52! Week Twenty-Four

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Jimenez, Lanning, Baron, 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

“Just Imagine”

Week 24, Day 1

While talking to reporters about his Star City mayoral campaign, Oliver Queen receives a call on his JLA communicator from Firestorm, who asks him to join the new Justice League. Queen turns down the offer and tells Firestorm not to call anyone else.

Week 24, Day 2

At the original Justice League of America’s HQ in Rhode Island, J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, talks to himself, addressing his former JLA member, Booster Gold, saying how he has helped eliminate Checkmate in retaliation for its role in Blue Beetle’s murder.

Week 24, Day 3

Black Adam and Isis speak to the Great Ten, announcing an alteration to the Freedom of Power Treaty, which no longer includes executing metahuman criminals. Oriris, however, is bored and wants “to do something fun”. Black Adam tells August General that the Black Marvel Family is available to help if the Great Ten and China need it.

Week 24, Day 6

While the new Justice League is talking to reporters, they are attacked by pirates and cyborgs emerging from a rift. Suddenly, many of the bystanders transform into their Everyman personas to help. Skeets also appears and tells Firestorm it is responsible for the pirates and cyborgs to draw out an enemy. Skeets then attacks Firestorm and the assembled Everymen and Justice Leaguers, including Super-Chief, who is transported to a land of the dead. The original Super-Chief, Flying Stag, retrieves the Manitou Stone and tells Ralph Dibny that “Magic never comes without a price”.

Week 24, Day 7

J’onn J’onzz, in his guise as an advisor to the President, is present when the President is told that Checkmate has been recertified as a U.N. agency, negating J’onn’s efforts.

In Belle Reve, Amanda Waller has Atom Smasher picking members for a new Suicide Squad mission.

Thoughts

Phil Jimenez’ and Andy Lanning’s art is a welcome change to this series, especially because of all the group shots and different and varied body types/faces (Perez clone that Jimenez is — and I love him for it!).

Both Martian Manhunter and Ollie Queen are after justice this issue: J’onn refers to justice being served for Blue Beetle’s murder, while Ollie’s campaign slogan is “Justice … For All!”. Also, Ollie’s campaign manager is named Maggin, presumably after Elliot S! Maggin, a long-time DC Comics writer (who also wrote stories about Green Arrow).

The new Justice League has an intriguing membership: Firehawk (a character whose design I’ve always liked, even if Jones gives her a new costume on the cover), Firestorm, Bulleteer, Super-Chief, and Ambush Bug. How did this group get together? It makes sense that Firehawk and Firestorm team up, but Super-Chief (who just took on the mantle and has now joined the team)? Ambush Bug?! Speaking of Ambush Bug, we get an issue filled with his fourth-wall breaking and pop culture referential dialog. His shirt on the cover reads “This Shirt’s a Clue” and his first words are the title of the issue, with the background of the word balloon filled with “Week 24”. :) Other references include:

  • He yells into the phone, “The weekly grind is tearin’ me apart! Fifty-two!” Is this commentary from Giffen and company?
  • His Bugs Bunny (or other Warner Bros cartoon character) like dialog:
    • “…so I says to Schwartz, I says…”
    • “Doink!” as he stabs two pirates in their eyes.
    • “Mommy”, just after Super-Chief is zapped away and Bug stands triumphantly over a defeated pirate.
  • “Didn’t mean to interrupt your exposition-filled conversation…”

It’s kind of creepy the way J’onn infiltrates the U.S. government, despite his noble purpose. Also, how he has created statues of all the fallen JLAers in the cave. It seems like he’s gone off some deep end — out of guilt about Blue Beetle?

Osiris has quickly become annoying. How can you take a new character with such potential and immediately make him unlikable? The short answer being, of course, you’re not supposed to like him. I recall what happens to him in the end, but not the journey. Speaking of newly debuted characters, why introduce Jon Standing Bear in the previous issue just to kill him off here?! Wasteful! Not so wasteful are the Dial H like characters (Luthor’s Everymen) with great or not so great names like:

  • Dynamole
  • The Crimson Ghost
  • Jack of All Trades (who looks somewhat like Spider-Man)
  • The Tornado Ninja (an homage to Samurai from the Super Friends cartoon?)
  • E.S. Pete (sounds like something from the Silver Age Legion of Super-Heroes)
  • Poledancer (yikes!)
  • et al

I’ve long suspected Skeets of being up to something, but here, he’s using his time hopping abilities to draw out some, as yet unnamed, enemy, and it doesn’t care who gets in the way. In fact, its now on the offensive with weapons and attacking the heroes.

