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Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

The Question #3

The Question #3

Scheduled to arrive in stores: January 5, 2005

Cover date: March 2005

Writer: Rick Veitch
Penciller: Tommy Lee Edwards
Inker: Tommy Lee Edwards

"Devil's in the Details Part Three: The World, the Flesh and the Devil"

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey



The Question uses his ability to "see" Metropolis to continue his investigation of the Subterraneans. He beats a drug user and uses his power to track down where the dealer is located.

At his apartment the dealer lets a customer in and after some banter to hide what the true purpose of the visit is the dealer leads the customer into his bathroom. The customer asks why they are going into the "crapper" and the dealer explains that his superiors figured that since Superman is the world's biggest Boy Scout he wouldn't use his x-ray vision to spy on people in the bathroom. They also engineered a special toilet and plumbing system that not only dispenses their drugs but also serves as a delivery system for the money earned from the transactions.

The dealer gives his customer the drugs, takes the thirteen hundred dollar payment, puts it a small container and flushes it down the toilet. The customer asks what he is doing and the dealer replies that he is just paying his suppliers. The customer comments on how great it is that someone finally figured out a way around Superman. The dealer agrees, turns around and finds the Question standing in the doorway. The Question calls the dealer scum and attacks him as the payment the dealer flushed makes its way through a series of pipes to a drop of point where the Ghost Train picks the payment up.

Back in the apartment the customer pulls a gun and fires, but hits the dealer instead of the Question. The Question grabs the customer, tackles him and slams the toilet lid on his head repeatedly. With the customer unconscious, the Question takes the drugs and leaves.

Meanwhile, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen meet architect Van Vliet and Feng Shui expert Six True Words on the roof of the Daily Planet. Vic Sage was supposed to meet them as well, but failed to do so. Vliet admits that it doesn't matter since Lois was the one they wanted to connect with. Lois is skeptical and believes the meeting has more to do with the missing property deeds she brought up at the previous day's press conference. Six True Words comments that it doesn't matter who said what at the press conference since they were all upstaged by Superman's actions.

Vliet tells Lois that Superman's actions proved Lex Luthor's point about Superman to perfection, adding that it was a shame that the magnifying glass that created so much destruction didn't incinerate anything beyond the old wharf district since the city cries out for urban renewal. Lois replies that maybe the city is crying out because its heart has been removed to make room for Luthor's Science Spire. She then asks if Six True Word's Feng Shui is going to make everything all better.

Six True Words explains that Lois' vocal skepticism at the press conference was the reason they called to meet with her. Lois jokes that may have called her to the roof of the Daily Planet to push her off the ledge and warns that she has wrangled with some pretty tough customers in her time. Van Vliet explains that her reputation is well known, but she has nothing to fear since Six True Words is incapable of bringing violence on another creature. Six True Words agrees and explains that she and Van Vliet only wish to demonstrate the physics of the Chi for her.

Lois is doubtful, but Van Vliet assures her that Luthor has his best people on the matter and has convinced even a skeptic like him. He explains that Luthor has had researchers studying the Chi phenomenon for years and they have measured and mapped it and even created a device to observe it. He takes the device out of its container and shows it to Lois and Jimmy. Lois asks Van Vliet if he actually expects her to put the device on her head. Van Vliet replies that Lois is renowned for her tendency to take chances to get her stories and tells her that he is offering a chance to see the world with new eyes.

Elsewhere, at a Metropolis pawn shop a customer enters the establishment and asks for "fireworks". The owner knows what he is talking about and leads him into the rest room. Once inside the owner produces a bomb made of military issue C-5 plastic explosive with detonators and tells his customer that the price is fifteen hundred. The customer and shop owner make chit chat while he puts the payment into a container and prepares to flush it down the toilet. As the two talk there is a knock at the door. The owner tells the unwelcome customer that the shop is closed, but suddenly the Question crashes through the door and takes both the owner and customer down. He takes the container that the shop owner dropped on the ground and stares at it and the toilet thinking that he is the remedy to the plague infecting Metropolis.

