Week 48: Unspoiled MonstersI guess this issue's cover is the closest we're going to get to Anarky after all (and by proxy as close as we're going to get to the Haunted Tank). Too bad. But this really is one of the best covers of the series, maybe the best--although, when the solicitation came out, I imagined the Question starting some kind of grand cultural movement, or maybe even becoming a widespread meme.
What's actually happening here seems to be exactly the reverse: Montoya running up against the crime cult's menagerie, and putting on the Question mask for reasons that make thematic sense rather than plot-type sense. (I'm also wondering how Mannheim's obsession with prophecy ties in with his declaration that "the questions have not yet been answered" back in Week 28: do we understand the questions in question?) (And speaking of the lower-case q's, for some reason the title "Asked and Answered" initially made me think of Truman Capote's "literary sasquatch" Answered Prayers--maybe it was the cathedral setting and Kate's high-society background that pointed me in that direction.)
Mannheim was previously (apparently) killed in this issue back in 1992, and seems to be not terribly dead in this One Year Later issue--so perhaps the cult of Cain is the true cult of resurrection. Still, his all-consuming obsession with the Law That Is No Law, and the fact that it leads to his destruction, mirrors something I've been noticing about 52 in general: it's moved from being suffused with the minutiae of old DC continuity to sweeping away those details and references as we approach the end of the series. That might have to do with deadline pressure, but it might also say something about readers' endlessly troublesome relationship to the DC Universe canon.
Time (and perhaps Hypertime) doesn't just determine the comics stories of lasting artistic value--it determines which ones are true (in the sense of their truth value within the fictional universe) and important, which ones are of no consequence, and which are actively apocryphal (Max Lord the cyborg). There are so many damn stories about Darkseid alone--and even glancing at that list I know it omits a couple of significant ones--that it's no longer clear what he wants or how he might accomplish it or what exactly is up with the Anti-Life Equation, and I imagine that stuff is going to have to be made very clear very soon. (Speaking of stories about prophecies going unfulfilled, The Hunger Dogs is a persistent problem, since Kirby's work is by definition in continuity for Fourth World stuff, but...) I fearfully imagine, at an extreme, some kind of continuity synod, going through the old volumes and deciding which ones stay in the canon and which go; that's exactly the kind of thing Hypertime was meant to get around, and the same function is served in a different way by the very soft reboot of Superboy punching the universe (and its Marvel equivalent, the double reboot in House of M).
Also, as much as I enjoy dissecting the intricacies of continuity... well, speaking of Jewish holidays, this week is Passover, and a story about Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg puts it nicely. Somebody asked him: "Is not the liturgical poet who first writes that clay vessels in which leaven was cooked must be broken before Passover, and then states that they may be stored away in wooden sheds, guilty of a contradiction?" And he replied: "It is poetic liberty to state together two contradictory propositions."
Giffen Layout Watch: still stuck at Week 39.
Pg. 3: Is hell really where sins are "indulged with abandon"? I thought just the opposite. And have we seen the "infernal device" in the last panel before? The Charlie Brown zig-zag on the back is rather Apokoliptic, but the screw on the front reminds me of the Mole Machine, and even more of the spelunking gizmo Klarion is driving in the final panel of his Seven Soldiers miniseries.
Pg. 5: The return of Suicide Squid! I guess the first panel is supposed to quell the "of course the prophecy's about Cassandra Cain" speculation that various people (including me) have indulged in, although I have to wonder how Batwoman would know the background on the prophecy.
Pg. 8: Is the color on this page (and pp. 16-17) weird in other people's copies too? "The shiv, the gat and the red rock"--the rock is Cain's rock, but "shiv" and "gat" are peculiarly 1920s-ish slang. ("Gat" in particular is derived from "Gatling gun," and those didn't exist until the 1860s; is the Crime Bible supposed to be older than that? I suppose if it namedrops John Wayne Gacy, as we saw last week, it's of fairly recent vintage.)
Pg. 10: Fire pits are a prominent feature of Apokolips, of course. "Baby powder and cardamom": a very good detail.
Pg. 12: Ridge-Ferrick again. Those guys get around. Reminds me a little of how, for a few years, most of the construction projects I saw had signs crediting a company called "Da Costa Demolition." And Montoya is a lapsed Catholic, of course.
Pg. 14: "Anointing the frail with his claret" is the most notable bit of portmanteau diction I've seen in a while. "Claret" meaning blood dates back at least a couple of centuries; while looking it up, I stumbled upon this wildly entertaining 1736 dictionary of "thieving slang." "Frail," meaning woman, appears to have been recorded in 1908. (And while we're at it, "wet work" seems to date from the Cold War.) Would anyone care to add some vowels to "Hrfk! Mngmnklly!" (or the later "Mrrhnn")? The comma after "escape" in the final panel is the only thing I've found in this issue that eluded Rucka's proofread...
Pg. 15: "The vile book" as opposed to the "Good" one!
Pg. 19: I'm not sure if I've got the choreography straight here, but it looks like Kate has killed (or "killed") Mannheim by throwing the knife into his back so hard it's penetrated all the way up to the hilt. Dot iss badass, as the mad scientists say, and I realize that Identity Crisis also asked us to believe that a grossly out-of-shape man who'd just been shot in the chest could hurl a boomerang hard enough to pierce someone else's heart, so it's not totally unprecedented in the DCU, as opposed to the world of familiar biology and physics. But at least that was a boomerang--something with balance that's meant to be thrown. I can't tell how far Batwoman is from Mannheim in this scene, but I'm guessing it's less than ten feet, and she's doing a straight throw. Even so, that ceremonial sacrificial knife looks like it's really not balanced for throwing--it'd probably rotate some--not to mention that she's just pulled it out of her own heart, which would probably affect the force she could get on the throw. (I'd probably object less if the scene were staged such that she just stabbed Mannheim directly, continuing to put force into the knife after it met resistance from his coat and body.) Looking forward to seeing what Polite Dissent has to say about this one.
Pg. 20: And the bat flies up into the smoke. Well, maybe that Batwoman story in the Infinite Hanukkah special happened during the 52 year...
Pg. 21: We get a page 21 this week! (And we get pages 21-40 in Week 52!) Perhaps Sivana got his dental ideas about Adam from looking at Egg Fu's own teeth. Yikes.
The Origin of the Birds of Prey: A solid condensation of about a zillion comics. Maybe it's a retcon that "the Birds of Prey" was the name of Barbara's organization from the get-go (and maybe not), but I was always fond of the idea that "Birds of Prey" was the name of the series, not the name of the team.
Next week: a special late edition of 52 Pickup, most likely! Don't be surprised, anyway.