52! Week Sixteen

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennett, Jose, Baron, Brosseau, Jones, Richards, 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

“Uhebbuki”

Week 16, Day 1

Some Kahndaq children make a garden as a present to Isis, and Black Adam takes the opportunity to ask Isis to be his wife.

Week 16, Day 6

Renee and Charlie are hiding out in a shipping container, and Renee realizes that Intergang are going to “hit the wedding”.

Meanwhile, while Isis is getting dressed for her wedding, Mary Marvel expresses her concern over Black Adam. Mary tells Isis that while Captain Marvel thinks that Black Adam has changed and Isis helping with that transformation, “He seems like the same old Black Adam to me.”

While Black Adam fusses over his hairline and the bloodstain on his cape, Captain Marvel tells Adam, “I’ve never seen you nervous.” He also expresses surprise that Adam wanted the Marvel Family at Adam’s wedding. Adam tells Marvel, “My family … are long dead. I thought … you have made your family Marvel family … perhaps it’s not too late to make mine.”

Renee and the Question look into the gathered wedding throng for a suicide bomber while Captain Marvel Jr. works at crowd control. The ceremony begins and Renee finally spots the bomber, a young girl. The Question tells Renee to “take the shot!”, but Renee hesitates because she can’t “shoot a kid”. However, she does before the girl can set off the bomb. That evening, Isis and Adam start their lives together as husband and wife while a couple Kahndaqians clean up the dead girl’s blood.

Week 16, Day 7

Adam Strange, Starfire, and Animal Man finally escape the alien planet, heading home.

Thoughts

The title, I believe, is Arabic for “I love you” (though spelled differently than I found). The art in this issue is particularly good, starting with the cover. There is a poster of Black Adam and Isis behind Renee and the Question. The colors are deftly displayed, with bright sunlight bathing the poster but darker shades over the foreground characters. This is a perfect encapsulation of the issue: the beauty of the wedding and the tragedy of the bomber.

The collaborators working on this issue did a fantastic job depicting the dichotomy of the fantastic vs the tragedy. At the wedding, one page shows the sun peaking just above the palace with the crowd below — among the many celebrants is the lone bomber. After the ceremony is over, there is a panel of the dead girl’s blood reflecting the happy couple floating above. Later still, when Isis and Adam head into their nuptial chamber, two men clean the blood from the street. Perhaps worst of all is that the superpowered beings are completely oblivious to the calamity that literally happened under their noses, not unlike gods unconcerned with the mere mortals that celebrate them (a portent perhaps?).

Of particular note regarding the artistry is the near-splash page showing Isis in her wedding garb standing next to Mary Marvel. She is beautiful and the angle showing this scene only accentuates Isis’ majesty (and height!). I already mentioned the other near-splash page outside the palace, and later, there’s a two-page spread showing the ceremony from above the participants, high above the crowd, that is lovely as well, though undercut by the panels atop the spread involving the bomber and Renee — this sequence and placement only heightens the tension of the scene. This is probably my favorite issue so far from a comic book storytelling/construction standpoint.

From a character perspective, the focus on Black Adam’s emerging happiness in his relationship and his comments to Captain Marvel and later Isis about his previous family and the tragedy he’s endured for centuries will only make his inevitable descent all the more regrettable. I have a softspot for redemption stories and having first read Black Adam’s involvement in JSA, followed by this, I was really into his journey. But corporate comic books being what they are, the demands of the status quo must be adhered to, and Adam’s story can only end badly — more’s the pity.

The Origin of Black Adam

by Waid, Jones, Sinclair, Napolitano, Wacker, Richards

It occurs to me reading this synopsis that Black Adam and Sinestro both started as “heroes” but took their respective missions to extremes. However, possessing such power and not dealing with injustices head on as they do runs contrary to our very human (and flawed) desire to make things “right”. (And is probably the main reason I like characters like Black Adam, at least this incarnation of him.) I would like to read more stories with characters like this and how they deal with the awesome responsibility that comes with such power.

52! Week Fifteen

52 15
By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Moll, Nguyen, Sinclair, Fletcher, Jones, Richards, 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

“Outshined”

Week 15, Day 1, 3, 4

Booster Gold is forced to remove his Ferris Aircraft sponsorship from his uniform. He continues to receive Past Due notices in the mail and starts drawing on the NewsTime cover photo of Supernova, complete with comical mustache and knife stabbed into the new hero’s head. Finally, in frustration with the online coverage Supernova is getting, Booster appears to pour water on his laptop.

