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O'Neil: Vic the Seeker (pt 1)
featuring the Post-Crisis debuts of Tot, Lady Shiva and Richard Dragon!

When last we left our hero, he was brought up on charges by the Cool Quota Cops. In the two months between his appearance in Blue Beetle and the debut of his very first self-titled series, he was found by a jury of his super-cool peers guilty of hubris in the first-degree.
The sentence, carried out February 1987 by Dennis O'Neil and Denys Cowan...

...is Shiva.

Today I bring you Question v1 #'s 1-5, collected in the Zen and Violence trade. Though these are great comics, I cannot in good conscience recommend that trade. It has a 19.99 price tag for a mere six issues, which I unfortunately didn't learn until I was on the way home from the comics store. I'm very picky myself about any trade that has a price tag that high, but even when the issues are 27-28 pages each, it just doesn't justify itself, especially when you have the 52 trades at the same price for 13 20-pages issues and creator commentary! Pretty much, if you can get the floppies at a good price, I'd do that. I got a bunch on eBay real cheap, myself.

Anyway!

Question v1 #1, February '87 (9 1/3 of 28 pages)

Yes, that is a Sienkiewicz painting. No, there are no Sienkiewicz interiors, but he does ink most of the subsequent covers! Nothing against Rick Magyar, but I would've loved if he'd inked the insides, too, but we'll just have to take what we get here. Also, I retrospectively consider this series DC's gift for my first birthday.


One box of narration in and Denny's already introducing new things. I can't really consider it a retcon, being Vic has up until now had such a (heh) blank origin, something he had in common with his template, Mr. A. Therefore, filling in his history and expanding him beyond Steve Ditko's Mary Sue falls completely in Denny's lap, though Len Wein and Paris Cullins gave him a leg up a few months before. So, Vic was apparently born Charles Victor Szasz, and operates out of Hub City.

He throws the guy into the TV, which appears to be playing a preview of his segment. Nice. A familiar Asian woman stands in the background, watching.

Haha, such a kidder, that Shiva. And Vic calling her "Lady". You're halfway there, Vic!
The jerks get the upper hand and try to pull off his mask, with no luck. Vic takes advantage of the distraction to turn the tables right around again, literally! He smashes the dude on his back into it and it splits in half. "Barbaric," Lady Shiva remarks.

Note Jake (the redhead guy) slouching back against the TV and Donny (the dreadlocks guy) on the broken table. We'll see them again.
Also note, now Vic's lost his hat, the bonding gas doesn't appear to be making his hair black?

Ohhh, see what I did there?
And there's Vic's adorable little suped-up VW (Porsche mill, racing shocks, Ferrari transmission, all in a cute little VW package). Do you think he got a Beetle because he's friends with Ted? :D
When I was a kid, every single car we ever owned was a Volkswagen, so I've alwys had a deep affection for them. My dad'd prolly squee in his own way if I told him my favorite comic character drove one.
Minutes before broadcast, Vic arrives at the KBEL studios, to the ire of basically everyone who works there, because he's not Ditko's wish fulfillment fantasy anymore, and everyone calls him on be a jerk.

That's Myra in the last panel. Remember her, we'll learn more about her later (this will be on the test).
Also, not only is the bonding gas not changing his hair color, his shirt is the same shade of orange still, and his suit is only a vaguely duller blue.


Watching the news broadcast are a few familiar faces, Donny and Lady Shiva, with the Mayor Fermin, who doesn't seem very coherent, and another man, a reverend, who seems to be running things. When pressed by Donny, Shiva says she is paid for particular services, and does no more or less. Protecting a video tape or nurturing inept thugs aren't part of her payment plan.
Meanwhile, Jake, who hasn't technically been named yet, gives the a kid name of Milty who tipped Sage off to the tape the lead kiss in an alley somewhere and leaves him to rot.

We cut to an apartment apparently shared by Myra (remember her?) and Vic. They don't seem to have much of a relationship beyond sexual, especially seeing how Vic doesn't seem to have much of a relationship with anyone. She notices his knuckles have torn.

(seriously the bonding gas not changing any colors is really weirding me out!)
An orphan now! The plot thickens! And he's smoking! I guess he can only get worse before we get better.

