No answer for The Question

In the latest edition of Word Balloon, John Suintres chats with writer Greg Rucka about a variety of topics, but none more interesting to iFanboy, currently, than the big mess (in publishing terms; not creatively – it’s a fantastic book) that is The Question and her book, 52 Aftermath: Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood.

Yep, that’s the title.
52 Aftermath: Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood is a five issue mini-series featuring Renee Montoya, the new The Question, as she hunts the followers of The Crime Bible. Each issue focuses on a different lesson in the Black Book Edition of the Crime Bible – the first three have been deceit, lust and greed. Each issue is written by Greg Rucka and has featured a different artist, each one suitable to the style of the story being told.

The full Word Balloon interview is one hour and ten minutes and John Suintres and Greg Rucka spend thirty four minutes of that discussing 52 Aftermath: Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood, dissecting Renee Montoya as a character, the difficulties getting the book out there on the market and just about everything you could possibly think of related to this title. I don’t want to steal John’s thunder by quoting a few relevant passages below, but there are a few interesting things that Rucka says that I wanted to highlight, and there is a TON more great stuff discussed in the interview (including a tiny tidbit about Final Crisis, as related to the Crime Bible).

Greg Rucka is, as always, refreshingly frank in this interview.

“The book hasn’t been terribly well publicized, and I think calling it, you know, calling it 52 Aftermath: Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood pretty much made certain that anybody who was interested in reading something about The Question wouldn’t pick it up.”

And then

“The good news is that the trade’s already been announced for June and they’re gonna do a hardcover, and then presumably, I assume, later on a softcover, and it’s gonna get the title it should have had – it will be called The Question: The Five Lessons of Blood.”

Why wasn’t this book called The Question in the first place??? It’s the biggest no-brainer in the world of comics, right? 52 was an immensely successful series and Renee Montoya was a big, and popular, part of that story. You’d think that DC Comics would jump at the chance to capitalize on this interesting new evolution of two popular characters. Well, in the interview, Rucka says that he suggested to DC Comics that this mini-sries be called The Question and the answer that came back was “no”. So instead we got the most convoluted name in comics since X-Men: The End Book 3: Men and X-Men.

In the interview Rucka discusses the evolution of Renee Montoya as a character and says that he understands the negative feelings that a lot of people had about her taking over for Vic Sage as The Question, but that he thinks she had a valid evolution in 52 and that for him it made sense to have her don that particular faceless mask, as opposed to making her the new Batwoman, which made no sense to him, whatsoever.

“I believe we told a good story in 52 and I think that one of the elements of that story was [Renee’s becoming The Question], so yeah, giving her a chance to – for lack of a better phrase – strut her stuff as The Question, I think it’s a good thing we finally got around to doing it. I’m sorry it took so long. That’s – I think – my biggest regret, the delay. If I’d been less burnt out and more on the stick I would have put the proposal in for this series before 52 had ended and we would have had, like, the first issue out by August. As it was the first issue came out on Halloween.”

Rucka says he likes having a series to explore Montoya’s new state of mind and tell her story with a real sense of depth as opposed to having her show up in a series of cameos in other DCU books which wouldn’t allow anyone to understand her as a character or her motivations. He also speaks very highly of Vic Sage and the original The Question series by Denny O’Neil and Denys Cowan – now being reprinted in a new series of trades which I really want to get my hands on – and you can really tell he has a great affection for that work and for the character of The Question itself.

Josh and I both buy 52 Aftermath: Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood and – after a somewhat rocky first issue – we both really love it. There are writers who just seem to shine whenever they write a particular character. It always brings out the best in them. Greg Rucka and Renee Montoya are such a pairing. He gets her, inside and out. When you’ve got a writer that knows a character that well, it almost always results in great stories and it’s no exception with this book.

In issue #3, Batwoman appears, but according to Rucka, she originally wasn’t in his plan. Dan Didio convinced him to put her in #3, which centers around Renee’s return to Gotham City.

“Finally, Batwoman. Finally Batwoman in a way that begins to reveal more about who the character is, which has been possibly the longest tease in DC Comics history, for a variety of reasons that at some point in the next interview… enough time will have passed and we’ll be able to talk about why, frankly. The delay will be able to be discussed in detail. For now, there is a good reason – I’m not sure I agree with the good reason – but it is a good reason.”

Hey, remember Batwoman? There was a big brouhaha because she was – *GASP* – a lesbian? Ring a bell? It was on CNN. A lot. Well, she was introduced with a lot of fanfare in the pages of 52 and then… well, nothing. Okay, not totally nothing – she showed up in the DCU Holiday Special for a few pages, but basically – nothing. This is another lost opportunity coming out of the success of 52. Why go through all the trouble of creating a new Bat character, and generating all of that publicity to essentially do nothing with the character for almost a year now. I would hope that “the good reason why” isn’t the reason I suspect because I expect that I would not like that good reason why, should it be the one I suspect.

