This book is getting ahead.

*52 Dept: This seems to be ‘bulldoze the lingering plots’ week in 52, as the creative team zips around with reckless abandon, sweeping off notions that began months (or even only weeks ago). It’s very weirdly paced at times - early on in the issue, Montoya and the Question warn Batwoman (remember her?) of the horrific threat posed to her life by Intergang; a handful of pages later, Our Heroes beat the shit out of Intergang (in church!) and ruin their evil prophecy, but they vow to return or something. Points for speed.

But many qualms remain. Does the Intergang Bible really have that many prophesies in it pertaining to recent events? And far more importantly, is the Question going to exhibit the Death Cough every time he appears now? Because I love the Death Cough - it’s one of my favorite bits of dramatic shorthand. Every time the Question hacks up a lung, as pertinent to his condition as it might be, I feel like it’s Week 28, Day 2, Year 1896, and he’s suffering from Consumption, and I’m sure the Death Cough goes back way farther than that in the annals of literature and drama. I tend to hold onto coughs for a long time myself, so I always try to imagine myself as a melodramatic figure of tragedy. Books like this made me this way!

We are reminded three times in this issue that it’s Week 28, Day 2, including once for a single page of Lobo zipping away from danger, followed immediately by a bizarre jump of two days that itself lasts for only one page; it feels like some sort of caption error, and I think Lobo & Company’s big final stand would have worked a little better if maybe the one-page Lobo bits had been scattered throughout the issue rather than hooked together, to better convey the passage of time. It’s also kind of strange seeing more than one splash page in this book, and so close together - there’s a real sense of trying to wrap things up and move on to the next scheduled developments, as time and space are running short. Or maybe there’s outside concerns; I’d hate to think of all the last-second alterations that go into a book like this, and the presence of several splash pages and a jumpy pace suggest to me the presence of editing scars, and a need to fill space with something post haste.

All that said, the Red Tornado subplot does manage to finish (or at least develop into a new environment) with a certain degree of humor and panache, the chaos of this wrap-up at least met by the frantic nature of the plot. You can never scream “52” enough when your head’s attached to random junk. What sort of adventures await the severed talking head of Red Tornado? I don’t know, but I think we can all hope it eventually teams up with Dr. Fate’s Helmet and the Emerald Head of Ekron to save the day in the end, bringing this strange motif of severed heads and talking headgear… wait for it… to a head. Heads cut off, plots cut off… is this a message?