Vic goes to see Tot. Tot calls him Charlie, no matter how many times Vic corrects him. Tot's being used in about the same capacity as Ditko here, Vic just stopping by when he needs something checked out with his gear (as here, where he visits because his mask is loose), but he brings a lot more character into it immediately. He's now a retired professor of philosophy as well as an inventor, and seems to be one of the few people who tolerates Vic's abrasive personality.

An elegant explanation of the different call letters on Vic's news station in the third panel there, including a nod to his appearance in Blue Beetle. Just throw in Crown City and New York and everything dandy! Vic's apparently new to Hub City's WBEL, though he grew up in the city.
Tot concludes that the cigarettes are affecting the chemistry in the bonding gas, and Vic promises to cut back. For someone so rough with everybody, Vic shows a lot of respect for Tot. It's heartwarming.

Anyway, Vic makes his way to the KBEL station, talks to one of his contacts, and dodges a bullet from the guy who surrendered the tape. The guy, scared from what happened to Milty, decides to ingratiate himself to his boss by killing Vic, but gets beaten up and turned over to the cops for it. When Vic is done with him, he runs into the reverend behind the mayor's throne as he enters the news station.

The sermon is dark and foreboding, with Hatch's memories of Vietnam spliced in. All is not well.

Meanwhile, Jake, who still hasn't been named, is hanging with Shiva. Still sore at how she hadn't helped protect the tape, he tells her she owes him and puts his hand on her shoulder. She breaks it.

<3

Moe, Vic's old drunk contact, gives him a call with information Jake planted on him. Vic smells the trap from a mile away, so he shows up as The Question. Even though he's wearing the exact same clothes in the very same colors all throughout the issue, no one's made the connection. So, Hatch decides they'll use Q to send a message to Vic, and Vic's sentencing is finally carried out.

oh this does not bode well

Never having stood a chance, Vic's made short work of. Shiva asks if she should kill him, but Hatch turns him over to Jake and Donny for their earlier shame. While Donny holds him, Jake goes to work with a lead pipe. "Barbaric," Shiva remarks.

Yes, they have a guy named Baby Gun. He was with Jake when they took down Milty, and he has a very silly nickname. He uses an air gun to kill people.
"I think he's dead," Donny says. They put two in his head for good measure, and note how the slug came out the back, then dump him in the river.


And there you have it. The end of The Question.
oh wait
we have 35 issues left



Question v1 #2, March '87 (9 1/3 of 28 pages)


...Pain.

After flashing back through the events at the pier, he comics back proclaiming "...I was dead."


"And they were shooting through a mask." Probably slowed the slug.
Vic is left with some level of amnesia, not remembering even who he is.

Meanwhile, the news is talking about Vic Sage's disappearance, Mayor Fermin is drunk, Reverend Hatch is putting two and two together, and Jake's name is finally mentioned.

Back at Tot's, Vic is remembering or dreaming about some time he teamed up with Batman to stop a radium theft in Gotham. Does anyone know what issue this was, if it even was one? If Vic made an appearance in any Bat-titles prior to 'Tec's '88 annual (which also refers to this incident), I am sadly unaware of it and would appreciate any further information! I'd expect an editorial note to go with it, but haven't seen one in any of the issues, so they might not be doing that, or it's just an offpage incident. There's no telling!

As Tot explains how Shiva found him and left notes for him to travel to Canada the next day (which Vic protests, given his current state), the lights go out. Batman is there.

The lights are back on. Tot had dozed off. Whether he ever actually showed is ambiguous. Tot and Vic discuss it and decide it's possible, but that doesn't mean Vic wasn't just dreaming.

Vic is still boggled over why Shiva would save him when he boards the helicopter to Canada. He lands at a cabin, where a man in a wheelchair greets him.

Vic isn't really sure how one cripple is going to teach another to fight.


To his surpise, Vic is perfectly capable of chopping wood. To his disappointment, there are no hamburgers. This disappointment is interrupted by...

Aw yeah training montage! It occurs to me that Helena went through a very similar training montage in Cry For Blood #3, not exactly, but close.
Anyway, one day, as is his wont, Richard tells Vic school's out. Everything he needs to learn from there will have to be experienced. He leaves him with one last word of encouragement.

