Retro Review: Comics from March 1990

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In honor of my daughter’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Punkin’!), I converted a YouTube only video for the podcast feed where I talk about the following comic books that came out in March 1990:

  • Daredevil #280
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #7
  • Hawk and Dove #12
  • New Titans #66
  • Star Trek #8
  • Animal Man #23
  • L.E.G.I.O.N. ’90 #15.

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

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I Have a Dream by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963)

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52! Week Fifty-Two

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, McKone, Justiniano, Barrows, Batista, Olliffe, Robertson, Lanning, Wong, Ramos, Geraci, Sinclair, Baron, Hi-Fi, Lopez, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain. 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 for its 15th anniversary. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“A Year in the Life”

Week 0, Day 0

Rip Hunter, Booster Gold, and Red Tornado travel back in time one year to the dawn of the new multiverse. Rip tells Booster that 52 identical universes were created after the Infinite Crisis. Mr. Mind confronts them, regurgitating the Phantom Zone in order to trap them within it, but Supernova appears, deflecting the Phantom Zone energy and restoring it, as Rip explains to Booster, “to its proper dimensional plane”.

Mr. Mind retreats and Rip follows it to Earth-17, where Mind is “eating years and events from this universe’s history,” eventually transforming it into the Earth of the Atomic Knights.

Rip chases Mind from one Earth to another as the creature “eats” and alters more Earths:

  • Earth-3 now has the Crime Society
  • Earth-10 is now a world where the Freedom Fighters are still fighting against the Axis powers
  • Earth-50 is now the Wildstorm universe
  • Earth-5 now has the Marvel Family
  • Earth-22 is now the Kingdom Come universe
  • Earth-2 now has the Justice Society of America
  • Earth-4 is now the Charlton universe

Rip tells Booster that they need to trap Mind before he spawns hyperflies and devours every living creature in the multiverse. Booster tells him, “There has to be someone better qualified to fight” Mind. Skeets, barely “alive”, tells Booster that it has faith in him. Booster then time travels to obtain an energy source that will help trap Mr. Mind. Booster appears the day after the first Crisis and encounters Blue Beetle. After a brief discussion, Booster leaves, with the scarab that Beetle was looking for.

Sivana calls for his children to follow him into his suspendium globe where they’ll be safe, but Rip Hunter appears, shoots Sivana in the knee, and takes the suspendium.

Back in the time sphere, Booster places the scarab into Supernova’s suit, and Rip takes them to his time lab. Mind has followed them and attacks. However, Rip has reinforced Skeets’ shell with the suspendium, and Booster traps Mind within Skeets. Rip then explains that they need to make Skeets into a “‘time bomb’ that will end the threat of Mr. Mind”. Booster hurls Skeets into a time vortex, followed by Supernova, and they travel back one year, where, on Week 1, Day 6, Supernova catches Skeets/Mind, and on Week 1, Day 1, he spikes Skeets into the ground.

Sivana finds a devolved Mr. Mind and puts it into a tube, telling it, “Don’t bother to struggle. You’re trapped. Forever.”

Supernova returns to the time sphere. Booster declares that the world should know it was Skeets who saved everyone. Rip informs Booster that he had copied Skeets’ “mem-self into a leftover responsometer”. They travel through the multiverse to New Earth, their home.

Week 52, Day 6

Checkmate prepares to form a task force to locate the depowered Black Adam. Natasha wonders what happened to the members of Infinity, Inc. In Kahndaq, someone reaches for the amulet of Isis. In Alabama, the ghosts of Ralph and Sue Dibny begin their investigation of a pit that opened in a school classroom.

Booster asks Dr. Magnus for help in restoring Skeets. Magnus tells Booster that he had made a backup of Skeets when Booster brought it to Magnus nearly a year before. Magnus is able to restore Skeets, but without the knowledge of the last year. Skeets asks Booster if it has missed anything, and Booster tells him, “It all started 52 weeks ago…”.

Week 52, Day 7

The Question restores the bat overlay to the bat-signal and shines the light at Kate Kane’s apartment, where she is recovering from her stab wound. Question then asks, “Are you ready?”

