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Banner: The Question by Denys Cowan

The Question v.1 #8

"Mikado" - Sept. 1987

The Cover of The Question #8 by Denys Cowan
ENLARGE
Script: Dennis O'Neil
Pencils: Denys Cowan
Inks: Rick Magyar
Lettering: Gaspar
Colors: Tatjana Wood
Editor: Mike Gold
Cover: Denys Cowan & Bill Sienkiewicz
Published by DC Comics

A man hangs suspended over a vat of boiling water, begging for his life. Nearby, a man in a theatrical Japanese mask controls the rope that lowers the man into the bubbling cauldron.

That was Tuesday. On Friday, Vic Sage sits in the hospital, waiting for a tetanus shot after having a stab wound stitched up. As the doctor administers the injection, Sage tells him he was mugged. A nurse interrupts to tell the doctor of a patient, a man brought into the burn unit -- ironically, the father of a baby that was had been treated for scald wounds the previous week. Tot picks up Sage outside, pondering the coincidence.

A half-starved woman and her two hungry children sit watching a large man eat a veritable feast. He puts a whole turkey leg into his mouth as he tells her that if her kids haven't had a bite since Sunday, she should bite them. He shoves a plate of spaghetti into her face: "Let 'em lick it offa ya." He threatens her against going to the hospital or social workers again, and heads out the door. A man offers him a lift. The sweating fat man climbs into the truck and finds himself facing the man in the Japanese mask. The masked man pulls a tranq gun and shoots the fat man in the neck. The masked man takes him to an alley, cuts his vocal cords so he can't scream, and then, showing him the knife, asks, "Do you know what the word flense means?"

When the police find the fat man, he's 250 pounds lighter. One of the cops calls in a tip to Vic Sage, who passes the news on to Myra. The reporter and the mayor trade jokes about "Hubbies": ex. "What happens when a Hubbie doesn't pay his garbage bill? They stop delivery." Sage asks what the police are doing about the murder, and Myra tells him that the police chief he recommended, Izzy O'Toole, has enough on his hands trying to clean the department of corruption.

Sage confers with Tot while practicing his martial arts. There are two possibilities in the case. The first involves a drug dealer operating out of the hospital. The second, he says, he doesn't want to think about. Interviews with the victims reveal a regular M.O. that Tot informs Sage comes from the Mikado, the Gilbert and Sullivan play.

Sage makes the change into the Question as two muggers prepare to make a robbery. Their target turns out to be the doctor who stitched Sage up. one of the muggers reverently lets the man pass, calling him a saint. The next potential victim they encounter turns out to be the Question. He beats them to the ground and then asks for the name of their drug dealer. They take him to the hospital, where the dealer lies in a hospital bed. He reaches for a gun, but the Question knocks it away from him with a bedpan. "Hit me wid a bedpan. What kinda thing you call that?" "Appropriate," says the Question. Meanwhile, the Mikado removes a healthy kidney from a crooked doctor who did the same to a woman who later died in pain from complications.

Sage tells Tot that he's ruled out the drug dealer, leaving only one suspect: Spaulding, the doctor who stitched him up. As the Question, he pays a visit to Spaulding, waiting on him in the dark. As the lights come on, he tosses the doctor the Mikado mask. Sage tells the man he's not a judge, he's just curious. Spaulding offers a drink, which the Question refuses. Spaulding asks about the absence of the Question's face, but the Question cracks wise. Spaulding says he was once a joker, before things "stopped being funny."

Spaulding sneaks the tranq gun from a drawer and shoots the Question with it. As the Question lays numb, waiting for the doctor to administer a lethal injection, Spaulding discusses the reason he became the Mikado: he became a doctor to alleviate suffering, but realized that those who caused the suffering never suffered themselves. And there were always new victims. As he lowers the needle to the Question's arm, he apologizes for having to kill an innocent bystander.

"Not innocent," says the Question, as he recounts a number of vile acts he committed in his youth. "You're making a point?" asks Spaulding. The Question then talks about the number of good deeds he's done since beginning as the Question. "Do I deserve to die?" he asks. "I'm not innocent."

Spaulding backs away, taking a swig of whiskey. Spaulding says he's never hurt anyone gratuitously, and that he may be the only person who can honestly say that. "Maybe saints can't understand ordinary, tainted humans," the Question offers. "Maybe not," Spaulding says, "Maybe that changes them into sinners." The tranquilizer is wearing off as the doctor puts on the Mikado mask. "My object all sublime / I shall achieve in time -- to let the punishment fit the crime," he recites as he jabs the lethal needle into his own leg. He falls to the floor.

The Question stands, removes his mask, and goes to the bathroom to wash his face. When he exits, the Mikado is gone. "Deep inside himself, he feels the beginning of laughter...."

Characters

  • Dr. Spaulding / The Mikado
  • Vic Sage / The Question
  • Myra Connelly Fermin
  • Wesley Fermin
  • Aristotle Rodor
  • Dukus

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DC Comics

Denny O'Neil

Denys Cowan

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