Great summation of Vic Sage, or best summation of Vic Sage?
And I swear Vic does not even move between that panel and this next one.

Vic handles himself much better than last time, he might even have landed a punch! Certainly, it would still be Shiva's match, but Vic has clearly learned a lot.


She looks so upset in that second panel! And there's Vic, so busy asking questions that he can't see an answer two panels after it's given! I love Shiva's abrupt departure here, so much.
And how fitting that she'd call herself the one who destroyed him given her name! How fitting that she was the one to destroy him given her name! On the one hand, Shiva and Richard's roles in this series could just be a writer wanting to revive his old characters, but when they're tailored perfectly for the role, why's that gotta be a problem?

Reinvigorated, Vic returns to Hub City. He puts on his best suit and decides to settle some scores. Jake's since gotten all his old bandages off, so Vic makes him some new ones. Sees a familiar form in the window, but puts it out of his mind. The man is on a mission.

Inside, Hatch is talking to himself about the horrors of Vietnam.

Oh now that isn't at all disturbing. Notice the shadow in the third panel? We'll get back to that. Hatch is busy right now. Someone's singing to him.


"You are...dead."
"Am I? Then what does that make you? Dreaming, perhaps?"

"I want you to pray," Vic tells him.



Question v1 #3, April '87 (9 of 27 pages)




While he's distracted, Hatch attacks with some hot embers. Vic knocks him back into the fire, and Hatch jumps out of the window in a panic. He'll be back.
The alarms have sounded, so Myra hides Vic in her room, in hopes that she can help her in return. Turns out she's become Mayor Fermin's wife in Vic's absence.

She tells Vic about Hatch's plan to blow up a school bus full of kids to start a race war.


You kinda feel bad for Mayor Fermin after a while. Stuck with such a rotten system, having to deal with the difference between ideals and reality. The thing that makes him a non-villain instead of a sympathetic character is that he never tries to do anything about it, he just stares at the bottom of his bottle while Hatch runs his city into the ground.

Myra gets Vic out of there and Vic discusses the matter with Tot.

They decide he should investigate as The Question since Vic Sage is still a missing person on the books, and Tot mentions having improved the bonding gas a bit.

Notice his shirt isn't orange and his tie has white stripes? That's right, the improvements on the bonding gas finally have them working like they used to, except for the hair.

Vic takes the V-Dub to the bus garage, to do actual detective work!



More about the orphanage. Vic wondered earlier whether Myra didn't tell him about her daughter because he'd hold it against her that she doesn't live with the kid. He wasn't sure if he did. The orphanage wasn't a pleasant experience for him.
He tries to relax, "to go inside," as he calls it.

Elsewhere, Jake is grilling Myra. Mentions that Hatch's been mumbling about ghosts since he got out of the hospital.

"Good!" she thinks to herself.
The bombers are moving into position, Vic snaps out of it.

He rams their van with his Beetle just before they get in range to detonate the bomb. The bus driver, probably in shock, tells the kids to stay in their seats. After beating the first goon, Vic takes a look around for the second. The second had a backup.


oh is that the cover there?



it just clears the bus as it explodes, sending bits of street everywhere. The second goon got away, but Vic ties the first up and leaves his card.


D'awwww.
This is such a perfect moment. I could almost end the post here if there weren't still more to tell.



Question v1 #4, May '87 (9 of 27 pages)
oh beautiful Sienkiewicz

This issue opens with Hatch gibbering about Vic being some dark angel sent by his masters to torment him for his failures, and Donny and Jake muttering about how the whole job's going to hell. Jake figures they either didn't kill the no-face guy well enough, or there might be two. Donny's hair's gotten longer.

The sister recognizes him as one of the orphanage's old charges! From all the flashbacks I've seen of Vic's young days, I don't know if this is a different nun, or if she's just been struck with a bout of not-nastiness for a bit. She laments to him about how their funding's been dwidling due to the corruption as the spying cops move in and try to grab Jackie.


Oh, tempting the fates again, Vic?
They pull a gun on the nun, so Vic stands down as they take Jackie and kick down the snowman (bastards!). After they drive off, Vic prepares to give chase in the Beetle, but it has an oil leak from crashing ito the bombers, so the engine seizes. Vic walks back to Tot's. It's interesting to see how their relationship has changed from inventor/consumer to something closer to roommates, or even Alfred/Bruce at a stretch (though hardly quite as developed).


