Week 44: One Hundred Questions, One HatA very big week for comic books--this wasn't even the best single issue featuring a cover with a red, white and black palette that involves a mythological figure and bloodshed. (Actually, as soon as I typed that sentence, I remembered this cover... but he's real--!) Still, there's also been a lot of talk this week about the future of Superhero Pamphlets As We Know Them--the general feeling of burnout, the event fatigue, the lack of FUN!!!, the sense of franchises being "wheeled along the hallway until they expire" (that's a paraphrase of some blogger this week, and I wish I could remember who) [EDITED TO ADD: it was actually not a blogger but Blue Beetle's John Rogers over at Comicbloc! He put it better, too], the kneecapped momentum of virtually every major non-52 superhero project of the past year, the atmosphere of slowly cooling nostalgia that hovers over the landscape. (Of the ongoing DCU series about solo characters that DC's publishing in March, the most recently introduced character name is Firestorm--who first appeared in 1978. Team book title? Birds of Prey, 1996.)
Someone asked me a few weeks ago what monthly comics I really adore and actively look forward to every month at this point, in an "oh boy this is the week [x] comes out" way--not stuff I'm just sort of following, or that occasionally gives me the buzz I'm hoping for, or like just fine but am happy to wait for the trade for--and my answer was a painfully short list. I do get that feeling about 52 (and that anticipatory feeling about Countdown), but as far as monthlies go: Daredevil and Criminal for sure. The Spirit is getting there. If The Brave and the Bold stays on schedule and as energetic as its first issue, then that. All-Star Superman is like a little blessing from the sky every time it appears, although nobody could call it monthly. Detective when Paul Dini's writing it. And already I'm answering a question other than the one that was asked. (I'm curious to hear what you folks' answers to that question are, too.)
This week's issue of 52, I'm afraid, falls into the part-of-the-problem category. Aside from Azraeuz's silence--so much more effectively scary than the other Horsemen's disquisitions!--the Black Adam sequence is just one long, gory device to hit story beats (Tawky Crawky gets his jaw dislocated; Isis dies of chestnut blight, after telling Adam he was right to dismember bad guys after all). It has plot consequences, but no real emotional or thematic consequences. Having never been given much of a sense of Isis, other than that she handed out flowers and freed orphans and stuff, it's hard for me to feel any particular loss as a reader.
Actually, I'm wondering if there's some kind of subtext to all this on-page krakoomery that I'm missing. This week's Civil War addenda, for instance, make it clear that what that project was about, above the basic plot level, is the idea that the military-industrial complex (Iron Man, the "pro-reg" side) has used tragedy and fear (the New Warriors, the new Thunderbolts) to destroy the spirit of America (Captain America, the "anti-reg" side). Does 52 have significant themes that aren't, as Wikipedia puts it, "in-universe"?
There's an interesting bit here about what part of Osiris was mythologically eaten by a crocodile. Otherwise, there's very little else in this issue to talk about this week (although Montoya finally gets her hat!)--so, especially since one of DC's eight house ads this week (!) makes a point of featuring Rip Hunter's chalkboard, I think it's time for THE CANONICAL LIST OF 52 DANGLING PLOT THREADS. I've left out things that are obviously just inconsistencies (like the "is Sierra the same person as Jade or not" question, or the mess around how Luthor's Everyman Project tech works), and tried to mention only things that are deliberate-looking glitches, if you see what I mean. And yes, it's a nice round number: it just worked out that way.
So here are the plot points whose resolution has been teased but not yet delivered (as far as I can tell; please correct me where I'm wrong):
1. What's the significance of the number 52 itself, and why does it turn up everywhere?
2. What's the significance of the swirling mass of fragments on the first two pages of the first issue?
3. Whoever's talking to Ralph at the beginning of Week 1 talks about the Monster Society (rather than the Secret Society); why? (I could write this one off as a mistake, but I suspect the series' fifth line of dialogue is unlikely to be a mistake, especially in light of the self-identified Monster Society showing up this week.)
