52! Week Eight

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Barrows, Stull, Sinclair, Lanham, 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 15 years later. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Thief”

Week 8, Night 1: At Steelworks, Natasha Irons is busy building her armor, eliciting a proud smile from her uncle John. Later, just as John is listening to a news report about Luthor’s metagene program, his chest transforms into metal.

In Star City, Green Arrow stops a store owner from chasing down a thief (and giving us the elicit use of the issue’s title and on the same page as the title!). Nearby, Green Arrow explains to Ralph Dibny that he thought the thief was the “guy charging thirty bucks for disposable diapers in a disaster zone” — typical Ollie! Ollie is guilt-ridden for not being able to keep his chosen city safe during the metahuman war. Ralph also tells Ollie that he lost his taste for gingold last year.

But Ralph is there to ask for Green Arrow’s help to investigate the Cult of Connor location in Star City. Ralph tells GA that the Cult believes that the dead can be resurrected.

Week 8, Day 3: John Irons visits STAR Labs seeking help with his condition. Based on the analysis, the metal in his body is stainless steel, “Lex Luthor’s idea of a joke”. John theorizes that when Luthor visited STAR Labs (in issue three), he must have “injected me with something … that either triggered my metagene … or infected me with one…”.

Week 8, Day 3 – 5: A new superhero is in town saving people and Booster is not happy about it. He asks reporter Clark Kent is he knows who the “new mystery hero” is. Clark tells him no, but that he will find out.

At Steelworks, Natasha is asked to relay a message to John about the “Luthor metagene strain” that is rewriting her uncle’s DNA. She then sees a LexCorp Everyman Project flyer poking out of John’s briefcase.

Week 8, Night 5: That night, Natasha is working on her armor when she knocks part of the suit to the floor, breaking it. John arrives to see if his niece is ok and she confronts him about what she discovered earlier, calling him a liar.

Adam Strange and Animal Man find Starfire in a net and realize too late that she was bait and they also become trapped and then held in a giant’s hand.

Week 8, Day 7: In Metropolis, Lex Luthor arrives at one of his properties with hundreds of people waiting to be chosen for his Everyone Project. He spots Natasha Irons in the crowd and grants her an opportunity.

Week 8, Night 7: That night, Natasha is hooked up to the DNA resequencing equipment. A technician asks Luthor which resequencing string to use and Luthor says, “The whole package…”.

Thoughts

First, yet another noteworthy cover by Jones and Sinclair. I love the inspirational tone of the flyer-like cover with the “Be Your Own HERO” tag-line and the generic superheroes flying under a blue sky, all undermined by Lex Luthor’s face in the red zone, almost like Hades in the underworld. I’m surprised they didn’t use something like this for the flyer that appears in the issue, but obviously Luthor wouldn’t use John Henry Irons’ likeness, but I could totally see him using his own.

Given the title of the issue, “Thief”, what is stolen? The obvious first choice is the person stealing the groceries or, flipped, the store owner trying to make a huge profit during a crisis. Also stolen is John Iron’s choice about being a metahuman. The glory and fame could be considered by Booster Gold to be stolen by this newcomer hero. Luthor is perhaps stealing the hopes and dreams of those he is transforming. Too on the nose or just enough to be interesting? I think I prefer story titles that keep me intrigued as to the meaning (and forcing me to look up the reference).

Speaking of Luthor, his direct admission to his assistant Mercy that the candidates for the Everyman Project are his slaves is just too movie serial villainesque. Where’s the subtlety of character? I don’t find this overt Luthor to be interesting at all. I did, however, like the sneer on Mercy’s face when Luthor called the nearby throng his slaves — such contempt for the common man!

The scene where Ralph is explaining what the Cult of Connor is about to Green Arrow was good. The way the artists drew that final panel on the page has Ralph looking at Ollie wide eyed in the realization that Ollie was recently brought back from the dead — the investigation into why the cultists defaced Sue’s grave has now just turned for Ralph, I think.

We have continuity glitch regarding the timeline. When John Irons visits STAR Labs, the caption reads “Day 3”, but the establishing panel clearly shows this taking place at night, so it should be Night 2 because the next scene is Day 3. A minor quibble.

