52 10th Anniversary celebration – Ralph Dibny and the Search for Resurrection

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the DC weekly series 52.  The celebration started Monday with the release of episode 1 of the Podicus Wrecks podcast.  During which, I spend 50 minutes discussing the stories within 52 and some thoughts on the series.  The rest of the week, I will be posting more detailed recaps of each of these stories.  Previously posted stories may be found here.

52 week 13Following the murder of his wife, Sue Dibny in the Identity Crisis min-series, Ralph Dibny stopped drinking his Gingold serum, and retired from being Elongated Man. He’s sitting in a room with a gun to his head when he gets a call.  He receives word that his wife’s gravestone at Elysium Cemetery has been de-faced. Investigating the matter, he discovers an inverted Superman symbol spray-painted on the stone.

Ralph confronts Cassie Sandsmark, aka Wondergirl, about the symbol, knowing that it means resurrection.  He tracks the vandals to a group called the Cult of Conner. The Cult observes Kryptonian traditions and named themselves for the deceased Superboy, Conner Kent. Cassie ends up being a member of this group.  Ralph is later told that they broke into his storage garage, but he’s unsure of what they stole.  Turns out, it was some of Sue’s clothing, and Cassie and the cult have recreated a dummy of Sue with her clothes and Ralph’s wedding ring. 

52 week 18Ralph tracks down Cassie and learns that the Cult has discovered a Kryptonian rite of resurrection. Their leader, Devem, wants to use it on Superboy, but they need someone to test it on first.  That is why they dug up the remains of Sue Dibny.  Ralph agrees to help from here on. However, Ralph doesn’t truly believe that this will work, so he called in some JLA friends to join him for the ceremony.  They convince him that this is all a scam, and they shut the place down.  In the fire that starts, it appears that Sue’s spirit may have been in the stand in dummy after all.  This realization drives Ralph crazy, and he’s determined to try again.

Detective Chimp finds the Helmet of Fate, and it’s wearer is dead.  He brings the helmet to Ralph to investigate.  They then go to Shadowpact.  During a ceremony to see what secrets the helmet has, the helmet begins to speak, and promises Ralph all of his desires.  Ralph takes the helmet and leaves, while Shadowpact is left wondering if Ralph thought the helmet was talking to him.

52 week 27Ralph travels through the underworld with the helmet, learning that any magic is going to have a price.  The travels lead him to The Spectre, who offers Ralph the opportunity to punish Jean Lorring, the person that murdered Sue.  Ralph tries to clear Jean’s mind and make her constantly watch her killing Sue, but he’s unable to follow through on this.

Ralph then goes to Nanda Parbat.  Here, he’s able to speak to Rama Kushna, but she doesn’t really give Ralph any new information.  Next, Ralph steals the Silver Wheel of Nyorlath from the Technomancer, while he is in the prison called Haven.

Ralph brings the collected relics back to Fate’s Tower in Salem, Massachusetts, where he prepares to conduct another ritual. Fate instructs him on the binding spells to make him feel safe performing the ceremony.  Ralph puts on the helmet, pulls out the gun from earlier, and shoots the helmet.  The helmet flies off of him, and is revealed to be Felix Faust.

52 week 42Ralph had deduced a while back that this was not actually the Helmet of Fate.  Faust tries to attack Ralph, but Ralph stretches his arm out and knocks down Faust.  Throughout their journey, it had appeared that Ralph had been drinking alcohol from a flask, but really it had been his Gingold formula that allows him to be Elongated Man.

After beating him to the floor, Ralph questions Faust as to why he has been trying to manipulate him. Faust confesses that his soul was in service to the Neron, and he needed to offer a pure soul in exchange for his own. Neron appears inside the tower to collect his prize, but Ralph only taunts him. Using Ralph’s wedding band as a projectile, Neron fires it like a bullet.  This kills Dibny. Ralph Dibny had the last laugh being that he was the only one who could cancel the binding spell inside the tower. Neron ends up trapped inside along with Faust.

At the end, a mysterious hole is burned into the floor of a school classroom.  Two ghosts show up to investigate.  Those ghosts are Ralph and Sue Dibny.  The gun Ralph used was the Wishing Gun.  In the very beginning, he hadn’t wished for Sue to be alive again, but rather that he would be reunited with Sue.

Ralph Dibny detective

One of my favorite moments of the series is when Faust asks how Ralph knew that he wasn’t actually the Helmet of Fate, and Ralph simply says because I’m a detective.  It brings us to the lesson of this story, which is to not be blinded by grief.  In your time of loss, there will be some that look to take advantage of your loss.  They are terrible people for doing this, but at the time, they may not seem so terrible.  It’s your responsibility to not be taken in by these scoundrels and their false promises.

Faust, as the Helmet of Fate, appeared to be just trying to help Ralph reunite with Sue.  And that sounds great.  As the reader, we want Ralph and Sue to be reunited.  But often in stories, and in life, actions are not as altruistic as they seem.  But the good news is that if you keep your wits about you, think for yourself, you too will be reunited with your ghost wife.  Or, whatever applies in your real life scenario.

Ralph Dibny gotcha


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