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CW’s Nancy Drew Could Do Something Great: I’m Afraid They Won’t

CW: This will contain spoilers for all of Nancy Drew up to Season 3, Episode 6 (which I will try my best to contain to the most relevant bits), as well as mentions of stigmatization of neurodivergence and mention of the murder of a queer woman.

[You can stream the current season on the CW’s app or their website at https://www.cwtv.com/search/?q=nancy%20drew and previous seasons on HBOMax.]

The CW’s Nancy Drew series is one of the most criminally slept-on TV shows right now. The spin on the plucky young detective novel series provides a thoughtful, timely, and entertaining teen drama/thriller/horror show at a level of quality I just haven’t seen anywhere else. Though off to a rocky start as it found its identity, the show majorly hit its stride with “The Hidden Staircase,” in which Nancy Drew (Kennedy McMann) revisits an old case. You see, the show updates its Scooby-Doo-like “magic is a trick of con artists” with actual, terrifying monster designs that are unique and compelling. So the criminals shrouding their acts in superstition are often actually harboring deeper metaphors about the darkness within themselves and society.

To add to this, the cast of characters is filled out with career-making performances of deep characters and clever scripts. Characters and motivations are clear, complex, and ever-shifting in believable and entertaining ways, and even the scariest of monsters and weirdest of souls can be seen as true people with feelings, wants, and needs. The cast is big but not unmanageable (this household particularly loves the ever-embroiled-yet-clear-hearted Ace played by Alex Saxon). You still get the occasional guy who was murdering people just because he thought a monster was cool or the racist cafe owner who mostly served as an easy plot motivator, but that’s not why we’re here.

A painting of a young French woman, Odette, shown on a smartphone.

We’re here for two characters. The woman in the picture, Odette Lamar (Anja Savcic), a young, wealthy French lesbian who was kidnapped and ferried to the Americas to be drowned for her fortune, became a vengeful ghost. George Fan (Leah Lewis), eldest of four girls to a drunken medium, is the owner, proprietor, sole manager, and overall pillar of the gimmick seafood restaurant “The Claw.” The two have a fateful encounter when George and her friends investigate the aforementioned ghost, and through a complicated series of events, George ends up dying from a falling harpoon in said gimmick restaurant.

Luckily, the ever-resourceful and knowledgeable Nancy Drew rushes to a storehouse of magic relics for a shroud known to raise people from the dead. George sharply inhales, and then we move to the group gazing contentedly across the water as the sun rises. George steps away to get the others drinks and begins to sing a song in French, a language she does not understand. Standing behind her reflection, we see Odette.

This happens because of a complication (among many others) that the shroud acted as a kind of “spiritual flypaper,” as one character would later put it. It captures every nearby spirit and forces them into the same body. Since George had recently died and Odette’s spirit was nearby, both spirits entered the same body. It serves as a dramatic stinger to bring us back after the show’s break, as well as a defining moment of both characters’ arcs for the coming twenty or more episodes.

Odette looks out from a mirror as George mindlessly sings a song in French, a language she does not know. (season 2, episode 5).

This happens because of a complication (among many others) that the shroud acted as a kind of “spiritual flypaper,” as one character would later put it. It captures every nearby spirit and forces them into the same body. Since George had recently died and Odette’s spirit was nearby, both spirits entered the same body. It serves as a dramatic stinger to bring us back after the show’s break, as well as a defining moment of both characters’ arcs for the coming twenty or more episodes.

In the next episode, George has her usual mannerisms, knowledge, and personality. But she keeps drifting off. She causes a kitchen mishap when she grabs olive oil instead of the oil she knew the recipe called for; she goes into a coughing fit and stares into the distance until the panic accompanying the smoke alarm pulls her back. And later, she gets lost in the middle of a conversation and sings a song to herself in French. She doesn’t remember any of this. On account of her death, her loved ones set up a sympathetic ear for her to talk out her trauma.

She describes her death as similar to sinking in water until she didn’t feel anything. Ace (love him) asks, “Is that where you go when you drift off?” to which she says that she doesn’t know where she goes. After George voices her concern of feeling “normal,” Ace says, “You’re still you, but you gotta keep reminding yourself that.” Later, George uses this strategy to confront her trauma. She looks into a mirror and says, “I’m still me. I’m here, and I’m still me.”

