DC surprises on Free Comic Book Day 

May 27, 2012 -- I was pleased to see that DC Comics: The New 52 FCBD Special Edition #1, one of DC's two offering for Free Comic  Book Day (the other being a children's book) had some actual meat in it. I wanted to point out what I noticed, and see if you Legionnaires had any other suggestions or ideas. 

Here we go:


These three panels pack a lot of information in them.

Panel 1: The seven earliest human magicians form a council of some kind. The center one is wearing the Shazam! insignia, but I don't know him. (He looks African, or possibly Australian bushman.) The one on the far right looks like -- no kidding -- Super Chief! Behind him is a Japanese man, who sure looks a lot like Samurai from Super Friends (but I'm honestly hoping he's not -- that's just silly). Between the Shazam avatar and psuedo-Samurai is a woman who looks like Isis. There's another Asian, a woman, and a woman with red hair. I'm guessing they represent Chinese and Celtic pantheons, respectively. There's another black man, who is probably African or Mesopotamian. If my guesses are accurate, they would represent the earliest civilizations, excluding South America. (Mayans don't get no love!)

Panel 2-3: We meet "the greatest transgressors mankind has ever known." These three -- "The Trinity of Sin" -- inform us a little of what the "War of the Trinity" will be about in upcoming issues. Prior to this, the only trinity we had known was Batman-Superman-Wonder Woman. Nice to know they won't be the bad guys.


Panels 1-7: The first of the Trinity is revealed, and it appears to be Judas Iscariot. He's unnamed, but what they say -- "your greed has forever darkened the world" -- is a suggestion, as is something he says -- "Forgive me as He would!" -- is a likely reference to Jesus Christ. Also the Shazam guy -- Judas calls him "wizard" -- throws 30 pieces of silver at him, which turn into a necklace that we've seen before ... on the Phantom Stranger. To pound it home, Isis says "You will walk as a stranger to man, to witness what greed can do."


Panels 1-6: The second member of the Trinity of Sin is unnamed, and in fact his punishment is that he and everyone else will forget his name. I dunno if we're supposed to know who he is or not; he's a ginger and that's the only clue we have. He's arrogant and defiant, if that's of any help. But his face is erased by the wizards, a look we've seen before, on The Question (who wore a mask). This seems confirmed when someone off panel says "You will forever question your identity and forever search for answers you will never find."

Panel 7: The last member of the Trinity is named: Pandora of Greco-Roman myth, whom we have seen skulking about in every New 52 first issue.


Pandora is being punished for releasing all the evils in the world, but doesn't consider herself evil and resents being punished for curiosity. 


Not a lot new here; we see the Red Room again from Justice League where extraterrestrial, unidentified and classified technology is kept and where Cyborg was born. His poor relationship with his father is underscored. Someone makes reference to a Monitor Machine, which seems to function much like the Monitors of Crisis on Infinite Earths. 


The Monitor Machine is picking up a transmission from an alternate earth, which we recognize as Earth 2. We see their Trinity (who apparently die in Earth 2 #1) in combat with Parademons, along with Supergirl and Robin (who become Power Girl and Huntress in Worlds' Finest #1). We also get our first looks at the Alan "Green Lantern" Scott and Jay "Flash" Garrick of this Earth 2. Pandora is present but invisible, and thinks "It's not here.


Argus, a "Bloodlines" superhero in the old 52, is now A.R.G.U.S., identified as a military arm dedicated to fighting superhumans, but they don't tell us what the acronym stands for. We meet Steve Trevor and Etta Candy (the latter is now black and thin), who have NOT been introduced in Wonder Woman so far. Trevor is the head of A.R.G.U.S. and expresses sympathy for the League and distaste for Green Arrow. We hear references to the super-powered teens in Alaska (Ravagers?), Talia al-Ghul and the book we saw in Justice League about the Justice League. 


Panel 1: We learn of the Black Room, where dangerous supernatural artifacts are kept. We see a lot of them, and I could use some help identifying them all! Let's see:

I think that's the head of the spear of destiny attached to the bureau next to the Mayan-looking thing. Above that is an ornate chair, someone's throne? That's the original black diamond under the sheet, it looks to me, before Eclipso split it up into lots of little diamonds. There's a dragon skeleton. There's a chandelier made of bones, which could have come from Europe's Sedlec Ossuary, but i may have seen it on the cover to a House of Mystery once, or maybe that was an organ made of bone. I'm guessing the green thing with the "do not ring" notice is the New 52's Green Bell of Uthool from the Demons Three storylines. On the far right is the Haunted Tank, and near it what looks like a half-hidden Red Lantern. There's a longboat hanging from the ceiling, too (Viking Prince?). Some of those papier-mache warriors from China's Hidden City tomb are on the left. There's some red armor, but I don't know whose (Shining Knight?). The symbols and words around the door in the back are part of the Great Seal of the United States, and basically assigns God's approval of new beginnings. There's a half-hidden painting (Doom Patrol's Painting That Ate Paris?). Any other guesses?