Other bits:

  • A Jack Ryder advertisement can be seen on the trolley outside Ollie’s campaign office. It reads “You Are Wrong!”
  • Ambush Bug is eating from a bag of chips that features a squirrel. The logo cleverly reads “Ch’ps”, so this has to be an homage to Green Lantern Ch’p.
  • Wherever the new JL is when Firestorm calls Ollie, there is a poster on the wall of Starfire in a bikini (thank you again, Mr. Jimenez). I wonder if this is from one of the photoshoots she did in New Teen Titans?
  • In the J’onn J’onzz monologue, there is a reference to Secretary of State Kakalios. It was an unusual name, so I looked it up and discovered that James Kakalios is the author of The Physics of Superheroes, which was published the year before 52. That has to be a tip of the hat to the author, right?
  • A pirate closely resembling Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow is seen in a newspaper near the end of the issue.
  • The ambassador talking to the President is named Trautmann, after artist/designer Eric Trautmann?
  • Every issue ends with some preview images from the next issue. Here, Ambush Bug is playing the roles of the Question, Isis, and Batwoman. You gotta love a running gag.

The Origin of Booster Gold

by Waid, Jurgens, Lanning, Sinclair, Brosseau, Richards, Wacker

I feel like we have already visited Booster Gold’s origin in this series (in story), but this  time, the origin entry has an additional tag: “An excerpt from the Justice League archives”.  My problem with this is the meta-editorial commentary (such as the “gratuity not included” notation) in this entry, so which Justice Leaguer has supposedly written this “excerpt” (though Batman does have a dry sense of humor…)?

52! Week Twenty-Three

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Johnson, Snyder, Baron, Lanham, 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

“The Island of Professor Morrow”

Week 23, Day 1

Dr. Magnus arrives on Oolong Island and is greeted by Professor T.O. Morrow. Morrow tells Magnus that various mad scientists (including Bug Baron, Dr. Sivana, Dr. Rigoro Mortis, and Ira Quimby) have been assembled by their benefactors to “let their imaginations run wild” and that they want Magnus to “join us in creating the future”. He also tells Magnus that “no … you really don’t have a choice”.

Week 23, Day 5

In Yemen,  Whisper A’Daire’s addresses her Cult of Cain while the Question and Renee Montoya watch for an opportunity to steal the Crime Bible. Isis’ brother, Amon, is brought forth and brutally beaten for trying to escape earlier. Renee wants to intervene, but Question convinces her to wait. Just then, they are discovered and fight the cultists, resulting in Renee being injured. Black Adam and Isis arrive and subdue the cultists. Isis heals Renee’s wound and then discovers her injured brother. His wounds are too extensive for her to heal, so Black Adam tells Amon to say his name. When Amon does, lightning flashes, transforming Amon into Osiris.

Week 23, Day 6

Isis reminds Black Adam of her promise to help him change the world once they found her brother, and now that they have, she announces that the Black Adam family is going to China.

Thoughts

I love the idea of all these DCU mad scientists being collected and allowed to let loose with their creations, but who are the mysterious benefactors and what is their goal? Of course, these scientists being man-children, the island is also populated by beautiful women in bikinis — are they also prisoners? What other functions do they perform besides as eye-candy for, at least in the scene we are shown, the somewhat oblivious old, white guys? I really dislike this male-gazing (or worse).

So, at what point does Montoya just shoot the Question for his role in continuing to allow children to suffer? He told her to shoot the bomber in a previous issue, and now he wants her not to save Amon. Fortunately, plot-wise, they are discovered just after their conversation, allowing Renee to help save the boy regardless. I dislike these filler panels because the things the Question wants to happen (not to save Amon and to avoid detection) are immediately rendered pointless.

Black Adam tells Isis after he gave Amon access to his super-powers that he has always been able to share some of his power (as Captain Marvel did with Freddy Freeman), but that he never had family to which he could share his gifts. It’s a touching scene, but it made me wonder: does the sharing make the Shazam family members less powerful? If so, how many people could Captain Marvel or Black Adam share their power with before it impacts their own abilities? Regardless, I loved the idea of the Black Adam family and was disappointed in how this storyline ended up.

The Origin of Wildcat

by Waid, Ordway, Sinclair, Leigh, Richards, Wacker

Who cares? (I hate this character.)

52! Week Twenty-Two

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Barrows, Stull, Sinclair, Lopez, 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

“Burial Ground”

Week 22, Day 1

Supernova’s taunting of Lex Luthor (as Superman did) drives Lex to test the metagene therapy on himself.

Week 22, Day 2

Jon Standing Bear, a veteran with a spotty service record, arrives in Metropolis after throwing a rapist out the window of a moving bus.

Week 22, Day 3

Luthor receives the news that his genes are not compatible with the metagene therapy, and that does not make him happy.

