52! Week Eight

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Barrows, Stull, Sinclair, Lanham, Jones, Richards, and Wacker. Cover by Jones and Sinclair.

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series 15 years later. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Thief”

Week 8, Night 1: At Steelworks, Natasha Irons is busy building her armor, eliciting a proud smile from her uncle John. Later, just as John is listening to a news report about Luthor’s metagene program, his chest transforms into metal.

In Star City, Green Arrow stops a store owner from chasing down a thief (and giving us the elicit use of the issue’s title and on the same page as the title!). Nearby, Green Arrow explains to Ralph Dibny that he thought the thief was the “guy charging thirty bucks for disposable diapers in a disaster zone” — typical Ollie! Ollie is guilt-ridden for not being able to keep his chosen city safe during the metahuman war. Ralph also tells Ollie that he lost his taste for gingold last year.

But Ralph is there to ask for Green Arrow’s help to investigate the Cult of Connor location in Star City. Ralph tells GA that the Cult believes that the dead can be resurrected.

Week 8, Day 3: John Irons visits STAR Labs seeking help with his condition. Based on the analysis, the metal in his body is stainless steel, “Lex Luthor’s idea of a joke”. John theorizes that when Luthor visited STAR Labs (in issue three), he must have “injected me with something … that either triggered my metagene … or infected me with one…”.

Week 8, Day 3 – 5: A new superhero is in town saving people and Booster is not happy about it. He asks reporter Clark Kent is he knows who the “new mystery hero” is. Clark tells him no, but that he will find out.

At Steelworks, Natasha is asked to relay a message to John about the “Luthor metagene strain” that is rewriting her uncle’s DNA. She then sees a LexCorp Everyman Project flyer poking out of John’s briefcase.

Week 8, Night 5: That night, Natasha is working on her armor when she knocks part of the suit to the floor, breaking it. John arrives to see if his niece is ok and she confronts him about what she discovered earlier, calling him a liar.

Adam Strange and Animal Man find Starfire in a net and realize too late that she was bait and they also become trapped and then held in a giant’s hand.

Week 8, Day 7: In Metropolis, Lex Luthor arrives at one of his properties with hundreds of people waiting to be chosen for his Everyone Project. He spots Natasha Irons in the crowd and grants her an opportunity.

Week 8, Night 7: That night, Natasha is hooked up to the DNA resequencing equipment. A technician asks Luthor which resequencing string to use and Luthor says, “The whole package…”.

Thoughts

First, yet another noteworthy cover by Jones and Sinclair. I love the inspirational tone of the flyer-like cover with the “Be Your Own HERO” tag-line and the generic superheroes flying under a blue sky, all undermined by Lex Luthor’s face in the red zone, almost like Hades in the underworld. I’m surprised they didn’t use something like this for the flyer that appears in the issue, but obviously Luthor wouldn’t use John Henry Irons’ likeness, but I could totally see him using his own.

Given the title of the issue, “Thief”, what is stolen? The obvious first choice is the person stealing the groceries or, flipped, the store owner trying to make a huge profit during a crisis. Also stolen is John Iron’s choice about being a metahuman. The glory and fame could be considered by Booster Gold to be stolen by this newcomer hero. Luthor is perhaps stealing the hopes and dreams of those he is transforming. Too on the nose or just enough to be interesting? I think I prefer story titles that keep me intrigued as to the meaning (and forcing me to look up the reference).

Speaking of Luthor, his direct admission to his assistant Mercy that the candidates for the Everyman Project are his slaves is just too movie serial villainesque. Where’s the subtlety of character? I don’t find this overt Luthor to be interesting at all. I did, however, like the sneer on Mercy’s face when Luthor called the nearby throng his slaves — such contempt for the common man!

The scene where Ralph is explaining what the Cult of Connor is about to Green Arrow was good. The way the artists drew that final panel on the page has Ralph looking at Ollie wide eyed in the realization that Ollie was recently brought back from the dead — the investigation into why the cultists defaced Sue’s grave has now just turned for Ralph, I think.

We have continuity glitch regarding the timeline. When John Irons visits STAR Labs, the caption reads “Day 3”, but the establishing panel clearly shows this taking place at night, so it should be Night 2 because the next scene is Day 3. A minor quibble.

Supernova! While not identified as such in this issue, I remember being very excited that this character had returned, but then I realized that I was thinking of Superman’s alternate identity of Nova from World’s Finest #178 that I probably read in the DC Special Series #23 digest. Regardless, I was convinced that DC was playing with that concept again and this Supernova was Superman, albeit a changed one. After all, if Superman could rebrand himself as a superpowerless hero all those years ago, why not again?

