52! Week Three

by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Alex Sinclair, Pat Brosseau, Jann Jones, Harvey Richards, and Stephen Wacker. Cover by J.G. Jones and Alex 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

“New World Order”

Week 3, Day 1. Captain Maggie Sawyer (at this time part of Gotham City’s Major Crimes Unit) has been called in because of body has been found, and it’s the former President of the USA, Lex Luthor! Power Girl pursues Terra-Man in the skies and when she is about to capture him, she is stopped by Black Adam for she has over Kahndaq airspace. He warns her to not trespass again and to tell her friends.

Week 3, Day 2. John Henry Irons (Steel) continues to school niece Natasha regarding her immaturity and entitlement when he receives a phone call from STAR Labs asking for his help in identifying a body.

Week 3, Day 3. In Kahndaq, representatives from Intergang visit Black Adam and present him with gifts of gold and an Egyptian virgin. Black Adam does not take kindly to this and refuses, just as Terra-Man enters the scene.

Week 3, Day 4. Booster Gold continues his pursuit of fame and fortune, this time by defeating Shockwave, but his planned lucrative endorsement deal with Akteon-Holt turns sour, prompting Skeets to acknowledge that perhaps it is malfunctioning. Instead of going back to Dr. Magnus, Booster goes searching for Rip Hunter.

Week 3, Day 5. While examining the corpse of Lex Luthor, John Henry Irons discovers that the eye colors do not match, right before Lex Luthor shows up, alive and well, claiming that the dead man on the table was an other-dimensional doppelgänger who imprisoned Lex and did evil things in his name.

Week 3, Day 6. Lois Lane is among the reports at the Kahndaq embassy, awaiting an announcement from Black Adam. He tells the assembled that while the world celebrates the aversion of disaster, the superheroes who saved it are nowhere to be found. Therefore, he wants to gather allies to deliver a message to those who would take advantage of the heroes’ absence. His first message? People like Terra-Man, who been standing nearby, “don’t deserve to live.” Black Adam then tears Terra-Man in half and announces, “It’s time for heroes who don’t just patrol the world … they change it.” The final panel shows a Mr. Mind, now wrapped in a cocoon.

Thoughts

First off, I really like this Jones/Sinclair cover, mostly for the colors. But it pertains to the plot directly, at least thematically. Well done.

If there’s a theme in this issue, it is one of villainy on a spectrum. At one end is Lex Luthor, who is so clearly manipulating and orchestrating the situation to come out on top and plan his next act. At the other is someone who is trying to do the right thing (protect innocents), but his methods are at least questionable, if not plain unjustifiable. While we may applaud him for the murder of Noose (“he got what was coming to him!”), how can we reconcile his public, brutal murder of Terra-Man? But while Black Adam commits this act, he is a head of state and within his “rights” to do so, while Lex murders himself in secret (from the public at least) — who exactly is more evil? I love that the creators are wrestling with these moral quandaries, even though I don’t care for superhero comics being so bloody (and I know it just gets worse — this is not a time in DC’s publication history I look fondly back on because of this shift).

I also didn’t care for the way that Power Girl was depicted in her encounter with Black Adam. When he asks her how many people died in the (infinite) crisis, she seems to cower. Part (all?) of this is to show the enormity of the five plus million who did die (Black Adam yells the exact number at her), but one panel has her looking up at Adam in fearful submission. Does she have some complicity in those deaths, or is she just taken aback at Adam’s ferocity and determination? Either way, it didn’t track for me, at least not yet.

It’s only three issues in, and already I’m finding Natasha Irons’ whining annoying, but at the same time, lighten up Uncle John. Regardless, I do find the family dynamic intriguing and different — not at “superheroes” are or necessarily should be noble, self-sacrificing individuals. But we do already have Booster Gold in this series, so do we need to examine this perspective more? Though Natasha isn’t exactly like Booster and he doesn’t have an Uncle John to provide guidance. More points on a different spectrum….

This series is the proverbial onion, peeling back (revealing) layer after layer, both in terms of plot and character. Speaking of, what will be revealed from within that cocoon layer?

Finally, I didn’t notice any obvious reference to the number “52” this issue, even though there were a number of chances to do so: the flight number Power Girl references, the number of dead that Black Adam screams at PG (though I’m glad they didn’t in that case), and the score of the game that made some money for Booster Gold. Same for any question marks (but maybe they only appear in issues in which The Question appears…). Maybe I missed something?

History of the DCU, part 2

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

We get more Earth-One and -Two history and differences, as well as a focus on the Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes. This backup ends with the threat of the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

I guess I need to read Infinite Crisis again (or is it Countdown I should read?), because I’m finding Donna’s ignorance annoying. Did something happen to her that she cannot remember, thus requiring the Orb to educate her? She does say, “I know so many of these people. Yet… I can barely remember them.” So perhaps I’m being too harsh with Donna. Maybe she’s like an amnesiac trying to relearn everything she’s “forgotten”. About the first Crisis, she does say, “Even now I find it hard to believe that it actually happened. And I was there!” So does she know or doesn’t she? Maybe Jurgens is being intentionally ambiguous to make us feel like Donna?

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