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Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

52: Week Thirteen

52: Week Thirteen

Scheduled to arrive in stores: July 6, 2006

Cover date: September 2006

Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Penciller: Keith Giffen (breakdowns), Todd Nauck
Inker: Marlo Alquiza

"Haystack"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge



Week 13:

A group of heroes chant to Rao in robes as they attempt to resurrect Sue Dibny. Telepathically, they convene using Hal's ring. Ralph Dibny tells them about the cult, and they realize they're there to bust it up. Ralph corrects them, saying he's there to find out if he can resurrect his wife. He points out how many heroes have come back from the dead, including the ones he called to help, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Zauriel, and Metamorpho.

They point out how some of the show is staged, how the Kryptonite being passed around is not real, and almost make a move to stop things. Then they decide to leave it to Ralph.

In southwest Asia, Black Adam and Isis break a slave ring. Isis stresses mercy, and stops Black Adam from killing those responsible.

Ralph decides to crash the party, and they do, causing an evacuation and some damage. Cassie attacks him, but Green Lantern subdues her.

Ralph attacks the cult leader, but is stopped when the doll used as a proxy for Sue grabs his leg, seemingly alive. Ralph tells them to stop the attack. The altar and the sacred items, however, are destroyed, so the cult leader, Devem, indicates that they can't do it again and flies off with Cassie, who carries him.

The fire caused by the attack grows out of control. Green Lantern indicates that it's beyond his control. Inside, Ralph lays down on his wife's proxy. The building explodes.

The next day, they search the rubble, finding nothing. Nearby, Ralph cradles the straw doll with a malevolent look on his face, looking out at the new day and saying, "Try again.try again..."

BACKUP STORY: The Origin of Elongated Man
Writer: Mark Waid
Art and Colors: Kevin Nowlan

Ralph Dibny gains the power to stretch after drinking an extract of Gingold. He joins the JLA, and later decides to abandon his powers in favor of finding Sue, wherever she is.

2Main Story - 2: I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that Mark Waid wrote most of this...maybe I'm wrong. That's just a guess.

The reason I say so is because it's just an incredible story with awesome beats, but when it comes to story coherency, it's not all there. You don't ever find that with Rucka (he's good with consistency) or Johns (likewise), and Morrison is a bit more wide in scope but off on character (not off, just not focal on it over the scene and the backdrop, I guess).

This is essentially one of the BIG emotional beats of the series. Ralph finds his wife again, chooses to die with her, and changes fundamentally as a character. He'll likely go to extreme lengths now that he believes his wife will be returned to life or could be, and he may go down a dark path for that, I'm reading, from his scruffed up face and crazed look.

(How does he survive the explosion if, according to his later bio, he's no longer super-powered?)

Where this fails is the fact that the structure is all mucked up. Like, get this. Superman heating the entire Earth with his heat vision? Interesting idea. If he just DOES IT by putting his heat vision on a broadband wave (as Casey did), it makes no coherent sense. If he gets help from Emil and builds even a farcical contraption that makes it possible, it DOES make sense, and doesn't distract from how crazy that is.

Now look at this story. A cool idea. Ralph gets blown up while his wife comes back to life in a great big fight with the cultists that leads to Ralph perhaps becoming villainous and the heroes suffering a failure of team.

Except it goes about it in implausible ways, or ways that pull you out of the story.

The biggest problem I have, and why I mention all of the above, is that the fight occurs because Ralph orders his buddies to stomp these guys, and they do. The essential gist is that the JLA guys, because they're ticked, set a warehouse on fire that could have killed people, and this results in risking the life of children and Ralph's seeming death.

YES. These guys are taking Ralph's dead wife in vain. I get that. I see how insulting that is. But the idea of the DC heroes (as opposed to Marvel) is that they don't really do that, pop off like that and start nearly murdering people over an insult. That's more like Rob Liefeld and X-Force from 1993.

There's also little things, plot points, etc.

The first, admittedly small, is the fact that the telepathic bubbles use dialogue tails.

Nextly, Hal Jordan, the straight-laced Green Lantern, refers to a difficult task as "a bitch." Now, I'm not worried about cursing in this obviously for adults kind of book, but I really don't see it as in his character. "I've never used the ring to make telepathic plugs before, and they're a bitch.but we're connected."

I find that a bad writing choice for arbitrary edge.

The symbol on the statue above is right side up for Rao. I can buy that they're referencing the Kryptonian deities and thus right side up is correct. What perplexes me and pulled me out is that that symbol may be/is/we don't know/kind of came from Pa Kent, didn't it? Or did it? Sure would be nice to know. And it's the symbol for El, not Rao, right? Huh?

Ask Mark Waid for reasons you likely know, which is why I suspect he has a hand in this.

Last thing, they leave Ralph for dead until the next day? Cold, guys. I mean, the ring could have scanned that night, right?

But all that said, the emotional beat, the idea of his wife returning to life, and when she seemingly does, is very strong. The problem being, in the midst of it, I kept getting pulled out of the story.

I LIKE this idea. I LIKE where they're going with this. But framework is more than half of the story and glory in the concept.

4Art - 4: Still good, stand-out work from Giffen and company. It's consistent, strong, has the same feel every week, and tells a strong story. I have few complaints about this art beyond the fact that there's little that's REALLY flashy here.

4Backup Story - 4: I wouldn't exactly pick Mark Waid to make an origin. I echo Barry's criticism. Yes, his knowledge of characters is incredible, vast, and rightly praised. His attention to this knowledge he possesses in terms of coherent and informed storytelling, however, is often lacking. Like with Birthright, which, though I KNOW he's well aware of the Byrne conventions, never finds a coherent framework in the current universe, and still has yet to.

This origin, as did the Wonder Woman before it, is one of those classic, awesome versions that as a kid brought me into comics. Simplified, easily accessible, it's basically a wiki from the old school, and I can't help but praise DC for bringing it back.

Does this origin fail? No. It does point out the difference between that past and the current one, however, in that instead of ending with Ralph as part of the neverending battle, this origin ends with his wife brutally murdered and him leaving the powers behind. Sorry, kids!

It's well written and compelling, and it fits into this story well, which is, I'm sure, why they'd choose him at this point.

I do question the order. Wonder Woman, then Ralph, when they're redefining "New Earth?"

Here's my order: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter, Plastic Man, and on...and that's just obvious. That's the order in which these guys are generally popular.

And hey, if this leads to Birthright somehow making SOME fricking sense when he does the New Earth Superman origin, I'll take it.

But frankly, it really bugs me (and many others) that DC essentially wants a New Earth or a new continuity, but another exists, and they won't just state which is which.

Look, guys, we TRUST these new writers and this new direction. We do! If you had to kill Byrne's origin for that, or tweak things, COOL! But LAY IT OUT. Quit trying to have your cake and eat it too.

And that doesn't really relate to this origin specifically, but honestly, it's because of the guy writing it that this confusion started, really, three years ago, so maybe it does.

5Art - 5: Very nostalgic. It brought me back to when I was a kid, and I love that. I can't wait to see this collected, honestly.

5Cover Art - 5: It happens in the issue, it's a compelling pose at a neat angle, it's scary, it makes you wonder what's going on...there's not much more a cover can do right Awesome work.


Mild Mannered Reviews

2006

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

January 2006

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