I’m finding the petulant teenager bit of Natasha to more and more grating. I don’t think John’s lesson in hard work and humility is working on his niece. I do like that in the LexCorp flyer she finds in John’s briefcase the superheroes are colored in green and purple — just like Luthor’s old battle armor. Nice touch there, Mr. Sinclair!

Another nice artistic touch is the final page showing Natasha connected to the metagene equipment because the arm and leg wires (for lack of a better word) are shaped similar to a DNA helix.

Two months in and I find myself more interested in the Ralph, Booster (as it pertains to Rip Hunter), and Black Adam stories more so than the Steel, lost in space trio, and Renee stories. It’ll be interesting to see how that evolves over time. Given the length of the series and how many plots and characters need to be juggled every few issues, I’m not surprised at my reaction, however.

History of DCU, part 7

by Jurgens, Lanning, Napolitano, Cox, Major, Berganza, Cohen, and Schaefer

It is noted that post-Zero Hour, the timeline was reconstructed and that “previous inconsistencies and anomalies were corrected”, but how accurate is that statement at that time in DC’s publication history? The rest is a recap of late 90s and early 2000s DC Comics history, focusing a lot on the teams of that era (it pleases me that Titans characters are spotlighted multiple times in various teams).

One thing of note that is not familiar to me is the reference to Hourman being rescued by the JSA right before he died. I am not at all familiar with this event, and considering that Hourman is one of my favorite JSAers, I need to know more! So, good job (finally) History of the DCU for introducing me to something I didn’t know already.

This segment ends with a reference to Sue’s death, so I guess the next issue’s installment will be the last or nearly so? Will this backup series be replaced with something else, or will the main story in 52 take up more pages? Tune in next week, dear reader, as I find out!

Tales of the Legion Project: LSH v3 Annual #2

Direct Download (1:45:14)

Welcome to the Tales of the Legion Project where we discuss Legion of Super-Heroes material outside of the Baxter run. This episode we discuss the 1986 Annual #2 “Child of Darkness, Child of Light”.

Timestamps:

(00:26) Preamble, plus a new contest announcement!
(11:48) Legion of Super-Heroes v3 Annual #2 synopsis, general thoughts, and cover talk
(45:27) Main discussion
(1:27:00) Other thoughts on the art and story
(1:37:55) Next episode announcement, wrap-up, and Outro

MUSIC INTRO/OUTRO: “Darkseid Takes Control” by Kristopher Carter from the Superman: The Animated Series original soundtrack

Please leave comments below, send your comments to longboxreview@gmail.com or peter@thedailyrios.com, or chat with us @longboxreview or @peterjrios on Twitter.

Thanks for listening!

52! Week Seven

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Lashley, Draxhall, Sinclair, Lanham, Jones, Richards, and Wacker. Cover by Jones and Sinclair.

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series 15 years later. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Going Down”

On that alien planet, Adam Strange is still repairing the Thanagarian warbird so he, Starfire, and Animal Man can go home. However, his companions are being no help at all because they’re eating fruit that is messing with their minds. Strange squabbles with Starfire, goading her into looking for a mysterious power source they detected.

Week 7, Day 2. It’s been weeks since Renee has seen The Question, but she still ponders the clues she has and discovers one literally under her nose.

Week 7, Day 3. Ralph visits Booster to talk to him about the Cult of Connor, but Booster is distracted by a threat over the phone and an impending future event he is supposed to stop. It’s then that Ralph realizes that Booster could have known about Sue’s murder and this makes Ralph. Very. Upset.

Renee crashes a soiree at the Kane estate to ask Kate about 520 Kane Street. After punching Renee and some discussion, Kate agrees to help her former lover.

In Metropolis, Booster arrives at a LexCorp building and is confronted by the actor he hired to play a villain previously. The actor spills the beans in front of the crowd and press. Ralph piles on, asking Booster, “How many other of these … ‘death-defying rescues’ have you staged to improve your marketability?”

On that alien world, Starfire appears to have found that power source. As she looks up at it, we see a giant behind her reaching for its staff.

Thoughts

First, another noteworthy cover by Jones and Sinclair. I love the contrasting qualities of the red border and the black and white, printed-in-a-tabloid “photo” of Booster attempting to shield himself from the camera with the word EXPOSED! across his image. Just lovely.

