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A Martial Arts Week special!

O'Neil: Vic the Seeker (pt 4)
The Great Fables Crossover! (sorry Vertigo fans, not that one)

In 1988, Denny O'Neil set off to tell a great martial arts epic, and close the book on the O-Sensei, the old master introduced in Kung-Fu Fighter, responsible for teaching Richard Dragon, Bronze Tiger and Lady Shiva. While I prolly should've held this one off until after I'd posted the arc from Question v1 16-18, where Vic and Ollie first met, well, who's fault was it starting Martial Arts Week now?
But though this crossover takes place in titles starring Batman, Green Arrow and The Question,
it is all about Lady Shiva.

Our story starts in 1900 Manchuria, where a deserting Japanese captain is being confronted by his wife.

"That I cannot say, wife. Perhaps not in your lifetime."

Nearly ninety years have passed when the man now known only as O-Sensei tells his student and goddaughter that his time has come. Lady Shiva has told him of three warriors in America whose aid O-Sensei seeks in exchange for a gift to each. The two of them board a boat, but the sailors they hired have decided to stop halfway.

Oh, these guys just don't even know! Shiva practically invented the bad touch!

Hehe, A pretty honest counterpoint to her sarcastic answer from Question #1. Aside from the angle and the shadows, the close-up almost mirrors that panel, too. I wonder if Denny didn't specify that, but forgot to note the parallel?

Anyway, after two long months of sailing, the pair finally arrive. Shiva let the last sailor live, but she made him burn the boat.

She's so excited that even one of them got a hit in! I love this. Never change, Shiva.

Anyway, a hop and a skip to get some things in position, and we're at the present day.

Detective Comics Annual #1, 1988 (approx 12 2/3 out of 38 pages)
Klaus Janson is best known for his work with Frank Miller. He made his name inking Daredevil, keeping the look consistent through constantly changing artists. But as Frank Miller's run went on, his role enlarged from inker to finisher until finally he was credited as penciller, and if you look closely, you can almost see the transition. The two later worked together again on Dark Knight Returns, where Janson essentially redrew over Miller's chicken scratch breakdowns (and you can see just how much of the style was Janson's story in Batman: Black & White v3). The style he displays here is a lot different than either of those, and I think is a lot better.
But enough talk, let's get back to the comics.

(did i say we were at the present? my mistake, we're three night ago)

Blabbing about being Vic Sage, blabbing about Tot, and now blabbing about being an orphan? Geez, Vic, it's talking in your sleep, not sharing your whole life story in your sleep!

"You are nothing to me." Yeesh, if that's letting a guy off easy, I dunno if I wanna see her against someone she really doesn't like! Also, maybe I'm jut used to Cowan's gruff depiction, but Janson draws a really good looking Vic!

Heh, Vic schooling us about the internet way back in '88! It seems cheesy now that all of this is everyday knowledge, but the internet was so small back then that this is actually a plausible way to get in touch with Batman. It would be a little more out there these days for even Babs to find a random message left somewhere on the internet.

And Bruce confirms that he knows Vic's identity, but this doesn't necessarily verify whether his appearance in Question #2 was a dream or not, only adds to its plausibility, especially since his opinion of Vic isn't any different from there.

This is curious. Is Shiva throwing a few test hits at him to see if he's even worth her time, given her established tendency to gauge potential opponents, or am I just fanwanking? It does make sense that what she's heard of him would be conflated by the superstitious, cowardly types spreading the word.

Is it just me? Is it the twenty years since this came out? Or is Bruce really snapping back at her in a way you'd expect more out of Vic than him? Is it just Denny?

Oh Bruce, dear, you are so deeply in denial here. He runs off trying to write it off as fortune cookie mumbo-jumbo, but little flashbacks of that night and the reasons he does what he does keep buzzing at the back of his head.
He spends the other two-thirds of the issue with Talia, taking down the Penguin and his plan to release a drug that only affects women and children. When it's over, Talia says they should totally run away together, but Bruce is too busy with his hand stuck in the metaphorical jar. When it finally sinks in, he decides he needs to write a letter.

