Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Week 41: Look to the Goblet, Ralph

From the Helmet of Fate stuff, as well as the Mark Waid interview over at IGN, I think it's fair to assume that the entity that's been hanging out with Ralph is not the actual Dr. Fate helmet. So what might it be? With the understanding that I might well be proven wrong next week, and that other people online have suggested the same theory, I suspect it's Felix Faust.

The key to this particular mystery is the Silver Wheel of Nyorlath, which first appeared here, in the same issue as Faust's first appearance. The Wheel, the Green Bell of Ulthool and the Red Jar of Calythos, are the three objects Faust collects to free the Demons Three: Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast. (In turn, they require some more objects of him: "The wing of a bat, the hide of a cat, a shell from the great sea shore! A mallet and a tusk and a white death's-head! Pomegranate! Goose feather! The skin of a sheep!") That story continues in the next issue of JLA, "One Hour to Doomsday!"--hey, it's a countdown!--which involves the Lord of Time and the years 3786 and 2062.

But back to Faust. The journey the helmet has taken Ralph on might not be a Virgil-and-Dante situation; I'm starting to suspect it's more like Mephisto's dealings with the original Faust (not this Faust, who's considerably more admirable, or this Faust, which is pretty great too), which increasingly corrupt him the way Ralph has been corrupted. They go to see the Seven Deadly Sins (as in the Rock of Eternity); they go to mess with the Pope; they go to see Helen of Troy... and then it's time for Dr. Faustus to go to hell, and he refuses the possibility of salvation. (Hence Ralph's disappearance this issue, and the Anselmo gun in the next-issue box.) If you like experimental film, start here for Jan Svankmajer's version; if you prefer things in easily-digested comic-strip form, see R. Sikoryak's "Mephistofield" in Hotwire Comix & Capers, which reduces Marlowe's version to three pages of "Garfield" dailies.

Next week's cover preview, with tentacle-thingies bursting out of the Fate helmet, echoes the snakes where Count Marisius's head should've been in Ralph's scene in Week 25--the scene in which the helmet shows Ralph a version of Felix Faust's fate that had previously been unknown to us. What Ralph says he's gotten out of the lesson is that "this is what happens to suckers who think they can beat the devil"; Faust's mistake had been to "misrepresent" his side of the deal to Neron, and the suggestion of the story is that if you're going to do magic you'd better stick to the precise letter and spirit of your deal. Curiously, the suggestion of the first Faust story in JLA is that magic is rather loosey-goosey, and that a symbolic gesture is precisely as useful as the real thing. How magic works in the current Age isn't entirely clear yet, but I'm guessing that the same principle applies: Ralph's trade of the wicker ring for the shackle, for instance, is an example of the "more or less the same thing" principle of magic.

Looking at Mogo's first appearance reminded me that those tentacles under Fate's helmet also recall the sort of flower one gets for the man who has everything (another Moore/Gibbons story that recently got refried over in Green Lantern). I don't think they're that, but the idea of experiencing one's heart's desire as a vicious illusion suggested that what Faust (or whoever) may be doing is preying on Ralph's vanity as a detective. He doesn't just want his wife back; he wants to do it himself, to bring his wife back, through his mastery of information and logic.

Great cover this issue--it manages to incorporate five different boxes within a box, as well as the fine bit of business of Montoya's question-mark ponytail, and it still looks simple and eye-catching. That Adam-and-Kory pose, by the way, reminds me of some old Frazetta or Alex Raymond image, but I can't quite tell what. (Here, by the way, is the scene from The Lady from Shanghai that J.G. Jones mentions in his piece about this week's cover.)

"Miracles & Wonders," aside from the nod to Diana's appearance probably isn't a reference to this or this or (despite its references to "a personal journey with cancer") this, and it's definitely not this. But this site is a little closer--the miraculously surviving Isis-rose could fit right next to the name of Allah in an eggplant. Note also that one place references to wonders and miracles turn up is in Revelation 13:13-14, in which the Beast creates deceptive miracles. Then, of course, there's the singular form, as in this song.