Thoughts

I remember when I first read this issue 15 years ago and I was SO excited for the return of the multiverse. I even went on an online forum (maybe DC Comics’ website or perhaps the CGS forum?) to express my excitement, while others — inexplicably — were denouncing it. Alas, as I recall, the promise of the new 52 remained only that — there didn’t seem to be much, if any, playing around with the concept with an exception being the “Thy Kingdom Come” story in Justice Society of America.

While re-reading this issue brought back that feeling of renewal for the DC universe, I found myself feeling a bit … cheated. Perhaps 52 was always building towards this big reveal (we saw Mr. Mind in Sivana’s lab in issue 1) or maybe it evolved into it (which, metatextually, is appropriate), but I feel cheated because this ending doesn’t feel as earned as may of the other stories. Plus, this issue ties up some loose ends but are really just teases, such as the Dibny’s as ghost detectives (I know, retaining the status quo is the most important aspect of corporate-driven comic books…).

However, if there was a theme for this series, it is transformation. The DC world is transformed by the absence of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman (the ticker on the cover even announces “The year without [them] is over…”). Many characters have changed as well:

  • The Irons’ relationship that was split and then mended
  • Animal Man and Adam Strange have returned to their families and have been physically transformed as well (powers and sight)
  • Renee became the new Question
  • Ralph died and is reunited with his wife
  • Booster Gold matures, becomes more than the glory hound he had been

But probably the most transformative storyline was Black Adam’s. He started out as the ruthless ruler of Kahndaq; met Adrianna Tomaz and fell in love with her, causing him to ask that the powers of Isis be given to her and they later wed; gave some of his power to Adrianna’s brother, making his own Marvel family; became a political force for change in the world; but then, after the deaths in his new family, remade himself into the evil Black Adam once more (see my earlier note about the status quo…). His story was the most successful for me.

The series itself evolved over time. My recollection of the series when it was announced was that we were going to get stories about the Trinity during that one year later gap, but instead we got the stories about the characters that we did. However, according to the DC Nation article by Dan DiDio in issue 1, “Our original plan was to create a series of specials designed to answer all the questions posed by the ‘One Year Later’ changes”. Paul Levitz challenged them instead to “tell the story of the missing year in a real-time weekly comic”. Then, according to an interview with Mark Waid at Ain’t It Cool News in 2009 (quoted here because that original article has disappeared),

Dan Didio, who first championed the concept, hated what we were doing. H-A-T-E-D 52. Would storm up and down the halls telling everyone how much he hated it. … and there’s one issue of 52 near the end that was written almost totally by Dan and Keith Giffen because none of the writers could plot it to Dan’s satisfaction.

DiDio also reportedly called the follow-on weekly series, Countdown, as “‘52 done right'”, but I think the fans and critics generally disagreed. After 15 years, I think 52 is looked upon as a successful property and a blueprint for weekly comic book series at DC Comics for some time after that. It was an ambitious project, and the co-creators should be applauded for their efforts.

This final issue, while overly concerned with the reemergence of the multiverse, also gives us pointers to follow in other comic books and resolves the final fate of Ralph Dibny, but these feel tacked on and overshadowed by the big reveal. Finally, I find it curious that everything ends with the Question/Batwoman scene. It seems that the coda of “Are you ready?” is for the fans, but it suggests to me something more for those characters specifically, but I don’t know if that panned out.

If you’ve been reading these (mostly) weekly posts, you know I didn’t care for some of the these storylines or how they were executed and some of the art was not to my liking, so I would rate the series as a whole with a B+. However, it was fun to examine a comic book series in this way, though, I don’t think I’ll do something like this again. That is, unless you think I should… (and what should I do?). What was your overall impression of 52, either when it was first published or re-reading now with me? Leave comments below!

52! Week Fifty-One

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennett, Jadson, Brabo, Baron, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain. 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 for its 15th anniversary. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Homecoming”

Week 51, Day 1

Animal Man arrives on Earth and reunites with his wife and kids.

