52 – Week 48 – Asked and Answered

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Where is Manheim!?

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Renee and Nightwing know they have to find Kate Kane and they know they need to find her soon. This week is all about the quest to rescue Batwoman and how far Renee is willing to go.

The writers are able to blast through three days of the week rather brilliantly as Renee and Nightwing fight their way through lair after lair of Intergang baddies looking for the boss man himself.

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01.jpgThere were a couple of interesting things I noticed while Nightwing and Renee searched high and low for Kate. First, Nightwing had no problem allowing Montoya use her Apokoliptian gun to blast her way through the enemies, and second, he called her by her real name allowing any future villain to figure out who she is. This makes me really me question who Nightwing is – Dick or Jason?

The strange device Renee and Nightwing uncover sure looks like a bomb of some sort, but before they can investigate further, the next wave of monster men attack the duo. Fortunately, Mr. Abbot appears to help them out of their predicament. Unfortunately, it takes a few moments for everyone to realize Abbot has defected, which is just time enough for one of the creatures to set off the bomb which causes seven other devices around the city to go off as well.

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Yeah, you probably already guessed it, but those pillars of fire are burning their way to the Earth’s core to turn all of Gotham City into a Fire Pit. Mr. Abbot explains Bruno Manheim believes everything in the Crime Bible is true, which mean he also believes Kate Kane’s heart is to be the eighth key to unite the seven pillars of fire.

The trio decides to split up, with Nightwing and Mr. Abbot heading off to deactivate the Fire Pit drills, and Montoya hoping to rescue Kate. This seems like a death wish, and that is a question Renee is ready to find the answer to as she transforms into The Next Question.

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I really can not wait to see what DC does with Renee and her Question crew of Richard Dragon, Professor Rondor, and the whole Nanda Parabat community. That being said, I don’t think Renee could hold an ongoing series, but a mini-series, or even as a backup story in Detective Comics would rock.

This issue doesn’t see the deactivation of the Fire Pit drilling machines, so that will either happen in another issue, or will simply be implied as Gotham is standing one year later.

Renee finds Manheim in a Catholic Church currently being renovated by Ridge Ferrick Construction (another thread I hope to see explored in future DC titles). Batwoman is chained to an alter ready to have her heart carved out by a particularly nasty blade. This isn’t a simple rescue mission, Renee is attacked by more monster men, and even battles Whisper A’Daire, who fully transformers herself into a giant snake. The Next Question is able to kill A’Daire, but the battle has given Manheim enough time to plunge the blade deep into Kate Kane’s chest.

Renee fires her gun at Manheim knocking him out. This gives Renee time to assess the situation, but it looks grim; if she pulls the knife out of Kate’s chest, she’s going to die, and if she doesn’t Kate will die anyway. She doesn’t get a chance to do anything as Manheim jumps up, hurls Renee across the room, grabs her gun, and prepares to fire.

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Renee wasn’t talking to Manheim, but to Kate who pulled the knife from her chest and planted it firmly in the back of Manheim.

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Ouch! That’s gotta hurt. And as Kate dies in Renee’s arms, a single bat flies to heaven.

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There are a couple of problems with the outcome of this issue. I have to wonder if Kate is really dead. She is featured prominently on the teaser poster for Countdown, so it could be she is still alive, which conflicts with the whole death scene that plays out on the page. I also have a problem with Manheim getting it in the back. Regardless of the probability of Kate actually being able to achieve such a stunt, he can’t be dead here, as we’ve seen him in the pages of Superman One Year Later. Granted he’s undergone quite the change, but this issue isn’t the last we’ve seen of the villain.

So the week isn’t a total downer, a single page of the issue is devoted to Egg Fu broadcasting a message to the world – they have a battered and broken Black Adam, and are willing to sell him to the highest bidder.

08.jpgMy biggest problem with this issue was the overly large gutter used throughout the issue. This was probably intentional, but the rough edge of each panel and the forcing of many of the panels into a standard 2 x 3 layout forced each panel to be smaller than what I am used to. Take a look at the image to the right. If you click it to enlarge, you will see the entire page complete with white gutter. Now just imagine if the art had been allowed to expand to the full height and width of the page, making for a much more dynamic read.

To me, the panels were incredibly dense and hard to read visually. As great as seeing Montoya actually transform into the Next Question (and yes, I’m going to continue to call her The Next Question instead of The Question), my overall perception of the quality of the art was reduced.

The Good

  • Renee as The Next Question

The Bad

  • Artwork is rough and hard to make out at times
  • Manheim’s death is anti-climactic since we’ve seen him alive one year later
  • It’s too bad we didn’t see the return of Anarky as hinted by this week’s cover

I have mixed feelings about this week’s installment of 52. On the one hand, I really really really liked seeing Renee take the final step in her transformation in becoming The Next Question. On the other, the story seemed to drag out quite a bit. While it wasn’t edge of your seat excitement, it was good enough to earn this issue 3 out of 5 Stars.

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Parting Shot

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