Week 38: See Also Mary HopkinIf somebody told you they were reading a really good comic involving a bunch of scientists on an island creating doomsday creatures, a "pale horse" reference, an unstable, slovenly fallen hero eating cold beans from a can, a touch of psychic nosebleed Zen, and a Ditkovian character ripping off his face-concealing mask as he prepares to die in a snowstorm, what comic would you guess they were reading? Shall we add Watchmen allusions to the 52 drinking game?
Terrific Montoya/Question scenes this issue, even though a couple of them are effectively the same scene (I'm trying to save his life because I need him/how do we get where we're going again?/I knew I should've taken that left turn at Albuquerque). The really ripe-for-discussion business, though, is the introduction of three of the four Horsemen of Apokolips, which of course leads us back to the non-crime Bible and Revelation 6. And before I get into it, I feel compelled to quote the mighty Half Man Half Biscuit:
If you're going to quote from the Book of Revelation
Don't keep calling it the Book of Revelations
There's no "S," it's the Book of Revelation
As revealed to St. John the Divine.
(Relatedly: "Those Were the Days," miscredited.)
So. Revelation 6. The first horse (do the Horsemen other than Azraeuz have horses? what's Azraeuz's horse, anyway?) is white, and ridden by someone who has a bow and a crown, "and he went forth conquering, and to conquer" (in the King James translation). The horseman is traditionally named Pestilence, although he's not actually named in the Bible. This useful page indicates that he's occasionally been interpreted as the Antichrist, as Christ, or as a Parthian archer.
The second horse is red, "and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword." Its rider is traditionally War, and Roggra here rules the Age of War.
The third horse is black, and "he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand"; his rider, usually called Famine, is charging outlandish prices for staple food, although he's still making luxuries available too. "The Age of Fevers"? Doesn't quite fit the template. Yurrd's "Hunger" is more like famine--and the fact that we don't see Yurrd here (and that J.G. Jones notes that he's "already in place") makes me wonder if he's got some kind of connection to Hannibal.
The fourth horse is a color that's usually translated as "pale," as in Red D'eath's band--we see that again with Azraeuz's "pale steed"--but the actual Greek word is "chloros," meaning the pale yellow-green color associated with, say, zombies. "[H]is name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." The rider, Death, is the only one of the riders actually named. (And "the fourth part of the earth" resonates nicely with "Fourth World," for which see more below.) As for Azraeuz's "black dawn," that phrase has been been used for a couple of previous DC stories.
Various comics have dealt with the Four Horsemen before, like this one and this one and, uh, this one. (This version, which supposedly included some visual design by Simon Bisley, doesn't appear to have seen the light of day, at least in comics form; can anyone tell me more?) My favorite comics reference to them, though, fits the Revelation template even more loosely, and I alluded to it last week: the Four Dark Judges, Death, Fear, Fire and Mortis, who appear in some memorable Judge Dredd stories. That right there is some character design. Speaking of which, the design of Roggra vaguely reminds me of some character from ABC Warriors, maybe a minor one, but I can't for the life of me think of which.
In other news: For those who didn't see it, Mark Waid helpfully explained the "two keys" thing at Newsarama (the other one was the giant key to Superman's Fortress of Solitude--although can someone please point me to a post-Crisis issue where we've seen it before Week 37? Was that the Antarctic Fortress? I love the giant key). And Keith Giffen's "reporter's sketchbook" at the official 52 site hasn't been updated in a couple of weeks, although a few other things have (like changing "succeeds" to "secedes" in a headline); hope it comes back soon.
Can I just say again how much I'm enjoying all the comment discussions? You folks rule.
Pg. 1: You'd think she'd have figured out the route to Nanda Parbat before she left. You'd also think that Kate, as rich as she is, could've sprung for a GPS, but that's another thing.
Pg. 3: Prof. Morrow's "war effort" line is a nice cue: Magnus is indeed stockpiling useful metals--although he may not have the ones he thinks he does. Thermometers, for instance, are generally no longer made with mercury--these days, they've got other liquids in them, or they're digital. (The days when kids were encouraged to play with something called SlikSilver are long gone.) And if he thinks eating all those beans is going to get him a significant amount of tin, he's wrong--although the lids might be tin-plated steel, the rest of the can is probably aluminum. The lead shielding, though: that might help. Ditto the gold watch he swiped back in week 29.
Pg. 4: The first Plutonium Man appeared in this issue, which is turning out to be a pretty important reference point...
Pg. 5: I know of no previous references to Yurrd the Unknown, Roggra, Zorrm or Azraeuz, although they all look like Blogger verification words or the names of pre-Fantastic Four Lee/Kirby monsters. "The Terror of Yurrd the Unknown!"
Pg. 6: This may be--and please correct me if it's not--the first time the Kirby-at-DC-associated term "Fourth World" has appeared within a story. (It initially appeared on the covers of the fourth issues of three of his series--and his... seventh issue of Jimmy Olsen. And remember, kids: "alienation turns a happy place into hell.")
Pg. 7: Since when does Dr. Cyclops have two eyes?
Pp. 8-9: "Shoot you in the head... dump your body...": basically what happened to Charlie at the end of the first issue of his 1987 series; the "butterflies" bit, here and later, is (as others have noted) a reference to the second issue, whose title is "Butterfly," and in which Richard Dragon tells the recuperating Charles Victor Szasz the original Chuang Tzu's story of the man who "didn't know if he was a man who had been dreaming he was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming he was a man." That issue also includes a little op-ed by Julia Sabbagh on the inside front cover, which notes that "the titles produced for girls can be counted on one hand" and that "if we want comics to be read by girls we must present girls with the proper visual and imaginative energy they need to grow on." It's followed by a disclaimer: "The views and opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views, opinions or position of DC Comics Inc." And just over 20 years later, we've got... this week's DC Nation column. Oh dear.
Pg. 12: Is Gabe actually a bot programmed to say nothing but variations on "you have to stop him"? And Brian looks remarkably well-preserved for somebody who got crushed by a beam more than three weeks ago.
Pg. 13: We knew that Natasha was pretty good with tech--she was working on that armor earlier in the series--but building a tiny flying communicator device is awfully impressive. If that is indeed still Natasha and not Everyman.
Pg. 16: You'd think she'd have gotten them both some face protection earlier...
Pg. 17: Scariest image of the whole series so far.
Pg. 20: Now that's a dramatic death scene. But who is that in the background? I mean, I suppose it's the Accomplished Perfect Physician, but it sure looks like the Living Tribunal to me.
The Origin of the Red Tornado: Well, there's an alternate version of this story here, but it's curious that Ulthoon (who first appeared here) is now referred to as being "from a distant star"--it was specifically from Rann! [ETA: No, I'm totally wrong. See comments.] Maybe that suggests a closer tie to the Adam Strange storyline then he's supposed to have for the purposes of 52, though. And Prof. Morrow, by the way, first appeared here.