52! Week Fifty-Two

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, McKone, Justiniano, Barrows, Batista, Olliffe, Robertson, Lanning, Wong, Ramos, Geraci, Sinclair, Baron, Hi-Fi, Lopez, Richards, Schaefer, and 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

“A Year in the Life”

Week 0, Day 0

Rip Hunter, Booster Gold, and Red Tornado travel back in time one year to the dawn of the new multiverse. Rip tells Booster that 52 identical universes were created after the Infinite Crisis. Mr. Mind confronts them, regurgitating the Phantom Zone in order to trap them within it, but Supernova appears, deflecting the Phantom Zone energy and restoring it, as Rip explains to Booster, “to its proper dimensional plane”.

Mr. Mind retreats and Rip follows it to Earth-17, where Mind is “eating years and events from this universe’s history,” eventually transforming it into the Earth of the Atomic Knights.

Rip chases Mind from one Earth to another as the creature “eats” and alters more Earths:

  • Earth-3 now has the Crime Society
  • Earth-10 is now a world where the Freedom Fighters are still fighting against the Axis powers
  • Earth-50 is now the Wildstorm universe
  • Earth-5 now has the Marvel Family
  • Earth-22 is now the Kingdom Come universe
  • Earth-2 now has the Justice Society of America
  • Earth-4 is now the Charlton universe

Rip tells Booster that they need to trap Mind before he spawns hyperflies and devours every living creature in the multiverse. Booster tells him, “There has to be someone better qualified to fight” Mind. Skeets, barely “alive”, tells Booster that it has faith in him. Booster then time travels to obtain an energy source that will help trap Mr. Mind. Booster appears the day after the first Crisis and encounters Blue Beetle. After a brief discussion, Booster leaves, with the scarab that Beetle was looking for.

Sivana calls for his children to follow him into his suspendium globe where they’ll be safe, but Rip Hunter appears, shoots Sivana in the knee, and takes the suspendium.

Back in the time sphere, Booster places the scarab into Supernova’s suit, and Rip takes them to his time lab. Mind has followed them and attacks. However, Rip has reinforced Skeets’ shell with the suspendium, and Booster traps Mind within Skeets. Rip then explains that they need to make Skeets into a “‘time bomb’ that will end the threat of Mr. Mind”. Booster hurls Skeets into a time vortex, followed by Supernova, and they travel back one year, where, on Week 1, Day 6, Supernova catches Skeets/Mind, and on Week 1, Day 1, he spikes Skeets into the ground.

Sivana finds a devolved Mr. Mind and puts it into a tube, telling it, “Don’t bother to struggle. You’re trapped. Forever.”

Supernova returns to the time sphere. Booster declares that the world should know it was Skeets who saved everyone. Rip informs Booster that he had copied Skeets’ “mem-self into a leftover responsometer”. They travel through the multiverse to New Earth, their home.

Week 52, Day 6

Checkmate prepares to form a task force to locate the depowered Black Adam. Natasha wonders what happened to the members of Infinity, Inc. In Kahndaq, someone reaches for the amulet of Isis. In Alabama, the ghosts of Ralph and Sue Dibny begin their investigation of a pit that opened in a school classroom.

Booster asks Dr. Magnus for help in restoring Skeets. Magnus tells Booster that he had made a backup of Skeets when Booster brought it to Magnus nearly a year before. Magnus is able to restore Skeets, but without the knowledge of the last year. Skeets asks Booster if it has missed anything, and Booster tells him, “It all started 52 weeks ago…”.

Week 52, Day 7

The Question restores the bat overlay to the bat-signal and shines the light at Kate Kane’s apartment, where she is recovering from her stab wound. Question then asks, “Are you ready?”

Thoughts

I remember when I first read this issue 15 years ago and I was SO excited for the return of the multiverse. I even went on an online forum (maybe DC Comics’ website or perhaps the CGS forum?) to express my excitement, while others — inexplicably — were denouncing it. Alas, as I recall, the promise of the new 52 remained only that — there didn’t seem to be much, if any, playing around with the concept with an exception being the “Thy Kingdom Come” story in Justice Society of America.

