52! Week Twenty-Nine

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Batista, Jadson, Sinclair, Fletcher, Richards, Schaefer, Wacker, 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

“Name Calling”

Week 29, Day 2

Wildcat and the original Green Lantern and Flash are the only ones who gather at the JSA headquarters, lamenting the possible end of their team. Outside, the members of Infinity, Inc. pass by as part of a Thanksgiving parade. Inside, Wildcat grumbles that these new kids “fight with no heart”. It is then that Infinity, Inc. introduces its newest member, Jade.

Obsidian appears, telling his father, “This isn’t right.” Jade tells the onlookers that she and the rest of Infinity, Inc. are here to do the superheroes’ job better. Obsidian then breaks through the window, demanding that Jade take off her uniform. Green Lantern steps in, stopping his son from doing any more harm. Nuklon tells Green Lantern that “the world doesn’t need antiques watching out for it when it’s got hundreds kids like us.”

On Oolong Island, the mad scientists have gathered for dinner while Sivana carves a ptero-turkey breast with a chainsaw. Dr. Magnus leaves the table after being drenched in ptero-turkey, and Dr. Cale follows him, revealing that she knows he stole Komrade Krabb’s gold watch. She also tells him that her specialty on the island is alien technology: “A higher, brighter, more terrible world has fallen to earth …. Oh, to live in such times. To see the world changed, forever.”

Chung Tzu arrives, seemingly irritated that he was not invited to dinner. He then demands an update from Dr. Magnus on the slow-moving Plutonium Man project. Dr. Cale then suggest that Chung Tzu remove Dr. Magnus’ medication to allow his “wild, dangerous, creative streak he’s been suppressing” to return. As guards take Magnus’ meds, he begs Professor Morrow for help.

At JSA headquarters, the Flash and Wildcat have finished boarding up the windows and Flash leaves to join his family, leaving Wildcat alone.

Well 29, Day 3

Dr. Avasti visits the Steelworks and finds John Henry Irons’ silver skin falling off. He tells her that Luthor’s Everyman program has “an expiration date.”

Thoughts

In the spirit of the issue’s title, there’s nothing sadder than a bunch of has-beens complaining about the new generation, right? And how appropriate that my least favorite DC Comics character is the whiny baby doing the complaining? Put a sock in it, Wildcat! I did like the panel where Green Lantern says, “Extant is dead,” with a picture of his dead daughter behind him. Though, maybe that was a little too on the nose?

When Obsidian assaults the new Jade, demanding she take off her uniform, now!, what did he expect her to do, unclothe in public? There was talk in this issue about how Obsidian has been crazy before but that he’s now better, but is he? Given how the “old” guard acted in this scene, perhaps Nuklon has a point?

The table setting on the splash page was kind of fun, especially with the ptero-turkey tray on a set of tracks (though, given how long the tray is, there’s no way it could turn the small corners) and the sheer glee on Sivana’s face as he slashed that bird.

In her last appearance, Dr. Cale seemed to be sane amongst the insane, but her discussion with Dr. Magnus and later her pricking her finger and sucking her blood proves otherwise. Plus, she is a cold one revealing Magnus’ Achilles heal as she did (but how did she know about his medication?).

It’s unfortunate that the creators decided to lean into the absurdity of Chung Tzu in this issue. He’s already absurd looking, but why also make him insecure and homicidal? It just served to diminish his authority to me. However, Professor Morrow’s silent indifference as Magnus was hauled away, pleading with Morrow to help him, only made Morrow more interesting to me. As Sivana told him, “Thank God there’s still some real evil in you, Tom. Thought you were turning pansy.” While this a great bit of characterization, I still have hope that Morrow will end up helping his former protégé.

By god, I am starting to loath Steel and his constant whining about Luthor’s experiment. Put up or shut up already, Irons! If something doesn’t change soon regarding this lot, Steel may join Wildcat on my most-despised list. They should have just given us another two-page Origin instead of this broken record.

52! Week Twenty-Eight

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Johnson, Jadson, Ramos, Jose, Baron, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, Wacker, 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

“Beyond the Black Stump”

Week 28, Day 2

Renee and the Question have returned to Gotham to warn Batwoman of the Book of Crime prophecy involving her death.

In Australia, a Ridge-Ferrick crew arrive to escort a local village from their homes, but mechanic Johnny sics his robot with the Red Tornado’s head on the crew. The robot unleashes a tornado as it yells “52!” repeatedly. Another villager takes a sledgehammer to the robot to stop it from killing anyone. Johnny is arrested and the Red Tornado’s head is tossed into a salvage truck, still repeating “52!”.

Lobo, Starfire, Animal Man, and Adam Strange evade an attack from the Head of Ekron.

Well 28, Day 4

The group have found a hiding spot, but the Head of Ekron searches close by.