As the clock is ticking down, it's worth running down the characters we were told a year ago would appear in 52 who haven't shown up yet. The ones the writing team gave a positive response to: Snapper Carr, Captain Atom, Gentleman Ghost, Anarky (who I'm guessing shows up in or around Week 48 from the @ symbol on the solicited cover's wall), the Haunted Tank, and Vigilante/Linda Danvers. (And let's not forget Most Excellent Super-Bat!) Not that I'm going to feel ripped off if we don't get a Gentleman Ghost appearance or anything; this might be a useful list for thinking about what might be coming up, though.

More notes:

Pg. 1: "Pet-thing": nice! I don't think Molek the Hunter has appeared anywhere before; perhaps he's friends with Devilance the Pursuer. Or the recently-resurfaced Bolphunga the Unrelenting, considering Mogo's presence this time.

Pg. 2: For a blind guy, Adam is remarkably adept at hand-to-hand combat.

Pg. 5: "Cantos of Crippen": anyone have any idea what these would be?

Pg. 6: What Montoya's wearing isn't quite a traditional gi--or, speaking of Dave Gibbons co-creations, a G.I.

Pg. 8: In panel 4, Ralph's nose is twitching; it also looks longer than usual. Maybe there is some gingold in his flask. If he's elastic enough, might he be able to survive a bullet--? And would Mr. Dewhurst really know what teleportation microcircuitry looks like?

Pg. 9: Prof. Milo hasn't appeared all that much before--although his notable appearances include his debut (in which he gave Batman a temporary phobia of bats), this identity-crisis special, this Neal Adams-drawn story (in which he got his terrible bowl haircut), a two-part story that concluded behind this excellent Joe Kubert cover, and a cameo in the Morrison-written Arkham Asylum graphic novel. As far as I can tell, his deal is less dabbling in magic than playing mind games with people; please fill me in on appearances I haven't taken into account. He doesn't appear to have been called a "technomancer" before, either. But that fits in with Ralph being sort of delusional, too.

Pg. 10: If the house-arrest scanners are looking for "stray nanites," they'd have found the teleportation microcircuitry, wouldn't they?

Pg. 12: Nice pickup line, Renee. Who's Diana's friend? Might he be Batman, who's also been hanging out in Nanda Parbat as of the solicitation for #665?

Pg. 14: This has been building since the beginning of the series, and I assume it's going to keep building for another month or two, but what could Montoya's revelation about her identity possibly be? "I'm a superhero. I've always been a superhero..."?

Pg. 16: A "K-type sun" is also known as a "K star."

Pg. 17: It's six days since she got shot and she's still "leaking vital life essence"? Oh dear. "Four light years" is about how far Alpha Centauri, around which Rann used to orbit, is from our solar system. (It now orbits Polaris, which is 431 light years away.) I am not as up on my Adam Strange as I might be, as those of you who saw me getting sonned a few weeks ago know, but I think the first time Alanna came back to Earth with Adam was this issue--"not long after we met" would have to refer to Adam meeting Kory (when was that?), since it's a good long distance into Adam's history. And what's happening to Kory's injured shoulder in the final panel?

Pg. 19: The second time this issue somebody says "strange" to mean "odd" in Adam Strange's presence.

Pg. 20: Have we seen Opto3o9v before? Anyone know? Mogo first appeared in this issue, in a story that... oh, how convenient! somebody's posted the whole thing! It's worth reading if you don't know it already.

The Origin of Starfire: Excellent compression--the facts of Kory's background, along with some neat psychological angles (very sharp observation about her partnership with Dick). I'm glad to see she can still officially absorb languages through touch, as ridiculous as that power is. And that third panel on the second page is, of course, a variation on this image.


At 11:41 PM, Anonymous premiani said...

1st time commenting but I've been a loyal reader since the beginning. Regarding the "Cantos of Crippen" this concerned me a little. First thing that came to mind was the notorious murderer Hawley Crippen who disemboweled his wife in 1910... Is the Monk translating the Crime Bible? And if he is, why?