Back at the Daily Planet Lois reluctantly puts the device Luthor's scientists constructed on. Van Vliet flips the switch and suddenly Lois begins to see the life energy that surrounds the city. Six True Words explains that she is witnessing what shamans spend their whole lives trying to see. Lois admits that it is beautiful but kind of disorienting. Van Vliet leads her to the building's ledge and Lois looks out on the city and sees rivers and streams of energy flowing into Metropolis from every direction. Lois admits that Chi may not be New Age mumbo jumbo and asks what it is. Van Vliet begins by asking if Lois had heard of the Extreme Low Frequency wavelengths that the Navy uses to communicate with its submarine fleet. Chi, he explains, is further down the spectrum than ELF, which is why scientific instruments haven't been able to pick it up until now.

Lois wonders if the effect if planetary, leading Six True Words to tell her how perceptive Lois is. She explains that at its most basic Chi is an earth energy which is why the ancients whose survival was dependant on the cycles of nature replied on it as a guide. Several structures, such as the pyramids and Stonehenge, were built on a nexus of Chi similar to the one Metropolis occupies. Van Vliet chimes in and explains that his Science Spire will stand at the hub of the great global wheel of energy. Van Vliet feels that the Science Spire will serve as a symbol of humanity's own will to greatness.

Six True Words excuses herself, telling Lois that she needs to begin cleaning the area of unhelpful spirits, but adds that once she releases them and the Spire is put in place the beneficial earth energies will bring harmony to all of the people in Metropolis. Lois is impressed, but still curious as to why Luthor embracing a mystical tradition. She asks what they are really up to. Van Vliet is curious as to why the woman that jumped off of the top of the Daily Planet tower to get the first interview with Superman is asking why he is building the Spire. Lois tells him he wouldn't understand, but Van Vliet counters that she is mistaken because he is just like her; he will do whatever is needed to attain his goals, just as Lex Luthor would move heaven and earth to realize his.

Meanwhile, across the city a pimp offers a man a little slice of heaven. The man asks how much and after getting the particulars the pimp realizes that the man wants an underage girl. The man is nervous, but the pimp assures him that he is covered and they adjourn to the pimp's "pleasure palace". The pimp leads the man up a flight of stairs to a room where a young girl waits. The pimp asks if the girl is everything he wants and the man replies that she will do before asking if she speaks English. The pimp explains that if he wants to spend five hundred dollars to talk all night the woman will be glad to listen.

The man inquires how safe the whole thing is considering it is Metropolis. The pimp explains that the guys that supply him with his girls figured that such a virtuous man such as Superman would never play Peeping Tom into a private bedroom. He takes the payment and puts it into a container, but before he can flush it down the toilet system the man suddenly hits the pimp, knocking him down. The man takes out more money and gives it to the girl, telling her to buy a ticket back to wherever she came from.

After she leaves he places something into the container and drops it into the toilet before removing his mask. Vic Sage drops the mask on the floor and activated the device on his belt that turns him into the Question. He thinks that the Subterraneans have all of the bases covered in Metropolis, but it is time to put them on notice. The Question vows to collect on the debt of honor owed to Metropolis.

Beneath Metropolis a member of the Subterraneans make his way through the Ghost Train to deliver the take from drop number six to Minos. Minos waves the man in as he talks on the phone with his boss, Lex Luthor, and explains what happened the previous day. Minos also tells Lex about the hired killer Psychopomp and the plans he has for Superman. As he looks through the haul from drop number six Minos tries to convince Lex that even though Superman has been such a thorn in Lex's side the Subterraneans have all of the angles figured. He pulls out one final bill, which has a question mark on it.

3Story - 3: Wow, what a great issue.

I'm serious. If the first two issues were this good I would have been more kind in my reviews. The set-up of any mini-series should take place in the first issue. I know this seems kind of limiting from a writing stand point, but my feelings are (and this comes from my own attempts at writing) that you should do the set-up in the first issue to get right to the action and meat of the story. Veitch used two issues to set up the hero, the villain and the plot, which kind of pads the story out unnecessarily. More was said about the Question about a character in this issue through the limited use of internal dialogue and action than in the previous two issues.

While this issue could be considered formulaic I really enjoyed the pacing. The dialogue in the Question scenes was repetitive, but it went a long way to show how the Subterraneans work in Metropolis. It was kind of amusing how out of his way Veitch went to use euphemisms for Superman. It seemed liked Veitch wanted to set a story in Metropolis and try his hardest not to actually involve Superman, but was compelled by either his own desires of the desires of his editor to make some mention of him.

