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Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

The Question #4

The Question #4

Scheduled to arrive in stores: February 2, 2005

Cover date: April 2005

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

Devil's in the Details - Part Four: "Inside Out"

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

From a distance the Question uses his ability to see in two worlds to find two men on their way to commit a criminal act.

The men are on their way to meet with a Dr. Fournier to pick up an illegal organ. Fournier leads them into the restroom and gives them the organ and the files on the "donor." The two men drive away and are shortly confronted by the Question. One of the men pulls out a gun to take care of the Question because he can't risk being taken in. He opens fire, but the Question kicks the car forward and takes the two men down.

The Question begins to philosophize about their ultimate fate when Superman arrives and announces that it is time that they had a little chat. Superman tells him that the lead in his mask is a nice touch, but it will not protect his anonymity. The Question asks if Superman knows who he is and Superman replies that it is only a matter of time since to him every human heartbeat is as individual as a fingerprint. He points out that the Question's heartbeat is quite erratic, as if he were under the influence of a powerful psychoactive substance. The Question responds uncertainly that he walks in two worlds.

Superman is familiar with certain rituals that involve psychotropic plants, which he can respect, but he adds that he has no tolerance for chemical addiction. The Question points out that he only serves truth and justice. Superman agrees, but gives him the speech that he gives to newly-arrived vigilantes. He admits to being a busy guy and because of this he can't give the street the attention he needs. He requires help and has been given discretionary authority to appoint special deputies, but in all instances laws are to be obeyed and civil rights observed. If the Question gives anything less than that Superman promises that he will be out on the next train.

The Question begins to explain that things are not that simple, but Superman tells him that he has something to attend to. The Man of Steel flies off and the Question confronts Fournier in the bathroom.

Meanwhile on the Ghost Train Minos' men track Superman's departure from various news and air traffic control sources. Minos feels that with Superman gone they have some breathing room and makes plans to find the man who has been interrupting their business dealings. One of his minions brings Minos the latest haul and there is another calling card from the interloper. Another container is dripping what looks like blood and when it is opened they find a human liver. This angers Minos because he realizes it came from the morgue and anatomical sales are consistently the best performers in their portfolio.

Another minion suspects that maybe Superman is behind their problems, but Minos is convinced that sending an organ isn't the Man of Steel's style. One of the technicians finds video of their troublemaker and Minos realizes that this could be the vigilante that Psychopomp had told them about. Minos believes that this vigilante tracked Psychopomp to Metropolis, which Minos finds ironic since a bottom feeder was able to hurt them where Superman couldn't. He informs his crew that even though he is not sure of the vigilante's game he knows that if he continues to mess with the Subterraneans he is going to end up dead.

Across town Lois joins Miles Van Vliet at the construction site of the Science Spire. Miles explains that they had expected to run into some form of human remains while excavating, but nothing like what they found. Four hundred bodies had been discovered and they were still chained to a ship that had gone down during the Great Hurricane of 1836. Lois doesn't seem surprised over the fact that despite Metropolis' early abolitionist laws slavers would still pass through her port.

Van Vliet comments on how that fact would make a good lead in to her story and reminds her to mention his involvement in finding the site. Lois is more concerned with the fact that Lex Luthor is turning a deaf ear to the Smithsonian's request to halt construction. Van Vliet tells her that politics won't halt the project, but something else about the bodies might. Six True Words is concerned how the bodies will effect on the Chi. Six True Words explains that when people die in such a violent manner their fear and pain is left behind like an imprint. Lois is doubtful and is even more skeptical at Van Vliet's offer to look at the area with the device LexCorp developed.

Six True Words informs Lois that she is performing a transmigration ritual in the hope that the fragments will be released. After reaffirming her doubts about Six True Word's beliefs Lois asks exactly how the Science Spire will utilize the Chi. Van Vliet explains that the manner in which the Spire will be built will harness and shape the Chi as it pours into Metropolis from all around the world. When the Chi reaches the center of the Spire the Chi will be like a laser beam aimed at the top of the Spire. Lois asks if he means that the building will act as some sort of Chi Death Ray. Van Vliet is amused and points out that Six True Words would never participate in any scheme that used the Chi as a weapon. He adds that since they are all part of the Earth how could Earth energy possibly harm any human being?

