52! Week Two

by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, Joe Bennett, Jack Jadson, Alex Sinclair, Travis Lanham, Joe Prado, 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

“Looking Back at Tomorrow”

Week 2, Day 1. Ralph Dibny investigates the defacement of his wife’s tombstone and encounters a young man from a past case.

Week 2, Day 2. Booster Gold takes Skeets to Dr. Will Magnus, who is able to repair the robot. Later, Dr. Magnus visits Dr. Morrow, who reveals that other “mad” scientists are being taken.

Week 2, Day 3. The Question wakes Renee Montoya, who shoots (at) him. He disappears, leaving behind an invitation.

Week 2, Day 4. Booster Gold barely saves a jet that was supposed to have crashed, no thanks to the still glitchy Skeets. The Question offers Renee a job to discover who is using an apparent abandoned building.

Week 2, Day 6. Ralph visits a grieving Cassie Sandsmark, Wonder Girl, wanting to know why she left a message at his wife’s grave. He shows her a photo that he took of the tombstone with the message: a Kryptonian symbol that means “resurrection”.

Thoughts

The second issue of 52 was a bit different in pacing and content compared to the first. Where I felt delightfully gorged with the content of issue 1, issue 2 was a bit of a lighter affair. There are fewer overall characters being focused on and more page counts for Ralph and Renee/The Question, which also slows down the pacing. Not that this is a bad decision. We can breathe a bit with issue 2 and savor the moments presented.

Ralph continues to be the character I’m drawn to and want to follow more. His conversation with the groundskeeper is delightfully human in a superhero world (and is the young man wearing a Booster Gold jacket?). Ralph can’t help himself in his brief moment of joy when discussing the Dreamland Park case, when the groundskeeper tells Ralph,

“You were amazing. Like, Batman amazing.”
“Batman’s good.”
“Batman doesn’t have a wife who kept me from freaking out while you were tracking down [my brother] Marty.”

This just highlights how much of a team Ralph and Sue were regardless of Ralph’s superhero stature. And with that, the attention turns back to the tragedy of Sue’s death and the injury caused by the defacement of the tombstone, which the storytellers deftly kept hidden from us. The scene ends with Ralph’s famous nose-twitching, but gone is the usual joy associated with it. Truth be told, I was at first put out by the nose twitching, but the tone presented made me recognize the power of that scene.

The first scene with Doctor Magnus, Booster, and Skeets has a few interesting details. Once Magnus has “resurrected” Skeets, the robot seems … different to me. Is it just my unfamiliarity with the character or has it been damaged by whatever that glitch was (is?)? After all, Skeets says, “Y’know” and calls Booster “Boost”. But perhaps I’m just reading into it. (I do vaguely recall something is up with Skeets as the series goes on, but I’ve forgotten the details.) Also, Magnus picks up an American Science magazine with a question mark on the cover, a visual that is repeated a few times throughout this issue.

Magnus gives this magazine to Professor Morrow, the “mad” scientist who is imprisoned in Haven for, as he says, his “own good and the good of others”. This was maybe the first time that I could recall seeing a relationship between all of these scientist/inventors in the DCU. Magnus is a former student of Morrow’s in this continuity at least, and harbors respect for the man. That relationship extends perhaps to community, for Morrow reveals to Magnus that many of their colleagues (“mad” scientists) have gone missing recently: “I think someone’s rounding us up.”  It’s also during this scene that the “52” motif shows up again in one of the newspaper clippings Morrow has concerning Dr. Tyme, which references “last year’s missing 52 seconds…”.

The number turns up again in the next scene with Renee and the Question, when he leaves an address for her–520 Kane St.–complete with another, admittedly overt, question mark). A wisp of smoke is also in the shape of a question mark when the Question appears behind Renee at the address in question (and again when he leaves).

Finally, in the first issue’s opening pages with the swirling shards of reality(?), there was an image that was featured a few times, but I didn’t have a reference for it until this issue. Namely, we are shown a gold statue with a Superman S shield, a monument to the dead Superboy. Here, Cassie is leading a world-wide webcast for Superboy acolytes, so I’ll be interested to see how this plays out over the series. Ralph makes a deductive leap when he confronts Cassie about the message on his wife’s tombstone because that message was an upside down S shield. Whereas the right-side up S means “hope”, the inverted version means “resurrection”. But why does Ralph think Cassie left that message for him? And what exactly is the message? That she is going to resurrect Superboy and/or Sue? Or Sue is somehow key to resurrect Superboy? It’s all just a bit heavy handed, and just seems a means to give the reveal of the message more weight.