Week 15, Day 5

A desperate Booster is looking for anything to get him into the good graces of the people of Metropolis. Skeets obliges when it announces that a nuclear submarine will crash in midtown.

In Kahndaq, Renee Montoya is removed from her jail cell to be interrogated (but she states it’s torture). When they pass by what looks like an empty cell where Charlie was, Renee becomes very concerned for her partner. But Charlie uses his binary gas to create a diversion, allowing Renee to take out her guards and free Charlie.

Clark Kent discovers that the nuclear sub is being carried by a mythical beast called a Ballostro, and he races off to get the story. Booster arrives, trying to defeat the beast, but only succeeds in causing a blackout. Supernova arrives, providing light for the nearby citizens and teleporting the Ballostro away. He stops to check on Booster while the crowd heckles Booster. Booster attacks Supernova and they fight. Skeets informs Booster that the nuclear sub is leaking radiation, and Booster uses his supersuit to raise the sub high  into the Metropolis sky, where it explodes. Supernova catches Booster and reveals that Booster is dead.

Thoughts

Another great cover image with the blood spatter and Supernova reflected in Booster’s goggles. Some of the cover text is done as if the comic book was the news document, a diagetic element I really like. The cover suggests, possibly, that Supernova is responsible for Booster’s defeat (demise?), but in a way, he really is.

Booster’s growing hatred of Supernova is comically rendered at first, then takes a darker turn when Booster assaults the new hero, and then the story as a whole takes an even darker turn when Booster apparently dies. I have to say, when I first read this issue 15 years ago, I was genuinely surprised but still skeptical because why infuse this series with so much of the character and then kill him off not yet a third of the way through? Did Supernova have something to do with this situation leading to Booster’s death? After all, his comment to Booster about not letting what the crowd was saying about him get to him, and then jabbing at him with, “Of course you aren’t. I mean … why start now, right?” This is the first time Supernova is shown to be something other than a stereotypical, altruistic superhero. His comments perhaps suggest that he has some sort of connection to Booster, or it could just be that he, like the Metropolitans, doesn’t hold Booster in high regard. I think I remember where this ends up, and while I don’t recall the details completely, it is a fun twist that possibly (I assume?) sets up Booster’s 2007 solo series (?) — I have that run of comic books but have not read them yet.

Death seems to be a theme in this issue because things do not look good for the Question. After Renee frees him from his cell, Charlie weakly tells her, “I’m … ngk … with you to the end, Renee …” — notice the emphasis. If this is indeed the beginning of the end of Charlie, I’d forgotten this start of it.

The Origin of Steel

by Waid, Bogdanove, Sinclair, Napolitano, Richards, Wacker

I still don’t know Steel’s backstory that well. I knew about his work with Amertek and the guilt he felt, but I didn’t know that he tried to commit suicide.

The bit about Luthor’s scheme to end Steel by transforming John’s skin to liquid metal makes no sense. Besides having steel for skin (paging Power Man …), what’s the downside? I sure hope there’s more to this story in 52 as we go forward. Also, in the Powers and Weapons section, apparently Steel’s hammer “whose kinetic energy increases with distance thrown”. Was that part of Steel’s transformation or always a part of his hammer? I find that an interesting part of this hero, but why move him away from his armor to this steel-skin thing? It’s not like DC didn’t already have metal men roaming about.

Appearance on Sleepy Reader’s YouTube Channel

I was honored to have been invited to be on Damian’s, aka Sleepy Reader, comic book YouTube channel to discuss, primarily, the 1983 miniseries The Jack of Hearts from Marvel Comics.

Let us know what you think of our discussion about this unusual character and series, and be sure to subscribe to Damian’s channel.

52! Week Fourteen

52 14
By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Eaglesham, Thibert, Sinclair, Lanham, Jones, Richards, 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

“Sand and Rust”

Week 14, Day 6

Renee Montoya and Charlie fly 31 hours to Kahndaq to discover a massive celebration decreed by Black Adam in honor of Isis.

In Metropolis, Dr. Avasti visits John Henry Irons and discovers him nearly completely covered in the steel skin forced on him by Luthor. After he shows her the armor he made for his niece, he breaks down, afraid that he has lost Natasha to Luthor. Dr. Avasti tries to comfort him.

Dr. Magnus tries to revive Mercury but fails. Two government agents hint that if Dr. Magnus won’t hand over the Metal Men, the authorities will take it. Later, Magnus arrives at the Haven to visit Dr. Morrow to find that Morrow is missing. However, he left Magnus a message in machine code.

