If this is the end of Act Two, it's about what I expected. That sounds rather blase, I know; but I mean it mostly in terms of plot. It got to the place I thought it would, and it took one subplot a little farther. Together with some thought-provoking observations on Superman's duality, the issue was fairly satisfying all around.
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“The Unsolvable Riddle” (pages 3-12) was plotted by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza, scripted by Nicieza, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Walden Wong, colored by Allen Passalaqua, lettered by Pat Brosseau; Rachel Gluckstern, associate editor; Mike Carlin, editor.
In Brief: More about Enigma.
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-- “Truckling?” That’s one erudite marauder!
Page 3 (story page 1)
-- Anantanarivo is the capitol of Madagascar. Since Morgaine and Enigma started their campaign in Europe, an expansion which reaches as far south as Africa (and as far east as Singapore, later) is pretty formidable.
-- “Xor the Warhound”: that reminds me, we haven’t seen Konvikt in a while.
-- Here’s the complete 22-slot Dark Arcana roster, updated from issue #31. Back then I guessed that the no. 10 card, Wheel of Fortune, would be Professor Amos Fortune, founder of the Royal Flush Gang. I wasn’t too far off there, but last week I missed my guess that the Joker was the Fool.
-- Anyway, this week’s lineup reveals that the Royal Flush Gang is/are the Wheel of Fortune, the Hanged Man (card no. 12) is the Gentleman Ghost, Temperance (no. 14) is Prometheus, and the Star, the Sun, and the Moon (card nos. 17-19) are, respectively, the Cheetah, the Tattooed Man/Sun-Chained-In-Ink, and the Scarecrow. We’ve seen all these folks before; we just haven’t seen their positions on the chart.
-- Enigma’s origins were first revealed in detail in issue #21.
-- Remember, we saw the Metal Marauders earlier in Trinity, as harbingers of the Crime Syndicate’s involvement.
-- “Rip Hunter, the Time-Shredder”: obviously, the evil counterpart of our Rip Hunter, Time Master. The good Rip was created by Jack Miller and Ruben Moreira and first appeared in Showcase #20 (May 1959).
-- “How the physical properties … worked”: Luthor visited the matter universe in JLA: Earth 2.
-- “So much calmer than this world’s version”: yeah, I can’t quite picture how a “good” Ra’s would act. Our Ra’s ostensibly only wants what’s best for the Earth, but he’s willing to kill 95% of the population to achieve it. Maybe on the Anti-Matter Earth, he’s more like our Al Gore; and their Gore is more like Ra’s. Assuming their Gore wasn’t killed by George W. Bush in a knife-fight on the steps of the Supreme Court, of course....
-- “Zatanna”: On Earth-3, Zatanna’s evil counterpart is named Annataz; but apparently not on the Anti-Matter Earth.
-- Ah, the Idol-Head! We all remember the Idol-Head of Diabolu, which gave the Martian Manhunter so much trouble ‘way back when. I suppose the anti-matter differentiation accounts for this one being associated with Infernatu. The IHOI was created by a (presumably) good sorcerer to house the spirits of angels, whereas “our” IHOD was created by an evil sorcerer and contained evil spirits. This flashback also explains Enigma’s “Infernatu!” invocation from issue #13.
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-- “I did dream”: remember, Krona’s escape was communicated to both Trinity and Troika through their dreams.
-- “We’re taking Singapore now”: again, sounds like the Dark Arcana control most of the Eastern Hemisphere.
-- Originally I had speculated that Enigma, who had been a good guy on his world, turned “bad” around the same time that our Riddler apparently reformed. This page makes it clear that Enigma hasn’t sacrificed all of his morals, so the parallel might not be exact.
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“The Depths Beyond The Depths” (pages 1-2, 13-22) was written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Mark Bagley, inked by Art Thibert, colored by Pete Pantazis, and lettered by Pat Brosseau; Rachel Gluckstern, associate editor; Mike Carlin, editor.
In Brief: The story of Kellel concludes.
-- “The 10 P.M. GBS national update”: It's too bad this timeline won't last until the fall. Otherwise, I know Lois would hand Jay Leno his head.
-- [By the way, does any network still do prime-time updates? The only ones I see are on CBS during ballgames or "60 Minutes."]