History of DCU, part 1

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

This issue also has a backup tale, featuring Donna Troy as a sort of chronicler of the universe. She possesses Harbinger’s orb, “which recorded everything that came to pass in all its realities”. She watches the orb summarize the origin of the DCU (at least at that time), covering millennia in a few short panels, until she asks to be told about Superman. We are shown the Superman of Earth-One and Earth-Two, with a mention of only one who would survive.

Besides this brief history lesson, what’s interesting about this passage is what the orb says about Earth-One and Earth-Two:

Of all the Earths, it was those two that would shine the brightest. It is the opinion of many that the presence of a Superman on those worlds pushed them to heights other Earths could not reach.

Of course, Earth-One and -Two are prominent because they simply are in comic book publishing history, but what is the orb saying that, contextually, those Earth’s mean something greater to the larger DCU, or is it merely metafictional eye-winking at the readers? I hope it’s the former.

DC Comics’ Infinite Frontier

Direct Download (42:13)

Not a Previews or review episode (but maybe a little bit of both)! DC Comics is trying something new with its Infinite Frontier initiative where everything matters, and I’m here to talk about it!

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

Thanks for listening!

52! Week One

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

Overview

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. It was the follow-up to Infinite Crisis and was to explore things resulting from that event book. Meanwhile, the DC titles at the time all jumped one year later and, from what I recall, 52 was supposed to chronicle that “missing” year, especially regarding the absence of the Trinity (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman), and was the major reason I wanted to read the series. What we ended up getting was different and so much more.

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.  (Considering that I’m already 3 weeks behind, we’ll see how that goes. Maybe I’ll end up doing it once a month, who knows?!) Let’s begin!

Synopsis

“Golden Lads & Lasses Must…”

The first two pages show a swirling mass of recent past events, shown like pieces of broken glass that coalesce in a blinding flash, revealing the Earth. One of these images is of the Elongated Man, Ralph Dibny, cradling the burnt body of his wife Sue (her murder opened Infinite Crisis and is one of the things about IC that I do not like to this day). The last panel of these shards shows the Trinity, but also Black Adam and Booster Gold prominently.

Following this is the caption Week 1, Day 1, and we see Ralph Dibny holding a pistol with a tag identifying it as a trophy of sorts for a past case he and presumably his wife worked on. We also see that he is standing in the middle of his destroyed house. In the next series of panels, Renee Montoya is at a bar, getting drunk. Finally on this page, Steel is helping a clean-up crew in Paris.

Page 4 of the comic book cover two more days of that first week. Ralph is continuing to talk to someone on the phone and we see him holding that gun again. Montoya continues to drink, and the final panel on the page shows a building sign that reads “52 Pickup”.

On day 5, Booster Gold appears, having captured Mammoth. It’s the Booster Gold of old, working an angle to make some dough. His robot companion, Skeets, is feeding him historical data so he can be where he needs to be to save someone or stop a villain.

At the Ambassador Hotel, Ralph is listening to voicemails. One is from the mortuary who handled Sue’s funeral, telling Ralph, as he is sticking that gun we saw earlier into his mouth, that they had found a message on Sue’s tombstone.

Now back in Metropolis, Steel argues with his niece, who is heading to a Teen Titans meeting. Steel is upset that she isn’t helping clean up the debris and is instead chasing glory with other heroes, telling her, “You want something you don’t deserve yet”. She brushes him off, and Steel removes her armor, stranding her on a rooftop. He tells her, “You want armor? Build it yourself.”

In Khandaq, Black Adam is letting his people know that he and they will show the world how to deal with true evil. A dissenter with a bomb is interrupted in his suicide attempt by Black Adam removing the bomb and the bomber’s arm before demanding to know who sent him.

