Tales of the Unexpected #5

I’m reading this comic only for the backup story, starring Dr. Thirteen, the professional skeptic. Last issue, I was loving it just because it features Captain Fear (the accent-spouting ghost pirate), Andrew Bennett (I, Vampire), Genius Jones (the answer boy with the dime fetish), Primate Patrol (the Nazi apes), Anthro, JEB Stewart (from The Haunted Tank), and Infectious Lass.

I’d only ever heard of about half of those characters, but they all have something in common: they’re goofy and imaginative and they make fans of serious superheroes uncomfortable as a result. There are other, similar elements around the edges, like Flashman’s used car lot, with the Supermobile on the roof.

This issue, just before they team up, we get a hint of why they’re all together, courtesy of Genius Jones. It starts with Dr. Thirteen’s daughter (who’s the smartest and most together of all of them). Given a chance to query Genius, she asks “why are we here?” His response:

Because the architects don’t believe we need to exist. …

[They're] the ones who decide who’s who and who isn’t. They are the official guides to the universe. When it was decided that one fashioned by the architects that preceded them didn’t make cents

…they knocked the old one down and built a new one. This is the fourth time it’s happened– in this universe.

There’s another universe that these architects are at war with. One that reinvents itself every summer– so “things will never be the same again,” it claims.

The bolding’s in the comic. As soon as I saw the phrase “who’s who”, I knew that this was more than just a story, that writer Brian Azzarello was speaking on the meta-level.

Take that, Marvel, and your summer events. I like the use of “cents”, too, for a kid who’ll tell you anything in exchange for a dime, and only a dime.

I don’t get “four”, though… Crisis, sure, and Zero Hour after that. Infinite Crisis most recently. Is the fourth Hypertime?

I so hope this is collected. It’d be nice to enjoy the beautiful art by Cliff Chiang (the reason I began reading it), without having to put up with the Spectre stuff in the front of the comic. I can’t wait to find out what Dr. Thirteen and his gang discover next — while he’s snarking all the while.


14 Responses to “Tales of the Unexpected #5”

  1. caleb Says:

    I’m kinda anxious about this story; I’m HOPING it gets it’s own separate trade. It sounds awesome, but I can’t bring myself to buy the whole comic every month for just the back-up. Will the back-up be enough to fill a trade? If not, I wonder if they can fill it up with reprints of the characters’ origin stories or something…

  2. David Oakes Says:

    I saw it as a nod to Kirby’s “Fourth World”.

    And if there was ever a DC project that needed the “Collected Mini with reprints of Origins of Characters No One has Heard Of” treatment (Agents of Atlas, I am looking at you), then this is it. Hard cover, rediculously priced, I would still buy it, and thank DC for the privilege.

    I want this more than I want Absolute New Frontier. (And not just because you could buy NF without some annoying, thematically different, and shallowly plotted back-up, either. Both sections of Mystery in Space are equally boring to me. But Tales had seriously made me reconsider my stand on the inherent superiority of the anthology…)

  3. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Is Genius Jones’s dime fetish suppose to be a reference to the golden age? Comics were a dime back then and he was a golden age creation.

  4. Johanna Says:

    oooh, yeah, the collection with reprints is a terrific idea. Turns out that prior to this, Genius hadn’t been seen since 1947!

    Ed, Genius always asked for dimes … it’s just that that made more sense back then as a fee.

  5. Don MacPherson Says:

    I really hope the Dr. 13 story is collected in some format, and not with the remaining Spectre stories from Tales of the Unexpected. I dropped the series after two issues because the Lapham/Battle Spectre stories have been so disappointing, but it kills me to miss out on the Azzarello/Chiang backup.

  6. Chris G. Says:

    The fourth is probably the beginning of the Silver Age.

  7. Alan Coil Says:

    I agree with Chris G.
    —–
    ‘ridiculous’ does not use the letter ‘e’.

    All it takes is for one person to misspell a word and everybody starts following suit.

    (Unless this is one of those ‘interwub’ things like ‘teh’ and ‘pwned’, in which case I should shut up.)

  8. Loren Says:

    The Dr. Thirteen backup story has been an absolute delight. I’m with David that I thought the Fourth Universe was a nod to the Fourth World. But, whatever the case, I loved that whole thing where Azarello was being super conscious of old school DC by using “Who’s Who” and the official guide and all that stuff. Oh, how I love Dr. Thirteen. If they had Azarello writing an ongoing Dr. Thirteen series, I would surely buy it.

  9. Loki Says:

    I suspect that the missing fourth time is the original introduction of the whole Earth-1, Earth-2 cosmology.

    Alternately, it might have been that Crisis story that Grant Morrison did in Animal Man way back when…

  10. Hal Shipman Says:

    I think this might be an argument for anthology-style books. This is one I’m definitely buying for the back-up, NOT the lead story. I know, I know, they tend not to sell as well overall, but I wonder how I would have gotten my hands on this material otherwise.

  11. James Schee Says:

    I hadn’t heard of this book, as I do little more than scan DC solits looking for trade/HC info. (I wish they would do like Marvel and have a separate section for them)

    Yet it certainly sounds fun, so I hope it gets a collection of some kind. If not, well I’ll do back issue diving when its all done I guess. (it’ll be in the 50 cent bins I bet)

  12. newagemilhouse Says:

    The fourth time is very likely the end of 52.

  13. Filby Says:

    A friend of mine suggested that the “four times” were:

    1) The introduction of the multiverse with “Flash of Two Worlds”
    2) Crisis on Infinite Earths
    3) Zero Hour
    4) Infinite Crisis

  14. James Schee Says:

    Apparently every gets there wish here according to Bob Wayne

    http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=102864

    “Wayne announced that Azzarello’s Dr. 13 back-up stories from Tales of the Unexpected will be collected into a single volume shortly after the miniseries concludes. ”

    So yay I’ll get to see the stories!

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