At 12:03 AM, Blogger Eric said...

He's not a monk; he's Tot, the Question (well, Vic "Charlie" Sage)'s mentor and friend. Conveniently for Renee, he's also the creator of pseudoderm so he's handy and standing by to make a faceless mask whenever she needs one.

I think he's been translating the Crime Bible for awhile. He found the clue that sent Montoya and Vic off to Gotham to rescue the didn't-actually-need-rescuing Batwoman, remember?

Or...Tot is secretly Skeets?

At 12:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ookla the Mok here-
I think I've only seen Dr. Milo on the Batman Animated Series, turning Catwonam into a were-cat and other biological transformations. I think he also appeared in the Batman Beyond show and Justicwe League Unlimited, but he didn't look this old in any of those appearances.

At 2:10 AM, Anonymous premiani said...

thanks, eric. of course he is... teach me to read 52 late at night...

At 6:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that they have met up with some green lanterns, they should get back home quickly. A GL should be able to transport them in no time.

At 6:23 AM, Blogger Keith said...

I believe Milo's decrepitness and leglessness show the price he paid for the wheel.

Something weird in the Wizard summary, they didn't mention Wonder Woman at all. Were they being coy or did they miss that completely?

Starfire's origin is absolutely gorgeous. My new favorite next to Animal Man.

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Garrie Burr said...

Alanna came to Earth at least twice in the original Mystery In Space run:

Mystery in Space #79 - The Metal Conquerors of Rann -- though she was a petrified statue at the time.

Mystery in Space #90 - Planets in Peril -- guest-starring the Hawks, where Rann came close enough to Earth she was able to fly over in a ship.

Though the Haunted Tank has not shown up in 52 yet, they made a brief appearance in the Dr. 13 back-up in this week's Tales of the Unexpected...


At 7:57 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

Something weird in the Wizard summary... did they miss that completely?

They've missed more than a few things in their summaries, which leads me to believe their summaries are more them being fed information from DC and having a Marvel Zombie type up the article. Just guessing here.

And thank you for that followup to SNL's Dick in a Box, Doug. Classy!

At 7:58 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

Argh, totally forgot to ask. So, if that really is some Gingold extract in that flask, at what point during the prior issues of 52 did Ralph realize that the "Helmet o' Fate" is playing him?


At 8:07 AM, Blogger Dick Hyacinth said...

A reference to Drew Gilpin Faust--nice. A talented historian, and apparently a talented administrator as well.

A reference to the band Faust--clever. I'm more of an Amon Duul II man, but I had to smile at your choice of the band over the comic.

At 8:26 AM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

I hate to seem anything like Wizard, but I missed that that was Diana. It just didn't occur to me. I wracked my brain trying to think of who it might be, thinking of minor DC characters. The best I could come up with was that new Manhunter, or maybe Barda, since she loomed so tall over Montoya.
But since, yeah, that's obviously Wonder Woman, the person she's probably waiting for in Nanda Parbat is I Ching, not Bruce Wayne.

At 8:28 AM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

And yeah, the Dr. 13 episode seems like a bit of a 52 tie-in this week with Genius Jones going all Buddy Baker on us.
Green Lantern Corps also seems to have a major 52 tie-in/reveal, but, um, that's all I'm going to say.

At 8:37 AM, Blogger Michael Nicolai said...

That was Wonder Woman? Did she have her star earrings and I just missed it? I couldn't figure out who that was.

That nose twitch was a giveaway, but I was sold on the idea of Ralph taking Gingold in the two panels before that where his arms are looking kind of bendy.

The Montoya/Question arc is by far my favorite. It's also the only arc that's still up in the air for me. Will she become the Question or not? Either way, it's still satisfying to read.

At 8:48 AM, Blogger Tom Foss said...

I thought it was Catwoman at first, who also was looking to start a new life (as Irena Dubrovna) during the missing year. I had my doubts (Selina wasn't exactly feeling guilty over killing Black Mask). When I saw the bracelet, that really cinched that it was Wonder Woman.