Week 51, Day 2

People gather at Superboy’s memorial to commemorate his sacrifice a year earlier. Diana Prince, Bruce Wayne, and Clark Kent are in attendance, as well as a number of superheroes.

Week 51, Day 3

On Rann, Adam Strange’s sight has returned. Some Green Lanterns question him about what he saw and what happened to the Emerald Eye of Ekron. But Adam leaves to be reunited with his family and the Green Lanterns go off to deal with the fire creatures plaguing Ranagar.

Week 51, Day 4

Lobo returns to the Thrice-Perfected One to offer it the Emerald Eye as requested. Lobo asks the Fish God to release him from his pacifist vows and why it wanted the Eye. The Fish God tells him that the Eye “is the only weapon in the universe which can kill me”. Lobo says, “Ya don’t say…” and the Eye fires on the Fish God.

Week 51, Day 6

The Bakers are having a get-together with friends when aliens arrive at the front door, yelling, “Bounty for Lady Styx! Die! Die! Die!” Starfire arrives, blasting them. She offers Ellen Buddy’s jacket and then collapses.

Week 51, Day 7

Skeets arrives at T. O. Morrow’s Rocky Mountain complex wanting the map that Red Tornado created when he saw “the garden”. Rip Hunter thanks Morrow for luring Skeets there. Skeets explains that he isn’t “Skeets”, but a transformed Mr. Mind who is “so hungry [he] could eat a universe!”

Rip commands Booster to grab what’s left of Skeets while he grabs Red Tornado’s head, and they leave in the time sphere, going “Back to where it all started”.

Thoughts

The ticker on the cover returns and breaks the fourth wall by declaring “51 issues down and one more to go”. Was that really necessary? Also, I love how the gears “falling” out of Red Tornado’s head represent different Earths — it’s a good visual and great coloring.

I like how Buddy is literally glowing with sun energy when he appears in front of Ellen, but is there radiation to be concerned about? It’s certainly a reason to not see them embrace, and I find that curious. Is this supposed to represent the distance still present in their relationship? Buddy seems uncharacteristically confident in this scene, and I wonder if that continues elsewhere.

The DC Database website points out that the Superboy memorial occurs before the one-year mark (as shown in issue 1). Considering that World War III just occurred, and I’m sure many more people were killed or affected in some way, this memorial doesn’t seem like it would be as important as shown? I know it’s a device to circle us back to the beginning and to establish the return of the Trinity, but it lessons the authenticity of the universe we’ve seen thus far. Another thing that doesn’t quite work for me is the scene between Ravager and Kid Devil. I know it’s to provide some explanation as to why those characters had been in the Teen Titans during the year, but it just seemed shoe-horned in. However, this scene reminded me that I need to seek out the issues in which Donna Troy has taken on the Wonder Woman mantle. Also, we are explicitly told why Tim Drake’s Robin costume is now red and black: he looks up at Superboy’s statue and says, “They were his colors”. I really like that tribute and had forgotten it for the last 15 years!

I know this is just a timing thing, but having just finished the Gerads/Shaner/King Strange Adventures series and seeing the reunion of Adam with Alanna and Aleea in this issue is … bittersweet?

So what does Lobo do with the Emerald Eye of Ekron after this series?

Finally, I had forgotten that we got the Mr. Mind reveal in this issue, so this surprised me. And boy were they channeling the ending of Back to the Future with this cliffhanger, huh? I’m really looking forward to the conclusion of this story and the revelations within!

The Origin of the Justice League of America

By Waid, Reis, Albert, Sinclair, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

Reis/Albert do a great job of making the Appellaxians look menacing (but Superman’s legs look a little wonky in panel 3). I always liked the idea that it was a honor for a hero to be invited to join the League, but the ones who aren’t invited have to be a little upset by not getting an invitation, right? And what is the criteria for being offered membership? Has the League in the comic books ever done a Justice League Unlimited-type approach where every hero is a member and are called on when those powers or skills are required for a mission? That could make for an interesting set of stories over time….