(yeah, i left the butt shot in just for you guys, you can thank me later)

Vic goes inside for a bit.
Jake reflects on the state of the household.


Jake isn't crazy about this shit. He tells Hatch that their contract's canceled and he's cutting out in the morning. He's a scumbag, but even scumbags have principles.
Mayor Fermin, feeling emasculated, tries to go out for a drive. Of course, this being Mayor Fermin, he's staggeringly drunk at the time, so he hits a tree. Vic sees from the background. The moment has provided.

Hatch tells Myra to get Jackie cleaned up and nicely dressed. He has plans for her. When Myra inquires as to what these plans are, Genesis twenty-two is all he says.
Across town, a couple cops find their patrol car has been stolen.


Jake and Donny are busy cracking Hatch's safe before they leave. They may be cutting their losses, but they certainly expect to come out ahead.
Myra's gone to the library to find a Bible. It's not a pretty thing she finds.


Guess. His hair's darker now with the bonding gas, still red, but more a Jake red than a Vic orange. That would've made more sense to do in the last issue, but at least it was done.
This time, Jake's poor nose gets shoved in a wall. Hard. He drops his rifle and the spray causes a fire. Vic drags them to safety before heading deeper in, since even scumbags don't deserve a death like that.

Also, Hatch's line about the angel coming to stay his hand...you'd think he'd learn something from the last time he pulled that, with Danny Boy.

Meanwhile,

The third panel here makes me feel a lot better about Hatch. Even as an atheist, evil straw Christians get tiresome, so to have even the church recognize that this guy's evil and insane makes him a lot less annoying.

Especially since he's made a point of doing everything wrong to make the world worse.
And here comes our angel!

Vic takes the knife and cuts Jackie and Myra free. Then he picks up Hatch, who's still begging to know who sent him, and holds it to his throat. He wants Hatch's blood, and he wants it bad.

What a shocker!
Myra, going back to Genesis twenty-two, mentions the lamb in the bushes that became the sacrifice as Hatch collapses in the flames. After they get out and deal with the firemen, Myra asks Vic if he has anything to say.

"Better you than me."



Question v1 #5, June '87 (9 of 27 pages)

This issue is something special. It's all about the fallout from the mayor's mansion burning down, seen through the lives of various residents in Hub City. At times almost lighthearted, but with a dark, dark sense of humor, switching gears to a kind of heaviness that makes you think lead could float, it really runs you through the gamut.

We start with a half-splash page of Gaston Hupert. The year's 1818, and he's trying to found Hub City. "I shall build a mighty city here, the hub of a great empire," he declares before being cut dramatically short by a sword bursting through his chest. It's a great moment, and I'd love to post it if only I had the room.

The jerks pull knives. Vic shows up and puts 'em to rest. They keep trying to put the knives in his back, but he hits 'em without even looking.

Delightful! Vic walks back to the car, which serves as our framing device, Tot driving him around (i guess the VW still needs a new engine :( ), trying to control civil unrest in the face of the city government's collapse. They've been doing this for 36 hours straight, since Vic is feeling guilty, like the whole thing, and the mansion burning, is his fault. Tot is trying to convince him that this is stupid.

Oh, Mayor Fermin. Never change.
The radio's not helping, so they turn it off. They come upon a sight that sours the mood even further.

Yes, Vic. Reporting is futile, but this joyride-style crime-busting will save the world! That's some powerful logic, friend.

The bus drivers figure if the police and firemen are striking, why should they be running? Poor Maud, but she's not the only one depending on the bus (i am so glad i don't ride city buses anymore). Let's take a look inside the Kessel Building, the floors of which Maud should be cleaning now, shall we?

"Call me Bernie," he says, while the sweat rains down his face. If the guy gives you creep vibes, you're not alone. Creeps tend to do that.

Meanwhile, Izzy O'Toole, who is only as corrupt as the police system that fostered him, feels compelled to walking the streets. He's dimly aware that he's proving something to himself, but he's damned if he knows what.