Week 28, Day 5

Batwoman defeats some thugs in a church, but is defeated by Bruno Mannheim. He threatens to devour her, but Renee and the Question arrive to help. Despite that, Mannheim escapes.

Week 28, Day 7

Adam Strange and the others plan to lay some traps for the Head of Ekron, when it appears and Adam has to improvise. They are surprised when the Head asks for help and Starfire realizes that the Head is a Green Lantern! It mentions a her that is “a destroying flame”, and the group decides they must stop the Stygian Passover from reaching Earth.

Thoughts

There’s not too much to this issue, other than forwarding a few plots, with the revelation that the Head of Ekron is a Green Lantern being a notable exception.

Is a week enough time for Renee and the Question to travel from Nanda Parbat to Gotham? Renee was in quite a hurry, so …. What does Mannheim mean that “the questions have not yet been answered”? Two panels earlier, he referred to Renee and the Question as “the Questions”, so his later comment must have a double meaning, right? What pertinent detail (answer?) about the Crime Bible prophecy have the Questions missed? This tidbit actually makes me interested in the Book of Crime.

Ridge-Ferrick makes a return appearance, but I’ll admit I had forgotten and had to look it up. I liked that Johnny used a video game (PlayStation?) controller to operate his Red Tornado robot. This scene is where the issue title comes in. A “black stump” is a land marker used in Australia, and going beyond that stump is metaphorical for being in unknown territory, so is that what the wolves at the end of the Red Tornado scene are supposed to represent?

Why does Lobo appear to be covering the Eye with his blood after biting his finger? And where does he go for the final two pages? Given Starfire’s accusation, his disappearance from the scene completely is an odd choice (or editorial failing). Adam’s tantrum amused me: “One more @$%?!$#§ twist!” Is this metafictional commentary about the plot?

The Origin of Catman

by Waid, Eaglesham, Thibert, Sinclair, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, Wacker, and Siglain

Catman was one of my favorite characters from the run of Secret Six that this entry references (Who am I kidding? They were all great.). Is there a coloring or continuity error in the panel showing Blake with dark hair? I also like that Eaglesham drew Blake with a paunch as he approaches the lion pride in the following panel. Under Powers, where it says “uncannily stealthy”, my brain can’t help but read that as “unCATtily”, which makes no sense, but makes me chuckle.

52! Week Twenty-Seven

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Moll, Jose, Benes, Ramos, Rollins, Nelson, Pantazis, Brosseau, Richards, Schaefer, Wacker, 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

“The Past Best Hope”

Week 27, Day 1

Ralph Dibny takes charge of his journey with the Helmet of Fate and they visit the Spectre. Ralph asks if the Hand of God can bring his wife back, to which the Spectre declares, smiling, “Absolutely”. Spectre then takes Ralph and the Helmet of Fate to deep space where the Eclipso possessed Jean Loring is imprisoned. Ralph accepts the Spectre’s bargain, and Ralph tells Jean Loring, “I’ll show you hell …”.

Week 27, Day 2

Elsewhere, Waverider sits in a room with many clocks. At 5:25:20 a.m., the Time Commander appears, trapped in an hourglass. He chastises Waverider for betraying him and the other time stealers and then disappears. Immediately, Skeets appears, and Waverider asks it if it’s Skeets’ fault, “You’re the one Rip Hunter was warning us about”. Skeets’ denies that it is not the one who is “splintering the historical mainline”, but demands to know when is Rip Hunter. It proceeds to torture Waverider for the information.

Week 27, Day 5

While Richard Dragon trains Renee Montoya, she discovers that Charlie has cancer and doesn’t have long to live. Meanwhile, Aristotle Rodor examines the Crime Bible and one particular passage makes Renee think that Kate Kane is in danger.

Week -84, Day -2

Ralph has transported Jean to the past, to the moment before she has called Sue and murdered her. Using Spectre-given power, Ralph transforms Jean, suppressing the Eclipso entity so that Jean will experience the guilt in an eternal loop. Jean begs for forgiveness, and as the phone rings, she turns to Ralph, telling him, “Ralph … look away … You’re only punishing yourself …”. Ralph screams and takes them back to space, his deal with the Spectre undone. Ralph tells the Helmet that he knows that he can get Sue back, and to do that, they need to go to Nanda Parbat.

Thoughts

First, I love the detail that Jones and Sinclair put into the Spectre’s hood and glove — they look like they’re made of actual fabric! Speaking of the Spectre, his (its?) smile when he says to Ralph, “Absolutely!”, is creepy as hell.

I love that the confrontation between Waverider (Is this room full of clocks where he was last issue too? Was he hiding specifically from Skeets or something more sinister?) and Skeets lasts in between the space of one second. I know they had to use the 5:25:20 time to make the 52 reference work, but is there some significance to two fifty-twos? Is this a heretofore unknown reference to the Dark Multiverse? ;)

Charlie dying is one of the main things I do remember about 52, and Renee taking on the mantle of the Question was one of the best things to come out of the series (besides the reveal of the return of the multiverse).

