"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Man, there was a lot of red meat in Trinity #38, and I don’t just mean the plot. From soup to nuts(y), it was a smorgasbord of superheroics the likes of which I haven’t seen since the Great Pastry Wars of the early issues.
Grab your fork, folks, because tonight we dine … on trivia!
* * *
“Who Are You” 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: I really wanna know!
— “Outsiders”: an intentional allusion?
— My interpretation of Interceptor’s speech is “when you finish patting yourselves on the back for wisdom and compassion, you could suck it up …”
— “Our power confined them easily before”: … as will be explained by Dinanna on page 4.
— “It tickles!” is a classic Superman line from the cover of Superman vol. 1 #32 (January-February 1945).
— “Great Athena”: and so Dinanna starts to remember. I like the fact that she recalls her old life by invoking the name of one of her own gods.
— “Remember them”: seems like I called this particular plot development back in the Act Two wrapup. Naturally, I hedged my bet, because it seemed a little, well, predictable. Still, there’s predictable, and then there’s the thrill one gets when an expected piece falls into place; and for me, this next sequence definitely brought up the latter.
— However, I didn’t expect Dick’s first attempt at a memory trigger to be “Ollie Queen’s chili.” Oliver Queen has been known for smokin’ hot chili at least since the Green Lantern/Green Arrow days of the 1970s. The first reference to Ollie and chili may be Green Lantern vol. 2 #84 (June-July 1971), where he promises to take Dinah Lance “to a Mexican joint [with] chili so hot they have asbestos napkins.” However, the blogger Sea of Green has posted an image from the Denny O’Neil/Mike Grell days (I’m going to guess GL #93 (February-March 1977)), which would be the earliest reference I can find (without diving into the long boxes myself) of Ollie making his own super-hot chili. A recipe appeared in Green Arrow Secret Files & Origins #1 (December 2002), so of course it’s on the Internet as well.
— “Foul … scorched taste …”: see, it is hot! Practical too: besides being the first thing Dick could think of, it also cuts through a lot of ambiguity that might accompany, say, shouting out an ex-girlfriend’s name. Besides, with Batman there have been so many….
— “Sundollar Coffee” is, for all practical purposes, the Starbucks of DC-Earth, and was first seen officially in 52. However, a Daily Planet article about the prolific franchise appeared here, prior to the miniseries’ first issue.
— “Beef Bourguignon”: a reference to Superman vol. 1 #297, written by Elliott S! Maggin and Cary Bates, and penciled by Curt Swan. In that pre-Crisis issue, Lois and Clark share a romantic dinner, and it is strongly hinted that they shared a little more afterwards, nudge nudge. In Superman vol. 2 #153 (February 2000), writer Jeph Loeb appears to have added the “ketchup” for reasons which may remain a mystery. Thus, it’s still a code-word, but in the post-Crisis days, it means “all clear” (and not “premarital sex”) in the Kent household.
— Nutsy Squirrel is a National/DC funny-animal character created by Woody Gelman and Irving Dressler for Funny Folks #1 (May 1946). In the mainline DC universe, Nutsy is a popular funny-animal character whose likeness graces at least one amusement park (as seen in Justice League Spectacular #1 (March-April 1992)).
— Going back to Wonder Woman’s origin in All Star Comics #8 (December 1941-January 1942), “bullets and bracelets” was an Amazon sport wherein one participant would try to deflect live fire with her metal bracelets. In The Encyclopedia Of Comic Book Heroes, Volume 2: Wonder Woman, author Michael Fleisher notes dryly that “Princess Diana’s skill at this sport … enables her to win the right to come to America.” (Well, duh, if losing means getting shot.) The 1986 revamp (Wonder Woman vol. 2 #1 (February 1987)) recast it as the “test of the flashing thunder,” a “secret and terrible part of [the Amazons’] past” which only Diana had to face.
— In her montage, Wonder Woman is fighting Heracles, who looks to be wearing an outfit designed by Terry and Rachel Dodson for Wonder Woman vol. 3 #2 (September 2006). In that issue he’s called “Hercules,” although since the 1986 revamp all the mythological characters have tended to be called by their Greek names.
— The image of Diana with Tom comes from WW v. 3 #18 (May 2008). The necklace represents a “bond of consideration” and is the first step in Amazon courtship. There is also a matching bracelet.
— With Donna, “mother” could refer to more than one person (including Dorothy Hinckley, her biological mom, or Faye Stacey, her first adoptive mom), but I’d say here it refers to Hippolyta, who considered Donna to be Diana’s sister.
– “Kandor” is a Kryptonian city once captured by Brainiac, and now relocated to a spot opposite Earth in the latter’s orbit around the Sun. Supergirl and her parents Zor-El and Alura were from Argo City, but (in the regular timeline, as revised) Brainiac destroyed Argo after Supergirl left and her parents had been placed in Kandor. Kandor was created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino and first appeared in Action Comics #242 (July 1958).
— “Barbara” is Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl and current Oracle, for whom Dick has always had strong feelings.
— “Ditching your responsibilities”: isn’t it more accurate to say they’ve been reordering their priorities?