Week 22, Day 4

Standing Bear attends his father’s funeral, and after, argues with his grandfather, who reluctantly wants to give his grandson the Manitou Stone, which, according to Iraquois legend, grants its bearer great strength, speed, and senses. Those who possess its power are called “Super-Chief”.

Week 22, Night 4

Standing Bear stands over his grandfather, holding in one hand the Manitou Stone and the other a pillow, which he is using to smother his grandfather. He tells him, “There. We’re both of us saved.”

Week 22, Day 5

While Steel watches Lex Luthor declare his School of International Business Studies open, Luthor is challenged by a Mr. Ferry about Luthor’s ability to turn on and off the powers of those who have undergone his metagene therapy. Steel later tells him that he will listen to Mr. Ferry’s story and “I’ll make sure the world listens”.

The government arrives at Dr. Magnus’ house intent on taking the knowledge of how to reproduce the Metal Men. Magnus is able to stave off the assault using science, but then a giant robot arrives that blows up Magnus’ house.

Thoughts

Luthor’s thinking that Supernova is Superman in disguise is another demonstration that while the guy is a genius, his prejudice clouds his judgement. It reminds me of Byrne’s Superman #2 when Luthor was presented with data that proved Superman was really Clark Kent and Luthor could not accept that conclusion. Everyone has their blind spots.

The bus Jon Standing Bear uses as he arrives in Metropolis has the tagline “Go Fastback” with a logo of the Zoo Crew character. Also, the back window advertisement is for a Silverblade movie. Silverblade was a 12-issue series from 1987 (which I have not read) about a man who could become any movie character he played. I love it when the creators play around with details of the DCU like this. What I didn’t like was how the police just shrug off Standing Bear’s assault of the convicted rapist — I know the guy’s a bad dude, but Standing Bear threw him out of a moving bus on the freeway! I guess this is to show how edgy Standing Bear is, but we also get that with him smothering his grandfather.

Super-Chief was a new character to me when I first read this issue, and I did not realize it was a character dating back to 1961 (All-Star Western #117)! However, his design reminds me a bit of Black Bison. This is an entirely new character introduced nearly halfway through this series, so what is Super-Chief’s role in 52 to be? Given that I have no recollection of this character at all, it must not have had a great impact.

I don’t understand the scene with Luthor at his business school. We already know (and have been told twice and having seen it in action) that Luthor can turn off the powers of those who undergo his metagene therapy. If we’re to have a distraught “client”, why not have it be a member of Trajectory’s family so at least we have a throughline? Plus, Steel already has data that claims Luthor can do this, so what is he waiting for? I wish this storyline would end.

I liked the Magnus scene because we see him struggling with his “mad scientist” persona (which is why he’s on medication) but still showing he’s a scientist who can address a crisis when he uses his knowledge of the Metal Men to defeat a few of the “clones” sent after him. What I don’t get is why the government sent the Metal Men “clones” to gather Magnus’ research/data. Human agents have visited him before, and based on every movie or tv series I’ve seen, when the government comes for you, there’s not much you can do about it, unless they knew he had activated Mercury and anticipated a struggle? This scene and the issue ends with a giant robot (whose head reminds me of a Sentinel — or is it something specific to the DCU that I’m not understanding?) arriving, causing the agents to scatter. When Magnus sees it, he says, “I don’t want to be crazy again” and the robot responds, “Mad scientists only, Doctor Magnus”. That is such a great line, and ties into the developing plotline of the disappearing mad scientists. Who is the voice behind the robot, though?

The Origin of Green Lantern

by Waid, Reis, Albert, Sinclair, Lopez, Richards, Wacker

It’s interesting that Hal was chosen for his “fearlessness and honesty” (emphasis mine). The former makes sense given the development of the emotional spectrum (green overcomes yellow, i.e., fear) in the GL mythos, but honesty? I know that is what Abin Sur tells Hal as to why he was chosen, but why that combination? Does willpower in the DCU stem from the combination of fearlessness and honesty? I think you can be fearless and possess great willpower and not be an honest person (just look at Lex Luthor), so this aspect of Hal’s (and by extension all Green Lanterns) origin is curious.

52! Week Twenty-One

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennett, Jadson, Baron, Lanham, 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

“Teambuilding Exercises”

Week 21, Day 1

Natasha Irons convinces Lex Luthor to allow speedster Eliza (aka Trajectory) to rejoin the team, making Eliza very happy. She professes her love of the speedster heroes and her desire to prove herself so she can join the Teen Titans.

Week 21, Day 2

Ralph Dibny and the Helmet of Fate convince a demonguard to open a gate to Hell.