But it is the scene set in the past that is the best part of this issue. First, I love the negative values of the time caption — who had to figure that out and is it even accurate?! I have to wonder if the issue title is a play on a line from Lincoln’s second State of the Union, “the last best hope” (please don’t tell me whomever chose that title was merely a Babylon 5 fan …)? If so, the “best hope” has to be a reference to Jean Loring’s redemption, right? That brief moment when she shows concern for Ralph was very moving. Anyway, I found it interesting that DC wanted to redeem Jean to a degree, while still having her remain as Eclipso (I was never a fan of her in that role). Now I want to find out what happened to her next.

The Origin of Black Canary

by Waid, Chaykin, Pantazis, Napolitano, Richards, Schaefer, Siglain

Did Dinah’s mother get pissed at her teammates going behind her back to train her daughter? I would be. I did like that they didn’t mention the events in The Longbow Hunters, something that seems to define and haunt Black Canary.

52! Week Twenty-Six

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Olliffe, Geraci, Pantazis, Brosseau, Richards, Schaefer, 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 for its 15th anniversary. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Halfway House”

Week 26, Day 1

The Black Marvel family transport Renee Montoya and Charlie 57 km east of Nanda Parbat, where they are greeted by Aristotle Rodor and Richard Dragon, who announces to Renee in a cryptic way that class is now in session.

Week 26, Day 2

John Henry Irons, Steel, appears on Jack Ryder’s talk show, You Are Wrong, to voice his accusations against Lex Luthor’s Everyman project. Natasha joins the interview to refute her uncle, and then gets a call about an explosion and she rushes off to help.

Week 26, Day 4

The Black Marvel family join Dr. Sivana’s ex-wife, Venus, and their children — Junior, Georgia, Beautia, and Magnificus — for dinner. Lady Sivana then requests the Black Marvels’ help in locating the missing Dr. Sivana.

At Oolong Island, Dr. Cale arrives to help the other assembled mad scientists with the Four Horsemen project.

Bored at dinner, Osiris leaves, and then the rest are seemingly attacked by a mutated crocodile, who grabs some food off the table and escapes. Later, Osiris encounters the crocodile man who tells Oriris that Dr. Sivana experimented on him, turning him into the creature he now is, and that he is so very hungry.

Thoughts

I love the old Hollywood horror movie inspired cover. It teases us with the red coming from the Black Marvel family but ending in a claw shape — is the claw symbolism? Plus, while red here denotes evil or blood or danger (at minimum), you get to see Black Adam in Captain Marvel red and yellow, which totally subverts the symbolism while reinforcing it. Deftly conceived by Jones, and, my god, Sinclair owns this image with the beautiful coloring.

The cover title, “The Beast Who Came to Dinner”, is a much more descriptive one (if perhaps too on the nose), but the writers/editors just had to be cute and call attention  to the fact that we’re now halfway through the series (where is the “halfway house” concept in this issue anyway? Perhaps Nanda Parbat for Renee?). And now that we are halfway, where are we in the story? Not that closer to resolving any of the mysteries or conflicts set up for the last 25 issues, but perhaps setting all that up was the point of the previous act? And we get even more characters thrown into the mix! Given how many creators are on this book and all of the characters and plots, this series should have been a disaster. Thank goodness it wasn’t, but I’m now thinking they put form over function a bit, sort of how a television series will often have some “filler” shows to meet that 22-24 episode requirement, i.e., some of these plots are a bit thin and they just keep stretching them out (I’m looking squarely at you Irons family drama) to fill 52 weekly issues.

Specifically regarding this issue, I do like the little flourish that Olliffe adds in the first scene with flowers springing up on the ground where Isis stepped.

The whole scene with the Sivana children was a nice comedic distraction. It also sets up a future, potential plot-point with Waverider appearing briefly on a monitor, saying, “I know why.” And there’s something about the fact that Venus Sivana’s $20M donation to Kahndaq’s children’s hospital makes Black Adam accept her dinner invitation — he’s become quite the politician in such a short time.

Finally, a minor quibble. Ii the Oolong Island scene, some dialog is mixed up in the last panel where it appears that Dr. T. O. Morrow addresses Dr. Magnus as “Morrow”, or perhaps he’s just entered that phase of megalomania where you refer to yourself in the third person.

The Origin of Hawkman and Hawkgirl

by Waid, Bennett, Jose, Sinclair, Brosseau, Richards, Wacker

This describes accurately the state of affairs of Hawkman and Hawkgirl at the time of publication, leaving out the creepy way that Carter hit on Kendra. That was the only misstep of the Hawkman reboot started in the JSA series and continued in the Hawkman (2002) title.

