If you know about the Question, then you know that he is one of the characters that was completely screwed over by the New 52. It wasn’t simply that they changed some aspects of his character — they changed everything about him. Prior to the New 52, he was Vic Sage, a street-level character who wore a faceless mask and had a very zen attitude who then died and passed on his training and name to Renee Montoya. In the New 52, “the Question” is a cosmic entity who really has no face or name and “Vic Sage” was an evil bureaucrat who tried to kill the Suicide Squad when they found out how corrupt he was.
But now we are getting DC Rebirth, which is managing to fix a lot of the character problems of the New 52. So what better time to fix the Question then now, right?
Well, hypothetically, I have written an outline for a Question mini-series called The Question: Q & A. Since there is probably no possible way that DC would ever let me write it for them, I’ll post it here.
Honestly, this may be terrible, but I had the urge to write it and it didn’t go away. So here we go:
Issue #1: “Six Words”
Renee Montoya is chasing a criminal. A man named Bart Magan has been on a crime spree, but nobody could ever identify him since he used some sort of device to make his face and those of his crew completely blank. However, Montoya met with an unusual informant (Helena Bertinelli) who gave her a device that would deactivate Magan’s device. During their meeting, Renee says she feels like she knows Helena somehow, but they’ve never met.
Renee manages to be at the next bank that the No-Face Gang rob and deactivates their faces and identifies Magan quickly. However, he rushes her and they set off on a chase throughout Gotham — one that ends, however, when Magan throws his No-Face device at Renee and it covers her face…
...and then she remembers someone named Charlie and a man telling her that some questions can only be answered by wearing a mask.
Bagan has escaped, but Renee is more concerned that there are gaps in her memory. She visits her old partner, Crispus Allen, and tells him about it. He tells her that she needs to figure out the Six Words: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How? If someone did tamper with her memory, she needs to find out who did it, what they did, where it happened, when it happened, why it happened, and how.
The only clue she has is the place where Magan looks like he fled, the place where he supposedly found the faceless device: Hub City. The city rings a bell with Renee and she realizes that she’s been there, even though she doesn’t remember when.
“One ticket to Hub City, please.” Now she knows the where. One down, five to go.
Issue #2: “Five Suns”
Renee tracks Magan to an old lighthouse on the edge of Hub City, where she meets a man named Aristotle Rodor. Rodor tells her that Magan was there to ask for help, but Rodor turned him down. When asked about how they knew each other, Rodor reveals that Magan used to be “Dr. Arby Twain,” his partner, and together, they developed a special bandage called “Pseudoderm” which would have made them millions...if it hadn’t turned out to turn toxic when applied to open wounds. They quit the project and their partnership dissolved — and the last time Rodor had heard from Magan, he had been working on something called “Hypnos.”
Renee realizes something is wrong, so she asks to go to the bathroom. When she opens the door, however, it’s a closet...and “Rodor” appears behind her. “I don’t actually know where the bathroom is in this place,” he says as he pulls a gun and his face twists into Magan’s. “Never asked.” He hits her and pulls her up to the top of the lighthouse where the real Rodor is tied up.
Magan says that now that he has a hostage, he can force Rodor to give him the real Pseudoderm formula so he can go back to his crime spree now that his crude Hypnos device is broken. Renee wakes up as she is hanging from the edge of the lighthouse…
...and she remembers being in a different place, a place called Nanda Parbat, where a man named Richard Dragon is telling her about the Five Suns. “The Aztec believed that the world had ended and renewed itself four times and that they were living in the fifth world or sun. Each world before had been destroyed in some cataclysm and now it was their duty to wage a cosmic war to provide the sun nourishment.”
“What does this have to do with Charlie?” Renee asks.
“Charlie died once and was renewed,” Dragon says. “Just like the world. He fought his cosmic war for nourishment of the soul. He fought for what he believed. What do you believe?”
Renee is silent and then says, “How did they know this world, their world, wouldn’t also end? If they fought a war, wouldn’t that bring the cataclysm they feared?”
“They didn’t fear the cataclysm,” Dragon says. “They embraced it.”
...Renee wakes up. She kicks Magan and lets herself fall. At the last minute, she grabs onto a ledge that she knew was there and kicks off the ropes tied to her legs. She slowly climbs back up the lighthouse until she reaches the top and finds that Magan has run off again.
As she unties the real Rodor, she asks him if he knew anybody named “Charlie.” He says that name sounds familiar, but he doesn’t know why. Suddenly, there is a knock on the door and Renee opens it to find Lady Shiva. “You are looking for someone that I, too, wish to find,” she says. “I believe we can help one another.”
Issue #3: “Four Causes”
Renee asks how Lady Shiva knew about her and what she was doing. “A little bird told me,” she says. “And why would you want to help me?” Renee asks. “The man you are looking for,” Shiva says, “I, too, look for him. I believe I knew him in some way. And I also know where Magan will run to next. So if you wish to capture him, you will help me.”