4. Does the Booster we see in 52 postdate the Booster who went back home to the future in Infinite Crisis?
5. What happened to the timeline in 52 that makes it different from the one Booster remembers?
6. What went wrong with Skeets, and when?
7. Who sent the would-be suicide bomber to Kahndaq in Week 1? Intergang didn't yet have their grudge against Adam then.
8. Where are Wally and Linda? (This is sort of more an OYL question, but since it's brought up in Week 1...)
9. Why did Charlie pick Montoya for... whatever it is he picked her for? ("That's the question, isn't it?" is not an answer.)
10. What's the significance of "artificial souls"?
11. What exactly happened with the "missing 52 seconds," and what are they protecting?
12. Flight 2824/Flight 2428: what's up with that?
13. How did the Superboy cult get their hands on all that genuine-looking Kryptonian gear? (I'm guessing Felix Faust didn't have access to it, although he appears to have been the one who pointed Ralph toward it.)
14. Who's Devem? Does he have ties to Dev-Em?
15. What was going on with Mr. Mind in his cocoon in Sivana's lab/as a result of being bombarded with suspendium radiation?
16. What got Charlie interested in the 520 Kane case in the first place?
17. What is Intergang up to? Why would they want to "invade" Gotham City, anyhow? Where are they getting their Kirbytech and beast-man tech? What's their connection to Kahndaq?
18. How did Hawkgirl get huge? How did she get back to normal size?
19. How did Cyborg and Firestorm get fused, and how did they get un-fused?
20. What happaned to Adam Strange's eyes?
21. What happened to Alan Scott's eyes (including "the one that isn't his," which as I mentioned when I did this back in week 20 may have been answered here)?
22. What happened to the Red Tornado? How did he end up with one voicebox in Mal Duncan's chest and another one attached to his body in Australia?
23. What's the story with Steel's hand, since he doesn't appear to actually have lost his original left hand to the General?
24. What was the giant "reality-warping wave"?
24. How did Adam, Buddy and Kory end up wherever they were in space?
25. How did Devilance get the word that Lady Styx had put out a contract on them, locate them on Adon, and then get all the way (back!) there in time to start hunting them?
26. What exactly was the "Freedom of Power Treaty" supposed to do?
27. What smashed Rip Hunter's time sphere? (yes, I am going to address each of the Rip's-HQ danglers that are still dangling individually)
28. Why does Rip's HQ have pictures of Rosa Parks, dinosaurs, the Boston Tea Party, etc.?
29. What's the significance of the time all the clocks are set to?
30. What's up with the magnet dangling from a tripod?
31. "World War III - Why? How?" And why is China missing?
32. What's the significance of the picture of the "Snakes on a Plane"/caduceus dagger that turns up again at the beginning of Week 30?
33. What's with the not-quite-52 numbers scattered on the floor?
34. Why all the little circled 52s?
35. "Dead by lead?"
36. "Further time is different"
37. "He won't smell it."
38. "Sonic disruptors-->Time Masters-->Time Servants"
39. "'I'm not kryptonite'"
40. "It hurts to breathe."
41. "2000 years from now" (i.e. 4006, from the cover of Week 19)
43. "The Scarab is Eternal?" (The Blue Beetle scarab, or the Black Adam one?)
44. "Where is the Curry Heir?"
45. "The Tornado is in pieces."
46. "Find the last 'El'"
47. "What happened to the son of Superman?"
48. "Don't ask the Question. It lies."
49. "Mortal Savage" (this may be a reference to JSA Classified, but why would that be on the chalkboard?)
50. "The old Gods are DEAD, the new Gods want what's left."
51. "Te versus (Au+Pb)" (element 52, Gold, Lead)
52. "Secret FIVE!"
53. "Someone is monitoring. They see us. They see me." (obv. this has to do with the Monitors, but what's its significance in the story?)
54. "Khimaera Lives Again" (Hawkgirl, yes, but why?)
55. "I'm supposed to be DEAD?"
56. "The Lazarus Pit Rises"
57. "When Am I?"
