Tuesday, 22 September 2009

5 Days of Death: The Question - Epitaph For A Hero

I was randomly leant a trade paperback from the late 80's Question series by a friend. The character was originally created by Steve Ditko for Charlton comics; when Charlton went into decline, DC bought the rights and, a few years after, gave the character his own series. Written by Dennis O'Neil and drawn by Denys Cowan with help from Rick Magyar, this series gave the Question a semi-reinvention, giving him a new outfit and a more zen outlook. The hero's alias is Vic Sage, reporter for one of the main news stations in Hub City, the fictional setting. Hit the jump, to learn a bit more about Vic Cage...

By the way, he's very bendy.

The Question is a faceless vigilante who tackles corruption in the city he lives in. Whenever Vic Sage the reporter cannot solve a problem, he becomes the Question. He's highly trained and athletic, but has no powers; relying on advanced martial arts training and peak physical fitness. He's a bit like the stock hard-boiled detective character from every film noir ever, or what Batman would be if he wasn't so camp.

Anyway, let's see what goes on in that head...

Well, being buried alive by crazy ex-soldiers will do that to you. In a fairly brave idea, the Question spends an entire issue buried alive, trying to last as long as possible. The leader of the soldiers imprisoning him is trying to prove that no-one is tougher than he, who cracked after around 3 days of similar treatment. He says that if the Question survives longer than that, he will earn his freedom. The Question promptly does so, and thus an arguement breaks out...

Jees, there's honor and then there's shooting yourself for no reason. I guess I can sorta understand why the leader kills himself - the Question has dishonored him- but why the hell did the other two do it too? Trying to be popular? Bloody conformists. I guess the moral of the story is that the Question can survive through any situation, no matter how much Deus Ex Machina has to be deployed. He's winging it, making James Bond look like a master strategist.

If you were wondering how Vic Sage becomes the Question, wonder no more. He has a rolled up mask made of special chemicals that sticks to his face that he hides in his belt buckle. Said buckle also releases a gas that changes the colour of his clothing and hair, like so...I like this transformation a lot, actually, because it is more logical than a lot of heroes. I mean, can we really believe that Peter Parker wears a fully body suit under his clothes at all time? One with gloves and big boots? No way. All the Question needs is his belt and a suit that is treated to react to the gas. Sure, the science makes no sense, but this is a comic book so I can forgive a few chemical impossibilities. Ok, haven't had anything awesome in a while... Let's think. Oh, yes, I got it...
THE SUNDANCE KID FIRING ROCKETS FROM A HELICOPTER

Yeah, the descendants of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are terrorizing Hub City, targeting the last cop who isn't corrupt. Sundance gets captured after attacking the cop a second time, but Butch breaks him out, and they fly off the roof of the police station - but not before Vic catches a ride...

Huh? I'm sorry, but that has to be the stupidest, most ridiculous thing I've ever seen in a comic. I guess the first bit is taking the piss out of how heroes seem to grab onto helicopters all the time, but then it completely undermines itself by having a random old guy (introduced at the start as waiting for the angel of death) happen to be standing right under where the Question lands. This is another example of the Question winging it and somehow getting out of an impossible situation completely unharmed. What's more, I'm pretty sure that if the collision pretty much liquidated the old guy, there is no way anyone could get away without major injuries. People, even sick old people, are not squidgy cushions; we're full of bones, and I'm willing to bet that in a real life situation like this, the falling person would have worse injuries than the person they land on, because they have all the momentum.

Oh, and the 'Tot' guy? I have no idea either. Understanding landlord? Childhood friend? Gay lover?

Speaking of characters who are probably gay, guess who turns up next...

Yeah, Sage picks up a copy of Watchmen and starts dreaming he is Rorschach. This is a very clever conceit, because Rorschach was based heavily on the Charlton Comics version of The Question, since Watchmen was originally going to be inhabited by Charlton Comics characters. So, basically, we have here a character looking for inspiration from a character that was inspired by the character looking for inspiration... Bit of a creative paradox, I guess. That said, I think each of us could afford to take a moment every now and then to ask ourselves a very important question...

...What Would Rorschach Do (WWRD)
'He'd kick ass' is probably going to be the answer you'll get most of the time.

Unfortunately, this doesn't quite work, and Sage gets taken out into the middle of a snowy wasteland to be executed. When asked for his last words, Sage simply says 'Yeah. Rorschach sucks'. I'm really loving this Rorschach stuff. Suddenly, his captors are interrupted by...

'Question, I'm real happy for you, and imma let you finish, but Rorschach was one of the best trench-coat wearing heroes of all TIME'

Seriously though, nice interception. Green Arrow frees Sage (eventually) and they approach the base. First, however, Green Arrow takes out the lights...

... using his potent powers of decompression. Time for me to get on my soapbox; I don't mind the occasional use of decompression, but the relentless repetition of the same images that began to filter into comics around this time really irritate me. It's lazy, and it's boring; there are lots of interesting ways to show Green Arrow doing what he's doing above, without resorting to boring filler to take up another page of a story that isn't as long as you were hoping it would be.

Moving along to the final showdown...

I do like the standoff ending, though it's a bit silly to say an ace archer could load, aim and fire faster than an ace gunman could draw. It's also a bit odd that the Question has hardly anything to do, considering this is his comic. He doesn't really need to be here; having one of the heroes do everything kinda defeats the point of team-ups.

Well, in closing, I enjoyed this book a fair bit, it has a lot of gaping flaws. Clever dialogue is countered by moments of ridiculous plotting, awesome action moments are countered by bizarre situations, and a well executed Watchmen parallel is countered by yards of relentless decompression. All told, I would warily recommend this trade to readers, but I won't be in a hurry to read the others in the series.

2 comments:

  1. That's some serious copy-pasting! What's the point in that, honestly?

    Laura

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  2. Haha The Question's punch at the end look so effortless

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