Interesting that the first sequence on the alien world has no timestamp (it did in issue 5), but I also like that because time seems to relative when it comes to isolation, not to mention when the day appears to be as long as weeks. I wonder if the creative team had been thinking of that? About this scene in particular, I didn’t care for the exposition from Adam to the two people who already know this information! They may just as well have had Strange say, “As you know…”. But then, we get this exchange between Strange and Starfire about the fruit she and Buddy are eating where she almost laments that Strange doesn’t “know how delicious it is” because he won’t eat any, and a little later, she echoes that thought: “…you won’t eat any…”. It’s not just that the fruit is intoxicating, it’s possibly a way to trap prey? Is it being used by the mysterious predator discussed in issue 5?

In Renee’s scene, we see a shot of her cast upon which she has drawn many question marks. Now, we have already seen her as obsessive, but to mark her arm in that way? Is this merely hinting at the future (she is becoming the question) or just that the artist thought it would be funny to draw all those question marks? I am tired of seeing Renee pose with that alien looking gun. I have a gun and I don’t pick it up as I’m thinking through something. But to each their own, I guess.

I loved the scene between Ralph and Booster. The artists drew Ralph’s face in shadows and almost always looking down, suggesting the grief that consumes him. Besides that, when Ralph realizes that “this whole era is history” to Booster, he shoves Booster into the wall, screaming at him, “why the hell didn’t you warn me my wife was going to die?” Booster tells Ralph that he was just as surprised about Sue’s death, saying, “I didn’t learn every little detail…” (about the past), Ralph responds through gritted teeth, Little. DETAIL?” I love how the creative team took these two sort of joke characters and are giving them some real-life drama to deal with.

In regards to the Kate and Renee scene, it almost feels like I missed something because this doesn’t seem like the Kate Kane I am familiar with, but that’s probably more to do with my lack of familiarity or were there changes in the future continuity of her character? I seem to be bumping against this idea of Kate as a debutante and former military. Not to say that a person can’t be both, but the difference seems too far? I guess I’ll find out as we move along.

I knew that actor would be bad news for Booster, but I expected that plot point to be more drawn out. And what does the actor expect to get out of this exposure? Despite what he says, him coming clean about his involvement in this scam doesn’t exonerate him legally, but I guess if you sway public opinion enough…? And then to have Ralph kick Booster while he’s down is a great counterpoint to the earlier scene between them.

In the final, wordless scene with Starfire, we see what looks like a Kirbyesque (or is it an actual Kirby character?) giant. I have no idea who this is, so I’m looking forward to the next scene and to see if this giant plays a larger role in the story.

Finally, the art this issue (specifically the inking), for the first time, is not to my liking, coming across as uneven comparatively in the different scenes. So far, this series has been superbly consistent, but this really highlights how well the team has been doing on this WEEKLY series. If it normally takes weeks to produce a comic book that is printed monthly, I can only imagine the chaos that was this book. It’s really a testament to all the creatives and editors who worked on it.

History of DCU, part 6

by Jurgens, Rapmund, Major, Cox, Leigh, Berganza, Cohen, and Schaefer

The events of Zero Hour get the spotlight here. One item that piqued my interest was the comment by the Orb that Hal Jordan, as Parallax, in his desire to erase the “destruction of Coast City and other events that he didn’t like”,

He would have created multiple universes with multiple Earths, unwittingly restoring much of what existed before the Crisis.

Ok. First, I don’t recall that aspect of Zero Hour (and now I want to go read that series again). Second, the way that sentence is written, it implies that restoring the multiverse was not a good thing. Now, I know DC editorial thought so, but in universe, what is the meaning behind this? Plus, given what is going on in Death Metal and Perpetua and the omniverse, this comment takes on an almost prophetic tone. Could this have inspired Scott Snyder??? ;)

It’s interesting to me now that this History of the DCU is focusing on all the crises because it’s highlighting the transitory nature of the DCU, and perhaps not so positively. I mean, I read all of those crisis books as they were being published, and I was excited about them and what these changes could mean, but looking back on it in this way seems almost to devalue the characters and the “universe” that DC Comics had been building for decades.

Center Seat: Star Trek: Voyager Season 1

Direct Download (1:39:15)

Stardate 2021.48. On this episode of Center Seat, my Star Trek podcast, Damian (sleepyreader666 on YouTube and Twitter) joins me to talk about the first season of Voyager. We discuss Damian’s introduction to and experience with Star Trek generally, then we talk about the pilot episode, “Caretaker”, some other specific episodes and characters, and thoughts about the overall season.