As Renee prepares to leave with Shiva, Rodor pulls her aside. “I don’t trust her,” he says. “She named herself after a god of destruction, for Pete’s sake.”
“It does not merely mean Destroyer,” Shiva says, hearing everything they said, “but also One who is Eternally Pure. And now I have an impurity. There is a piece of me that is missing. You know how that feels. You will help me.”
Renee and Shiva leave and take a plane to where Shiva says Magan will show up next: Belle Reve Penitentiary, where Shiva says that Magan will try and bargain with “the Wall” for help. Renee asks how she knows this.
“Perhaps another bird told me,” Shiva says. “Perhaps I know because it has already happened. Perhaps I can feel everything that affects me, everything that changes me. Do you know of the four causes, Montoya? They were spelled out by your friend’s namesake, Aristotle. The first cause is the material cause, that thing which we are made of — our flesh and bone. The second cause is the formal cause, everything that makes me me. The third cause is the moving cause, everything that makes us change. And the fourth cause is the end cause. That is a thing’s goal, a thing’s ending. That which defines us is how we come to an end, Montoya. I know my ending. Do you?”
Shiva then tells Montoya that in order to get into Belle Reve, they will have to jump out of the plane and parachute in, which they do. Inside, they find that that Magan has drugged everyone in the place with a hallucinogenic gas. It starts to affect Renee as she sees a grave with the name “Vic Sage” on it and then a man without a face, a woman pleading with him to leave her, and then Lady Shiva embracing the chaos of Hub City.
Lady Shiva breaks her out of her hallucinations. “Come with me,” she says, and together they wind themselves through Belle Reve until they meet Amanda Waller. She recognizes Shiva and tells her that Magan is here, althogh he didn’t expect to meet her, but rather her replacement. “He didn’t get the word that Sage was dead,” Waller said.
“Did you say Sage?” Renee asks.
“Who are you?” Waller says. “Shiva’s sidekick? I’m only doing this because she promised me a favor. You better do what you gotta do quick before I shoot that man myself for what he did to my people. He’s holed up in the interrogation room.” Waller points to it. “It’s the one someone cleverly painted a question mark on.”
Shiva tells Renee that she must go into the room alone. “Why?” Renee asks. “Because I know my causes. I know when I change. You must learn that, too.” “Whatever,” Renee says, pulls her gun, and kicks the door in.
Inside, Magan is lying in a pool of his own drool. Renee nudges him with her foot, but he barely moves, only saying one thing: “Who makes the world?” “What happened to you?” Renee asks him.
“He asked a question he didn’t want to know the answer to,” a voice says. Renee turns out and everything turns blue.
“Hello, Renee,” the voice says. “Let’s chat.”
Issue #4: “Three Wishes”
There is a man in the room with Renee. The walls are blue and there is a man, but Renee cannot see him. She knows that he is there and that his skin is blue (somehow), but she can’t see him.
“Who are you?” she asks.
“That’s a good question,” the voice says. “I am not truly sure what you should call me. I have thought of many answers to that question, but none are fully adequate to explain my being or purpose. Perhaps, then, it is better to simplify, to describe me in turns of mythology. Perhaps, then, I should be called a Genie. Is that adequate, Renee Montoya?”
“Not even close,” Renee says. “What did you do to him?” She gestures to Magan.
“That’s not as good a question,” the Genie says. “He was merely a puppet. I changed aspects of time and space and placed him where you would notice. I changed him because I wanted to see how things to turn out. I wanted to see what you would do.”
“What?” Renee says. “You’re saying you’re just...pulling our strings? For what? Your own amusement?”
“I derive no amusement from this,” the Genie says. “I do this for your own good. My goal is to make a better world.”
“According to who?” Renee asks. “Who chooses what happens in your better world?”
“I do,” the Genie says. “You are still not asking the right questions. Perhaps it would be better if you used your first wish.” “Wish?” “Oh yes. I did describe myself as a Genie, did I not? Then do I not grant three wishes? You may ask for anything.”
“I want to remember Charlie,” Renee says. “I want to remember everything that was taken away from me.”
“Done.” Montage time: Renee, Two-Face, Crispus Allen dying, Renee’s bloody knuckles, drinking, meeting Charlie, learning about the Religion of Crime, Charlie dying, Renee putting on the mask and becoming the Question.
“I…” Renee looks down at herself. “What did you do to me?”
“I told you,” the Genie says. “I changed things.”
“But...Charlie,” Renee says. “I didn’t remember him. Neither did Tot. He’s just...gone. You didn’t change him, you erased him.”
“Yes, he was a different case,” the Genie says. “He...reminded me of someone. But I did not erase him. Rather, I dismantled him into his component parts.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“I gave a body and name to his ambition,” the Genie says. “And then I gave a body and no name to his purpose, to his cause. I made him into two. And never the twain shall meet.”
