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52 #13

Posted: Friday, August 4, 2006
By: John Hays



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

Publisher: DC Comics


Before I begin my regular ramblings, I just want to give this issue my “Holy Crap” award. Last week, Civil War #3’s last page caused me to spout these words, this week it is 52 Week Thirteen. This is actually a rarity for me, which must be a sign that comics as a whole are getting more surprising with their cliffhangers, which, so far, is a good thing.

The Plot Tease: Ralph gathers some old dead head pals together to help him sort some things out, only to have everything to go up in smoke. Black Adam helps Isis rescue the little children, but fails to find her brother.

You know, I actually have to diverge from my usual 52 review style this week. There were only two stories, and neither of them really had what I normally refer to as heroes or villains (unless, perhaps, you count the art team, which, once again, provided the same style as the series' previous art teams did, and that’s to be commended. My only complaint regards Zauriel looking like a brooding teenager.)

Instead, I’m simply going to give my thoughts on the two stories.

Ralph intelligently decides that, even though he’s interested in possibly pursuing the cult’s goal, he still wants certain friends with him to help him verify the veracity of the ceremony. It’s an interesting bunch he chooses. What’s even MORE interesting…is who is absent..., at least, for MOST of the issue. We have Hal Jordan, Oliver Queen, Zauriel, and Rex Mason: all people who have somehow died and come back. Does it sound like someone’s missing from that group? Read on!

Seeing the dummy who’s supposed to eventually become Sue is pretty creepy, but no match for what’s to come later. Of course, Ralph’s friends constantly barrage him with reasons why he shouldn’t believe what is going on, including the fact that all of the artifacts are fakes.

Cut to Black Adam and Isis. Well, at first it seems that we’ve taken a step back. As soon as we turn the page to this scene, it appears to be a lot of violence, like what Adam was doing before Isis came along. However, as we read on, it turns out that Isis is searching for her brother, to no avail. She not only stops Adam from killing anyone, but she talks him into freeing all the children they come across. It’s a nice idea in theory, but just what are they going to DO with all of these newly freed children? Does Kahndaq have some huge boarding school I’m not aware of? As they walk into the sunset, I can only see the eventual dark turn this is surely going to take for Adam and Isis.

We now return to our regularly scheduled cult scene. Ralph makes his decision and has Rex destroy the supposed kryptonite rock. This, of course, results in a fight between the heroes and the cult members, which happen to include a very angry Wonder Girl. As we read on, assuming that Cassie is under some control or just heavily deluded, the room catches fire..., and then it happens. The dummy’s hand reaches out to Ralph and says his name. Holy crap!

Ralph’s eyes narrow as it dawns upon him that, based on what he is seeing and hearing, he’s made a HORRIBLE mistake! His friends, busy with rescuing everyone else, are unable to get to him in time, and he doesn’t care, since his only care is to lie next to his wife Sue…so sad. While the evidence all points to someone manipulating Ralph... geeze, that scene with the dummy just looks so real and creepy... I just don’t know anymore.

The issue ends with a deranged-looking and badly burned Ralph clutching the charred dummy carcass in an extremely eerie scene that instantly causes readers to flash back to when Ralph originally held the charred remains of his wife after her dead body was burned in Identity Crisis. What will happen to Ralph’s psyche after this second traumatizing episode?

It makes me think of a close parallel in the film Vertigo, where Jimmy Stewart falls in love with a woman who he’s supposed to be looking after, only to watch her plummet to her supposed death off a bell tower. This causes Stewart to fall into a catatonic state for a while. When he finally recovers, he comes across another woman who looks amazingly like the first one. He starts dating her, has her dress like and color her hair like the previous woman, only to realize he’s been conned and this IS the same woman. He takes her back to the bell tower to confront his fear of vertigo, which kept him from climbing the tower the first time. However, when they get to the top, a nun enters after them, frightening the girl, and causing her to..., you guessed it, plummet to her death. The film ends with a simple close-up on a newly traumatized Stewart, with the viewer wondering what state his mind will be in after this, just like Ralph at the end of this issue.

Wait! Who’s that dark figure in the distance? Well, this is purely speculation, but remember how I mentioned that someone seemed to be missing from Ralph’s merry band of resurrected friends? The first name that generally comes to MY mind when dealing with DCU resurrection is Superman. Could the figure in the distance be Clark Kent? It would fill out the circle of resurrected characters appearing in the issue, as well as make sense from the angle that Clark Kent reporter would naturally be highly interested in any cult basing itself on Kryptonian beliefs.

Finally, we get a real treat! The origin of Elongated Man, with art by Kevin Nowlan. I think I prefer these two pagers to be of characters whose origins aren’t quite as well known as the big three. It’s just a more interesting read. The statement that Ralph’s gift of lateral thinking outmatches Batman is a high honor, and a welcomed sight. Good stuff.

The Resolution: Will Ralph regain his sanity, or has he finally gone too far over the edge??

Will Cassie come around, or is she really the sane one in all of this craziness??

Will the Conner cult continue on its mission, or have their days of resurrection finally come to an end??

Will Isis find her brother, or will she and Adam start the world’s largest school for witchcraft and wizardry?? (Take that, J.K. Rowling!)

Will we ever find out what’s up with Metamorpho’s other self, Shift?? (While this is currently just a personal curiosity due to vagaries surrounding IC appearances of the two, I think it might become a plot point in future issues of 52.)

We can only hope that these and other questions will be addressed in the upcoming installments of 52!!



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