Supernova! While not identified as such in this issue, I remember being very excited that this character had returned, but then I realized that I was thinking of Superman’s alternate identity of Nova from World’s Finest #178 that I probably read in the DC Special Series #23 digest. Regardless, I was convinced that DC was playing with that concept again and this Supernova was Superman, albeit a changed one. After all, if Superman could rebrand himself as a superpowerless hero all those years ago, why not again?

I’m finding the petulant teenager bit of Natasha to more and more grating. I don’t think John’s lesson in hard work and humility is working on his niece. I do like that in the LexCorp flyer she finds in John’s briefcase the superheroes are colored in green and purple — just like Luthor’s old battle armor. Nice touch there, Mr. Sinclair!

Another nice artistic touch is the final page showing Natasha connected to the metagene equipment because the arm and leg wires (for lack of a better word) are shaped similar to a DNA helix.

Two months in and I find myself more interested in the Ralph, Booster (as it pertains to Rip Hunter), and Black Adam stories more so than the Steel, lost in space trio, and Renee stories. It’ll be interesting to see how that evolves over time. Given the length of the series and how many plots and characters need to be juggled every few issues, I’m not surprised at my reaction, however.

History of DCU, part 7

by Jurgens, Lanning, Napolitano, Cox, Major, Berganza, Cohen, and Schaefer

It is noted that post-Zero Hour, the timeline was reconstructed and that “previous inconsistencies and anomalies were corrected”, but how accurate is that statement at that time in DC’s publication history? The rest is a recap of late 90s and early 2000s DC Comics history, focusing a lot on the teams of that era (it pleases me that Titans characters are spotlighted multiple times in various teams).

One thing of note that is not familiar to me is the reference to Hourman being rescued by the JSA right before he died. I am not at all familiar with this event, and considering that Hourman is one of my favorite JSAers, I need to know more! So, good job (finally) History of the DCU for introducing me to something I didn’t know already.

This segment ends with a reference to Sue’s death, so I guess the next issue’s installment will be the last or nearly so? Will this backup series be replaced with something else, or will the main story in 52 take up more pages? Tune in next week, dear reader, as I find out!

52! Week Seven

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Lashley, Draxhall, Sinclair, Lanham, 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 15 years later. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Going Down”

On that alien planet, Adam Strange is still repairing the Thanagarian warbird so he, Starfire, and Animal Man can go home. However, his companions are being no help at all because they’re eating fruit that is messing with their minds. Strange squabbles with Starfire, goading her into looking for a mysterious power source they detected.

Week 7, Day 2. It’s been weeks since Renee has seen The Question, but she still ponders the clues she has and discovers one literally under her nose.

Week 7, Day 3. Ralph visits Booster to talk to him about the Cult of Connor, but Booster is distracted by a threat over the phone and an impending future event he is supposed to stop. It’s then that Ralph realizes that Booster could have known about Sue’s murder and this makes Ralph. Very. Upset.

Renee crashes a soiree at the Kane estate to ask Kate about 520 Kane Street. After punching Renee and some discussion, Kate agrees to help her former lover.

In Metropolis, Booster arrives at a LexCorp building and is confronted by the actor he hired to play a villain previously. The actor spills the beans in front of the crowd and press. Ralph piles on, asking Booster, “How many other of these … ‘death-defying rescues’ have you staged to improve your marketability?”

On that alien world, Starfire appears to have found that power source. As she looks up at it, we see a giant behind her reaching for its staff.

Thoughts

First, another noteworthy cover by Jones and Sinclair. I love the contrasting qualities of the red border and the black and white, printed-in-a-tabloid “photo” of Booster attempting to shield himself from the camera with the word EXPOSED! across his image. Just lovely.

Interesting that the first sequence on the alien world has no timestamp (it did in issue 5), but I also like that because time seems to relative when it comes to isolation, not to mention when the day appears to be as long as weeks. I wonder if the creative team had been thinking of that? About this scene in particular, I didn’t care for the exposition from Adam to the two people who already know this information! They may just as well have had Strange say, “As you know…”. But then, we get this exchange between Strange and Starfire about the fruit she and Buddy are eating where she almost laments that Strange doesn’t “know how delicious it is” because he won’t eat any, and a little later, she echoes that thought: “…you won’t eat any…”. It’s not just that the fruit is intoxicating, it’s possibly a way to trap prey? Is it being used by the mysterious predator discussed in issue 5?

