The Line in the Sand
The last time I remember seeing The Rag Doll he was part of some incarnation of the Injustice Gang or Secret Society of Super-Villains. The one led by the simian Ultra-Humanite. The Humanite had discovered an equation of eliminating certain heroes that would change the world. This was around Justice League of America #'s 195 - 197. The Rag Doll was kinda funny. Triple-jointed. That was and is pretty much his "power", or "ability". A triple-jointed crook that looks a little goofier than The Joker.
The Golden-Age was a simpler time. You had villains like The Rag Doll, The Turtle, The Gambler and The Monocle. Simpler times and simpler villains that had nifty gimmicks that were easily foiled in - what, maybe a single issue. Times changed. Even Times Past.
I'm not sure I like the fact that The Rag Doll becomes more over the top than the Jack Nicholson version of The Joker. Now he is not only a psychotic, but a charismatic. I guess when you're triple-jointed people tend to laugh.
This is the second Tale of Times Past. Tony Harris' cover is awesome - frameworthy - but this is the second time he has sat out the action. Matt Smith is pretty moody and effective here. From time to time the question comes up, which is more important, the artist or the writer, as if one could exist without the other. There are all too many pencillers that abandon their best voice to pursue a weaker voice. James Robinson and Tony Harris; and here with Matt Smith make this story along with Gaspar and Gregory Wright. I'd rather watch Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, or Undiscovered Country, where William Shatner is at his best in front of the camera, than The Final Frontier where he was both in front and behind the camera. Kirk was his best voice. Director, not so much. He may have known the characters and the concept pretty intimately, but being able to translate that...
Here, Matt Smith captures a mix of the square-jawed Golden-Age and the Dark Knight Returns-influenced modern age. This is a grim and gritty story with hope at its heart and core. Optimism and cynicism conflicting. You can see it in the darkness and shadows that creeps at the edges of the heroes' bright and colorful costumes.
There is a subtle revelation in The Shade's Journal. Interesting.
I'm not sure why, but I was compelled to grab two copies of this and the Talking With David issue. Maybe, at the time, I didn't know if Starman was going to be collected in trade paperback, but I have a complete seperate set of the Talking With David issues and - except for the Oscar Wilde issue - a "complete" set of the Tales of Times Past. I even put the Tales of Times Past in "chronological" order. I'm not sure which I enjoy more. Re-reading the Talking With David stories or the Times Past stories. Maybe for the history and variety of characters it's the Times Past. It's like the versatility of the holodeck, where on issue is Sherlock Holmes facing Professor Moriarty, then Dixon Hill unravelling a mystery. Something different and unexpected - and self-contained - in each issue.