Elsewhere The Question follows a crack in the city's soul to the Shuster Square subway entrance. The Ghost Trains tracks him there and Minos decides that this is their best chance to take him down. He assembles a team to execute a moving drop on him. He briefs his men on the plan and tells them that after they hit the interloper they head back into the tunnels on foot and call in a pick up by secure radio. He informs them that anyone who gets tagged will end up the like those who pulled the bank heist. They move quickly but cannot find their prey. Minos calls for a pick up, but it leads them to a public area.

Minos and his men are surrounded by civilians, some of which are suspicious of their presence. As Minos and his men try to convince them that they are part of a film crew the Question attacks and pushes two of the men in front of an oncoming train. As quickly as the Question appears he vanishes and Minos loses visual on him. They board a train and bully their way around when the Question appears again and attacks. Minos quickly takes a hostage and escapes. He comes to a quiet place and almost kills his hostage but is cautioned not to by Psychopomp. Minos lets the woman go and at first believes that he has died since Psychopomp acts as a kind of ferryman into the next world. Psychopomp explains that the Question is not pursuing him and that Psychopomp is there because he wants the honor of sending Superman to his eternal reward. Minos admits that this Question has him rattled considering the nine guys he has lost to him. He asks how the Question knows what their next move is going to be. Psychopomp replies that all knowledge is available to those who walk in two worlds.

Minos believes that if anyone has a shot at stopping the Question it is Psychopomp. Psychopomp is doubtful that he could defeat him, but Minos is quick to point out that he doesn't have to kill him just lure him to an ambush. Psychopomp reveals that the Ghost Train is coming towards them, leading Minos to order them to boarding speed. He then points out that the Question is going to figure out how Luthor plans to kill Superman, which would put Psychopomp in a precarious position. Psychopomp sees his point and adds that the Question is only a problem as long as he walks in the physical world. Minos vows to send him to the next as long as Psychopomp can lead him to the corral.

Meanwhile, the Question follows a trail that leads to the heart of the city. He senses an axis that is focused, but soft and vulnerable. He also senses voices in torment that are screams of agony. He comes upon Six True Words as she performs her ceremony and with his ability he sees spirits heading towards the light.

3Story - 3: And now ... Superman.

Yeah right. And now Superman for a whole three pages and then he is gone.

I had a feeling something like this was going to happen. Given Veitch's references and treatment of Superman in the past three issues I can't say that it is much of a surprise that he treats Superman the same way so many other writers have handled the character in guest appearances. Now I realize that all of the fascist references and attitudes towards Superman have come from characters who don't particularly like Superman for one reason or another, but that could be excused if once Superman appears in the story he is vindicated and shown to be something other than a peeping tom with morals.

This dovetails into the previously mentioned problem with how writers generally treat Superman in books other than his own. Instead of taking the time to see how Superman is being handled in his own book, which would lead to some level of consistency, they fall back on the tried and true "world's biggest Boy Scout" Superman, because that Superman will make their main character look good. Why do research when the Superman that "everyone" is familiar with will do just fine?

The trouble with this version of Superman is that it plays into the erroneous notion that Superman is a big stick in the mud at best and a two dimensional character with no appeal at worst. It might also turn off a potential reader from checking out Superman's own books. Superman has enough problems with the mainstream media questioning his relevance in a time of "real life" heroes like Spider-Man without having writers blowing his characterization in guest appearances.

You would think that since this comic was supposed to tie into a larger effort to expand Superman's reading base (at least that is how it was originally hyped to be) would have a more sympathetic view of Superman. I had thought that maybe when Superman finally showed up his character would be vindicated. It wasn't. Sure there was the brief comment that he couldn't always give the street the attention it needs, but in the three pages Superman appears in this book he does the following:

  • He immediately uses his x-ray vision to find out who the Question is and when he can't see through the lead lining in the Question's mask he informs the masked hero that it won't protect his anonymity.