But back to the book itself, which is the reason why I’m here writing all of this. The third issue of 52 Aftermath: Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood was the best so far, and not just because it featured Renee’s return to Gotham City which brought with it a mini return to Gotham Central – one of iFanboy’s all-time favorite books – but because it was rife with meaty reunion scenes between Renee Montoya and her ex-girlfriend Batwoman, her ex-partner Harvey Bullock, and her ex boss and surrogate father figure Jim Gordon. That was some good comics.

All you Question fans look out for 52 Aftermath: Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood #4, which is scheduled to hit January 23rd, which takes place in Hub City and is a homage to the original O’Neill/Cowan series, The Question.

52 Aftermath: Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood is, I think, one of those great, unheralded books that is flying almost completely under the radar right now and a lot of it has to do with the mishandling of such seemingly minor – yet very consequential – factors as the title and the release date. If you’re a fan of Rucka’s you should check this series out. If you’re a fan of Renee Montoya you should check this series out. If you’re a fan of The Question, you should check this series out.

Hell, if you just a fan of good comics, you should check this series out.


  1. I feel bad for Rucka, he’s by far my favorite writer doing any work at DC and yet he seems incapable of writing a book that sells. I don’t need his books to explode to substantiate my love for them but I do want him to keep getting to do these quality series.

  2. There should be a drinking game associated with this post.

  3. I plug this book every chance I get. It’s almost always my store pick of the week and I write about it on my blog every time it comes out.

    Six Gun, you don’t have to feel bad for Greg…he’s a consumate professional and he knows that there will be books he does that go under the radar. If you really feel bad, tell all your friends about Checkmate, Whiteout, Queen & Country and The Question.

    And point of contention: He’s not incapable of writing a book that sells. DC just isn’t publicizing the books as well as they should. When New Frontier came out, they were pushing Michael Turner’s arc on Superman. No offense to Turner or his fans (he’s not my cup of tea) but if they put the amount of dollars into New Frontier that they did Godfall, imagine how much better the sales of the individual comics would have been? Then again, as trades and an absolute, there’s nothing better, so maybe it all worked out.

    Greg can write his ass off. Period.

  4. It’s a shame this one isn’t getting the push it deserves. It’s probably the best book coming out of the whole 52/Countdown thing (Booster’s a close second IMO). Rucka has always been solid, especially with the Batman-related books, and DC should be utilizing this and pushing this book to the moon.

  5. By coincidence, I was already listening to one of the older Rucka word-balloon podcasts when I pulled up this page. These are great interviews, and

    I agree with everything in your post, too. I’m in the position of being a former Marvel-only reader who got interested in DC through Gotham Central (which I read because of being a “Homicide” fan) and then the trades of “52.” But after I finished 52, I basically ended up going back in the canon, instead of forward, because DC didn’t seem to have any titles moving forward with the parts of 52 I was most interested in. I’m about as big a Montoya fan as there can be, and I wouldn’t have thought to pick up “Crime Bible” if Conor hadn’t been on the podcast yelling “This is the Question book!” So, thanks a million for that, and I’ve passed the rec on to at least a handful of other fans.

    A tip on O’Neil’s “Question” series — obviously, trades are great, and we should support DC in reprinting the classics. But also, anybody with a well-stocked LCS, check your back issue bins. I found basically this whole run for the original cover price, which comes out to be cheaper than the trades. Plus, the letter columns and accompanying essays on the history and meaning of the character are terrific. Suffice it to say, Rucka’s use of the Question looks even more brilliant when you see how well he incorporated the older material.

  6. From what I understood from the interview was that DC wanted to push the concept of the crime bible, so they titled the book 52 Aftermath… Rucka on the other hand sees this book as a Question book, with the crime bible just being a plot device.

    The title makes sense from DC’s perspective or at least for what they want, but not at all for what Rucka is doing. It sucks because this book will not be consider a success as a result even though it is one of my favorite monthly books.

  7. I’m enjoying the book, more than not, but I’d like it much more without this whole Crime Bible business. Greg Rucka is good but he’s having a hard time selling to me the idea that there’s a religion of crime, from the dawn of recorded time (sorry, didn’t mean to rhyme), and yet we’ve never heard of it previously. And the way people talk, it’s not cutting edge crime stuff, just Brother Blood-speak.

    Also, those fiddly title pages … I read the first, but that’s all; it just didn’t add enough to the sorry to be worth the effort.

    I like Renee loads, but not as the Question. She just looks very silly with the long hair and hat, and still comes across as the lost soul she was in early issues of 52. She’s supposed to have moved on, be the focused crimefighter.

    As for those John Van Fleet covers, I’ve got all three and can’t picture any of them right now – they’re mud in my mind.

  8. I’m almost finished listening to that episode of Wordballon and I’ve been reading Crime Bible since it came out (thanks to ACBG). Really great series.

  9. Having listened to the podcast now, I guess I can see where DC is coming from — if the Crime Bible is important to their longterm plans and the Question isn’t. But I’d think more people came out of “52” interested in this character than in the Crime Religion as a plot device. They could have made it a Question book and still worked in whatever buildup they need for the Crime Bible. It’s not going to get much of a push from a book no one’s reading.

    Anyway, I loved what Greg had to say about Renee. Thanks for the link!