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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

THE QUESTION by O'Neil/Cowan #2 - #6

Been continuing my paced re-reading of the O'Neil/Cowan run on THE QUESTION. #2 through #5 wrap up the first storyline, which would have been the announced-but-unreleased THUNDER OVER THE ABYSS tradepaperback, plus setting up a few future bits.

#2 - "Butterfly" - Vic wakes up, injured but alive, finding out that Shiva rescued him from drowning. He gets (or imagine he gets) a visit from Batman, and is then sent to train with the enigmatic Richard, a wheelchair bound recluse (and unmentioned here but star of his own O'Neil written series RICHARD DRAGON in the 1970s). Most importantly this introduces the eastern philosophical content that would inform the rest of the series.

#3 - "Suffer the Children" - Back in Hub City, we meet the Musto family of low-rent terrorists (which a later letter column mentions hail from some 1970s GREEN LANTERN issues) as the Question foils a plan to blow up a school bus.

#4 - "The Sacrifice" - The big confrontation with the Reverend Hatch, this is a really intense issue, lots of stuff going on, and sets up...

#5 - "Cityscape" - One of my favourite issues, the one where everything really comes together creatively on the book. As Hub City decends into chaos following the events of the previous issue, we see how it affected a few of the residents. Most notably this issue introduces Izzy O'Toole, a corrupt cop who starts his own redemption here.

The next few issues are single issue stories, building from some of the minor points of the opening. #6 is "...That Small Rain Down Can Rain...", bringing back the Musto family. I'm especially fond of this issue because it sets up #21, my first and favourite issue, but each issue is complete in itself. Both issues are about some of the main themes of the book, family and identity, and in particular how those issues play out in Vic's mind as an orphan, with no idea of his family, and Junior Musto, an embarrassment to his father in the terrorism game. All this wrapped up in a plot about gun-smuggling, business corruption, pollution and acid-rain.

O'Neil also gives Cowan and Magyar some room to play with the action sequences in this issue, with two almost wordless sequences, one featuring some close-quarters hand-to-hand combat and the other featuring a shoot-out. Those are a lot of fun, especially since they don't resort to splash pages but have decent paneled storytelling, and are always an interesting part of the series. Fortunately at the time DC wasn't that stingy with the page count, so the early issues of the book have 27 or more pages of story, allowing for a few visual flourishes like that while still having a lot of story content. Welcome stuff in an era when 22 pages and many of them splash pages seem to be the standard.

Next week or thereabouts, wolfmen, Gilbert and Sullivan, and a three-part visit to sunny Santa Prisca.

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