That this interpretation held for the last twenty years, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst, may have something to do with Denny's stint as group editor, or may jut be him catching something that was always there. Anyone know if that angle had been explored before? Maybe Denny'd even touched on it during his run in the '70s even?

Anyway, onward we go.

Green Arrow Annual #1, 1988 (approx 13 1/2 out of 41 pages)
Oh man, there just aren't enough pages in the world! This is easily my favorite issue of the three, with Ollie being heroic, Dinah being awesome, and just so much great stuff. Both Ollie and Denny had grown so much in the nearly twenty years since Hard-Travellin' Heroes (much as i love those stories!), and seeing them together again really drives that point home. It would've been really funny if Neal Adams drew it just to draw the comparison further, but the art we have is endearing in how weird and cartoony it is. I love that Shiva is smiling in, like, every panel. She's at her best when she's amused and vaguely condescending.

The plot is that a rich English dilettante named Kalesque, a bowman for sport, is trying to get Ollie to have a competition to see who's the best. Ollie does what he does to help people, not to be the best, and refuses to give in to the guy's gloryhounding. Kalesque, a few hairs short of a wig, is so obsessed with being the best that he hounds Seattle with messages for Green Arrow for two months before finally snapping. He flies in and starts killing people with green custom-made arrows and sends a final message for Ollie to meet him alone in the mountains. Unfortunately, Ollie's had so much guilt over the whole mess that he's been having nightmares, and thrown so far off his game he's turned to an Archery 101 book.
Bruce has gotten in touch with him about a couple of visitors, and Ollie's told him to send them on over. They kind of let themselves in.

(the next three pages posted with regards to previous posters)

I love how Shiva knows just by looking that Dinah's a martial arts type. Would you just look for the way certain muscles are developed, I suppose?

Man, the art makes Shiva sound so delightful and gracious, I really can't tell how sincere the comment about Dinah's skill is. It certainly is great, but does Shiva really think so?

As Dinah would later recall about this bout, "If I missed a block, she hit me twice as hard the next time, stopping just short of breaking bone and tearing cartilage. Within ten minutes, I learned to take the blows. Within twenty, I learned not to miss a block."
Also, oh man Seahawks! It is so hard for me to read Grell-era Green Arrow, you guys. You have no idea how homesick I'm feeling right now. :(
Moving on, Ollie knows what he needs to do to confront Kalesque.

As Ollie closes in, he tells Kalesque that killing him would mean he'd never know who's better. Is that an uncertainty Kalesque could handle?

Perfect. There's nothing else to say for this page but that.

"He did what he did" is kind of a meaningless way to put it, I've never liked phrases like that for being empty and almost a waste of breath. If she'd said he did what he does, it would've been just as simple and a little more to the point.

The best pun. O-Sensei agrees.
Can I also say that the way Artis draws the hood is about the only time I've seen that I could suspend my belief that it's completely fucking retarded? I still prefer the goofy hat, but I really do not hate the way the hood looks here for once.

It really is though, isn't it?

The Question Annual #1, 1988 (approx 14 2/3 out of 44 pages)
I guess I don't have so much meta to say going to to this one, being it's part of the title we've been talking about throughout this series anyway. I guess if there's anything to mention, it'd be that this is, interestingly enough, the only installment of the crossover that featured its title's regular creative team. Also interesting that each successive installment is three pages longer than the one before, most especially when you're trying to cut it down to a third and suddenly have one more page!
Also, while I dealt more with the crossover stuff than the regular story in the others, I found it was kind of the opposite with Vic, my picks here really start to dwindle once he meets up with Ollie and Bruce.

Vic is identity-crisis-ing again, so Tot distracts him with upgrades. The bonding process is now faster, and the bond now strong enough that nothing will take the mask off but counter-agent. The color changes are stronger, too. If you notice, his hair as Q is now dark brown instead of deep red. These changes take effect in the regular series starting with #21, the first issue published afterwards.
There's a knock at the door. It's a special delivery for Tot Rodor, a punch in the face!