Offscreen, Odette calls, “I’m here, too,” revealing to George that she and Odette have been sharing a body since the accident.

George, out of focus in the foreground, makes eye contact with Odette, reflected in a mirror in the background.

Now we’re at the meat of it: The drama and the “horror” at this moment are layered. The audience is left with a lot of questions about what this means for George. Is Odette just pretending to be George to enact some kind of violence upon our beloved cast? Can we ever truly be rid of Odette? What control does George have? Can we predict what George or Odette will do next? Is George still George?

These questions are at the heart of a ton of stories you’ve no doubt seen or heard of before. The spectacle of possession or of multiple personalities is not new to fiction; it’s not even new to George! In season 1, she’d been possessed by the ghost of a recent murder victim. The possession was violent and draining, threatening to kill George in under 24 hours, yet Odette had been with George for weeks at the time of these events. When asked about it, she says that her relationship with Odette feels different, and she’s right! It is different in more ways than she knows, even. In my read, George and Odette have a relationship more akin to read-world plurality than to a typical possession.

Likely, you’ve not heard the term plurality mentioned about a person before, but you’ve almost definitely heard of it as a person having “multiple personalities” or Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). There’s a whole host of recognizable characters that fit the bill: Norman Bates, Frances Dolarhyde, Gollum, the guy in Fight Club, and James McAvoy in Split. Every single one of them is violent, unpredictable, and unstable. They’re monsters, manipulators, and murderers. They’re constructed to be easy to malign and hard to empathize with unless they “change channels” and mimic the mannerisms of a sad child.

Poster for M. Night Shyamalan’s Split (2016) depicting a man casting multiple distinct shadows.

But again, George and Odette don’t have that. They’re two people with distinct memories, mannerisms, interests, knowledge, histories, and even sexualities. Rather than a literal rampaging beast with super strength or a homicidal mother stapled onto an otherwise normal (if not a bit odd) person, George and Odette come off as two people who just happen to share the same body. It’s awkward and sudden but not horrifying. The great thing that the show is doing here is taking a reality for many people that is often used for horror and is giving it a kind of banality.

George, realizing that the previous person in her position was institutionalized, saying “He went insane?” (season 2, episode 8).

Yes, the real-world experience mirroring a literal ghost possession is far from a perfect metaphor, beyond the implication that this could only happen to a person through supernatural means. Not every plural system (meaning the collective of individuals who share one body) has distinct personalities in the way that George does, just as not every plural includes people with distinct histories or accents or sexualities. The experience is just as varied among those who identify as plural as it is between any group of people you could gather in a room. Just as with any other group, terms and preferences vary based on context and the individuals involved. Some people may identify as having multiple personalities, some may identify as having DID, but others may feel uncomfortable with referring to their plurality as being a “disorder.”

Outside of fiction, the most popular depictions of plurality have led to a host of horrible practices and discrimination with people believing plurals to be anything from mildly untrustworthy to subjects of full-blown demonic possession (remember that last one for later). You can find more info here.

Even within the show Nancy Drew, this stigma is prevalent. Ralph, the previous person to use the same shroud George was revived with, had what Nancy calls “two other drivers in his head” (though the more broadly-accepted term is “alters”). As they come to learn, Ralph’s position led to his institutionalization. What the audience is supposed to consider “horror” visibly shifts at this moment. The worry is no longer “What danger could they pose to us?” but rather “What horrific treatment might society impose upon George and Odette?”

Odette and Bess Marvin (Maddison Jaizani) ice skate together, holding hands.

The drama of their situation comes more in the adjustment and in how to tell other people more so than playing up the “horror” of having more than one possible voice or personality. And it makes for some great television! For the rest of the season, Odette is treated as any other character in this drama. She and George have their own character arcs, love interests, personal dramas, etc. They quarrel, they communicate, they set ground rules and healthy boundaries, and they learn to coexist with each other! Their at once intertwined and solo story beats play to the unique situations that only being plural and adjusting to being out as plural in various environments can provide. The show had two people living in one body in a way that I legitimately don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of in the media.

Above all else, I love the banality of it. For a short time, the show depicts multiple characters just living in a single body no differently than it would quirky roommates. I love it to the point that I was talking about it with my plural friends. I recommend it to so many people, and I think Season 2 especially is some of the best teen drama and pop-horror content available.