Week 14, Day 7

Renee and Charlie track down a lead and discover several dead bodies. As the leave the building, they are arrested by Kahndaq authorities.

Back home, Dr. Magnus finally manages to revive Mercury.

Thoughts

If there’s any theme to this issue, it’s perhaps friendship, or at least companionship: Renee’s and Charlie’s association, John and Dr. Avasti’s budding relationship, and the Doctors Magnus’ and Morrow’s mutual respect. Beyond that, there’s not much going on this issue. I did like the short scene between John and Avasti — it’s quite apparent the good doctor has feelings for John, so where will this end up?

I love the scenes with Magnus. When one of the government agents remarks about the fortune in platinum, Magnus looks at her body and says, “I don’t really think of her in those terms.” Later, after Mercury is revived, Magnus’ look of joy was obvious. Speaking of, Eaglesham does a fine job at all these characters and with their physicality — the scene with the agent tossing Magnus’ meds demonstrates that well.

The Origin of Metamorpho

by Waid, Powell, Mulvihill, Napolitano, Richards, Wacker (With special thanks to Chiarello)

Considering that Metamorpho appeared in the previous issue, wouldn’t it have made more sense to include this origin there? Regardless, I found the bit about Rex being “a soldier of fortune extraordinaire. Adaptable to all cultures and circumstances” to be interesting because in all the stories I’ve read with Metamorpho, I would not describe him in that way. He’s less Indiana Jones and more Mutt Williams. The Powell art here is amazing and makes me want to read a Metamorpho comic book by Mr. Powell.

52! Week Thirteen

52 13
By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Nauck, Alquiza, Sinclair, Napolitano, Jones, Richards, and 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

“Haystack”

Week 13, Day 2

Ralph calls upon his Justice League friends Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Metamorpho, and Zauriel to infiltrate a Cult of Conner resurrection ceremony, but he needs to decide if he wants to allow the Cult’s attempt to bring back his wife, Sue.

In southwest Asia, Black Adam and Isis free some children from a slavery ring, and Isis convinces Adam not only to not kill the perpetrators, but take in the parentless children as wards of Khandaq.

Ralph does decide to not go through with the ceremony, and he accosts the leader, Devem, causing Wonder Girl to attack Ralph and then Green Lantern. The fight is swiftly over, but a fire breaks out after Devem kicks over a brazier. Ralph continues his angry tirade toward Devem but is interrupted by the dummy stand-in for Sue, who calls out to Ralph. He tells the other heroes to stop, that the ceremony “wasn’t a trick”. Cassie leaves with Devem while the assembled heroes begin evacuating the building. Ralph stays inside, hugging the Sue dummy as the building collapses.

Week 13, Day 3

At the ruins, Green Lantern announces that there is no body, meaning that Ralph got out alive, but worries about his friend’s sanity. We see Ralph under an overpass, repeating “try again” as he cradles the burnt remains of the Sue dummy.

Thoughts

So, I don’t get the issue title. It has to be the “haystack” from the proverbial “needle in a” idiom. But what is the needle? Sue’s soul (the dummy appears to be made out of straw)? Or is it “hope” (to tie both storylines together)?

There are a lot of talking heads this issue with perhaps far too much storyspace taken up by the resurrection ceremony, but I do love seeing the camaraderie between the Justice League members. As Metamorpho says, “Ralph called. I came runnin’.” Green Lantern also tells Ralph that the play is his to call, showing the respect between them.

Isis continues to have a positive affect on Black Adam. He tells her, “You show me hope. And no one has done that in so long…”, as Adam and Isis walk behind the freed children while the sun sets before them.

The panel showing the Sue dummy crawling toward Ralph was very creepy and a great page turn choice. The panel sequence that follows of the dummy speaking to Ralph and his quick realization that the ceremony appears to have worked, with two panels closing in on his face first and then his eye, was superb — Todd Nauck deserves kudos for this.

That final image of Ralph cradling the remains of the Sue dummy is unsettling, especially considering that Sue’s body was burned after she was killed. I do not care for the immediate “he’s lost his mind from grief” trope, especially because Green Lantern just expressed worry for that potential on the previous page.

The Origin of Elongated Man

by Waid, Nowlan, Nap, Richards, Wacker

Now this origin summary makes sense because Elongated Man appears in the issue and is a central character to 52. It’s a good recap of how Ralph became EM and the first superhero to reveal his identity. Speaking of, this is the most interesting aspect of Ralph’s superhero career and something that begs for more. Reading 52 makes me want to read more Elongated Man and Sue Dibny stories.