Writer: Rick Veitch
Artist: Tommy Lee Edwards
Publisher: DC Comics
Rarely do I give a first issue 5 bullets. But this is a comic that everyone should see.
The Question is comicdom’s most enigmatic and unusual detective heroes. He’s always been more philosophical and cerebral than most superheroes. He was created by Steve Ditko as the living embodiment of Objectivism, the philosophy of rational self-interest created by Ayn Rand. In 1988, Denis O’Neil reinvented the character with a more introspective Zen attitude. In both incarnations, The Question relentlessly sought justice and truth.
Rick Veitch takes the character in a metaphysical direction. The Question acts as an urban shaman. He “listens” to cities. He sees the clues in the garbage and the messages in the billboards. Cities are living things and he speaks their language. While The Question has never displayed this ability in any story I’ve read (and I’ve read all of O’Neil’s monthly series, plus specials and the quarterly), it is an extension of his “everything is connected” point of view. He also sifts through the clues with the precision of a detective. The Question has a spiritual view of cities that he regards as an absolute truth. That’s an unusual, but original, blending of elements from Ditko’s and O’Neil’s versions.
Veitch crafts a story about The Question coming to Metropolis to save Superman. In Chicago The Question crosses paths with The Psychopomp, an assassin who damns the souls as well as kills the body. Psychopomp says he was hired to kill someone powerful by The Subterraneans. Chicago “tells” The Question that the target is Superman. In metropolis, everyone recognizes his alter ego of Vic Sage, tabloid TV reporter. The celebrity makes him uncomfortable, though not as much as a meeting with former classmate Lois Lane.
Veitch makes several references to the importance of faces, a theme that should carry through the series. And given The Question’s appearance, it cannot be avoided. Veitch also address the long-standing question of how and why any non-powered criminal could think of breaking the law in Superman’s city. Best of all are The Question’s interior monologues. His trance-like ramblings while reading the city paint a picture of the beauty and squalor of the urban world.
But the star of this show, and the reason I give this is Tommy Lee Edwards. Edwards’ pencils and panel layouts recall the stark realism of Ditko. His palette of varied and muted colors adds depth and weight to the work. He also successfully conveys the subtle lay of light and shadow moving across people’s faces. Add to that The Question’s and The Psychopomp’s spiritual battle as they talk and you have one of the most visually powerful works this year.
I may have set myself up for a letdown. But as long as Edward’s work remains at this high level of quality, and Veitch continues to take The Question into this strange new direction, I think this could be on of the best mini-series of the year.
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