But, uh-

Ace and George sit in a diner booth. Ace, possessed by George’s grandmother, gives her a palm reading and says, “Your palm has changed.”

The show is far from perfect, especially in the first couple of episodes. Weird stereotypes and plot choices make it feel like a different show than the one I preach about. Towards the end of Season 2, Ace is possessed by George’s grandmother,  and his actor lip-syncs along with a Chinese voice actor as she warns George through voice-over. She delivers what I believe to be a relatively contrived plot device: Because of Odette’s connection with George, she says through Ace, George’s fate is driven to match that of Odette’s. From this point on, everyone in the story believes that George has a maximum of 10 years to live because of her soul’s tie to Odette.

The sudden, fated complication in their relationship was… weird. And sudden. It reads as the act of about a dozen people with writing credits across the series having different ideas of this plotline direction, especially since George doesn’t act on this information for quite some time. Odette, though…

Odette, reflected in a mirror, looks at George. George says, “What, like lock yourself up inside?”

In the season 2 finale, Odette and George share a number of fun conversations that show a healthy and entertaining partnership budding between the two. Then Odette basically says, “Okay, since I’m killing you, time to hide forever now. Bye!” Odette has an emotional goodbye to close out one story arc, and that’s just… it? Everyone kind of accepts that Odette as a person is now just turned off like a light switch.

 George’s arc in season 3 so far deals with her romance and attempt to build a life while reckoning with her severely shortened lifespan. In episode 6, she decides that she’s done dealing with this fate reportedly brought upon by her entanglement with Odette. She seeks out some dangerous methods to disentangle their souls, ultimately landing on one called the soul-splitter.

 Based on the history of the show to have characters making poor decisions course correct or realize their mistakes and make amends, I’m cautiously hopeful that the show is faking out and has better things ahead for Odette especially. Part of this optimism is based on the number of characters telling George how bad of an idea it is to use something called the soul-splitter! I’m predicting that this won’t “cure” George and will instead cause some other circumstances that bring her relationship with Odette into a new light. Hopefully, this won’t require Odette to make another sacrifice out of nowhere again.

Father Shane (Mackenzie Gray) tells George “The device wasn’t called a soul-untangler”.

George has a conversation with an expert on the soul-splitter who says that it was developed as a method to extract “any aberrant behavior from an individual” because they believed it to be the result of demonic possession (remember that one?). To top this off, the soul-splitter was conspicuously only developed by first-wave American colonizers and during the Civil War, times in which correcting “aberrant behavior” would’ve been extremely desirable to those with the means to do so.

This story going one way or another won’t make or break the show for me. I’m actually reasonably confident the writers aren’t even aware of the space they’re writing in, but they’re here. Despite all this, I worry that this really cool and unique plural-but-also-not-quite-plural representation is going down the drain in service of another story. With the episode airing November 19th being titled “The Gambit of the Tangled Souls,” I’m sure we’ll get some answers very soon, one way or another.

Here’s to hoping.

Written by @CaseyCrook

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The Action Reaction | September 2021 Analysis

September’s Superman comics proved pivotal in the ongoing narrative that the Superman comics are weaving together. Clark Kent finally left to go save the people of Warworld, Jon Kent took a stand, and the Authority felt the rubber meet the road on their first official mission.

As one chapter closes and another begins, the Action Reaction team of David (@DavidMann95), Gabrielle (@Gabrielle_Doo), and Rook (@RookGeary) looks back on the events of Action Comics #1035, Son of Kal-El #3, and Superman and the Authority #3.


Rook: Out of all the issues this month, what was your favorite line? Why?

David: Clark trying to get through to June Moone should probably be it, but what could it really be other than ULTRA-HUMANITE! MEET SUPERMOBILE!

Rook: I’m certainly going to remember that one for a while! But yeah, Clark telling June “Every moment’s a fresh opportunity to do something you can be proud of!” really stuck with me. It’s got this sincerity to it that very few characters can really sell, but Superman’s one of those characters.

Gabrielle: I think all three issues were great, but my favorite was probably Action Comics #1035. Despite one moment where Jon felt in disconnection with his counterpart written by Tom Taylor, it keeps being amazing. I love how PKJ gives Clark a voice that feels appropriate and easily recognizable as the character’s voice, but makes him a little bit unique too. My favorite line was probably Clark’s words for the funeral of the two people Mongul killed. 