“Fix him,” Renee says. “Bring him back.”
“Is that your second wish?” the Genie asks. “Yes,” Renee replies.
The Question and Vic Sage appear and merge together. Then they collapse onto the ground. Renee crawls forward and removes his mask. He chokes out a cough. “Renee?” he asks. Then he coughs up more blood.
“What’s wrong with him?” Renee asks.
“You asked me to bring him back,” the Genie says, “not to make him healthy. He has lung cancer. Like all creatures, he is dying.”
“Make him healthy, then,” Renee says. “Get rid of his lung cancer.”
“Is that your third wish?” the Genie asks. “Yes,” Renee replies.
Charlie screams as black goop is pulled through his chest and to the blue-skinned man that Renee can only see out of the corner of her eye. “I have granted your three wishes,” the Genie says. “You have disappointed me, Renee Montoya. I expected better questions.”
“Go to hell,” Renee says, but the walls have turned from blue to white and the Genie is gone. Now there is only Renee and Charlie. She helps him up and then leads him out. “Come on, Charlie,” she says. “Come on, Danny Boy.”
“Oh Danny Boy,” Charlie says, “I remember that. The pipes, the pipes…”
Issue #5: “Two Questions, One Answer”
Amanda Waller is standing in front of Renee Montoya, her voice a yell. “Can you please explain to me how you entered a room and came out with a DEAD MAN who is now SUDDENLY ALIVE? A man who, apparently, has no memories of any of the terrible things he did, but rather thinks he someone else entirely?”
Renee shrugs. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” she says. “Let’s just say a wizard did it.”
“I’m not letting him go,” Waller says. “Vic Sage was responsible for a number of deaths.”
“Not this Vic Sage,” Renee says. “Think of him as, say, a double of your Vic Sage. He didn’t do the things the other Vic Sage did. In fact, he was dead at the time. Or a cosmic entity. It’s hard to explain.”
“I don’t care,” Waller says. “He’s still not leaving.” The door opens and on the other side is Shiva. “Yes, he is, Amanda Waller. I have been talking with him and he has filled me in on the things that I have been missing. In exchange, I have agreed to take him and Renee out from this place.”
“And how are you going to do that surrounded by my men?” Waller asks.
“And how are your men going to stop me?” Shiva asks. Waller looks at her and they have a staring contest until Waller blinks. “Take ‘em. I don’t want to do the paperwork anyway.”
Renee leaves the room and goes outside to talk with Charlie. He’s staring up at the sky and the stars. “How much do you remember?” Renee asks.
“All of it,” Charlie says. “The last thing I said was that...you had to change. Like butterflies.”
“I did,” Renee says. “I became the Question. I did a lot of good. And then...the world changed. Somehow.”
“Somehow,” Charlie says. “But everything changes. And we change with it. And now it comes down to two questions.”
“And what questions would those be?” Renee says.
“Where do you want to go?” Charlie asks. “And what do you want to do?”
“I have better questions,” Renee says. “Who are you and who do you want to be?”
“Yes, those are good questions,” Charlie says.
In Hub City, Izzy O’Toole chases a perp down an alleyway where he is ambushed by a gang. BUt then, from the rooftops, drop down two faceless figures. They beat the gang as Izzy looks on in wonder. “Never heard of a superhero coming to Hub City,” he says. “What do I call you two?”
At the lighthouse, Tot brings out three cups of coffee as Renee packs. “Are you sure I can’t persuade you to stay?” Tot says. “After what you’ve done, it seems so inadequate to just...watch you leave.”
“I need to get back to Gotham,” Renee says. “I have a job that I’ve neglected. And another job that I need to get back, too, as well.” She smiles. “But I’ll be in touch. Maybe visit for Christmas or something.”
“Hannukah would be nice,” Tot says. “Then it’s a date,” Renee says. She leaves the lighthouse to see Charlie sitting in his car right outside. “You taking me to the airport?” she asks.
“The least I can do,” he says. “You brought me back to life and I’ll drive you to the airport, but that’s it. Then we’re even.”
“Not even close,” Renee laughs. “And what about you? Are you sure you want to stay here?”
Charlie looks around. “A long time ago, I died and then came back to life. And then I came back here, determined to make it better. And now I realize that’s a terrible thing to do — to try and make a city ‘better’. It’s one thing to help people, but it’s another to think you know what would make them better. Eventually, I realized that I failed and I had to leave the city, leave it to the chaos. I should have realized: you can’t control the chaos. You can only help. You do what you can and then you do some more. And now that I’ve died and come back again...I think perhaps I’ll stay here this time and see how I can help.”
“That’s a good answer,” Renee says. “Kemo sabe.”
“C’mon,” Charlie says as they drive off into the sunset. “Let’s go.”
Bart Magan is now locked up in Belle Reve. “Who makes the world?” he says over and over again.