Hawley Crippen was the first person to come to mind when I read that passage too. Interesting.

At 9:54 AM, Blogger raphaeladidas said...

I'm pleased that I wasn't the only one who missed that it was WW.

So John Henry's story is over, Ralph's will be over next week and it seems possible that Montoya's and the space heroes' could wrap up soon. Seems like they're clearing the deck for the Booster Gold and Black Adam stories. Oh and Buddy's too (I think he's the one who's going to find out about the multiverse.)

At 10:42 AM, Anonymous kyle said...

The Ralph story really came together fast. I agree Faust seems most likely to be the culprit here, and all i can see when i read this issue (and the teaser) is that Faust is trying to use Ralphs soul in a substitution play. He covered that he tried that previously, and repeatedly noted that one must willingly make these sacrifices. All these little stops on their tour seem mostly to be convincing Ralph he has to do this and doesnt have much choice. The Helm/Faust also seemed awfully satisfied that Ralph was "catching on" when he substituted his ring for the link in the chain. Ralph now knows full well ramifications of his actions, so it seems possible that these circumstances may make using someone elses soul as a substitution acceptable.

At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1st post but I been reading since week 1. good stuff.

On the "Gi" (a Japanese term)it looks more like a Cheongsam or Qipao. Though as far as I know there really is no term for the typical Kungfu jacket she's actually wearing. It might sound something like "Gung Fu Shan."

At 2:14 PM, Blogger Josh said...

Dr. Fate as Faust makes a lot of sense, so I think you may be right here. This upsets me because I've been riding my 'Phantom Stranger as Dr. Fate' theory for several months now. Still, there is that Phantom Stranger cameo in week 13... could Ralph not be the only one aware of Faust's trickery?

If it is Faust, this would mean the sorcerer has been very busy between 52, and his One Year Later appearances in Birds of Prey and JLA.

Has anyone else seen May's preview for Teen Titans? I think we can safely guess how Starfire's story is going to conclude. Her origin this week was very well-written, but the art felt sloppy. Maybe two pages of art is more difficult to produce than I thought.

Like everyone else, it didn't occur to me that Montoya was talking to Diana until the last panel. I remember reading an interview where an editor said that Wonder Woman's appearance in 52 was going to be one of the most subtle, but I would argue that it was also one of the most effective. Speaking of which, will the 'Batman No More!' story see some kind of resolution in 52? It may just be easier to forget it ever happened in the first place.

Montoya's exchange with Richard Dragon was excellent. I've been following Renee closely since Gotham Central, so seeing her finally trying to confront her personal demons is quite rewarding. Without a doubt her story has been the strongest one in 52 so far.

At 2:34 PM, Blogger Jeremy said...

Helmet of Dr. Fake as Faust? Seems likely, but maybe, as Ralph is playing the role of Dr. Faustus, it's Neron himself (or some other DC devil figure). Just a thought.

Plus I like the "he won't smell it" juxtaposed with the idea of fire & brimstone.

At 5:49 PM, Blogger Keith said...

I can see how Wonder Woman's appearance could've been missed. I thought it was Zatanna, who is also the soul-searching type, for a bit. What got me on the right track was "I killed a man."/"You have a choice?"/"I tell myself I didn't."

Reading it again, Renee even says "All these _wonders_..." lol.

It was neat that a pep talk from the #1 DC woman set Renee on the right path.

At 7:37 PM, Anonymous Patrick said...

Long-time reader, first time commenter. Love the blog -- excellent work. I hope you'll stick around for Countdown, provided it's as interesting as 52 has been. I'd gladly set up a PayPal account and chip in to make it worth your while, and I doubt I'm the only one.

It does seem somewhat curious to me that Renee wouldn't recognize Wonder Woman, who's no doubt a major celebrity in the DC Universe. Perhaps that's a commentary on either Montoya's self-absorption or the extent to which ground-level inhabitants of the DCU can't see past the costumes.

Or maybe it's bending the rules for the sake of a cool scene. It is a cool scene, so I'd happily let it slide.

