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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Badass Panels Volume 3: The Question #2

Denny O'Neil and Denys Cowan's 1987 series The Question is totally badass.

The whole series challenges the reader in ways that you don't see too often anymore, including a suggested reading list at the end of every issue that featured everything from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to Crime and Punishment to books on Tai Chi and Ed McBain mysteries, encouraging the readers to write in and discuss. My good friend and alleged intellectual Dr. Kunka claims to have read every single book O'Neil suggested, but I'm pretty sure he just said that to make me feel bad about never finishing The Duchess of Malfi in English 289.

Personally, I think the whole thing with the books is just a smokescreen to hide the fact that the Question is a book about a guy with no face punching nearly everybody who gets on his bad side, responding to questions like "Who are you?" with pithy remarks like: "Good Question." Maybe that's what happens when you combine Alan Moore's Rorschach with Steve Ditko's original Objectivist crusading reporter, but it makes for some damn fine comics. Comics that have what may be the best last pages ever printed.

Take #1 for example. The last page of the first issue of the series ends with the Question getting beaten to a pulp, shot in the head and dumped off a pier to drown. How exactly do you follow that up?!

You should buy this comic.Well, if you're Denny O'Neil and Denys Cowan, you put out a book with some badass panels.

Here's how it starts: Hub City's in bad shape. Real bad shape. Like "Maybe-we-should-move-to-Gotham" shape. And it's mostly because of the evil machinations of Reverend Jeremiah Hatch, who's running things from behind the scenes. Ol' Vic Sage gets on his bad side, leading to the aforementioned beatdown.

Issue 2 opens with a recap:

Yep, that's Lady Shiva there, watching bemused at the astounding brutality. Anyway, the Question's shot in the head and put in the drink, but we learn that through an extremely convoluted series of events--which are allegedly based on an actual occurrence O'Neil read about--the bullet (from a 4.5mm air gun) does no real damage and the Question survives over ten minutes underwater thanks to a "diver's reflex" and a harsh winter.

You tell him, Bruce.
Vic wakes up in a hospital some time later, and then recieves a stern talking-to from Batman, who talks about his motivations in the way that makes you know why Denny O'Neil was in charge of those books for so long. So after Batman tells him to shape up and ship out, Vic heads to Richard Effing Dragon Kung Fu Fighter to learn how to become a Zen Master of Crime Fighting.

Turns out that Shiva was the one who pulled the Question out of the river and told Dragon to teach him, because she sensed "a warrior's passion" in him. So after he's all better, they fight. Cowan draws two solid pages of nothing but Badass Panels, but I'm not putting them up here. If the phrase "Zen Master of Crime Fighting" didn't rock your computer so hard it exploded, then Shiva fighting the Question with a fan definitely would.

Finally, he makes his way back to the city, puts his mask back on, and breaks into the Reverend's estate, methodically taking out every one of his guards, finally disturbing the Reverend's quiet repose with the gentle strains of Danny Boy. What follows is one of the best last pages ever printed:

This is awesome, and that is a fact.
So in case you were wondering why the Question was so awesome on Justice League, there's why.

ISB Suggested Reading: The DC Comics Guide to Writing, by Denny O'Neil.


Blogger Kevin Church said...

And a big chunk of this is referenced in that Rucka-written Batman / Huntress miniseries from a few years back. Neat.

My verification code for this post was AWZUEWN.

Dude, you're totally AWZUEWN.

10/24/2005 8:53 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Five points, and the game if you can tell me who said this just a few short years ago?

"I don't like Denny O'Neil's dialogue."


10/24/2005 4:05 PM

Blogger J. Kern said...

Duchess of Malfi rocks harder than you could possibly comprehend. It's like a kung fu-savvy Question ... only in Elizabethan English.

10/25/2005 1:37 AM

Anonymous dr kunka said...

First, who's alleging that I'm an intellectual?

Second, the Question is indeed awesome.

Third, The Question #2 and The Duchess of Malfi have a lot in common. Both feature evil religious figures who abuse their power for personal gain. Both feature characters who must go through radical moral transformations. Both feature great, quotable dialogue (in the Duchess, my favorite is, "A politician is the devil's quilted anvil.") And both feature Lady Shiva.

I'm guessing, Chris, that you didn't get to the part in the Duchess of Malfi where Lady Shiva shows up.

By the way, I'm changing your grade for that class.

10/25/2005 8:56 AM

Anonymous Eos said...

...which are allegedly based on an actual occurrence O'Neil read about...

Rasputin! Did I get it?

12/30/2006 9:36 PM

Anonymous some guy said...

that last panel is _totally_ a Deliverance reference.

1/05/2007 3:06 AM

Blogger BCR said...

This is probably my favorite series of all time, which may say something about my ignorance of non-JLE comics.

Terrific covers - Issue #14 was quite a bit of fun as well.

2/16/2007 9:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly, the phrase "Zen master of crime fighting" left my computer decidedly unrocked. There's nothing neat or special about the concept of "zen", it's just a bunch of fuzzy nonsense philosophy that guillible whit people assigned an odd reverence too because it was exotic. I much prefer the original Ditko Question with his black and white, wrong and right view of the world. Much cooler.

3/18/2007 6:03 PM

Blogger MaGnUs said...

This was an AWZUEWN book. And no, it wasn't Rasputin's the case O'Neil based that on, it was a little girl in the 60s or 70s, who wasn't shot, but she was almost frozen to death, and got automatically put into some sort of suspended animation state, and was later revived.

7/01/2007 1:40 AM


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