The New 52 1 (FCBD issue)

Today, Patrick, Drew, Peter and Shelby are discussing The New 52 1, originally released on Free Comic Book Day, May 5th, 2012.

Patrick: Now that the dust has settled and we’re all able to calm down after a thrilling Free Comic Book Day, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. The issue that DC released was anything but an easy entry-point, packing in more characters and mythology than we’ve seen in any single issue since the relaunch. This book makes a lot of intriguing promises for long-time fans, but I doubt new readers were all that excited to spend 11 pages following a character they’ve never heard of.

The issue opens with an origin story. The three sinners stand in judgement before a panel of seven wizards. The two male sinners are turned into The Phantom Stranger and The Question, forced to wander the world in solitude and without an identity (respectively). Pandora makes a final plea: she didn’t intend to release all the evil into the world by opening that box (guess which box). But the Wizards don’t give a shit and they sentence her to wander the universe alone and in pain – again: forever.

Hundreds of years later, Pandora takes a secret-tour of all the A.R.G.U.S. labs that study all the kinds of supernatural artifacts, metahumans and insane technologies that populate DC Universe. She retrieves her precious box and retrieves a three-eyed golden skull from it. As she disappears in a puff of smoke, she claims that this skull contains the secret to her salvation. Oh and it might also destroy the Justice League. Skip ahead to the nebulous “near future,” and that forecast of doom appears to be unfolding  as over a dozen  of DC’s biggest heroes duke it out.

I’m going to make a broad statement about Geoff Johns’ work right now: never miss an opportunity to watch this man world-build. Following comics month-to-month has taught me that I’m not always in love with his character work or his insistence on not wrapping up a story in a timely manner. But, holy shit, the dude somehow manages to hold the inner-workings of this enormous world (spanning galaxies and realities) and knows just how to develop this world in dramatic compelling ways.

Drew: More specifically, Johns can write a cock-tease like nobody’s business. The only “answer” we get here is letting us know that the third sinner went on to be the Question, but more importantly is not a figure we’ll recognize from history, but someone history intentionally forgot. That’s a pointed non-answer, but Johns follows it with enough what-the-fuckery to make us totally forget.

So who is this new Green Lantern? I’m generally of the opinion that we’ve already got too many Earth Lanterns running around, but Johns is teasing us with a new one — one that blames the Justice League for some kind of war, no less. So…what war? All we’re told is that it’s called the “Trinity War” and that it’s coming next year. It seems clear that the three sinners are the trinity in question, and that Pandora’s actions in this issue have lead directly to this war, but there are no other clues as to what this war is actually about.

The specific allegiances between the Leaguers in that massive gate-fold spread aren’t clear; for the most part, our known 7 of the Justice League are locked one-on-one against others we had assumed would become Leaguers at some point. There is, however, one match-up that kind of flies in the face of that model: Wonder Woman appears to be fighting Aquaman. I don’t want to read too much world-of-flashpoint into that conflict, but it’s definitely something to ponder. That, and the new Green Lantern thing. Also, did you catch that Shazam cloud-face as Pandora disappeared down that alley? What’s with that?

Peter: While we don’t get a lot of ‘answers’ per se, we do learn a lot of things that I am happy to speculate about. First, the seven magical figures at the Rock of Eternity are what I would guess are an (the first?) incarnation of the Lords of Magic. They each represent a different ancient civilization, their costumes/appearances are based off of the base cultures, since they are described as the first of their peoples to discover/master magic. It’s interesting however that the wizard Shazam is not among them, since he would theoretically predate all of them.

More importantly, is the HUGE tie-in with the Justice League book. Trevor discusses that the Orb of Ra was stolen from the Black Room by an unknown male. We know that it’s Graves, who also sent his book to Trevor, but A.R.G.U.S. hasn’t put it together yet. Traditionally, the Orb of Ra is used to make Metamorpho, which is pretty much Element Girl from the brawl, so maybe Graves has made an appearance, yet is on the loose. The characters involved in the fight are also important. Obviously we have the 7 major Leaguers, but also what appears to be another team, one of whom is Green Arrow. Is this the team that Trevor was recruiting him for? Some sort of watchdog group?(a new version of the Outsiders?) Does this then mean that the Justice League and A.R.G.U.S. have a falling out?

Either way, this teaser has definitely made me excited for the upcoming Justice League books, especially if they can live up to this quality of storytelling and panache. I hope that that story will pick up, and we can learn what is going on with the JL and get some answers. Like what happened to Hal Jordan? Or were did Black Adam come from? I remember reading somewhere that Johns said that we would see Black Adam before we saw the new Shazam, does this count?

Shelby: Patrick, I’m going to disagree with you a second; I don’t think the skull was in the box, I think the skull IS the box. So, what will happen if Pandora reopens it? Mythologically speaking, the only thing left in the box after Pandora opened it was Hope. Letting Hope out doesn’t seem likely to cause a massive war in the near future, however. What can she hope (zing) to achieve?

We’ve also got a clear reminder of the science vs magic idea that we first saw in Shazam! back in Justice League 7. First, Pandora goes to the Red Room, where the keep the science, to look for the box. Then she goes to the Black Room, where they keep the magic, and bingo! Science vs Magic has me thinking about that gatefold again, and where we draw the lines in the current Justice League. Really, the only two members of the current JL roster that deal with “magic” I feel would be Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Note: the only two current members fighting each other in the gate fold. Try as I might, there’s no discernible pattern in the rest of the groups. There’s science vs science with Atom and Batman, magic vs magic with Dead Man and Black Adam, and science vs magic, with Green Arrow vs Hawkman.

This gets us back to the crux of the matter: what does it all mean? After reading the long answer, the short answer is who knows. I will say this is a far more impressive FCBD offering than I was expecting. Instead of a nice overview of where things are heading for the non-readers, Johns has given us all A LOT to think about. He’s really set our little nerd brains spinning, with reference to the Multiverse, completely new characters to the story, and everything in between. So, when do we see Free Comic Book Day New 52 issue 2?

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

10 comments on “The New 52 1 (FCBD issue)

  1. Well to me, this is an entirely new Question, so to speak. The pre-New 52 Question was originally a investigative television journalist-turned-vigilante hero. Now he’s more magical based, which adds to the mystery. I wonder how this will change his overall personality/outlook. Anyone know who he is supposed to be historically? Pandora is Pandora, and the Phantom Stranger is clearly Judas, but who is this guy?

    • Before he started talking, I was guessing maybe Cain, but now I don’t think so.

      We need to find an angry ginger dictator type somewhere in history/mythology.

      • Based on the talk of erasing his name and actions from history, I got the impression that this isn’t somebody we’d recognize from any mythology. It’s kind of a neat idea to create a historical character we’ve never heard of with the justification that he was sentenced to be forgotten.

  2. Are the Wizards at the Rock of Eternity this new Circle of Eternity group? It was first brought up in that tiny backstory about Pandora that ran in Justice League. Which may or may not take place between Pandora stealing the box, and the Trinity War. Remember when the Phantom Stranger and Pandora have that nice chat in an alley?

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