I'm somewhat conflicted on how I feel about how Veitch has his characters explain the way the Subterraneans are able to operate in Metropolis under the apparent watchful eye of Superman. It is clever and somewhat amusing, but somewhat insulting to Superman as a character. It implies that the only way Superman "fights crime" is as Superman and not as Clark Kent. Unless there is a natural disaster, alien invasion or super villain Superman is Clark's last resort. Clark is an investigative reporter and certainly rumors of an underground crime ring with a funky name would have circulated by now, especially since every john, drug addict or terrorist gets the 411 on them when they are doing some business.

This raises doubts about the validity of the Subterraneans as a plausible threat. How can I buy into the Subterraneans as a force of evil in Metropolis when their whole way of doing business is predicated on using a restroom or bedroom as an office since Superman wouldn't use his x-ray to look inside them? For that matter how has Lois not heard of this group? What about any of the other reporters who work for the Daily Planet, the Daily Star or even the National Whisper? It doesn't make sense.

Then again, this is a Question story despite the fact that it is set in Metropolis, so I guess it does make sense to beef up that characters credibility with the reader, even if it is at the expense of the characters that already inhabit that city. In terms of the story it works and probably would impress new readers who may pick up the series that may or may not like Superman all that much. So on a personal level I don't like it but on a story level it works.

I wasn't all that surprised to find out the Lex Luthor is behind the Subterraneans presence in Metropolis. In fact, when they showed Minos talking on the phone I figured he was talking to Lex before Veitch revealed the fact on the last page. I'm not sure why Lex would bring in an outside organization that he might not be able to control, but guess it will come out at some point.

The explanation of the Science Spire didn't improve all that much with this issue. Despite the fact that it was a very well written scene I still don't like this aspect of the story even though it seems tied to how the Question's abilities work. As I wrote in my previous review this whole sub-plot smacks of a really bad super-hero movie from the seventies or the eighties; the type of super-hero movie that ends up as a failed pilot, never to see the light of day beyond it's first airing until it is released overseas on DVD and brought back here to be sold through the bootleg video dealers at a convention. The fact that a device was introduced to allow people to "see" the "rivers and streams" that flow through Metropolis doesn't help matters.

What this scene did was deepen Van Vliet as a character and now I am not so sure that I completely trust him. There is something dark about him and his purpose. Van Vliet seems to buy into Luthor and understand him, which could be harmless but could also mean that Van Vliet has aspirations of his own. It could be that the Science Spire is the ultimate achievement in his life and he doesn't care who he has to throw in with to get it. It could be that he is working with Luthor for a darker purpose. It could be that he has no idea what's going on and is just an arrogant man who wants everything that is old removed and his vision of the future set in its place. Either way it makes Van Vliet more a character, which makes for a better story.

The Continuity Cop in me (Badge #24601) cringed at the mention of Lois leaping off of the Daily Planet building to get the first interview with Superman. I realize that certain events are in flux in terms of Superman's back story. I know that according to BIRTHRIGHT Clark did not get his job with the Daily Planet with the first interview with Superman. I know that Veitch is a very talented writer that thought it made perfect sense for Lois is plunge off of a building to get an interview, but in the end it seems very clichd to have Lois risk her life like that to get a story. Lois is smarter than that, at least in my mind. There is no way out of jumping off of a building. On a continuity level it makes me unhappy that Veitch would just throw that out there. On a character level it makes me unhappy because even though Lois is a risk taker to get a story she isn't suicidal.

Also there was no Psychopomp this issue. Always a plus.

Overall this was a really enjoyable issue. It had a good balance of story and action and was a good read. Hopefully the rest of the series will be like this issue.

3Art - 3: This is the clearest the artwork has been over the past three issues. I thought that Tommy Lee Edwards did a fantastic job laying out the various confrontations and really set the mood with his pacing. The splash page where the Question "looks" at the apartment building was the first time where Edwards drew the visual representation of the Question ability and I actually liked it. His vision of what Lois saw when she put on the Chi device was interesting and this type of artwork is where Edwards is strongest. While I stick with my previous statements regarding my dislike for this type of artwork I actually thought that Tommy Lee Edwards did a good job with this issue.

4Cover Art - 4: Are you ready for a beat down?

This was a fantastic cover. From the "coming at ya", almost Kirby-esque figure of the Question about to throw a haymaker to the color scheme I think that this is the best cover so far.

This cover receives a 9 on the newly patented, 2005 edition of the Bailey Grab Me Meter.


Mild Mannered Reviews

2005

Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2005

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