Hey! Remember Jake? Well, he's back, and he really wants that money he missed out on when the mayor's mansion burned down!
Also, "somewhere in the southern united states"? I could swear Richard was supposed to be in Canada, but I don't know if it was explicitly stated in Question #2, but it said it was the mountains, and mountains don't exist in the south (well, in California maybe, but nowhere else). The Canada location might've been a retcon from Huntress: Cry For Blood, come to think of it.
Anyway, each punch Vic takes triggers a memory of Richard talking.

Tot's prolly the closest thing Vic has to family. If he can't keep him from pain in any way, he will.
They dig their way into the ruins of the mansion. The find the safe with Hatch's corpse clutching it, knife till sticking out of his back. If they knew the story there, that could've been a real kink in Myra's election campaign, but that's not a direction Denny wanted to explore. The sake is still intact, and, more importantly, full.

Manly men? Haha! Jake and his hand know better.

Who wants to guess how this goes?

Yeah, that's about right. Shame about the money, though. The city really could've used it.
They take Tot home and meet up with the others. Bruce and Vic, for some reason, play like they've never met. Shiva bring Vic up to speed, telling him how they need to track down the grave of the O-Sensei's wife. Bruce shares his findings about her family, who considered O-Sensei a traitor and hid the grave from him, bought an island in the Java Sea. When pressed for sources, he mentions that swinging from rooftops and punching guys is only about 4% of his operation, the rest spent gathering information, which I think is really cool.
Hearing that, Vic says they have a lot to talk about, but Bruce doubts it.

There you have it, the impressions of your everyday crime-fighter when put next to Batman. You couldn't make a person feel more inadequate if you stuck them on a world where every single person were about a foot taller.

He even went to Catholic college? Well, okay Vic. Also, he did almost as much crying as punching back then, looks like. It's kind of dumb that he wants someone who's clearly better than him to stay out of it so he doesn't feel like a chump, but Bruce is a class act. He tells Vic to prove what he feels he must and skips out.
On the jet, Shiva wonders what kind of parable the O-Sensei will have for Vic, but O-Sensei is silent. Vic never even heard about the parables, he's already in it for the sake of curiousity, and perhaps feels he owes Shiva something for things she's done in the past.
In Malaya, the weather's rough and there's a boat Bruce bought for them. There are some guys waiting to fight them, and they make short work of them and set out in the storm.
But the storm proves to much and they capsize.

They find the island deserted but for one man, to old to be afraid of the O-Sensei's arrival. He shows them to the family mausoleum, where they find the space that would've held the O-Sensei's wife empty. Conflicted, Vic leaves.
He isn't sure, but over the roar of the waves, he almost think he heard the O-Sensei say "I was once like you..."

When he returns home, he finds a letter from Gotham. No signature, no letterhead, just a brief message. Vic's too angsty to read it himself, so he makes Tot do it for him.

"...There are no failures."

As a special bonus, check out the in-house ad for the arc!

Yeah, bizarre right? I don't know who the artist is, but going off how Vic looks it could be a very rushed Sienkiewicz maybe? Vic's the only one who comes out looking good, prolly because of his mask going off how gross Ollie's beard looks and the mess that is Bruce's mouth.

Next time, Vic's endurance is put to the test by the best the military has to offer! More hallucinating! And Humanism bites in the worst way!
Right here at scans_daily!

Date: 2009-08-26 11:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
These are great posts. I love the little kiss she plants on the guy after breaking his arm.

Date: 2009-08-26 01:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's interesting how the three artists have *completely* different takes on Shiva. If you didn't know it was supposed to be the same character, you really couldn't tell. Janson's is no-nonsense and tomboyish, Artis' is wry and pixie-ish, and Cowan's is all '80s glam, complete with big shoulderpads.

Date: 2009-08-26 02:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Great post. I agree withyou about Klaus Janson he doesn;t get the credit he deserves. Who else has Shiva trained ???

Date: 2009-08-26 11:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think "there are no falures" is Vic's parable lesson. Which makes me wonder: if the O-Sensei knew where his wife was (and that he's the parable), was the real goal here getting the parables across? What about for Shiva?


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