On day 6, Dr. Sivana is kidnapped, with a caged Mr. Mind looking on. The heroes gather in Metropolis for a memorial for everyone who died during the events of IC. Booster, because of the historical data Skeets has provided, is expecting the Trinity to show up to form the new Justice League and invite him to join. When they do not show at the appointed time, Booster argues with Skeets, and then Skeets appears to short circuit and becomes non-responsive. An agitated Booster begins yelling at other heroes and demanding Jimmy Olsen take the picture for which he will win a “Howitzer” (Pulitzer). As he is yelling “Where are –?” (the Trinity), his elbow smacks someone off panel who is telling him that they ‘re not coming. The voice belongs to Clark Kent, whose nose is bleeding from the impact.

Finally, on day 7, the Question removes the bat from the bat-signal and spray paints a question mark on it. He turns it on, staring ahead, saying, “I can see you.” Montoya is at home, starting to drink there too, when a bright light shines through her window. It’s the bat-signal, pointed right at her window. The Question asks, “Are you ready?”

Thoughts

Holy cats! This issue is jam-packed with characters and story and back-story! And questions! Don’t forget the questions….

I vaguely recall that this series was supposed to tell us what the Trinity was up to previous to the One Year Later initiative (which I hated, by the way — a lot of good stories, as I recall, were upended because of that editorial mandate), yet in this first issue we do not see any of them, except for the Clark Kent appearance, which is still a major reveal because he appears to be depowered. Instead, we get the focus on Elongated Man (of all people, but it does make sense considering what they did to his wife in IC), Rene Montoya, Steel, Booster Gold, Black Adam, and at the end, the Question. Why these characters?

Speaking of Booster, this seemed to me like a return to the early Booster Gold from his first series, and not the character that had developed since then. This is not new in superhero comics, of course, but it seemed odd, and maybe that’s the point. All of this issue is supposed to unnerve us, to push us off balance. Ralph about to commit suicide, the bloody violence Black Adam perpetrates on the bomber, the time stream possibly being out of whack (or at least Skeets), a “human” Superman, and the Question, talking to us (“I can see you. Are you ready?”). There’s no way you can read this issue and not be intrigued by the mysteries and statuses of these characters. It portends something grand and special. In the back of the book, for the DC Nation column, Dan DiDio says of the main characters of the issue (and the series), “If they are not household names at the start … they certainly will be by the end.” Let’s see if this story delivers.

From a production standpoint, this issue is a marvel. So many writers and yet the artists help keep all of this cohesive and consistent (it probably doesn’t hurt that Keith Giffen is doing the breakdowns, not to mention the editing staff’s invaluable involvement). Those panels of Ralph about to blow his brains out (could he though?) were disturbing and heartbreaking. I loved the group shot at the memorial (I always love these) and there were a few panels where the characters shown from different angles match up! Finally, the two panels on the last page with Montoya and the Question show the spotlight washing out Montoya’s features, making her look like she’s wearing the Question’s mask was wonderful foreshadowing.

While I know the story generally and there are certain things I remember specifically, there’s so much I don’t recall about this and am looking forward to what comes next. Are you ready?

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Merry Christmas, you covetous, old sinners! Watching and listening to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite things to do at Christmas time. So I wanted to add to the plethora of adaptations and read the (condensed) story and record it for your enjoyment (I hope). I released these episodes (one for each stave) over the course of four nights during the week of Christmas 2020 (at 1 am, the arrival time of the spirits). I have collected each stave below, my gift to you.

God bless us, everyone!

Stave 1, Marley’s Ghost

Stave 2, The First of the Three Spirits

Stave 3, The Second of the Three Spirits

Stave 4, The Last of the Spirits

Christmas Gab Bag 2020

Direct Download (2:21:17)

Happy holidays! George from Meanwhile at the Podcast returns for our annual Christmas gab bag discussion. This year we discuss the following Christmas related comic books:

  • DC Comics – House of Mystery #257 (1978)
  • Marvel Comics – Daredevil #7 (2011)
  • DC Comics – Impact Winter Special (1992)
  • Classics Illustrated – A Christmas Carol (1990)
  • Fawcett – Dennis the Menace Christmas Special (1975)
  • DC Comics – Superman’s Christmas Adventure (1940)

Please subscribe to Meanwhile at the Podcast or interact with George, Rodney, and Kristin through the following ways:

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

Thanks for listening!