Rook: Yeah, there’s a real mythic quality that PKJ is able to give Clark’s dialogue there. It’s so larger-than-life, but it has that trademark compassion.


Rook: How about your favorite page?

David: Probably the second page of Humanite and his allies’ discussion; a nice laying-out of the potential of the new direction for Clark. 

Rook: Page 2 of Son of Kal-El is phenomenally effective at conveying the sheer scale of what’s necessary to save everyone in a collapsing building. It’s a rare page that immediately sells “yeah, this is a job for Superman” and proves Jon’s got the chops for it.  

Gabrielle: Hard to know, honestly, because there’s some amazing pages this month. It probably is Clark’s and Jon’s goodbye hug. Clark’s words are very tender and reassuring, and the final black and white panel adds a layer of melancholy that’s just great. Either that or Jon’s speech on live television in Son of Kal-El. 


Rook: Standout lettering moments? Because personally, it’s gotta be any time the Ultra-Humanite opens his mouth. The jagged border of the speech balloons makes it feel like he’s brute-forcing a corpse’s vocal cords to vibrate according to his whims, rather than speaking through any kind of natural process.

Gabrielle: The explosion caused by Supes’ heat vision that destroyed Mongul’s device was very striking specifically for the lettering. The art is already great, but the lettering gives the moment a lot more impact.


Rook: Favorite non-Superman character (of the month)?

David: D’z’amor strikes a very fine balance of hilariously pathetic – to the point even Superman mocks him to his face – and grotesquely unsettling, which fits his purpose perfectly.

Rook: Very, very true. For me, it has to be the Enchantress — a character that never really grabbed me until this issue. Both her classically-witchy look in the Grimdark! section of Superman and the Authority and her “fused” form are mischievous, iconic, and expressive, and getting to see her cut loose and have a little fun actually got me invested in her.

Gabrielle: Without being familiarized with the Authority before this story, I really liked Manchester Black and his interactions with the whole team and especially Midnighter. It has glimpses of their history that makes me wanna read more about them without necessarily having to do that to understand it.


Rook: What’s really speaking to you about the art this month?

David: It’s speaking to me alright, and it’s speaking “Sampere, don’t go”.

Rook: Boy, do I feel that. I also love the gorgeous contrast between Fort Superman’s ethereal techno-crystalline aesthetic and the Ultra-Humanite’s satellite base. They’re both heavy on the sharp angles, but the satellite has a raw and utilitarian quality to its design, like a machine stripped of the plastic casing that makes it user-friendly.

David: Action and Authority are really dueling out there for the definitive modern take on the Fortress, and whoever wins, so do we.

Gabrielle: I’m totally with both of you. The Fortress looks spectacular. It’s actually something I don’t tend to like, but Sampere’s art makes it look absolutely beautiful and like an actual place where they would be.


Rook: Jon’s only shown up in one series so far, but what’s most distinct about each writer’s version of Clark? 

David: All three are pretty classic in their own ways, especially since they’re all having or will have Clark act in contrast to others, but modulated to fit the circumstances – he’s wise and playful and perfect in Son of Kal-El to make losing him more of a punch for Jon; in Action he’s got just enough self-recrimination to spur on some pretty radical actions; in Authority he’s got a bite he wouldn’t normally to reinforce that, as noted, he doesn’t have to live up to being The Guy anymore.

Rook: All three Clarks definitely feel like the same guy to me, but I appreciated that each writer used him to bring something different to the table. One difference is how he speaks in Superman and the Authority, like he’s from a separate era of comics than everyone else. It isn’t so different that it comes across as distracting or grating, but it’s noticeable how he’s the only. It makes me believe he’s older in a timeless way, without dating him by using the slang of some bygone decade. 


Rook: Between Andrej Trojan, Bendix, and the Ultra-Humanite, it looks like there are three new variants on the idea of someone like Lex Luthor embracing posthumanism in the worst way — the tech-priest, the despot, and the rotting corpse all grasping for the title of Man of Tomorrow. What’s your favorite part of each one? And which do you think is most likely to make the jump to other media first?