In Renee’s scene, we see a shot of her cast upon which she has drawn many question marks. Now, we have already seen her as obsessive, but to mark her arm in that way? Is this merely hinting at the future (she is becoming the question) or just that the artist thought it would be funny to draw all those question marks? I am tired of seeing Renee pose with that alien looking gun. I have a gun and I don’t pick it up as I’m thinking through something. But to each their own, I guess.

I loved the scene between Ralph and Booster. The artists drew Ralph’s face in shadows and almost always looking down, suggesting the grief that consumes him. Besides that, when Ralph realizes that “this whole era is history” to Booster, he shoves Booster into the wall, screaming at him, “why the hell didn’t you warn me my wife was going to die?” Booster tells Ralph that he was just as surprised about Sue’s death, saying, “I didn’t learn every little detail…” (about the past), Ralph responds through gritted teeth, Little. DETAIL?” I love how the creative team took these two sort of joke characters and are giving them some real-life drama to deal with.

In regards to the Kate and Renee scene, it almost feels like I missed something because this doesn’t seem like the Kate Kane I am familiar with, but that’s probably more to do with my lack of familiarity or were there changes in the future continuity of her character? I seem to be bumping against this idea of Kate as a debutante and former military. Not to say that a person can’t be both, but the difference seems too far? I guess I’ll find out as we move along.

I knew that actor would be bad news for Booster, but I expected that plot point to be more drawn out. And what does the actor expect to get out of this exposure? Despite what he says, him coming clean about his involvement in this scam doesn’t exonerate him legally, but I guess if you sway public opinion enough…? And then to have Ralph kick Booster while he’s down is a great counterpoint to the earlier scene between them.

In the final, wordless scene with Starfire, we see what looks like a Kirbyesque (or is it an actual Kirby character?) giant. I have no idea who this is, so I’m looking forward to the next scene and to see if this giant plays a larger role in the story.

Finally, the art this issue (specifically the inking), for the first time, is not to my liking, coming across as uneven comparatively in the different scenes. So far, this series has been superbly consistent, but this really highlights how well the team has been doing on this WEEKLY series. If it normally takes weeks to produce a comic book that is printed monthly, I can only imagine the chaos that was this book. It’s really a testament to all the creatives and editors who worked on it.

History of DCU, part 6

by Jurgens, Rapmund, Major, Cox, Leigh, Berganza, Cohen, and Schaefer

The events of Zero Hour get the spotlight here. One item that piqued my interest was the comment by the Orb that Hal Jordan, as Parallax, in his desire to erase the “destruction of Coast City and other events that he didn’t like”,

He would have created multiple universes with multiple Earths, unwittingly restoring much of what existed before the Crisis.

Ok. First, I don’t recall that aspect of Zero Hour (and now I want to go read that series again). Second, the way that sentence is written, it implies that restoring the multiverse was not a good thing. Now, I know DC editorial thought so, but in universe, what is the meaning behind this? Plus, given what is going on in Death Metal and Perpetua and the omniverse, this comment takes on an almost prophetic tone. Could this have inspired Scott Snyder??? ;)

It’s interesting to me now that this History of the DCU is focusing on all the crises because it’s highlighting the transitory nature of the DCU, and perhaps not so positively. I mean, I read all of those crisis books as they were being published, and I was excited about them and what these changes could mean, but looking back on it in this way seems almost to devalue the characters and the “universe” that DC Comics had been building for decades.

52! Week Five

by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, Chris Batista, Jimmy Palmiotti, Alex Sinclair, Phil Balsman, 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

“Stars in Their Courses”

Week 5, Day 1. Ellen Baker, wife of Buddy Baker (Animal Man), takes down a “Welcome Home” banner from her house, telling her daughter that her neighbors told her that she is in “denial”. Just then, Alan Scott, the original (and best) Green Lantern appears to tell her that Animal Man was missing in action. Ellen replies, “‘Missing’, huh? So there’s still hope”, as she unfurls the banner.

In Metropolis, Lex Luthor has announced that synthesized the metagene, which means that “every man and woman can be a superhero”.