Panels 6-9: Pandora arrives, looking for her Box. She references the Spear of Destiny and Black Diamond, which I identified above, and the Seven Spells of Shazam, which I didn't. Conversation indicates that the Orb of Ra (which created Metamorpho) was stolen by an unidentified male. Dr. Mist, who was an Earth-Two bad guy in the Old 52, is the curator of the Black Room, but we don't see him. Pandora exhibits magic guns. She opens her box, which contains a three-eyed skull. Who do we know with three eyes? Could it be ... Despero?


"The Circus" -- one of A.R.G.U.S.'s special "rooms" -- is mentioned. References are made to Black Orchid and John Constantine. 


An angry face in the stormclouds watching Pandora. Spectre? Shazam?


We meet a black Green Lantern. John Stewart?

PAGES 13-16

Lots of capes fighting. We see the Justice League, except Hal Jordan is missing and black Green Lantern is there, fighting Superman. Wonder Woman is punching Mera. Vibe (yes, VIBE!) is vibrating at Flash. Deadman is possessing Black Adam. Element Girl and The Atom (who looks female) are fighting Cyborg. Hwkman is fighting Green Arrow (some things never change).

I have no idea what the fight's about, but it does introduce the New 52 versions of some characters I haven't seen before, like Black Adam and "Atom Girl" and Vibe. Of course, I don't read ALL the New 52, so maybe some of these have already appeared somewhere.

Anyone else got anything?

Views: 573

Comment by Figserello on May 27, 2012 at 8:17pm

I managed to pick this up after FCBD.  I was surprised that no-one had mentioned it before now. 


We must be burnt out on the DCNu, or something!


I missed that it was Judas Iscariot.  I was distracted, I suppose, that this was somehow the Question, who began as a Ditko pulp-type hero, and the role is now filled by the rather wonderful Rene Montoya. I'm wondering how the two could be related.


I prefer stories where Judas was Christ's sharpest friend and did what he had to, to ensure that the great plan came to fruition.  Which isn't a criticism of this.  I'm only processing now that it's Judas.  Still, the greed thing is a very 'face-value' interpretation of the Bible.  I have a natural dislike of comics that just reinforce received opinions, as the best ones I've ever read tend to deeply question the consensus.

Comment by Captain Comics on May 28, 2012 at 2:04am

I may be mis-reading what you've posted, but there are two men in the Trinity of Sin, and one is The Question, and the OTHER is Judas. 

Comment by Figserello on May 28, 2012 at 2:23am

Ah, gotcha.  Just skimmed your article coz I'm at work here. 


Yet another origin for the Stranger is par for the course, but the idea that the Question is some kind of Avatar for an eternal, cosmic being is odd.  I wonder how they'll play it, and whether it will affect Montoya much?  Her handling by Rucka was masterful; her apprenticeship to the original Question - who was just a guy with a no-face mask rather than with some mystic origins and her connections to the Bible of Crime, which was ok, but did create a whole context for her out of the blue, and her own whole cadre of villains to fight.


Still, with Rucka gone, it doesn't much matter what they do with Montoya.  The engrossing longform grown-up superhero story he was telling went with him.  Whoever uses her next will have to start over.

Comment by Captain Comics on May 28, 2012 at 3:00am

I doubt Montoya will have much to do with The Question. She appears to still be a supporting player in Batwoman, where she is a former lover.

And I don't think it much matters. The Bible of Crime story was interesting and fun. But we've done it, and now there are new stories. But much like Norse myths, the new stories will have resonance and repetition with the older stories. The lessons don't change, but the players do.

And I think that may be a good thing. Let me know what you think.

Comment by Figserello on May 28, 2012 at 5:53am
The Bible of Crime stories had run their course. That's fine. Montoya as Batwoman's amour needs to be a superhero. BWs book is full of tough capable cops and agents who aren't superheroes who can fill civvie Rene's role.

I love Montoya as the question but 6 years is a very short time as a superhero. Are you suggesting she's not around in the DCNu? Our favourite lesbian, female latina superhero superhero is no more?

Not even Johns would ditch her for another 'normal' blue-eyed white boy surely? I'm fine with moving on, but its moving back that gets me down.

but as I say, with Rucka gone, Rene will be a different character with a different story anyway. But I'd still like to see more of her, like I enjoy Superman stories not by Siegel and Schuster...
Comment by Mark Sullivan (Vertiginous Mod) on May 28, 2012 at 1:22pm

A bit off-topic, but I picked this up on FCBD also. My reaction as someone who has not been following the DCU very closely was complete confusion, especially with the opening story (although I thought that fold-out splash page was spectacular). The hints you found intriguing just went completely over my head.

Comment by Figserello on May 28, 2012 at 9:19pm

Isn't it strange that a comic offered as part of an outreach programme, supposedly to get new readers, would be so offputting to a casual, intelligent reader?


It's not really a story at all, but a laying out of the toys for the insiders to nod at, and a checklist of what's in and what's out for the fan-archivists to check off regarding the NuDC.  Such drama as it contains is really just a tease for what might be coming up.  Again, insiders would want to know whether this is in fact John Stewart and why he is being so angry and fighting the JLA.