David: Bendix is the obvious choice as far as translation – he’s a Wildstorm boy and therefore always going to get Jim Lee’s nod. He’s a fascinating choice as a counter-Superman given how things went down for the original take – specifically since his big reveal as a bastard is at the climax of the original volume of Stormwatch in Change Or Die, where he sabotages the utopian efforts of the Superman analogue in The High whose actions ultimately inspired The Authority, and who Clark implicitly reflects in turn now. I don’t know that I see Taylor being the one to draw out all that potential, but granted we’re still early.

(As for the other two: Ultra-Humanite is GREAT in this as basically the living embodiment of the brainwashed mob bent to the will of an egomaniac, but I can pretty much guarantee no one but Morrison is going to get it for a long, long time. Trojan was interesting as essentially ‘tomorrow’s Lex Luthor’, but so far there’s essentially nothing there.)

Rook: I think Bendix being positioned as Jon’s nemesis makes him inevitable, but on a pretty long timeline. Maybe Superman & Lois will get there in season seven or something, but otherwise the adaptations seem to be focusing on Clark for the time being. 

I have such high hopes for this Ultra-Humanite — the Grundy body is so much more thematically meaty than yet another evil ape, as is his mob consciousness. His relationship to us is the inverse of Clark’s — instead of being a celestial visitor who came to embody our greatest virtues and hopes for the future, the Ultra-Humanite used monstrous methods to reach for something beyond humanity, losing his humanity in the process.

But would I bet on DC capitalizing on this take any time soon? Nah. If anything, there will probably be another revamp of the Ultra-Humanite before they capitalize on how much the Authority take has going for it.

As for Trojan, I feel like he hasn’t had a chance to shine outside of the Midnighter backups, but I think his “creepy billionaire transhumanist with an even creepier cult of personality” shtick is only going to get more timely.


Rook: How do you feel about Manchester Black’s character development and journey? With all the other members’ introductions, it’s taken a backseat, but remains central to the conflict of Superman and the Authority. Does it feel like a real change is occurring in him? 

David: Depends on the take. The last time Joe Kelly wrote him back in Ending Battle he came to a grudging acceptance that Superman was ‘the real deal’, so going along with him here feels less like a radical role reversal than him gradually getting out of his own way. If you’re going by his actual last appearance where he tried to brainwash Jon and ended up with his brain stuck in a cow, then yeah, this is a pretty drastic 180.

Rook: Yeah, fair points. How earned the character development feels depends on how familiar you are with past stories, and which ones you think of as consequential. I do feel like his journey is less central to the story than it originally seemed, but ultimately this book is about the Authority and not him, so it works for me.


Rook: Morrison shifts further into classic Morrison-isms in their dialogue for issue #3. I feel like that’s partially to establish subtle generational differences — Superman talks like the classic model stepped out of another story and into a grittier reboot, more or less. But do fan-pleasing nods like that, the Supermobile, and the hurdles on the moon in issue #1 lose too many new readers? And is that worth it?

David: I feel like anyone who went past the first issue and had it clearly laid out ‘hey, this is a guy who’s been around forever and he’s still trying to make good’ should be able to roll with those sorts of aesthetic anachronisms.

Rook: I don’t feel like the Supermobile and similar nods are out of place, and I certainly enjoy their inclusion, but I can also pinpoint the introduction of the Supermobile as the moment that would lose several of my non-comics reading friends. It’s a tricky balance to strike, but I feel like we may be losing more than we get out of Easter eggs of this sort.


Rook: How do you feel about how the Authority’s “preferred no-kill policy” is handled? 

David: I’m actually glad for the ‘preferred’ – Clark demanding that standard of others can done wrong come across as absurdly holier-than-thou given he’s an invulnerable godling in a way it doesn’t with, say, Batman. We don’t need the threat of this whole thing falling apart over some characters going too EXTREME anymore than we do Superman suddenly being okay with cracking heads, he’s just asking everybody not to be assholes.

Rook: I completely agree. Clark is able to not kill anyone because he’s Superman, and somebody with that much power should be able to find a way to resolve things without death, but asking that of everyone else is conceited and defeats the purpose. 


Rook: Is it just me, or does the Ultra-Humanite’s base remind anyone else of the God Garden from Midnighter’s backstory? Ominous floating triangle in orbit, now in cherry flavor?