Anonymous said...
I think I've only seen Dr. Milo on the Batman Animated Series, turning Catwonam into a were-cat and other biological transformations. I think he also appeared in the Batman Beyond show and Justicwe League Unlimited, but he didn't look this old in any of those appearances.

Milo did appear in BTAS, specifically in the "Moon of the Wolf" episode, where he enhances an Olympic athlete, who pays dearly for it in a manner I think would be clear from the episode's title. He made one more surprise appearance a decade later, in Justice League Unlimited where he genetically engineered (and was eventually killed by) that universe's version of Doomsday. I don't believe he showed up in Batman Beyond, but it's possible a descendant did.

Rack my brain as I might, I can't really find any 52 tie-ins there, even though they're probably Milo's most famous appearances, if one really thinks about it.

Great issue this week, I thought, particularly after last week's rushed and ill-considered finale to the Natasha Irons story. I agree that Montoya's arc has been by far the most satisfying, and it's pretty remarkable how smoothly the writers have managed to transition her from a street-level Gotham character to someone who can plausibly go all over the DCU and have crazy adventures.

At 8:11 PM, Blogger Matthew E said...

The thing that amused me about the Wonder Woman appearance is that Renee was hitting on her.

At 10:13 PM, Blogger Eric said...

Maybe it's not so much that Renee doesn't recognize her as it is a meta-commentary that all comic book characters look the same? Eh?

At 6:09 AM, Anonymous andy g said...

As regards Josh's Question:

"Speaking of which, will the 'Batman No More!' story see some kind of resolution in 52?"

DC solicitations for Grant Morrison's run on Batman reads as:

"[Batman #665] ties in to 52, as we learn what really happened to Batman inside the cave in Nanda Parbat when he underwent a seven-day Buddhist isolation ritual to purge his negative karma"

Out in April.

At 6:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, no offence, but how pregnant would Selina be by this stage? Diana didn't look 6 months gone.

At 7:16 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

I just don't really see how y'all missed it.

She's on the front cover, right in the middle wearing her trademarked slave cuffs. That's what they are, IIRC; from when Hercules enslaved the Amazons.

Speaking of which, she's clearly a foot and a half taller than Montoya when standing.

I dunno; I just didn't like that Mogo was on the cover. Don't put your last page fun-surprise reveal on the front cover. I guess Mogo's was selected to appear when the cover was being made, but the decision to use him as the last-page surprise came later during revisions.

At 2:15 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

Newsarama 5.2 q. for this week denies Gingold usage. Siglain could be covering the truth to maintain mystique, for which I do not blame him.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Tom Foss said...

Tom, no offence, but how pregnant would Selina be by this stage? Diana didn't look 6 months gone.

Hey, I thought it for, like, two panels. And most of the shots of Diana up 'til that point had been from far away.

At 2:39 PM, Blogger raphaeladidas said...

So Squashua: what's in the reflection on Fate's helmet on next week's cover?

At 3:00 PM, Blogger Filby said...

Assuming that the Helmet is in fact Felix Faust (not totally sold on that, but I'll wait and see), then what of the side-trip to Hell to see Faust's soul?

For one thing, Faust does seem the kind to sort of wave his involvement in Ralph's face. "Yes, that's me, and I'm right here next to you, and you don't know it! You fool! I am a genius! GENIUS! Bwahahaha!!!"

Plus, remember how the Faust sort of disintegrated after Ralph left? Could it have been merely an illusion, and Faust wasn't really in Hell at all?

Hmm. Well, just a few more days before we find out.

At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious to see whether Ralph is on to the presumably fake Dr Fate. I'm guessing that Rama Kushna told Ralph what was up when he was asked to "come closer" in week 32. Ralph is pretty quiet about what he was told in the next page. This seems to be a repeat of what happened when Booster broke into Rip's hq and then played dumb. This would fit nicely with the skeets/fate floating buddy parallel.

I really hope Giuseppe Camuncoli is going to be pencilling some more issues.