Casual readers are given no reason to be interested in any of these bits and pieces of new continuity information.


I think there is a page after the gatefold showing the actual new JLA toys.  At least it explains why they are wearing those uncomfortable, overly fussy, PVC suits.  They were created with molded plastic toys in mind rather than looking good on the page.


(Check out the cover of Action Comics #9 to see how unweildy the costumes would be, and restirctive and uncomfortable.)


This FCBD JL comic reminded me somewhat of Meltzer's Justice League of America #0, also offered as a free comic.  The primary puropose of both is to lay out the new landscape of a new DCU and play on the curiosity of the already deeply committed.  The fight with the new Green Lantern reminds me of the scenes set in the future in Justice League of America #0 where Superman's Dad died and Superman is shown punching Batman's teeth out.


2007 is a long time ago, but I see Meltzer's Justice League of America #8 in April of that year outsold by a considerable margin, Johns' Justice League #8 of April 2012.  (154k to 128k) After all the unprecedented Nu52 hype, yet?


Meltzer's initially high-selling but esentially disappointing and now poorly-regarded run seems to have a lot in common with the current approach.


Comment by Border Mutt on May 29, 2012 at 11:22am

To me, Montoya as the Question was interesting primarily because of her "voice".  With Rucka gone, she's more or less just generic vigilante B with a cool visual; nothing intrinsically interesting.  Meanwhile, the setup for the new Question sets up some different story possibilities.  I personally think DC would have been better off reworking a larger portion of their characters more extensively instead of just reintroducing the lion's share with slight tweaks.  I liked the Montoya Question but I think this is a good move.

Comment by Border Mutt on May 29, 2012 at 11:56am

2007 is a long time ago, but I see Meltzer's Justice League of America #8 in April of that year outsold by a considerable margin, Johns' Justice League #8 of April 2012.  (154k to 128k) After all the unprecedented Nu52 hype, yet?

Figs, looks to me like issue 8 of the 2007 series sold 130,232 issues.  Issue 7 was in the 154k range for some reason but both issues 6 and 8 were around 130k.  So, the new Justice League appears to be following a normal cool off pattern, not crashing and burning as your post implies.

Comment by Figserello on May 29, 2012 at 8:41pm

I'm with you that the Question we know (and love, in my case at least) has pretty much left the building, with Rucka's departure.  But that's comics.


(That DC drove away Rucka and Waid around the same time is absolutely damning in my view, and yet more proof that DC aren't interested in producing the very best comics they can, but that's another story.) 


It's up to each new creative team to find something to do with the characters in the box.  To make them work in new stories, more in tune with those creators' interests.  They didn't bin Spider-man when Ditko left, or the Fantastic Four when Kirby had taken all he could from Marvel.


Just as Spider-man and Fantastic Four were valuable properties to Marvel in bottom line terms, the Montoya Question is very valuable to DC, if not in the same crude bottom-line terms.  DC are a company very open to accusations of producing a line of comics aimed largely at people want to believe that stories should only be about straight white males.


Apart from being a minority gay character that has actually got up and running to great critical success, Montoya is also that fairly rare type of character - one who entered the comics via a mass-media TV show.  She has some degree of recognisability outside the narrow world of the fanboy.  (Worth noting in passing that it took a a mass-media show to go for texture and something like natural representation of the population, which is why Montoya was created as she was in the first place.)


DC's ongoing record regarding representation of minorities is lame-o, and its one of the things the absolutely have to address to drag their little comicbook industry out of its weird enclosed ghetto.  I can see that Johns and indeed any white male would be much more comfortable writing about straight white male characters, but they need to get out of their comfort zone.  There are ways to find out how life looks to people outside your own privilaged set, and thus be able to use them in your stories.  Rucka himself wrote an impassioned essay on why that work is necessary and how to go about it here.  DCs writers need to do that work and not throw away the little headway they made with Montoya. 


(While I'm on the subject, bringing back Batgirl was dozy on two fronts as well.  Firstly they eradicated superhero comics' practically only well-established disabled character (a fictional character, I have to stress) to make way for her.  Secondly, if they were committed to making Batwoman a viable longlasting character - which they should be if they mean anything they say about increasing representation - it was stupid to make her share the same shelf-space as another female bat-themed character.)


By now we know that just creating minority characters and letting them sink or swim doesn't cut it.  If a company wants their minority characters to really flourish and run a fictional world that starts to look genuinely representative, they have to actively make decisions that benefit those characters.  Doing nothing for them, only to say that no-one is interested when they fail, isn't a way to show that you are actively addressing the creepy overwhelmingly 'straight-white-male' demographic of your fictional world.


Anyway, it's a lot of chat based on the vague hint in the freebie comic that Montoya is going to be replaced.  Still, I was adddessing Mutt's and Cap's specific point that Montoya had a good enough run and its time for her to make way for (a probably straight, white) replacement.  If she wasn't such a rare example of texture and a rare reflection of the real world, and a reason for some of us to be proud of superhero comics, I'd agree with you. 


Any fanboy's sentimental attachment to a character isn't a good reason to keep that character, if there were no other factors in play.



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