David: The God Garden comparison’s a good catch but I think that’s mostly just Janin’s sensibilities shining through; I’m pretty sure the main point of comparison is Skywatch, Stormwatch’s old headquarters, given the number of deliberate parallels there.

Rook: You’re probably right, yeah. I think tying the God Garden, Skywatch, and the Ultra-Humanite together would be a really interesting direction, but it’s pretty unlikely.


Rook: Tom Taylor seems to have righted the ship in this issue, but does it seem like he’ll be able to keep it up, or should we just expect the occasional nosedive in good taste at this point?

David: Pretty much inevitably; this seems poised to be all the best and worst of Taylor in one book. Superman as a character short-circuits some of his most damaging instincts as a creator in the same way he does for Millar, but at the same time this being capital-t Topical is going to steer him down paths he’s not equipped to handle.

I think just going by how comics work until now I could be a bit disappointed in future issues, regarding the preservation of the status quo and useless systems. But I’m hopeful too, this issue was great and I think it could maintain that quality.


Rook: What’s your take on how the protest and Jon’s arrest was handled?

David: In isolation I like it a lot as an obvious way of him drawing attention in-universe to an issue and throwing his weight behind a cause. How that’ll progress, especially given the backlash to the cover for #7, we’ll see; it’s kind of a move he can only pull once.

Rook: Yeah, it’s a great moment and works perfectly in the issue, but the follow through is going to be tricky.


Rook: Between Midnighter, Apollo, and Bendix, WildStorm is being set up for rebirth. Is this foundation potentially solid enough for a serious revival? Can Jim Lee make that happen?

David: Plus Grifter’s big return in the Bat-Books; the entire Wildstorm situation was a disaster with them as a new line instantly falling apart in pretty irreparable ways just as Steve Orlando as the one guy who could really make them as part of DC work was leaving the building. Morrison’s only really left a foundation for two characters and in fact implicitly kicked the rest of the old Authority to the curb, and no one paid much attention to the reformation of the WildC.A.T.s, so I don’t know that there’s much here to lead to other than them existing in their own little spots pending another huge push.

Rook: I’ll say Wildstorm is back when Jenny Sparks or the Engineer show up in a big way. Until then, I’m not holding my breath.


Rook: In Action Comics, how effective was the moment of Thao-La’s decision? A titanic character development, a predictable climax, or some of both?

David: Wish it’d had more buildup personally, but unless the Warworld Saga was going to be pushed back further she pretty much had to have her big moment here. With her immediate arc completed and with her out of commission for now, it’s hard to say much of where she might go for the time being.


Rook: Did the teleport-thingy Clark threw at Mongul blowing up throw anyone else for a loop, or is that just me? Like, he kind of half-teleported to Warworld, and then…I’m just lost on how the logic of that worked. 

David: I think the teleporter made it all the way back and Clark was sort of trailing behind it, and then he severed the connection before he could make it all the way.

Rook: Ahh, that tracks.


David: Given the clear degree of coordination between the titles right now, it’s hilarious that Authority, Action, and Son of Kal-El all have completely different takes on Clark leaving Earth, right? I get that each creator would want their own spin on that moment, but that’s a bit much.

Rook: It’s hilarious, if a little unfortunate. It works well in each story individually, but it’s definitely going to throw some new readers. 

I actually feel like this has more to do with logistics than each writer wanting their own version of the moment. I don’t know enough about the editorial difficulties of making one moment line up across three books to say that for sure, but given how rarely we see it in comics, I’d put money on it being much more difficult than it sounds. 


Rook: Okay, here’s the big one. What the hell is going on in Tales of Metropolis?

David: I was one of the few who liked Sean Lewis’s Superman of Metropolis two-parter well enough, but this series…woof. This just is not doing whatever this is supposed to be doing.

Rook: I genuinely loved Superman of Metropolis, despite it clearly being three or four issues crammed into the space of two. I don’t have nearly as positive feelings for this series. I just don’t feel invested in the cast every time they jump to a new protagonist, and it’s a very plot-heavy narrative in not many pages, which seems to be Sean Lewis’s bane. I’d like to see what he could do with a few issues, but Tales of Metropolis isn’t working for me.

Which is weird, because when you step back for a second, this issue is Jimmy Olsen investigating a cyberpunk Ouija board ghost, and that sounds rad.