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Issue 54, "Aenigma Regis"

Writer: Grant Morrison
Layouts: Richard Case
Finishes: Stan Woch

Summary:
written by William Sherman (sherman@netcom.com)

This issue takes place largely in Rebis' mind(s) while Rebis is on the moon. It's mostly a horrific exposition of what it might be like to be a composite being formed by the forced union of three very different minds. It's full of hallucinations starring Larry, Eleanor and Mercurius (the three components of Rebis). They seem to be concerned with reproduction; as we know, Rebis has been planning to reproduce (in some sense) for some time; the hallucinations feature sexual encounters between Larry and Eleanor, as well as Rebis/Eleanor undergoing chilbirth.

At the end of the issue, Rebis arrives at a crater where a strange leafless double tree stands, bound by a ring of gold and supporting what looks like a small sun. At the bottom of the tree is what looks like a corpse, tangled in the roots of the tree and having branches grow from its head. It has a drawer in its chest. This strange scene may be partly hallucinatory as well; maybe not. The crater is introduced as a place which the Apollo astronauts saw but which was not shown to the public.

Rebis enters the crater and opens the chest drawer, finding various personal items from the lives of Eleanor and Larry, as well as a giant egg. Rebis triumphantly holds aloft the egg.

Annotations:
written by William Sherman

p.1 Eleanor Poole and Larry Trainor, of course, are the two humans who merged with the Negative Being to form Rebis.

Note that "I am the invisible fire that works in secret" was one of the first things which the Negative Being said to Larry, in Issue 19, on page 11.

p.2: Larry was a test pilot; this is reflected in many of the airplane images in this issue.

This is the first use of the name "Mercurius." It is a reference to the story "The Imp in the Bottle" or "The Spirit in the Glass Bottle," one of German fairy tales collected in the 19th century by the Brothers Grimm (thanks to Carl Muckenhoupt [baf@tiac.net]). The story will be summarized later in this issue, beginning on page 22. Mercurius is the name of the Imp or Spirit.

p. 6: Here is another reference to "The Imp in the Bottle"; in the story, the clever boy tricks the imp back into the bottle. Before he releases it again, the imp says what is quoted here, about "I will give you as much as will serve you," as well as "Let me out!" This portion of the story is omitted from the upcoming summary.

Eleanor and Larry share, as their prison, a twisted version of the garden of Eden.

p. 10: Krystalnacht (sic) was a famous night of Nazi-organized anti-Semitic violence in pre-WWII Europe, on 9/10 November, 1938. The name refers to the broken glass from shop windows all across Germany. Comics readers will recognize this allusion from the pages of _Watchmen_. It is misspelled here; the correct spelling is "Krystallnacht."

p. 15: The snake eating its own tail is the Ouroboros, a symbol of regeneration and rebirth, referred to elsewhere in the series (Issue 38, for example) as a symbol of Rebis. It is here superimposed with a cross, which also symbolizes rebirth (among other things, of course).

p. 22-23: This is a summary, as mentioned above, of the Grimm story "The Imp in the Bottle." It is correct and complete, but it does omit the imp's original offer of reward (see above) which it made before the boy released it the second time.

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