Week 21, Day 3

Under the direction of Lex Luthor, his new Infinity, Inc. team debuts by apprehending Blockbuster. While the newly arrived Teen Titans clean up the damage caused by the fight, new team leader Beast Boy warns Natasha about Luthor’s intentions. Luthor helps Blockbuster escape his bonds, and Trajectory races off by herself. Luthor turns off her powers and Blockbuster kills her.

Week 21, Day 6

At Trajectory’s funeral in Alabama, Hot Spot, Little Barda, and Power Boy quit the Teen Titans, while John Henry Irons tries to talk to Natasha about Luthor. Beast Boy offers to help John.

Week 21, Day 7

In Australia, Johnny Warrawa grafts Red Tornado’s head onto a crude, robotic body.

Thoughts

The collaborators do a fine job of endearing us to Eliza in a few pages, especially after her previous appearance as a neophyte drug addict, which makes what happens to her all the more tragic. And we see what Dr. Avasti told John Irons the previous issue come true, meaning that Luthor can indeed turn on and off an Everyman’s program participant’s  metagene. Speaking of John, I’m starting to wonder if what Luthor did to him affected his mind. For a guy who created his own super armor, to confront Natasha at the funeral as he did was just stupid.

We get not one, but two superteam debuts: Infinity, Inc. and the Teen Titans. Luthor buying the Pemberton Estate and the associated Infinity, Inc. trademark is so Luthor. What was new to me was this version of the Teen Titans. Did I forget how these particular members ended up as the Teen Titans or did we ever get the story? I want to read more about the Raven/Zachary Zatara and Little Barda/Power Boy relationships, not to mention Beast Boy taking on a leadership role. Regardless, this team was short-lived with the three desertions.

It’s painful to see how Ralph treated the demon, and now Ralph’s descent into hell is  literal. But will this story be another telling of Orpheus and Eurydice or something far worse?

52! Week Twenty

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Batista, Jose, Sinclair, Lanham, 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

“God Is Fragged”

Week 20, Day 1

Supernova appears in the Batcave, looking for something. He uncovers a few cases, including the one containing Jason Todd’s Robin costume. Then he uncovers a case holding a purple and green gauntlet.

Week 20, Day 3

Steel helps some Metropolis fireman as they evacuate a burning building. Doctor Avasti arrives to show John an analysis of Luthor’s metagene therapy with the revelation that Luthor can remove the superpowers his technology has given. To Steel, that spells trouble.

Week 20, Day 6

The planetoid where Lobo, Starfire, Animal Man, and Adam Strange have stopped at is attacked by, as Lobo describes them, “interstellar carrion that feed off dead an’ dyin’ planets”. The heroes do what they can to protect the assembled aliens, but it is only by using the Emerald Eye of Ekron that the carrion are destroyed. Lobo announces it is time to leave because by using the Eye, the Head of Ekron will soon be coming for it, placing everyone on the planetoid in grave danger.

Thoughts

Weird that Supernova invades Batman’s personal space like that, and what is that gauntlet and why does he want it?! Plus, the way that he pauses when he uncovers the case with the Robin costume, is that out of respect? Did Supernova know Jason Todd as Robin? Or is it more generally about the death of a superhero?

Steel seems to be enjoying his time as Power Man, I mean, the protector of Metropolis, but what does Doctor Avasti’s analysis mean for him and his niece?

I like the sci-fi elements in the Lobo/Trio of Heroes storyline:

  • The interstellar carrion that feed on dead and dying planets (that seems like a throw-away idea that could have been developed into something larger, maybe in the Green Lantern book?).
  • The Head of Ekron, flying through space searching for its right Eye — it’s reminiscent of Brainiac’s ship, though with apparent organic material and mechanical parts. I also love the design: the brain dome, the double tusks, and those huge teeth! It’s a mish-mash of elements that just looks cool.
  • The spontaneous regeneration of Lobo’s body from his pool of blood. It’s disturbing and awesome.

So here, I believe, is where DC retcons the origin of the Emerald Eye. Once relegated to the 30th century, the Eye did make an appearance in the 20th century DCU in the 90s series L.E.G.I.O.N., but in this 52 issue it is revealed that the Eye is part of a living (?) head. The nice thing about this change to the Eye’s history (and future history), is that it all still works.

The Origin of Adam Strange

by Waid, Nowlan, Lanham, Richards, Schaefer, Wacker

Adam Strange, as a Silver Age concept, seems like fun — blonde-haired man from Earth who travels to another planet and serves as its (white) savior? But looking at it now, from the lens of recent politics (and a bit of the take presented in the King/Gerads/Shaner Strange Adventures series), this origin does not sit well with me. Plus, if a civilization as advanced as Rann could develop an interstellar teleportation beam, why couldn’t the beam have been more precise? The way this origin tells it, it’s by chance that Strange was zapped by the Zeta beam. I guess Sardath was more of an idea man than scientist?