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Friday, September 16, 2005

THE QUESTION by O'Neil & Co #26, #27 Annual #2 +

More on THE QUESTION, with some guest stars and guest art, while Denny O'Neil continues to write of course.

#26 is "Riddles", with Bill Wray doing the pencilling duties with regular inker Malcolm Jones III, and from the Batman family of titles the Riddler shows up (as well as a cameo by James Gordon). Not really one of my favourite issues, though I find Wray's work a bit less jarring than I did when it was first published. I just couldn't really get into the villains of the piece, although I liked a lot of the scenes with Vic and Tot. Fair enough on it's own merits, but definitely weak for the whole series.

#27 was definitely a return to form, as Denys Cowan returns to provide layouts for the bulk of the issue, Jones finishing the art (a few pages are ostensibly from an old WWII comic book, and drawn by Rick Stasi and Terry Beatty). In this story, Tot has a visit from a long-lost cousin of his, who drew the Nazi-busting adventures of "Captain Stars and Sergeant Stripes" back in the 1940s. Meanwhile, in the real world, Myra is still in a coma and Vic is fighting an increasingly desperate and losing battle against the crime of the city and his own darker nature (with a few scenes harkening back to the original version of the Question). These two worlds collide in a solution that takes an odd but effective mystical turn, and works a lot better than I'd expect.

Useless continuity note, this issue would seem to imply that Superman is a fictional character in this world, while surrounding stories make it clear that Batman and Green Arrow aren't.

The Question and Green Arrow continue their cross-over ways with their 1989 Annuals, starting in THE QUESTION ANNUAL #2, "Losing Face". Bill Wray back on the art, which works a bit better here, and Shea Anton Pensa provides flashback sequences as this issue shows how exactly Professor Rodor gave Vic Sage a faceless mask. The origin is partly integrated into the main story, as Green Arrow comes to town looking for some killers who fit Vic's lack of description, who turn out to be working for a doctor who was a former associate of Tot in developing the artificial skin which is used in Vic's mask, jailed by Vic on his first adventure and recently released and out for revenge. That eventually takes Vic and Green Arrow down to crime haven Santa Prisca where the evil Doctor Twain has set up base to produce mass quantities of a variation on Tot's old formula, which effectively turns people into mindless, docile zombies (when it doesn't kill them). With Vic's current feelings about humanity, that almost sounds good to him for a while.

A bit of an uneven story, I liked parts of this issue a lot, but a few things didn't quite work, and I think the origin of the character might have been one of those "best left unknown" things.

This issue also provides "Who's Who" profile pages for the major characters, and a text page where editor Mike Gold runs down the history of The Question at Charlton.

GREEN ARROW ANNUAL #2, "Saving Face" (with art by Ed Hannigan, Dick Giordano and Frank McLaughlin) begins with a jump back in time, showing the Seattle events Green Arrow alluded to earlier, then a quick summary of the other annual before bringing Green Arrow back to Hub City solo, where he has to work with Myra and Izzy to stop the plan to poison the city with the aforementioned chemical. Meanwhile, in Santa Prisca, Vic encounters Gomez, the monster-turned-saint from his previous Santa Prisca adventure, and they work out Vic's conflicted views of humanity, free will and suffering. Overall this second half worked a lot better for me, as the GA parts are a good adventure story using the regular supporting cast of THE QUESTION and the Vic Sage scenes have some interesting relationship to the conflicts of the previous year of the book.

Next time, Vic's back in Hub City and Shiva's there to meet him.

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