52! Week One

by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Alex Sinclair, Nick J. Napolitano, Jann Jones, Harvey Richards, and Stephen Wacker. Cover by J.G. Jones and Alex Sinclair

Overview

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. It was the follow-up to Infinite Crisis and was to explore things resulting from that event book. Meanwhile, the DC titles at the time all jumped one year later and, from what I recall, 52 was supposed to chronicle that “missing” year, especially regarding the absence of the Trinity (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman), and was the major reason I wanted to read the series. What we ended up getting was different and so much more.

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.  (Considering that I’m already 3 weeks behind, we’ll see how that goes. Maybe I’ll end up doing it once a month, who knows?!) Let’s begin!

Synopsis

“Golden Lads & Lasses Must…”

The first two pages show a swirling mass of recent past events, shown like pieces of broken glass that coalesce in a blinding flash, revealing the Earth. One of these images is of the Elongated Man, Ralph Dibny, cradling the burnt body of his wife Sue (her murder opened Infinite Crisis and is one of the things about IC that I do not like to this day). The last panel of these shards shows the Trinity, but also Black Adam and Booster Gold prominently.

Following this is the caption Week 1, Day 1, and we see Ralph Dibny holding a pistol with a tag identifying it as a trophy of sorts for a past case he and presumably his wife worked on. We also see that he is standing in the middle of his destroyed house. In the next series of panels, Renee Montoya is at a bar, getting drunk. Finally on this page, Steel is helping a clean-up crew in Paris.

Page 4 of the comic book cover two more days of that first week. Ralph is continuing to talk to someone on the phone and we see him holding that gun again. Montoya continues to drink, and the final panel on the page shows a building sign that reads “52 Pickup”.

On day 5, Booster Gold appears, having captured Mammoth. It’s the Booster Gold of old, working an angle to make some dough. His robot companion, Skeets, is feeding him historical data so he can be where he needs to be to save someone or stop a villain.

At the Ambassador Hotel, Ralph is listening to voicemails. One is from the mortuary who handled Sue’s funeral, telling Ralph, as he is sticking that gun we saw earlier into his mouth, that they had found a message on Sue’s tombstone.

Now back in Metropolis, Steel argues with his niece, who is heading to a Teen Titans meeting. Steel is upset that she isn’t helping clean up the debris and is instead chasing glory with other heroes, telling her, “You want something you don’t deserve yet”. She brushes him off, and Steel removes her armor, stranding her on a rooftop. He tells her, “You want armor? Build it yourself.”

In Khandaq, Black Adam is letting his people know that he and they will show the world how to deal with true evil. A dissenter with a bomb is interrupted in his suicide attempt by Black Adam removing the bomb and the bomber’s arm before demanding to know who sent him.

On day 6, Dr. Sivana is kidnapped, with a caged Mr. Mind looking on. The heroes gather in Metropolis for a memorial for everyone who died during the events of IC. Booster, because of the historical data Skeets has provided, is expecting the Trinity to show up to form the new Justice League and invite him to join. When they do not show at the appointed time, Booster argues with Skeets, and then Skeets appears to short circuit and becomes non-responsive. An agitated Booster begins yelling at other heroes and demanding Jimmy Olsen take the picture for which he will win a “Howitzer” (Pulitzer). As he is yelling “Where are –?” (the Trinity), his elbow smacks someone off panel who is telling him that they ‘re not coming. The voice belongs to Clark Kent, whose nose is bleeding from the impact.

Finally, on day 7, the Question removes the bat from the bat-signal and spray paints a question mark on it. He turns it on, staring ahead, saying, “I can see you.” Montoya is at home, starting to drink there too, when a bright light shines through her window. It’s the bat-signal, pointed right at her window. The Question asks, “Are you ready?”

Thoughts

Holy cats! This issue is jam-packed with characters and story and back-story! And questions! Don’t forget the questions….

I vaguely recall that this series was supposed to tell us what the Trinity was up to previous to the One Year Later initiative (which I hated, by the way — a lot of good stories, as I recall, were upended because of that editorial mandate), yet in this first issue we do not see any of them, except for the Clark Kent appearance, which is still a major reveal because he appears to be depowered. Instead, we get the focus on Elongated Man (of all people, but it does make sense considering what they did to his wife in IC), Rene Montoya, Steel, Booster Gold, Black Adam, and at the end, the Question. Why these characters?

Speaking of Booster, this seemed to me like a return to the early Booster Gold from his first series, and not the character that had developed since then. This is not new in superhero comics, of course, but it seemed odd, and maybe that’s the point. All of this issue is supposed to unnerve us, to push us off balance. Ralph about to commit suicide, the bloody violence Black Adam perpetrates on the bomber, the time stream possibly being out of whack (or at least Skeets), a “human” Superman, and the Question, talking to us (“I can see you. Are you ready?”). There’s no way you can read this issue and not be intrigued by the mysteries and statuses of these characters. It portends something grand and special. In the back of the book, for the DC Nation column, Dan DiDio says of the main characters of the issue (and the series), “If they are not household names at the start … they certainly will be by the end.” Let’s see if this story delivers.

From a production standpoint, this issue is a marvel. So many writers and yet the artists help keep all of this cohesive and consistent (it probably doesn’t hurt that Keith Giffen is doing the breakdowns, not to mention the editing staff’s invaluable involvement). Those panels of Ralph about to blow his brains out (could he though?) were disturbing and heartbreaking. I loved the group shot at the memorial (I always love these) and there were a few panels where the characters shown from different angles match up! Finally, the two panels on the last page with Montoya and the Question show the spotlight washing out Montoya’s features, making her look like she’s wearing the Question’s mask was wonderful foreshadowing.

While I know the story generally and there are certain things I remember specifically, there’s so much I don’t recall about this and am looking forward to what comes next. Are you ready?

Podcast Episode 107: Top 5 Magic Characters

Direct Download (2:01:34)

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Just in time for Halloween, Travis joins me to discuss our favorite magical comic book characters. Who will make the cut? Dr. Fate or Dr. Strange? Etrigan or Hellboy? Listen to find out! But first we briefly talk about the passing of Steve Dillon and then chat about the fantastic artist who’s coming to the 2017 Emerald City Comicon: José Luis García-López!

Who are your favorite magical characters? Let us know!

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

Thanks for listening!

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