— No annotations.
— In her revised origin, Supergirl has ties to all three of the Trinitarians, so it’s appropriate that she lectures them. (Seems like I’ve mentioned this before, but still.) Besides being Superman’s cousin, Batman found her spaceship and she received Amazon combat training on Themyscira.
— No annotations.
— No annotations, although I was expecting the story to be continued in this issue.
* * *
“The Last Stand” 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: North America falls to the Dark Arcana.
— Good guys include Cyclone, Space Ranger (the Hermit), Triumph (Strength), and assorted Metal Marines (who may be part of the “Heywood Corps” we’ve seen earlier, or perhaps Magnus-designed androids). Bad guys include Giganta (Strength), Eclipso, and Zoom (the Chariot).
— This version of Cyclone, a/k/a Maxine Hunkel, was created by Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham and first appeared in Justice Society of America vol. 2 #1 (December 2006). An earlier version of the character, considered to be the “older” Cyclone/Red Tornado III in a potential future, was created by Mark Waid and Alex Ross and first appeared in Kingdom Come #2 (June 1996).
— Ivy Town is the home of Ivy University, which has employed two Atoms, Ray Palmer and Ryan Choi.
— As far as I know, Cyclone is still alive in the regular timeline; so given all the normally-dead characters in Trinity (AHEM, page19/7), this is something of a change-up.
— “You always take the young girls”: eww! Not quite as bad as the rapetastic Dr. Light reference from a few issues back, but still pretty unsavory. It refers to Deathstroke’s heavily-implied (i.e., a lot more heavily than the “beef bourguignon” incident) sexual relationship with 16-year-old Tara “Terra” Markov, as portrayed for example in The New Teen Titans vol. 1 #39 (February 1984).
— “Just like Enigma said it would”: sure, he’s smart enough to have figured it out, but I’m guessing SPHERE helped.
— “This world is coming to want them to win”: again, just like the Anti-Matter Earth favors the Crime Syndicate.
— “You made this world more receptive to them”: now, that’s an intriguing thought; and J’Onn will pick up on it a couple of pages later.
— “Your years of support”: it’s a nice touch that the two Silver Age pioneers share this particular secret. Although Barry’s first appearance in September-October 1956’s Showcase #4 is overwhelmingly credited as the “official” start of the Silver Age, many consider J’Onn J’Onzz (who appeared almost a year earlier; see below) to be the first Silver Age superhero. In a flashback to 1959, Barry also stuck up for J’Onn in front of a hostile mob (Justice League of America vol. 1 #144 (July 1977)).
— J’Onn J’Onzz, the Martian Manhunter, was created by Joe Certa and Joseph Samachson and first appeared in Detective Comics #225 (November 1955). He was transported accidentally to Earth by one Dr. Erdel, who died from the shock of his machine’s success. Here he’s shown wearing a version of his classic costume, but he didn’t make his head quite so pointy when he wore it.
— “Where would I be now?”: I particularly liked this speech. In recent years conventional wisdom has held that J’Onn is pretty much Superman without the good public relations. Although J’Onn has all of Superman’s major powers plus a few more, the chroniclers have reasoned that his non-human appearance, plus his origins in the paranoid 1950s, gave him a different outlook on the whole “fitting into Earth society” thing. As DC’s post-Crisis sliding timeline created an ever-larger gap between the Justice Society’s 1951 retirement and the Justice League’s “15 years ago” debut, the period of J’Onn’s secret operations increased as well. Thus, the Justice League allowed J’Onn to work openly, in no small part because it included a Kryptonian and an agent of the Oan Guardians as members. If Trinity had tried to map single characters to the missing Trinitarians, I’d like to think that J’Onn would have been first in line as a replacement Superman.
— “Not us, someone else”: gee, I wonder who. See, this is why I was expecting the Trinity to show up on the last page.
— I haven’t been paying attention, but is GL’s power ring on the correct hand? Here it’s on Alan’s right hand. “Our” Alan usually wears the ring on his left hand, whereas the intergalactic Green Lanterns wear theirs on their right (where applicable).
— No annotations, but there’s Alan’s ring on his right hand again.
* * *
I enjoyed this issue pretty much from cover to cover, and it left me very eager for next Wednesday. There are still fourteen issues left, but everything is coming together. The Trinitarians are apparently ready to resume their normal lives, the Dark Arcana is about to conquer an ever-more receptive Earth, and — in a development which everyone and her dog seemed to see a mile away (commenter Ian predicted it back at issue #25, and I agreed five issues later) — J’Onn J’Onzz finally cast off his Space Ranger disguise.
So yeah, I’m glad I stuck with Trinity, because these events were meaningful on a couple of levels. Although I expected the “remember them!” strategy and J’Onn’s reveal, I thought they were more than just button-pushing moments; presented powerfully and with an eye towards Trinity’s underlying themes. I hope the Trinity’s inevitable return to Earth, and the subsequent “reawakening” of Earth’s people, will be handled as well. (Of course, I’m excited about the fact that it could come in the next couple of issues.)
Still waiting on Krona and Green Lantern, though….