Steel is listening to this news when he receives a call to come to St. Camillus, a hospital that now treats superhuman ailments. He consults with Dr. Pieter Cross, aka Doctor Mid-Nite, and Green Lantern Alan Scott, asking about the 25-foot tall, unconscious Hawkgirl that he saw outside. Green Lantern explains that she was part of the team he led into outer space and that there was an accident involving zeta beam technology. It fused Firestorm and Cyborg into one, deformed body and pieces of Red Tornado into Mal Duncan’s (Herald) body. Alan thinks the fractured zeta beams also tore apart Adam Strange, Animal Man, and Starfire. And we learn that Alan’s daughter, Jade, also died. It’s then that Mal goes into cardiac arrest.

In Gotham City, Captain Maggie Sawyer pays a visit to the recuperating Renee Montoya. Sawyer wants to know what exactly happened to Renee because despite what Renee told her, the warehouse is clean and there is no evidence of what Renee recounted. Sawyer is concerned that Renee is in over her head and wants to help, but Renee rebuffs the Captain, who then leaves.

Back at St. Camillus, Steel shock’s Mal, causing the attached Red Tornado part on his chest–a speaker–to replay Tornado’s last words:

It’s coming! 52! 52!

Week 5, Day 7. On an alien world, Buddy Baker wonders aloud to Starfire if the heroes back on Earth won. Starfire wonders how far away from Earth they are and if Adam Strange will be able to get them back home. Buddy encourages Adam to work faster because something is out there, waiting.

Thoughts

The first thing that struck me about this issue was the title. “Stars in Their Courses” has to be referencing Isaac Asimov’s astronomy essay, “The Stars in Their Courses” (and not the Civil War book by Shelby Foote), but I don’t know what connection that essay has to this story. Anyone read that essay and can shed some light on this?

How odd that we only have two days this week. I reviewed the issue multiple times in case I had missed a time stamp. However, I like that not every issue has to have the same time structure (i.e., every few pages is a new day) within the already established pattern of every issue IS a week in the DCU.

Lex Luthor’s metagene announcement should have had more of an impact on this series and the DCU, based on what I can recall, so I’ll be paying more attention to that this time around. I liked the look that Lois and Clark give each other as they listen to this news.

I love Ellen Baker’s belief that her husband will return and Buddy’s total devotion to his wife despite a wet, naked, alien princess walking around him — he doesn’t even really look at Starfire. I know from reading The Last Days of Animal Man that there is some sort of connection, perhaps even attraction?, between Buddy and Koriand’r, so I’ll be looking for that in this series (but I hope it’s not there — that would be easy, lazy storytelling).

A small thing: when we see Hawkgirl lying unconscious on the bed of a semi, I estimated her height based on the other characters around her and thought she was between 20-25 feet tall. It was gratifying when Steel explicitly states she’s 25-feet tall. I appreciate that attention to detail by the artist.

Alan Scott’s emotional state was the highlight of this issue. He was referred to in The Golden Age as the “big guy”, and while that’s an Elseworld’s story, I’ve thought of Alan as the big guy ever since. However, even big guys break down at times, and seeing Alan’s stoic composure start to crumble as he describes what happened to his team was a small, but powerful moment.  After that, he pauses and then looks at Steel, asking him,

A man shouldn’t have to mourn his own children, should he? We shouldn’t have to bury our children.

Gut wrenching…. We didn’t really need the button a few word balloons later where Alan tells Steel that his daughter, Jade, also died.

Finally, “52” as a concept makes itself known in the series. I remember wondering what this could mean. Sure, the sly references to the series title up to this point were cute and all, but what did Red Tornado see?! I also recall being happy about what it did eventually mean, but we’ll get to that much later.

History of DCU, part 4

by Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Guy Major, Jeromy Cox, Rob Leigh, Eddie Berganza, Ivan Cohen, and Jeanine Schaefer

The major losses in Crisis on Infinite Earths — Supergirl and Flash dying — and the finale of the series is summarized. This installment offered me nothing new or interesting. Why are they wasting valuable pages on this stuff?! I know, I know, it’s to inform any new readers pulled into the DCU after Infinite Crisis, but they could at least try to make these few pages interesting to old timers too!

Breaking Late Comic Book News – SDCC/August 2019

Direct Download (2:16:28)

Travis (https://www.youtube.com/user/oddfellowsthoughts and https://twitter.com/the_gaunt_man) joins me to discuss comic book news from San Diego Comic Con and more from the month of August 2019 that caught our attention.

Please send your comments to longboxreview@gmail.com, chat with me @longboxreview on Twitter, and visit longboxreview.com. Please subscribe, rate, and review the show via Apple podcasts.

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