Please send your comments to longboxreview@gmail.com, chat with me @longboxreview on Twitter, or visit longboxreview.com.

Thanks for listening!

Theme music: “Saving the World” by Aaron Kenny (https://www.youtube.com/user/contactkennya/)

52! Week Six

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennett, Jose, Sinclair, Napolitano, Jones, Richards, and Wacker. Cover by Jones and Sinclair.

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series 15 years later. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“China Syndrome”

Week 6, Day 1. Booster Gold pays an actor for portraying a villain he fought. In China, Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and John Stewart fight the Great Ten in pursuit of Evil Star.

Dr. Magnus visits Professor Morrow again, while a technician installs a camera to monitor Morrow. Someone has hijacked the video feed and is also watching Morrow.

The fight with the Great Ten turns for the worse with the Green Lanterns  when Black Adam arrives. Adam explains that China has joined his coalition. Fortunately for the Green Lanterns, Russia has not joined with Adam and offers the Lanterns safe passage.

Week 6, Day 2. Booster Gold and Skeets arrive at Rip Hunter’s underground bunker in Arizona. There, Booster finds Hunter’s chalkboard notes that proclaim that time is broken and it’s Booster’s fault.

Thoughts

“China Syndrome” shares its title with the 1979 movie, and also references a nuclear catastrophe where the components melt through the Earth to China. So, is the analogy here that the Green Lanterns are the “syndrome”? Or is it Black Adam? His coalition is certainly gaining momentum, so I’m curious how this plays out (I don’t really recall), but I have a feeling the creators whiff this one. They certainly spent a lot of real estate on this conflict (11 pages), but at least it was nice to look at.

Speaking of Green Lantern, Hal’s reference to Black Adam’s murder of Terra-Man seemed oddly … tone deaf, calling it “a tad theatrical”. Oof. Finally, the Great Ten are certainly an interesting new group of super characters with a lot of potential. A pity they weren’t used more/better. I should seek out the mini series and other appearances.

In the conversation between Morrow and Magnus, the scene starts off with an egg, and I believe we saw an egg or something shaped like an egg last issue, so considering who they are teasing, this foreshadowing was fun to see. It’s almost Watchmen-esque, I dare say. I also find the bit of dialogue from whom is being teased to be quite funny:

Servant: If it’s all right to call you “Great One.”

“Great One”: I’m fine with that. Now GO!

Booster is not fairing very well in this series. In fact he’s slipped from annoying glory hound to pathetic loser. At least we get the famous Rip Hunter “crazy board”. I remember reading this the first time and being excited about what all of it meant. The internet message boards were also abuzz about it. Let’s see what I can glean from this. Keep in mind, I know the outcome of some of this material, but have forgotten or just don’t know the result of others.

Time Is Broken:

