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52 #13

Posted: Thursday, August 3, 2006
By: Jim Beard



Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Artists: Keith Giffen (breakdowns); Todd Nauck (p), Marlo Alquiza (i), Alex Sinclair (colors)

Publisher: DC Comics


For Synop-Sissies Only: Ralph Dibny goes to church, meets girl, loses girl, loses mind. Isis tells Black Adam she loves children and wouldn’t they look cute in the foyer next to the fica tree?

The Yo!: Never having suffered from triskaidekaphobia, I jumped into Week Thirteen eagerly, looking forward to seeing if DC could possibly follow up on the successes of Weeks Eleven and Twelve. In my opinion, Thirteen was their lucky number. Not quite as good as last week, this issue does manage to carry on with the same solid storytelling and dialogue I’ve come to expect in recent weeks of 52.

Let’s start with Ralph Dibny’s story. Lots going on here. Though I rarely look for anything too “deep” in a comic (yo, they’re escapism to me, not a trip to the shrink), I do often like a storyline that operates on more than just a surface level. Ralph’s newest trial and tribulation illustrated several things to my mind:

The Two Sides of Ralph Dibny: what I once thought was erratic writing on a favorite old character, I now believe to be completely on purpose and with a point. Ralph has, for thirteen weeks, careened like an emotional and psychological pinball from one bing-bong bumper to another. Arriving upon this issue, I’ve decided that the picture it presents is a fascinating study of a man who once depended upon superpowers and his wife, and is now subject to the extremes of solo life. Week Thirteen is a microcosm of the preceding weeks of 52 and no less fascinating. When he’s good, he’s GOOD. When he’s down, the man’s DOWN. When Ralph’s cleverness and intelligence shine through and his super-hero instincts kick in, he rocks along. When he’s delivered a blow, it’s like a punch in the gut.

Friendship: Ralph puts out the Call and his friends answer. Beautiful. In a dark comic book world, this sort of loyal camaraderie is very welcome. His super-pals have to lay down a bit of truth for him but Ralph’s lucky to have such people around him who care that much. In that vein, I greatly appreciated what Hal had to say about Ralph, how he characterized him, and in doing so, gave a snapshot to the readers of Ralph's worthiness. Very nice. He’s a “rational man,” and when that comes from Green Lantern, it means something.

Religion & the Afterlife: we don’t often see religion presented in mainstream comics, and talk of the afterlife is also difficult when one considers the overwhelmingly sporadic differences of opinion on the subject. Though the “Cult of Conner” is fictitious, it reflects real world cults, and DC risks making a comment about said groups. Again, I’m not looking for depth in 52, but I was intrigued by Zauriel’s presence (as a representative of God) and by two other heroes who have gone to “Heaven.” At the end of this issue you must decide whether the Conner Cult is truly on the level and the answers may in fact be in support OR in condemnation of organized religion. Food for thought, as is Ralph’s ultimate response to the proceedings.

Let’s also talk briefly about Black Adam and the wondrous Isis. Not as explosive as her debut last week, Isis’ character development is still in full force here in Week Thirteen. Again, like the fellowship in Ralph’s story, we have feelings and emotions that are getting pretty rare in comics: that of love of children. Isis worried me in the cliffhanger of Week Twelve with her crafty grin and surprising demand on Adam, but she won me over again with her declaration of emotion for the children of the world and her hope to find her own brother. Surprise follows surprise as tough guy Adam renews her hope and embraces the children himself. Yes, he loves his late wife and sons, but he’s been pretty darn..., well..., black with shadows in recent times and Good Gosh, what’s the world coming to? He’s mooning over another woman and planning for a Kandaquian daycare! Heh, it looks GOOD on ya, big guy… Feel the hope, spread the hope.

The art, you ask? What do I think about the art? Well, I opened the issue with some trepidation about Todd Nauck’s presence (I’ve worked with Todd and he’s gonna kill me for that!) but please, let me explain. Todd’s style is unique and distinctive and quite frankly, I didn’t think it would fit in with the progression of artists on this book to date. Yes, the art has been overall mediocre (with a few exceptions) but to the credit of the editors, it’s been in a similar vein and “feel” (much like the artists of the late-lamented JSA title). I figured Todd’s art would stick out like a very cool-looking sore thumb. Not so. I give full props to Todd’s penciling And to Marlo Alquiza’s inking. The combination was pleasing and still gave me that 52 vibe.

The Origin of Elongated Man was very nice and boy! It was a blast to see Kevin Nowlan’s fine artistic efforts. As with last week’s Wonder Woman origin, I believe this is everything you need to know about Ralph’s career to date to get you up to speed on the character and…this is important…looking for MORE. Then you go back issue bin diving or get the recent Elongated Man Showcase trade. Bingo. Mission accomplished.

The Meh: What brought the bullet rating down a bit this week were three little things. One, does a super-hero the caliber of Green Lantern need to say something’s a “bitch”? Unnecessary and low, regardless of how “real” it is. Two, was it me or did Ralph’s friends seem to, I dunno, fly away too easily at the end? If they will continue their search, and with passion, a line or two of dialogue could have made me feel better about this. Three, Adam’s story lacked the “corner turning” of last issue, but alas, you can’t have a new super-heroine revelation EVERY week, I guess.

The Moment: The shuffling sound, wicker and cloth on tile, the crackling of the flames, the anger in the air, the saltiness of the tears, the timid voice from between painted lips: ”Ralph…?” The widening orb, seeing but not believing, then believing, then truth, then madness. What a moment. What a gut-wrenching, unworldly, unholy moment.

The Line: Levity time: “You’d be surprised how often this happens when someone lets me into a church,” sez the Bodacious Bowman. Great line, mostly because I know how Ollie feels. Many times in the past have I feared for the safety of a church or chapel should I cross its threshold…a funny bit and completely Green Arrow.

The Character: Could it possibly be anybody else but Ralph Dibny this week? Maybe he should be Character of the Series Up To This Point. One more interesting thing about Ralph this issue: what did he think that wicker effigy of his dead wife would BE? What did anybody think it would be? Would it have been Sue’s soul in a paper-mache shell? Would it have become fully flesh, the living end? What makes Ralph hug the damn thing at the end? Still, Ralph rocks, even at his lowest moment. Ya gotta feel for the guy. If you don’t, well, I don’t know what to say for you. Let’s all hope he’s as elastic in mind and spirit as he once was in body and action.

Mr. Wanty: I’ll be very plain about this: I DON’T want Sue to come back to life. There are lots of comic book characters I’d like back from the jaws of death, but she ain’t one of them. DC has convinced me that her demise is a catalyst that will drive a story in Ralph’s life that will be both important and lasting. I don’t want her death to be transient. I want it to mean new life for her husband. In costume, natch. I have standards, you know.

Also, did you know that there were thirteen plutonium slugs in the “Fat Man” atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki?



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