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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

THE QUESTION by O'Neil/Cowan + #20 & "Fables"

The on-going adventures of Vic Sage as chronicled by Denny O'Neil, Denys Cowan and others.

#20 is the first issue that Cowan took off, to work on the Annual below. Regular inker Rick Magyar filled in with both pencils and inks on "Send in the Clowns", including the cover. I didn't like it as much first time around, but looking at it now I think he did a good job, maintained the overall look without copying Cowan's style and told the story. Which in this case involved some more politics as the circus comes to town, a TV clown goes crazy on the air and people seek revenge.

This seems to be the best place to put in the "Fables" crossover, a three part loosely linked story that ran through the Annuals for DETECTIVE, GREEN ARROW and THE QUESTION in 1988. All three parts written by O'Neil with different artists.

DETECTIVE COMICS ANNUAL #1 - Klaus Janson pencilled with Tony DeZuniga inking, which is kind of unusual. I can't recall otherwise seeing Janson not doing finished work (either over his own pencils or another penciler). It's not bad looking, but a few parts seems a little stiff and I can't help but think Janson would have fixed those if he'd done the finished art. Anyway, the story is "The Monkey Trap", and Vic appears briefly in this story, as Shiva comes to Hub City to see if he can get her in touch with Batman, to fulfill a request by her old teacher the Sensei (who I once assumed, wrongly, was supposed to be the O-Sensei who taught Richard Dragon and Ben Turner. His backstory is told throughout these annuals). Vic is able to help by means of leaving a cryptic message on a computer network, and this seems to establish that their first meeting that Vic remembered back in #2 was real, but their second, while Vic was injured in that issue, was not. The main story is a very good Batman story, with Ra's al Ghul in a supporting role, plus Talia and the Penguin, and an interesting insight into Batman's character in the parable the Sensei tells him.

GREEN ARROW ANNUAL #1 - Tom Artis and Tim Dzon on the art, and it's not bad but looks a bit weak compared to the others, but that might just be the bright pastel colours. Vic doesn't appear in "Lesson for a Crab", as Shiva and the Sensei make their way to Seattle and tell a timely story to Green Arrow just as he's suffering a crisis of confidence due to another archer killing some people to challenge him. I really liked this story. As I mentioned with the previous Question/GA meeting, no one else has quite managed to write the Green Arrow that O'Neil defined back in the early 1970s as well as O'Neil.

THE QUESTION ANNUAL #1 - the regular team of Cowan and Magyar team-up for last time for the conclusion, and by far the best chapter of the crossover, "The Silent Parable". Shiva returns to Hub City to recruit Vic for the final mission this was all leading up to, and after a brief amount of violence they're off to Asia (leaving Batman behind because he makes Vic feel inadequate). I love this issue more everytime I read it, and it might just be my single favourite issue of the run. The extra pages really give the story room to breath, and it's full of great character bits for everyone. Even throws in a flashback to Vic's training with Richard, which is always welcome, and lays down clearly a lot of the themes of the book that had been under the surface.

I'm really sorry we haven't seen a collection of this storyline. It would seem to be a natural, and also a great way to test the waters for further collections of THE QUESTION. Strong story, starts with Batman, recognizable villains in his story, some good Green Arrow, another character with some name recognition and even a great painted Cowan/Sienkiewicz image that's only been used as a poster that they can use for the cover.

Next time, back to high school, then the election.

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