I gather from various message boards that, while 52 is selling quite well in general, most of the people I know aren’t reading it, or they dropped it. They don’t like Montoya the smoking drunk depressed whining drifter who is now going to become The New Question despite not having the personality to be the Question. (No matter, apparently, to DC. Just plop the no-face on her and call her The Question, even if Vic Sage’s outlook on life is what The Question is all about. It’s more important to get rid of the Charlton white guy and replace him with an Hispanic lesbian.) They don’t like Booster Gold becoming a parody of his personality of 20 years ago, even if that one was never a slick shill to begin with, before going out in a blaze of glory. They don’t like the meandering pace of a lot of these subplots, like this space plot that goes on forever. They don’t like the Steel/Natasha plot which is entirely dependant on his not getting a word in edgeways whenever they talk. (A friend observed that, not me, but it’s a good point.)
Me, I’ve been buying it and liking bits of it. You really can tell that it’s by an assemblage of writers, though.
Some bits don’t even make sense, like when Detective Chimp tracks down Ralph Dibny even though he should be trapped in that blood-dome at the time according to his own series, Shadowpact. (A surprisingly good book, by the way. I wasn’t going to buy it, but I purchased the first few issues cheap at FallCon and got hooked. Haven’t read this good a team book since Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, and that’s a high compliment coming from me.) The actions of Ralph and his JLA buddies during the resurrection ceremony are puzzling, because there’s no harm in just going through the ceremony and seeing what happens, and if it’s a hoax it’s a bizarre hoax with no purpose. (How is anyone profiting from it?)
As you all might imagine, it’s Ralph Dibny’s plotline which is keeping me interested. For those of you not reading, the short version is that Ralph has stopped taking Gingold and was near suicide when a mystery regarding the “Cult of Conner” who desecrated Sue’s gravestone sent him chasing Wonder Girl and her buddies. He discovered the cult was going to bring Sue back to life (as a trial run before bringing back Superboy), and he sneaked Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Zauriel and Metamorpho into the ceremony. He wanted their opinion, since all four had come back from death; they all told him that Ralph was getting scammed, and they stopped the ceremony only to find that it had begun to bring Sue back to life before it was stopped. Since then, Ralph has begun a journey with Dr. Fate’s helmet through the physical and metaphysical world on a quest to bring Sue back to life (and learning from Dr. Fate that all magic comes at a cost).
The highlight so far has been seeing Ralph finally getting some resolution to Sue’s murder by confronting Jean Loring. Using the Spectre’s powers, the two travel back in time to Ralph’s house (I know, they’ve already retconned part of “Identity Crisis” so that it happens in a house instead of what was clearly an apartment) the night Sue was murdered. The best part is that Ralph forces Jean to be sane, so that she doesn’t have the “excuse of insanity”… which I took to be a mild dig at Brad Meltzer’s feeble excuse for Jean’s actions. No, strike that…the BEST part is when they first appear back in time and bump something before Ralph makes them intangible, thus finally explaining why Sue heard a bump. See? It wasn’t just a red herring to throw us off the trail…it was proactive retroactive continuity! Meltzer wasn’t jerking us around, he just set up a story that wasn’t even conceived of at the time!
So, so far I’ve been fairly satisfied by Ralph’s journey, even though the character is still pretty much wrecked. They could bring back Sue tomorrow and it wouldn’t be the same two characters I know and love. In fact, Ralph as he is being written just doesn’t even seem like the character I knew. He’s almost mean, and terribly self-centered.
Then we come to this week’s story…and I’m not really shocked, but I am disgusted. Ralph meets Wonder Girl in Metropolis and he’s drinking from a flask! Now, I was a little disappointed that Gerard Jones made Ralph Dibny a drinker back in Secret Origins #30, but as I got older I realized it was probably because Jones and other writers see Ralph and Sue as very comparable to Nick and Nora Charles, and Nick drinks like a fish. OK, so Ralph drinks at parties and special occasions, I can accept that. But here he just looks like a drunken bum. Ah, wait… maybe he’s just drinking water. He must need to have some sustenance while traveling with Dr. Fate. Or maybe he’s drinking gingold, which he’d need to have in a travel container and a hideable flask would make sense. He has gingold extract which he is carrying with him, since he used it on a demon. (Ahem! We’ll ignore the fact that it only works on a small portion of people, whereas the vast majority of people are deathly allergic to it… plus Ralph has the meta-gene, as shown in Invasion #3…AND demons aren’t human.) Perhaps I’ll turn the page and he reveals it’s gingold when he stretches again.
Oh, no, wait. Panel 7. Ralph offers the flask to Wonder Girl, and she sniffs it and says, “Eeew. No.” So it must be something awful. Great. So Ralph’s gluggling down cheap liquor.
WAIT A MINUTE. Cassie Sandsmark is underage! Ralph just offered liquor to a minor? I’m assuming that DC made her 18 so that they weren’t showing an underage sex scene in the Teen Titans Annual #1…and yes, I’m still puzzled as to how Cassie and Kon-El could suddenly be 18 before the One Year Later jump when Robin is barely driving age…but the drinking age is still 21.
And the very next word balloon is a bit of editorial butt-covering when they realized that calling it the “Cult of Conner” means they’re jeopardizing Conner’s and possibly Clark Kent’s secret identities, so in a cumbersome bit of exposition, Cassie mentions that it was a good thing that that’s just what Ralph and Cassie were calling it in private. Jeez, how bad can a single panel in a nine-panel page get?
It was my understanding that Mark Waid was the guy handling Ralph’s part of the story. I have to say, if that’s true, this isn’t what I expected from the guy who wrote one of the best Elongated Man birthday mysteries ever.
On to other parts of the book. I’m guessing Xaos is swarming with insects, and there are only so many names to go around, since the original Xax of Xaos died fighting the Qwardians and Guy Gardner’s criminal gang in Green Lantern #198. Let’s hope there’s another Xax his ring can go to.
And while we’re talking about editorial butt-covering, the cover of this issue has the subheading “The First Death of Captain Comet.” I’m guessing that there was some mis-communication and they thought they were free to kill him off, not knowing about Mystery In Space which made a dramatic deal about Captain Comet dying.
Let’s get on to the big clue this week: Ralph Dibny has figured out who is under the mask of Supernova. Here are the clues:
* WHO it is under the mask “makes sense”
* The powers were not expected of the person, until Ralph figured out the “one device that could tie them all together”
* Superman being out of the picture was the key. “Two Keys if you want to be cute about it.”
* He addresses Ralph as “Ralph” and wishes him good luck. (So it’s not Lex Luthor.)
* The person under the mask does not know Wonder Girl well
Who could it be? The person requires a device of some kind. I’m wracking my brains…and I’m sure some of my guesses are impossible if I were to go back through every issue looking for who is around when Supernova appears. Here are my guesses:
* A Green Lantern
* Mr. Miracle
I’m sure none of them are correct. What do you all think?