Back at the Kessel office, Mr. Josephson, still sweating like they relocated Niagara Falls to his face, tries to force himself on Ms. Tolchuk. It's not entirely clear if he was successful. She fights back pretty hard, and her legs are closed tightly throughout the scene. And afterward it seems clear who's in control of the situation:

...So I'm really not sure. Either way, he's a shithead, and now he knows it. He tells her she can lock the door from the inside and walks out to the roof.

Myra is in relative comfort in her apartment, but she feels just about as low as Bernie. Low enough she's talking to herself.

She's waiting for an answer, some kind of answer. It may be a long wait.
Bernie's not so patient. He jumps, but in the final half-second, he changes his mind.

Izzy O'Toole sees the buzzards picking off of Bernie's corpse, and it doesn't sit with him. Dope deals and payoffs, sure...those're normal, part of the system. Killing, too, as long as it doesn't get out of hand. But stealing from a dead guy who ain't cold yet? Again, even scumbags have principles.
Izzy pulls his piece and makes to bring the buzzards in, but he trips over the TV one of 'em set down. They're about to kill him when Vic shows. He lets one of them trip into Bernie, and threatens to break the other's hand if he doesn't back down. The buzzard gives.

Izzy complains about his leg maybe being broken. Vic says he'll call a ambulance for the jumper and him, but they can socialize in the meantime. Izzy says he's owes him one as Vic walks off into the sunset to the car.


He says it's his fault for letting the city become such a nightmare, that a journalist's job is to bring the truth to the people, to "tell it loud and shrill until people doing something about what's wrong."
He resolves that Vic Sage'll have to reappear tomorrow. He hasn't got a story for why he vanished yet, but he knows it's important for him to return to truth-telling, that the world only gets worse without them.

At midnight, the national guard comes in and pacifies the rioters, the looters, the buzzards. These people we've seen caught in the crossfire of a city in its death throes take stock of the life they've been faced with on this day of days.


Poor Maud.
So, there you have it! Though my initial impression was negative, now that I've actually read it instead of just flipping through it, I'd like to take back every bad thing I might ever have said about the O'Neil/Cowan series. These are some quality comics that I'd certainly recommend (only not the trades because i'm poor and cheap). We have 31 issues left to go, but I doubt I'll be posting all of them. Maybe once I've gotten through my massive to-read pile of trades (two more volumes of 52, another two volumes of Birds of Prey, five volumes of Blue Beetle), I'll make these posts more regularly. Until then, I might post an issue here or there, since it takes so long to write-up arcs like this.

Join us, won't you? And be kind to yourselves in the meantime.

Date: 2009-07-25 12:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thebigapricot.insanejournal.com
Gee I always took Vic for boxers not briefs.

Seeing this made me dig out the bunch of issues I bought last fall (for dirt cheap). I was flipping through them and see Green Arrow is in an issue and Bats (it's the Annual). The cover art on all of them is terrific.

And that training session is almost exactly like one Huntress has.

I just read that Helena is guesting in Renee's run and am now super excited. From CBR:

"When Question and Huntress hit the page together, it was Butch and Sundance." Rucka says.

Vic would be so happy!

Date: 2009-07-25 06:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] psychop_rex.insanejournal.com
I have a soft spot for this version of the Question, because it's here that I was first introduced to Vic - old random issues borrowed from someone else's collection and since returned. And it's for that reason that I probably won't be reading these posts too closely until things have progressed past O'Neil - I plan on collecting the rest of his run, and I hate having things ruined for me. Still, glad you're posting them.

Date: 2009-07-26 12:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] psychop_rex.insanejournal.com
No worries - I'll keep up as best I can. Thanks, though.

Date: 2009-07-25 09:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] luckofjin.insanejournal.com
I love that curiosity talk.

Date: 2009-07-26 11:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jcbaggee.insanejournal.com
Love this book. Love, love, love it so much. My early apprehensions about Renee as The Question were because no one could ever be as awesome as Charlie is in this book. And while Renee likely won't be, she's certainly as interesting.

There's just too many fantastic, wonderful moments of this run to mention, so it's a damn good thing you're going through everything. Looking forward to seeing the rest.

Also, was Rorschach popular enough to warrant a Question movie? Based on this first arc? Because I think that could totally be one of the best comic movies ever.

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