52! Week Twenty-Five

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennet, Eaglesham, Jimenez, Olliffe, Jose, Thibert, Lanning, Geraci, Sinclair, Richards, Schaefer, 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 for its 15th anniversary. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Liminal Times”

Week 25, Day 1

Bruno Manheim explains his vision of Crime to Mirage, with bloody results. Later, he addresses other Gotham crime bosses, telling them that they work for him and Intergang or “we make you extinct”.

Week 25, Day 3

On Halloween, Captain Marvel, Jr. and Mary Marvel battle a giant-sized, Satanesque Sabbac when the Black Marvel Family arrive to defeat the villain, winning over the hearts of the assembled trick-or-treaters.

Ralph Dibny continues his tour of Hell with the Helmet of Fate. The Hemet shows Ralph the trapped and ravaged soul of Felix Faust as a lesson and a warning: “Our next stop … you will make your first bargain. Be prepared to honor it.”

Week 25, Day 3

Infinity, Inc. stop Icicle and Tigress from robbing a bank and debut their newest member, Matrix. Alan Scott watches this and then speaks to Michael Holt, telling him that the UN Security Council asked Alan to be the White King. He then asks Michael to join him as his Bishop.

Week 25, Day 4

Dr. Magnus tells Dr. Morrow that he refuses to build a plutonium robot for Intergang. Meanwhile, Bruno Mannheim arrives on Oolong Island to discuss with Chang Tzu a solution to the Kahndaq problem. Tzu tells Mannheim they have weapons “so terrible … we call them the Four Horsemen”.

Thoughts

“Liminal” means transitional, so having a bunch of storylines present in this issue seems to fit the title. It’s also curious how many artists we get, which is a first for the series. Was there some kind of transition or shift going on behind the scenes? Or was it that the weekly grind has finally caught up with the creative team? Perhaps the theme of “transition” would have been better for the 26th issue? Regardless, this issue does give me the sense that things are starting to move forward (or at least moving) for some of these plots.

This issue has another wonderful cover for the series showing three trick-or-treaters representing four of the thus far prominent storylines with Steel, Booster Gold, and Renee Montoya dressed as the Question (a melding of her and Charlie or foreshadowing?). The fourth representative is the Helmet of Fate being used as candy receptacle. Does this represent some as yet unknown connection between Booster Gold and the Helmet?!

I had forgotten that Bruno Mannheim was positioned as an apostle of crime — I tend to think of him as the Intergang representative only — but here DC is clearly giving him a bigger role (more a Kingpin-like character with supernatural connections).

The transitional theme continues with the adoration of the Black Marvel Family by the kids — Captain Marvel, Jr and Mary Marvel are almost an afterthought in this scene. Not having read the Power of Shazam, this was probably the first time I saw Mary Marvel in her white costume, which I love. You get the whole red, white, and blue motif with the three Marvels, and white is such an underused color in superhero comics that it makes her stand out (as she should).

While I loved the Jimenez art in the Felix Faust pages, I thought that sequence went on too long, but we do get that amazing sequence of panels showing Faust’s soul crumbling and blowing away in the breeze as Fate’s Helmet warns Ralph about the bargain he will soon strike. This is the amazing storytelling aspect of comic books that I love.

I recall when Alan Scott took over Checkmate and had wanted to read that series, but never bought the issues. Reading this introduction makes me want to read them again to understand why he would want to take on this role (his explanation to Michael notwithstanding) and how things developed.

Finally, we get to see the “master” of Oolong Island and it is the wonderfully redesigned Chang Tzu (formerly the offensive Egg-Fu), but even this cybernetically supported, nightmare inducing “egg” is subservient to Intergang. I’m looking forward to where this leads (besides the 52 Aftermath mini-series tie-in).

The Origin of Nightwing

by Waid, Perez, Sinclair, Balsman, Richards, Wacker

I’m sure I did then and I certainly do now love to see George Perez drawing my favorite (former) Robin again, complete with his trademark detailed backgounds.

It also just now occurs to me reading this origin that given Dick’s circus upbringing, he must hate that the Joker is a perverted clown (the “clown prince of crime”) compared to the people — his companions and friends — who performed as clowns in his youth. I wonder if anyone ever played with that idea over the years?

I love how Waid referred to Robin as the “laughing young daredevil”. Aside from the bad puns and a propensity to get himself captured and subsequently rescued by Batman all the time, I don’t know that this aspect of Dick’s personality was ever fully explored either.

This origin also mentions the post-Infinite Crisis revelation that Dick wasn’t supposed to have survived it. I read Nightwing during this time and don’t recall that DC ever adequately addressed this plot point.

Finally, I love this bit:

[Nightwing’s] ability to read people makes him not only an amazing detective but a team leader without equal, a trait not even his former mentor shares.

Nightwing rules!