...The Question!
Banner: The Question by Denys Cowan

The Question v.1 #3

"Suffer the Children" - Apr. 1987

The Cover of The Question #3 by Denys Cowan
ENLARGE
Script: Dennis O'Neil
Pencils: Denys Cowan
Inks: Rick Magyar
Lettering: Gaspar
Colors: Tatjana Wood
Cover: Denys Cowan & Bill Sienkiewicz
Published by DC Comics

The Question stands above the grovelling figure of Reverend Jeremiah Hatch, demanding that he pray. The faceless man is not being facetious, the narration informs us. "Did he come here to kill this man? He was certain that when the time came for him to decide, he would know. That the moment itself would sup[ply the answer. But it has not -- is not." The Question seeks enlightenment, so he tells Hatch to pray.

Listening for a sign, the Question only hears the sleet falling outside, and the crackle of the fire. Then, a voice: "Who are you?" Myra appears in the doorway. The Question does not answer, but only speaks her name: "Myra." Then, a sudden movement...the Reverend swings a smoking steel poker at the hero's head. The Question ducks it, and shoots a foot straight into Hatch's solar plexus. The evangelist falls back into the fire, igniting his coat, and runs for the window. As he crashes through it, the alarm blares.

Myra takes the Question by the arm, leading him to her room before the guards arrive. "Why are you helping me?" he asks. "Because maybe you can help me...whoever you are," she says. The guards demand to check her room, but Myra calls their bluff by stepping into the hallway in a skimpy bustier. The sheepish guards retreat. "Creeps," Myra mutters.

The Question questions the name the guards used, "Mrs. Fermin." It's a forced marriage, says Myra. He threatened to hurt her daughter Jackie otherwise. "Mayor Fermin?" No, says Myra. Hatch. Myra offers a tip: Hatch plans to blow up a schoolbus full of white children to frame a local black leader. She asks the Question to stop the planned murder. "It doesn't bother you that I have no face?" the Question asks. "Hell no. That's one less thing you have to worry about saving," Myra says. She leads the Question out the back way, and asks him to hit her. She shows the guards her bruise and misdirects their attention while the Question leaps over a fence to escape.

Meanwhile, in Hub City, Benno Musto speaks harshly of his son, Junior, "An abortion that lived." When the boy attempts to stand up to his father, Benno punches him in the face and knocks him to the floor. Then, Benno delivers a surprising order: Junior is to plant the bomb on the school bus. If he fails in his mission, Benno tells his thug Pedro, "shoot him. With my gun. And leave him."

Vic tells Tot about the planned bombing, and also of his inability to call in outside help: local cops are on the take, and the feds wouldn't move without more information. There's only one chance, with dozens of schoolbuses -- the local school garage. But whether to go as Vic Sage or the Question? As Sage prepares his costume, Tot asks where he's been for the last year -- Sage seems quieter, deeper somehow.

The Question goes to the bus garage, where the watchman informs him that he's the second nutjob to have shown up that day. Sage asks for the schedule and the watchman tells him there isn't one -- today's a holiday, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. But a bus recently left to take a group of kids from the suburbs to see the black leader make a speech. Sage adds up the facts and realizes that someone must have been sent to distract the watchman while the other planted the bomb.

The Question tries to keep calm while racing the Volkswagen down snowy streets, shutting out images of the potential disaster, as well as his childhood in the orphanage. Using the techniques taught by Dragon, he relaxes, "Because there can't be any mistakes."

Hatch's thug Jake questions Myra about her helping the Question escape the previous night. He holds a picture of Jackie in his hands, and tells her that ever since Hatch came back from the hospital, he's been muttering about ghosts. Jake threatens Myra again and rips the picture. She asks, "Jake, are you badly injured?" With a concussion and a fourteen-stich laceration -- Jake replies in the affirmative. "Good," thinks Myra.

Junior and Pedro follow the schoolbus. The van wouldn't start and delayed them ten minutes -- Junior's fault, mocks Pedro. Junior sits calmly with a stack of dynamite in his lap, in case the planted bomb doesn't go off. "Jou gonna blow 'em up weeth dynamite, hunh?" asks Pedro, "Jou a goofball, Junior."

Sage, somewhere in his subconscious, recognizes the green van following the bus as one that he saw pull out of the garage. He rams the bug into the side of it, unsure why: "There had to be a connection. That will be later. Now--he simply knows he must act." He runs to the van, pulls Pedro through the door, knocks the detonator away, and beats Pedro to a pulp. Junior climbs to the top of the bus and, as the Question tackles him, thrusts the dynamite through the bus window. The Question swings in, grabs the dynamite, runs from the bus and throws the dynamite away just as the fuse runs out. Big explosion.

Later, the police have arrived, but have only gotten reports of a guy with no face from the kids. "Drugs, you ask me," says one of the cops. But he finds something resting in the lap of the tied-up Pedro. A blank white card that starts to smoke, revealing -- a Question mark!

A safe distance away (passing by Cowan's Bar and Magyar Art Store), Sage recounts his mistakes: he could have simply pulled the fuse from the dynamite. Losing his relaxation meant losing his concentration. And the card? "Grandstanding." He drives to the orphanage, where he asks to see Jackie. A nun directs him to a little girl building a snowman. He introduces himself. Jackie and her friends ask him to build a snowman with them. "I don't know if I can," Sage says. "I've never built a snowman." Then he smiles: "I'll try."

The narration comments: "Odd that he hasn't noticed until this second, the storm has stopped. The sky is clear and soft, the snow creaks and crunches underfoot, and he can feel the crisp air to the marrow of his bones. And he thinks: Childhood is an interval between nothingness and disillusionment. An interval of innocence. The glorious morning is an interval, too. There has been grief and violence in the past and there will almost certainly be grief and violence in the future...But for now, he is building a snowman."

Characters

  • Vic Sage / The Question
  • Jeremiah Hatch
  • Myra Connelly Fermin
  • Wesley Fermin
  • Benno Musto
  • Junior Musto
  • Pedro
  • Aristotle Rodor
  • Jackie Connelly

Gallery

Trivia / Minutiae

The Mustos first appeared in Green Lantern #97, also written by Denny O'Neil.

This month's Recommended Reading: Golf in the Kingdom by Michael Murphy

Relevant Links

DC Comics

Denny O'Neil

Denys Cowan

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