  • After this he uses his super-hearing to listen to the Question's heartbeat, explaining that the human pulse is as individual as a fingerprint and discovers that the Question's heart beat is erratic.

  • He then accuses the Question of being under the influence of a psychoactive substance and is dismissive of the Question's explanation of his abilities.

  • Superman follows that by acting condescending towards the head-way the Question has made with his crusade and gives him a speech about how if the Question is going to operate in Superman's city then he has to obey all laws and make sure that the civil rights of the criminals are observed. He does this despite the fact that he tried to violate the Question's privacy when he first landed.

  • Superman threatens the Question by telling him he will be on the next train out of Metropolis if he doesn't follow the Man of Steel's rules.

  • When the Question attempts to explain his presence Superman is suddenly distracted and has to leave and makes a patronizing comment about the Question's explanation.

Does this sound like Superman to you? Does this sound like the Superman who has worked or had experiences with the Spectre, Dr. Fate and Zatanna or fought supernatural villains like Blaze and Lord Satanus? How could Superman come through all of those experiences and not believe on some level that the Question could walk in two worlds and "hear" the city.

This is the problem. Writers like Veitch don't care or don't seem to care about what Superman has gone through and experienced with their handling of the character. Maybe this is done to make the main character look good; like either standing up to a sanctimonious Superman or simply doing what they think is best in spite of the Man of Steel's opinion of them makes them better characters. I don't know for sure if this is what Veitch is doing here, but it sure seems like it.

Okay, enough of the ranting and back to the matter at hand.

Despite this terrible beginning this issue was not all that bad. I am actually starting to like the character of Minos. All of his scenes were entertaining and I think I like how Veitch is handling him more than I like how he is handling the Question. The sequence on the subway platform was a lot of fun, especially when they try to convince the people around them that they are part of a film crew.

Minos is much more interesting than Psychopomp, who was first portrayed as a very charismatic and powerful character who is now apparently afraid of facing the Question. This man is going to kill Superman but is frightened of a street fighter. I'm sure it makes sense on some level, but to me it hurts the characters credibility.

The scenes with Van Vliet and Six True Words are getting repetitive and I am getting kind of bored with them. Van Vliet is not a terribly interesting character who is probably up to something but may end up being an egotistical red herring. Six True Words has settled into the stereo-typical mystic type who is opposed to all forms of violence, which while admirable is also tired as a character type. Of course Veitch has set up a meeting between Six True Words and the Question for next issue, so maybe that will change.

All in all this series is becoming rather boring. Despite the excitement of last issue we've gone back to the slow pacing of the first two issues. Maybe this will change, but I don't have much faith that it will.

3Art - 3: I was rather impressed with Tommy Lee Edwards last issue. He showed an improvement in his pacing and I actually kind of liked it. This issue went back to the freaky, Vertigo style art work that I have little patience for.

I was also disappointed that Superman makes an appearance and we get a half-way effort with him. I mean Superman's arrival has been anticipated and when he finally shows up we only see part of him in the real world and the other part in through the Question's eyes. I realize that artistically this is kind of interesting, but I didn't care for it at all.

I may be a little biased here. I don't like this kind of art. This is not intended as an insult towards Tommy Lee Edwards or those that do this kind of strange artwork. I think there is room in the comic book world for all kinds of artwork, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Overall the artwork wasn't terrible. In some scenes, like the sequence with Van Vliet and Lois talking at the site where the Science Spire is to be built, the art was quite good. I just don't care for the art as a whole.

4Cover Art - 4: I really dislike it when a cover promises one thing and then there is no payoff. Superman was part of this issue for all of three pages and he takes up a third of this cover. When I picked up this issue from my hold box I was pretty jazzed, but now I look at the cover and feel like I had been lied to.

Despite this I really like the layout of this cover. Superman had a Christopher Reeve look to him, which was great. The Question looked good as well and the rest of the art was fantastic as well. This was a really solid cover and if the inside had been half as good I would have been more satisfied with this issue.

This cover gets a nine out of ten on the 2005 Edition of the Grab Me Meter.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2005

February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005

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