52! Week Fifty

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Justiniano, Wong, Sinclair, Lopez, Richards, Schaeffer, and Siglain. 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 for its 15th anniversary. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“World War III”

Week 50, Day 2

The Marvel family battles Black Adam in Egypt.

Week 50, Day 3-5

The JSA search the world for Black Adam, and discover he’s in China.

Week 50, Day 6

Members of the Great Ten discuss what to do about Black Adam, because “he knows the part our leaders played in his betrayal”. August General-in-Iron orders the Great Ten to stop Black Adam.

Week 50, Day 7

The JSA, JLA, and other superheroes gather at the Chinese border. They have been warned by the Chinese government to not enter the country or the “missiles start flying”. Alan Scott tells them to be ready, “I’m betting they’ll need the Justice Society soon enough”.

Black Adam defeats the Great Ten one by one by, and August General-in-Iron reluctantly allows the assembled superheroes in to help.

Captain Marvel crashes into the Rock of Eternity after being expelled from the Egyptian gods’ presence: they refused Marvel’s plea to take away Black Adam’s powers. He’s asked, “And there’s no way to force the change?”

Steel is about to launch a nanite-filled missile at Black Adam when Booster Gold appears and takes it. He tells Steel, “it wasn’t gonna work anyway, trust me…”.

One by one, the American superheroes fall to Black Adam. Green Lantern declares that they need help and see members of Infinity, Inc. He implores them join him, but they flee in fear.

Zatanna contacts Flash with a plan, who then tells Green Lantern to haul Adam up in the air. Captain Marvel flies to intercept, calling the lightning, which he grabs and hurls it at Adam. There’s a massive explosion of light and Black Adam transforms into Teth-Adam and, as he falls, he yells “Shazam!” multiple times. He is caught by Atom Smasher.

The JSA search for Black Adam. The Flash yells, “Tell me we didn’t lose him after all that!”, and Atom Smasher says, “The light … the shockwave … no one saw exactly what happened”. Captain Marvel tells them that Adam is no longer a threat. He reveals that as the guardian of the magic, he was able to change Adam’s magic word and that Adam will never guess it. We see Adam walking the streets, saying one word after another.

T. O. Morrow arrives at a base in the Rocky Mountains and begins to examine Red Tornado’s head. He sees what Red Tornado saw “in the great beyond” and exclaims, “Oh God”. Then Booster Gold and Rip Hunter arrive, with the latter telling him, “Get your ass in gear, Prof. ‘Cause we’re already way outta time”.

Thoughts

Minor note: this cover is the only one of the series that does not have the “news ticker” at the bottom.

For much of this series, I have been on Black Adam’s side: he’s a reformed “bad guy” who fell in love, built a family, and tried to accomplish some good in the world. Then one bad day changes all of that and he slaughters a country (later, he’s referred to by one of the Great Ten as a “suffering, dying bull destroying everything in his path”).

While most of the superhero community would like nothing more than to lock Adam up forever, some are still trying to help him. On page one, Captain Marvel implores with Adam, “Stop this. Let me help you.” Marvel doesn’t yell or command, he is sympathetic despite Adam’s sins. Atom Smasher continues to defend Adam believing that Adam wouldn’t kill innocent children when we know he did. There’s also a two-page spread showing all of the superheroes charging Black Adam in the forefront — I tip my hat to the creators on this image because I have been conditioned to root for the underdog and this shows a defiant Adam waiting to confront his adversaries.

How are we as readers supposed to judge Black Adam based on all that has happened? While I think the creators and DC failed to adequately show the destruction and pain Black Adam caused on a human level (we see lots of structures being destroyed), I enjoy the narrative dichotomy of this character’s path, and god help me, I’m still rooting for the guy at the end! In fact, there’s a panel of him saying “Eternity” before he disappears into the crowd and that just elicited pangs of sympathy within me (good job creators!). It’s not that I want him to guess/discover the magic word and continue with his rage-filled vengeance but eventually find some peace. I’m very curious what happens next to this Black Marvel.