  • “52” abounds in this scene. Not only multiple times on the chalkboards, but in pages on the floor (520 Kane) and on clock or other digital displays.
  • There are more numbers on paper on the floor: 51, 53, 54, 55, 56. Considering the focus on 52, those higher numbers are intriguing.
  • Other pages of interest on the floor:
    • Infinity, Inc. — Were they bringing back this team?! (Yes, but differently.)
    • Casey the Cop — I still have no idea who this is.
    • Silverblade — same
    • Find the Sun Devils — It was these kinds of hints that got the DC fan in me excited. While I had not read Sun Devils, I knew of it and liked the idea of DC bringing back these older concepts — it was almost like the early to mid-80s when DC was trying all sorts of unusual and interesting concepts and formats.
    • What is Spanner’s Galaxy? — Same as the prior note for this series.
    • Finally, a bound book has the title of “Who’s Who”. :)
  • There’s also the globe behind the chalkboard with “World War III Why? How?” written in red text. Of course, we’d get to that much later in the run of 52.
  • Chalkboard 1:
    • Dead by lead? — Daxamite’s are “allergic” to lead. A reference to Mon-El in the 20th century?
    • Not only is Time Is Broken, “further time is different”. The omission of the comma after “further” could change the meaning of this phrase: “further time” could mean future time. Or was Rip just being lazy in his writing?
    • The four horsemen will end her rain — I know we eventually get the mini series involving the Four Horsemen, but “rain”? Is that just a misspelling of “reign”? If so, whose reign? If not, what?!
    • He won’t smell it — What the Rock is cooking???
    • Find the last “El” — Which one is that?
    • What looks like “sonic disruption” is scribbled over at the end (“sonic disrupt”), and “disrupt” is also crossed out. — The DC multiverse is often described as existing on different vibrational frequencies, but they’re aren’t sonic in nature. There was also a mini series in the late 80s called Sonic Disruptors.
    • Apparently pointing down from the “sonic” line is Time Masters –> Time Servants — This sounds ominous. I really don’t know Rip Hunter’s history well enough to speculate what this could mean, other than DC appears to be expanding his role.
    • The reach — Repeated three times. Have no clue what this is.
    • The tornado is in pieces — Obviously a reference to the destroyed Red Tornado.
    • “I’m not kryptonite” — ???
    • It hurts to breathe — ???
    • The scarab is eternal? — Expanding the Blue Beetle mythos?
    • There are a few arrows pointing from circled 52s to a circled “Earth”. — Is this just the conceit that “our” Earth is at the center of the multiverse?
    • Also pointing toward that “Earth” is “Where is the Curry heir?” — Was Aquaman dead at this time?
    • Who is Super Nova? — Ahh! I remember this one exciting me more than some of the others, but I had misremembered the character of Nova (Superman’s identity when his lost his powers in a couple stories in World’s Finest Comics from the late 60s) as this one.
    • Man of Steel — Who is this referencing? Clark Kent or John Henry Irons?
  • Chalkboard 2:
    • Pointing from the word “Broken”, there are several items:
      • “What happened to the son of Superman?” — Was this a reference to the Super Sons backup stories from the 70s?
      • Pointing from that is “Who is Diana Prince?” — I don’t recall, but is this where we get the eventual return of Diana’s alter ego?
      • Where is the Batman? — Don’t worry, he’ll be back.
      • Pointing from that is “Who is the Batwoman?” — Hinting at the debut of the best version of that character.
      • Te versus (Au + Pb) — Te is Tellurium and has the atomic number of 52 on the periodic table. Au and Pb is an obvious reference to two of the Metal Men.
      • Don’t ask the Question. It lies. — Works on a couple levels. Is this big Q (i.e., the character) or little Q (concept) “question”? If the former, why “it”?
      • Secret Five! — ???
      • Who is Super Nova? — Significance of a second appearance?
      • World War III? Why? How? — Notice this time there is a question mark this time after WW III.
      • Pointing from a circled 52 is “Immortal Savage” — Hinting at a big change for the character?
      • Someone is monitoring. They see us. They see me. — Monitors? Something else?
      • Khimaera lives again — Had to look this up and relates to Hawkgirl during the One Year Later run.
      • The Lazarus Pit rises — Probably One Year Later Batman related?
      • The old gods are dead, the new gods want what’s left. — Bringing back the Fourth World characters again?
      • I’m supposed to be dead / When am I? / OTHERS? — No wonder Rip Hunter went into hiding (or is he captured?). Imagine having the insight that Rip does and knowing that you aren’t where (or maybe when?) you are supposed to be (or not to be); it might drive you crazy.
    • On the adjacent page to the chalkboards is a broken time bubble ship with screens behind it depicting either significant moments in time or what are possibly variations in the timeline:
      • Prisoner 7053 — Rosa Parks after her arrest.
      • Abe Lincoln with General Grant (?).
      • A ship with a cross on its sails.
      • What looks like Elvis singing at Sun Records.
      • Native Americans throwing boxes over the side of a ship — This is what made me think of timeline alterations. What if this is a alternate reality where the Native Americans threw the British tea into Boston Harbor?
      • A T-Rex
    • There are a plethora of clocks all around the lab indicating what I presume is 11:52. It could also be a Watchmen reference?
    • Finally, there is a magnet dangling from a tripod. Given how the magnet is colored, it’s clearly supposed to draw your attention, but I don’t understand the significance.

History of DCU, part 5

by Dan Jurgens, Andy Lanning, Guy Major, Jeromy Cox, Nick J. Napolitano, Eddie Berganza, Ivan Cohen, and Jeanine Schaefer

Post-Crisis recitation (highlights):

  • The new Justice League and Suicide Squad
  • The death of Jason Todd and the debut of Tim Drake as Robin
  • Millennium and Invasion
  • Team Titans
  • Death of Superman and Bane breaking Batman’s back
  • Return of the Supermen
  • The character assassination of Hal Jordan and the debut of Kyle Rayner as the sole Green Lantern

“Zero Hour was coming.”