Review by Frank Plowright
What happens to a city and its people when the mayor is drunk and incompetent, the police force are totally corrupt and hope begins to evaporate? Having established Hub City in Zen and Violence, Dennis O’Neil here begins to explore the consequences of a city’s disintegration.
If there’s a theme to The Question as a whole it’s the concept of good and bad being ideals on opposite ends of a sliding scale, and the degree to where anyone is on that scale. For all his preying on criminals the Question is aware of his shortcomings, and over these six chapters O’Neil investigates others and where they fall on the scale. Tot Rodor, for instance, the Question’s supplier of technology and confidant, and Izzy O’Toole stand-in Chief of Hub City’s police detectives. Has he really reformed? And what about Myra Fermin? She’s the ex girlfriend of Vic Sage now married to an incompetent Mayor and in effect running Hub City’s administration herself the best she can.
However, that’s only half of Poisoned Ground, and the other half concerns Tot’s abduction and rescue, which is weaker material, moving into action-thriller territory. It’s muddied with some philosophical musings about the redemption of absolute evil, but is too staged and what’s supposed to be an uplifting miracle near the end is plain bizarre.
Making allowances for Vic Sage and the Question being landed with a horrendous mullet, the 1980s hair statement of choice for real men, Denys Cowan’s art has a consistency that was lacking over Zen and Violence. The shaky pages are far fewer, the storytelling is improved and there’s still some imagination to the page layouts.
This improves slightly on the opening volume, but is still O’Neil finding his feet, and while the better moments and ideas shine, there’s still much that’s mannered and ordinary. The best story here is the opener, which is the strongest and most concise dealing with the idea of redemption, a theme occupying much of Poisoned Ground. The final chapter starts a plot that will run through much of the remaining volumes. Myra has been running Hub City in her husband’s name for some while, and with elections due she decides she might as well make the position official, and reveals her intention to run for Mayor. That picks up in Epitaph for a Hero, or the entire series is collected in hardcover as The Question Omnibus.