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?!
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.
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:
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.