Phantom Zone projector, but "one of two keys"--is there a joke I'm missing, or does it just have to do with the two buttons on the back of the projector? More to the point, how would Ralph have known how to get in touch with Supernova, if Skeets had nothing more substantial to go on than "a tachyon here, a chronal footprint there"? For that matter, why did Cassie think Supernova was Conner, and get a "respect my personal space" reaction from him?
The real tease of future events this time, I suspect, is Adam Strange's crucial fragment of memory: "giant hands and... something else... I can't remember." Now, the most obvious referent there is the giant Alex Luthor gloves that smashed worlds together in Infinite Crisis, the Story So Big It Didn't Have Room for Most of Its Own Plot. The double-page disaster-in-space flashback in Week 5 has something that looks kind of like a pair of hands vaguely visible near the explosion, too.
But the giant-hand-in-space image from DC's history that made the deepest impression on me is from Green Lantern #40, "The Secret Origin of the Guardians," conveniently reprinted in the hardcover Green Lantern Archives, vol. 6, which just came out this week, and guest-starring the guy who apparently ended up with one of Adam Strange's eyes, Alan Scott. Krona, one of the Oans of ten billion years ago, wants to "probe the beginning of all things" with a device that looks like a sort of gigantic microfiche reader. Eventually he finds an image of "a shadow like a giant hand... with something... a cluster of stars in it--! I must go back further--further--!" All of a sudden, his machine is wrecked by a "cosmic lightning bolt," "but from that moment on, evil was loosed on the universe!" Anyway, Krona's turned into energy and the other Oans become the Guardians of the Universe, but he eventually gets loose and builds another microfiche reader that doesn't look a day more modern. Again, we see "the formless hand-like cloud... the starry nebula..." This time, the Guardians smash the device, and all's well.
There've been a lot of stories that have built on that one over the past few decades; that hand-with-a-nebula image seems to have stuck with a lot of other people, too. (Perhaps the hand even belongs to one of the Seven Unknown Men...) In any case, GL #40 makes the short-list of stories at the core of the DC canon--it's one of the closest things the DCU has to a creation story, and that's within a canon so thoroughly concerned with the importance of secret origins that there have been 13 different series or one-shots with variations on that title.
Which brings me to a question for readers of this site, as a little fantasy-baseball game: if there were going to be a "Roots of 52" volume of Showcase Presents, what would y'all want to see in it? On the strength of this issue, I'd nominate Green Lantern #40 and (for reasons detailed below) Strange Adventures #184, and obviously the backups from the last three issues of All-Star Western would be shoe-ins, but what else?
A good 52-related link, incidentally: Polite Dissent on the medical side of Metropolis's New Year's Eve Catastrophe.
Pg. 3: The "clik clik" and atom effect are both, of course, from Ray Palmer's size-changing belt.
Pg. 6: So Skeets is not "really himself," as I suspected when he was going on about Clock Queen in Week 27. And it appears Rip already had a Supernova outfit prepared...
Pg. 7: What were the Atom's belt and gloves doing in "JLA storage"? Last we saw of them was Ray disappearing at the end of Identity Crisis.
Pg. 8: We saw Supernova finding the Kryptonite gauntlet at the beginning of Week 20, although how would Booster know where it was, or how to get into the Batcave to get it? That implies that Booster knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman; had we established that previously? (Or was it a matter of historical record in the 25th century?) For that matter, how'd he get his hands on Hawkgirl's Nth Metal?
Pg. 9: "Unearthly lights and applied teleportation"? First of all: is there a kind of teleportation that isn't "applied"? Second: what about flight? Third: what about the super-strength it takes to catch a falling 200-pound man like Clark Kent? Most importantly: is teleportation really what the Phantom Zone projector does? As far as I can tell, it moves people and things from our dimension to the Zone--it can't transport, say, a crowd of people from point A to point B. (The projector first appeared here, I believe.)
Pg. 12: If Skeets can eat the Phantom Zone, why is he trying to deal with Booster via something as low-tech as firing blasters? What's the current population of the Zone, and why are so many of the people we see in Skeets' visor wearing glasses?
Pg. 15: The "team raison d'être" problem again: what is it exactly that the Birds of Prey do, and why couldn't they simply take some time off instead of bringing in Gypsy? (Note that Gypsy is yet another character who's died and come back to life--in her case, through the intervention of Martian Manhunter's god H'ronmeer.) I suspect the point of this scene is to point out that some of the people Ralph has been interacting with--Cassie and the Shadowpact types--have for some reason not let the more "mainstream" superhero community know they've seen him since Week 13, or haven't been able to. (Although it's not all Ralph's delusion, since Booster mentions Supernova's conversation with him this week.) Also, the old "bouncing off the flagpole" trick--is Dinah actually holding on to anything, or is she about to fall to the cement below? Great kicker to this scene from Ollie, though. The Wizard blog reads it as Ollie not understanding how someone could love someone else "too much to ever, ever let her go." I read it as Ollie watching Dinah bounce away from him and wondering how he could have saved their relationship.
Pg. 17: Last time Lobo mentioned the "golden planets," back in Week 19, there were three of them, not seven. Is Fishy making up the Triple Fish God religion as he goes along? And to refine the question I asked last week: what did the three space travelers see, and when did they see it? By almost all internal evidence, 52 begins a week after the end of Infinite Crisis, which itself occupied just under two weeks, according to this reasonable timeline. (The one piece of 52 evidence that contradicts that is Montoya mentioning early on that three months had gone by since Crispus Allen was killed in Gotham Central #38. Not likely.) The space disaster Alan Scott describes in Week 5 involves a Zeta Beam problem, so it has to have happened before Halo notices the zeta frequency at the beginning of Week 4--probably during Infinite Crisis itself, since Steel asks Alan what happened between his being "there a month ago and here last week." And as I mentioned before, Devilance, under orders from Lady Styx, is already (back) on Adon by the end of Week 5, so word has to have spread pretty quickly about who saw what and where they ended up.
Pg. 20: These are the aliens who gave Buddy his abilities, first seen in this entertaining Gil Kane-drawn story, "The Return of the Man with Animal Powers," in 1966, hence their extremely mod outfits. (It's not in print in any form, but it was reprinted in Adventure Comics #414, cough cough ay eye bee cue cough cough.) Morrison brought them back and revealed their backstory here, and they subsequently turned up all over his Animal Man run. And he doesn't even look all zombified and "believe in her," which is a relief.
The Origin of Firestorm: Just in time for this week's announcement of Firestorm's cancellation, and a good argument for why it got cancelled--there's nothing here that makes the character seem interesting.
And, of course, the DC Nation column: as various people have pointed out, the "secret"--and what a poorly kept secret it's been!--is revealed by looking at the first letter of every third word, starting with the first word. I was briefly going to call this week's posting "Th' Whole Rang-Dang-Doo Multeyeverse," a line from the best parody I've ever seen of massive and extremely important universe-changing crossovers that feature enormous blocks of expository dialogue and still don't manage to explain what's going on.
Can't tell exactly what's on the next cover, but like other commentators, I'm guessing it has to do with the Four Horsemen: Poison, Radiation, Recycling and Molecular Diagrams.