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 for its 15th anniversary. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).
“Dark Knight Down”
Week 30, Day 1
Nightwing and Robin search for Batman, discovering his cape and cowl, but no Bruce Wayne.
Kate Kane has her doctor friend treat Charlie at her apartment and offers to let him and Renee stay as long as they need to. Later, while Kate goes out to search for Mannheim, Renee stays with Charlie, meditating.
Robin discovers enough weapons “that could start World Wars 3, 4, and 5”. He tells Nightwing that he will talk to Bruce, and Nightwing tells Robin that he is “going back to work”.
Week 30, Day 3
In the desert, Bruce Wayne encounters a member of the Ten-Eyed Brothers and they fight. Once Bruce has defeated him, other Brothers appear, telling him as they raise their swords, “If you flinch. If you shudder. You will not survive.” “Do it,” he tells them. Later, Robin finds Bruce kneeling in the sand. Bruce tells him that the Brothers kill demons and he asked them to kill his. “It’s over,” he says. “Batman is gone.”
Week 30, Day 7
Batwoman fights and interrogates the man-beasts for Mannheim’s whereabouts, when Nightwing arrives to help. He offers to help, and Batwoman accepts.
I spent more time researching this cover than any other so far. It looked so clearly like an homage to a classical work of art that I had seen before, but could not recall. I even went to Comics Twitter for help! The best match I could find was a work by Italian Renaissance painter Raphael, Saint Michael Vanquishing Satan. Regardless of the inspiration, this is a beautiful cover that pulls from classical, religious imagery, with Bruce Wayne vanquishing the “demon” Batman, similar to how the Archangel Michael vanquishes the devil in Raphael’s painting, with the addition of the Eye of God (?) in the background. The image of Bruce in his costume, but without the cowl, also reminds me of when Bruce Wayne was lost in time during Final Crisis, but that would be a few years away at this point.
Seeing Batman, both in flashback and when we see Bruce Wayne, was a bit jarring, but I’m surprised, given how Batman-happy DC has been for decades, it’s taken this long to get him and other members of the Batfam into the story. But I do love the first few pages as Nightwing describes his time as Robin and how the artists portrayed the cascading craziness and events in Batman’s life, from Robin’s death, to Joker shooting Barbara, to Bane breaking Batman’s back, and the rest (though the panel showing him holding a gun to someone’s head is foreign to me…). While I enjoy a Nightwing/Robin team-up normally, I would have preferred a return to the Cult of Conner plot or more with Ralph. However, seeing Bruce Wayne declaring that Batman is gone while the sun rises behind him (signifying a cleansing, a renewal) almost makes this breach of 52 contract worthwhile.
Speaking of team-ups, again, I would normally quite enjoy Nightwing joining forces with, well, anyone, but his male gazing of Batwoman was quite cringe-worthy. I assume Rucka wrote this sequence, but I find it hard to believe that given when Dick says Batwoman is quite the eyeful and “What can I say? I have a thing for redheads.” Later, Dick is clearly ogling Batwoman’s chest. Blech.
I’ve spent far too much on the bat family here, so I will end with my appreciation of the panel showing Renee meditating with Charlie smiling in the background. The affection between these two characters is one of the highlights of this series.
The Origin of the Metal Men
By Waid, Rouleau, Sinclair, Balsam, Richards, Schaefer, Wacker, and Siglain
I’ve never been much of a Metal Men fan, but this entry taught me that Elementics is a thing in the DC Universe. Magnus’ invention of the Responsometer is one of those comic book conceits that should be a much bigger deal than it is shown to be, but then, the Metal Men have often been depicted as comedy relief, undercutting the invention.
When it comes to the Metal Men’s “powers”, Gold is described as “infinitely ductile”, but interestingly, platinum is considered the most ductile metal. Also, Tin is “remarkably malleable”, but gold is considered the most malleable metal (all according to my google search anyway). I wonder if any creators have played with these differences?
There is a reference of the Metal Men being able to “alloy themselves” — presumably to join together as a giant robot (I vaguely recall seeing this in some comic book)? I just appreciate the use of the word “alloy” in that context.