I'm finally warming up to the idea of Montoya becoming the Question (instead of Charlie -who died of CANCER!!!)- I'd just like to see someone besides Rucka write the character. Her over-narration is painful. The scenes w/ her dragging CHarlie's body would have been so much more effective (and awesome) w/out the repetitive narration. -alex p

At 3:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We still haven't seen Charlie's body on-panel yet, maybe he was saved by the Perfect Physician and is merely stepping down as the Question, maybe Tot or Dragon will die, leaving Charlie her mentor? Tot never says Charlie is dead, he just said he isn't living. Well, last time we saw him, you call that living? Show me the body first! This one's not in the can yet.

At 4:40 AM, Anonymous randy meyer said...

Perhaps we could view the fact that a lot of us didn't recognize Wonder Woman right away could be a sign that her secret identity is a success. ;)

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

[i]So Squashua: what's in the reflection on Fate's helmet on next week's cover?[/i]

Looks to me like it's a gratuitous shot of Sue Dibney's undead knockers.

Either that or Ambush Bug.

At 5:25 PM, Blogger Filby said...

Sue Dibny is Ambush Bug!

It all makes sense!

At 6:05 AM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

Considering the 52 track record for dead/not dead, I concur that it's too early to count Charlie out. We need Blue Beetle-esque brain splatter.

At 4:39 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

Umm, Blue Beetle is back, but he's probably a clone. Read Manhunter.

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Josh said...

With Boston Brand currently hanging out in Vertigo, maybe Charlie can become the new Deadman? With all of the Nanda Parda business, it would almost make sense.

At 11:12 AM, Anonymous randy meyer said...

I was under the impression that the Deadman in the Vertigo series was NOT Boston Brand but a new character. Admittedly, I have not read any of the new series, so I may be wrong.

If the Vertigo Deadman is a new creation, I don't see why DC would need to make Vic Sage into a new one.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger Josh said...

I honestly have no idea if the Vertigo Deadman is a new character or not.

I'm going to miss Charlie, though, so it would be nice to see him take on a new mantle rather than fade away into martyrdom. Charlie as an undead detective sounds pretty interesting to me.

Besides, Boston is boring and underused.

At 9:08 PM, Blogger ZC said...

...Deadman is an undead detective?

But yeah, Vertigo "Deadman" is something completely different (and kinda crappy).

At 2:55 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

The full Countdown preview image is up on Wizardworld. Kind of retro-looking big ol' splash page of super-heroes. Looks like we have some 52 survivors (though somebody is supposed to die in Countdown #51, I hear).

The following 52 characters appear in said spread. Their appearance (or an absence) does not necessarily mean they survive 52 (or not); they might just be appearing in spirit (hence, no spoiler space):

Adam Strange
Starfire (far right)
Black Adam

Who are the two black-haired boys on the left (above Black Adam and next to Hal Jordan's ring, respectively)?

At 4:12 PM, Blogger Filby said...

The one by Hal Jordan is Klarion the Witch-Boy. I can't make out the one by Black Adam.

And dagnabbit, I will never get used to Elric's -- er, Billy Batson's new look.

At 2:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doctor Milo revealed:
So, he did transform Catwoman on the old Batman: TAS, for which show he was apparently created.
Not much there about his appearances in the comics, though. Maybe someone can add to the article?

At 7:46 AM, Blogger Squashua said...

Looks kinda like Klarion, but I hear others calling him Damien (Batman's son). I wonder who the one with the page-cut by Black Adam is. Maybe Shining Knight or Osiris?

The one next to Starfire and Mr. Terrific is Captain Atom in his Monarch armor.

At 1:54 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

Y'know, if you're rubberized and someone happens to, say, whip a small piece of metal at your rubberized gut, you'd think maybe it'd bounce.

Of course, hit rubber hard enough quickly enough and it shatters.

At 3:18 PM, Blogger Keith said...

John Henry Irons had a much larger object shoved through his body and he doesn't have a power that could be quasi-related to healing. Hmmmmm.

At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One might also refer to the "K-type sun" as "Rao"...


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