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-- “Dead enough”: last week I mentioned Superman’s escape from the netherworld (for lack of a better phrase) in Adventures of Superman #500. I don’t know if the sequence here is meant to mirror that one, but long story short, the “Kryptonian funeral” there was really put on by a group of demons. Make of that what you will.
-- “Unleashed his rage and his pain”: Superman never destroyed Doomsday as he does here. However, as we saw a few weeks ago in Action Comics #871 (February 2009), Doomsday was killed (rather quickly) by the combined efforts of Superman, Supergirl, and several other Kryptonians.
-- “Triumph over my own godhood”: at this point I was expecting Kellel to set himself up as unquestioned ruler, like in 1999’s “King of the World” storyline.
-- Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to see instead that he got married. (And by one of his own priests!) This is in keeping with Lois' overall role in the mythology for the past ten years or so. A couple of years ago I wrote that
the biggest Lois innovation may be her role as Superman's anchor to humanity. Whenever something happens to Lois, Superman ends up going nuts: mad enough to change history in the first Reeve movie; despondent enough in an alt-future to go into exile (Kingdom Come) or even commit suicide (JLA's "Rock Of Ages"); and restoring Lois to the mix was part of the resolutions of "For Tomorrow," DC One Million, and the "King of the World" storyline from about 10 years ago.
This goes along with Kellel’s “the man … is who I am!” declaration: his wife is his anchor, since he has no “Clark” to serve as one.
-- Furthermore, the schism this causes between Kellel and his friends indicates that while it’s necessary for him to be “Clark,” the same is not true for them. The theory that “Bruce Wayne is the mask” has prevailed (despite its flaws) for at least the past twenty years. For just about as long, Wonder Woman was without her traditional secret identity. For example, in Kingdom Come, both Batman and Wonder Woman function "normally" wihout secret identities; but the overall story concerns Superman's rediscovery of "Clark Kent." Thus, it is perfectly in character for Kellel/Superman to emphasize his humanity over his divine responsibilities, since Superman without Clark is incomplete in any reality.
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-- “I’m the one who broke Superman?” Not necessarily. Lois may be projecting some of her own fears on this page and the next, but maybe she doesn’t remember that Batman and Wonder Woman have changed as well. It takes more than one deity to have a Godwar, Lois!
-- “Made things happen according to their ideas of their own histories”: actually, it makes sense that Atmahn “made” a gang of Jokers, Kellel a gang of Luthors (and a Doomsday), and Dinanna a Max Lord, if these were entities which they thought they needed as opponents.
-- In any event, I’m sure that Alfred would point out that the Trinitarians also re-lived their lives without Lois, Alfred, Dick, et al., so of course things were going to be different.
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With regard to Enigma, once I saw who he really was, I did think he wouldn't be as conflicted as this issue shows. By that measure, though, he'd be about as "bad" as the Riddler was, and where's the drama in that? Besides, I figured Konvikt would turn on Morgaine before Enigma did (and he might still), so I didn't think there was room for two Troiksters struggling with their ethical codes.
Now that we've seen the three "gospels," I have to point out one shared element of our heroes' origins missing from each: their parents. As gods, the Trinitarians are more like trustees, in the sense that they were not part of the world's creation, and neither are they descended from Krona. I mentioned before that they are a kinder, gentler New Testament to Krona's Old, but there's no "house and lineage of David" running through both. Accordingly, as Alfred says, they have to re-enact their lives according to what they think they should be; and because they do it as adults, there's no one reinforcing what they learned as children. I mention this mostly in connection with Superman, whose ties to humanity were formed mostly through the Kents. However, I think it holds true for Batman and Wonder Woman: both see only their respective "missions," taken out of the context which informs those missions. Atmahn loses his connection to the Blue People when Rabat dies, and Dinanna actually kills one of them. Because neither of them really requires such a connection, they're content to become more distant -- but Superman doesn't work that way. Fans complain that Superman is "too powerful to be interesting," and that's true in the sense that Superman needs "Clark" to work properly. Lois may be Superman's anchor, but without Clark in the mix, their relationship is very different.
As you can probably tell, I could say a lot more about that ... but you know what the music means. Our time is up.
P.S. I don't know whether I'll have time this weekend to put together something on Act Two, so watch this space for the details. It may have to wait until next weekend.