59. "Casey the Cop"
61. "Find the Sun Devils"
62. "What is spanner's galaxy?"
63. Why did Rip Hunter scrawl "it's all his fault" all over a corner of his HQ?
64. Why did John Henry's blood samples explode?
65. What's "beyond the veil, beyond the two score and twelve walls of heaven"?
66. What's up with the Sivanium robot?
67. How did Kate get to be Batwoman?
68. What was up with the restored face of the damaged Deadly Sin?
69. Why did Doc Magnus's responsometer tech stop working?
70. Why were Intergang or Ridge-Ferrick or whoever planning the bombing at the wedding (cf. the rat poison) before Black Adam had proposed to Isis?
71. Where did Booster's future corpse come from?
72. The suicide bomber at the wedding: what were her (personal or political) ends? (Not just her evident affiliation with the crime cult, but what the point of blowing herself up was.)
73. The "gigantic hands at the center of the universe": what were they?
74. Does Cain of the House of Mystery have a connection to the cult of crime?
75. Who was it who gave Ralph "some help pulling [himself] together"?
76. What are the "new laws, new axioms" of the tenth age of magic?
77. What's the significance of the year 5252?
78. How did Lobo get religion?
79. Why did Wonder Girl think Supernova was Kon-El?
80. What exactly happened to Daniel Carter?
81. What did Ralph find beyond the Mictlan Gate?
82. Super-Chief: WTF?
83. What's the story behind the Crime Bible and attendant cult?
84. Waverider appearing in Sivana's lab and saying "I know why": 'splain please?
85. How did Yurrd/Sobek end up in the Sivana lab three months before being released from the Oolong Island "Project X" lab?
86. The whole scene "between seconds" in Week 27 with the Time Stealers, Waverider, "hypertime," "this year. Like wonderful wet cement," Clock Queen, the question of who Rip Hunter is, "the golden metal that makes [Skeets'] body impervious to the ravages of time portals," etc. needs so much unpacking I can't even tease it out into individual questions.
87. Who's "the twice-named daughter of Cain," if not Batwoman?
88. "The questions have not yet been answered"/the failure of the prophecy?
89. The "Stygian passover" implies that somebody gets spared. Who?
90. Why is Marseille(s) so dad-blamed significant?
91. How did Ralph manage to contact Supernova?
92. Who turned the guy with the amulet into a yeti, and why?
93. What exactly did Ralph learn from Rama Kushna?
94. The various Nightwings we've been seeing in 52: Dick or Jason?
95. How did Skeets eat the Phantom Zone, and why is almost everyone visible inside his visor wearing Mr. Mind glasses?
96. Where or when did Booster and Rip escape to?
97. What did the yellow aliens mean by "and so it begins"?
98. What's up with Captain Marvel's insanity or non-insanity inside the Rock of Eternity?
99. What did the Green Lanterns want with Adam and Kory, and what have they been up to on Mogo for the last few weeks?
100. How did Ralph's ring end up on Sue's gravestone?
Assuming that issue #50 is going to have another 22-page story, and that issue #52 (as rumored) has a 52-page story, that still means there are only 194 pages left to wrap up this series... which means that there's going to have to be more than one revelation every two pages.
Just a few more notes this week:
Pg. 1: Four horsemen, ending her rain. As others have noted, the timeline is wonky here: Osiris died on day 5 of the previous week, but Adam only gets the krakkoooom to let him know it now?
Pg. 5: Note Sivana, or a statue of him, giving the thumbs-up in the first panel. But how did Sobek/Yurrd get sent back in time? Also, Sobek tells Adam that his enemy is Intergang, specifically; that's a pretty narrow target to evolve into World War III, but I guess that's what the next six weeks are for.
Pg. 12: The statues, I think, are of Teth-Adam's first wife Shiruta and his children Gon and Hurut.
Pg. 21: I'm glad to see this scene underscore the idea that Renee's not going to be Vic II; what I'm curious about is how that difference is going to manifest itself. Is selflessness really something that's new to her, or a potential goal for her to achieve, as opposed to something that's already deeply rooted in her character?