While re-reading this issue brought back that feeling of renewal for the DC universe, I found myself feeling a bit … cheated. Perhaps 52 was always building towards this big reveal (we saw Mr. Mind in Sivana’s lab in issue 1) or maybe it evolved into it (which, metatextually, is appropriate), but I feel cheated because this ending doesn’t feel as earned as may of the other stories. Plus, this issue ties up some loose ends but are really just teases, such as the Dibny’s as ghost detectives (I know, retaining the status quo is the most important aspect of corporate-driven comic books…).

However, if there was a theme for this series, it is transformation. The DC world is transformed by the absence of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman (the ticker on the cover even announces “The year without [them] is over…”). Many characters have changed as well:

  • The Irons’ relationship that was split and then mended
  • Animal Man and Adam Strange have returned to their families and have been physically transformed as well (powers and sight)
  • Renee became the new Question
  • Ralph died and is reunited with his wife
  • Booster Gold matures, becomes more than the glory hound he had been

But probably the most transformative storyline was Black Adam’s. He started out as the ruthless ruler of Kahndaq; met Adrianna Tomaz and fell in love with her, causing him to ask that the powers of Isis be given to her and they later wed; gave some of his power to Adrianna’s brother, making his own Marvel family; became a political force for change in the world; but then, after the deaths in his new family, remade himself into the evil Black Adam once more (see my earlier note about the status quo…). His story was the most successful for me.

The series itself evolved over time. My recollection of the series when it was announced was that we were going to get stories about the Trinity during that one year later gap, but instead we got the stories about the characters that we did. However, according to the DC Nation article by Dan DiDio in issue 1, “Our original plan was to create a series of specials designed to answer all the questions posed by the ‘One Year Later’ changes”. Paul Levitz challenged them instead to “tell the story of the missing year in a real-time weekly comic”. Then, according to an interview with Mark Waid at Ain’t It Cool News in 2009 (quoted here because that original article has disappeared),

Dan Didio, who first championed the concept, hated what we were doing. H-A-T-E-D 52. Would storm up and down the halls telling everyone how much he hated it. … and there’s one issue of 52 near the end that was written almost totally by Dan and Keith Giffen because none of the writers could plot it to Dan’s satisfaction.

DiDio also reportedly called the follow-on weekly series, Countdown, as “‘52 done right'”, but I think the fans and critics generally disagreed. After 15 years, I think 52 is looked upon as a successful property and a blueprint for weekly comic book series at DC Comics for some time after that. It was an ambitious project, and the co-creators should be applauded for their efforts.

This final issue, while overly concerned with the reemergence of the multiverse, also gives us pointers to follow in other comic books and resolves the final fate of Ralph Dibny, but these feel tacked on and overshadowed by the big reveal. Finally, I find it curious that everything ends with the Question/Batwoman scene. It seems that the coda of “Are you ready?” is for the fans, but it suggests to me something more for those characters specifically, but I don’t know if that panned out.

If you’ve been reading these (mostly) weekly posts, you know I didn’t care for some of the these storylines or how they were executed and some of the art was not to my liking, so I would rate the series as a whole with a B+. However, it was fun to examine a comic book series in this way, though, I don’t think I’ll do something like this again. That is, unless you think I should… (and what should I do?). What was your overall impression of 52, either when it was first published or re-reading now with me? Leave comments below!

52! Week Thirty-Two

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Olliffe, Geraci, Baron, Lanham, Richards, Schaefer, Wacker, and 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

“Seven Days in Nanda Parbat”

Week 32, Day 1

Ralph Dibny, en route to Nanda Parbat with the Helmet of Fate, encounters a murderous yeti, but is saved by a mysterious whistler.

Week 32, Day 2

Having lost Hawk and Dove as members, the Teen Titans are looking for new members, but Raven is concerned that many of them are from the Everyman Project and have a “lust for fame and power”.

Osiris arrives wanting to be on the team, but Captain Marvel, Jr. tells him no, citing Black Adam’s murder of Terra Man. Osiris protests, saying that he and the Black Adam family are “trying to make this world a better place”. Marvel, Jr. challenges Osiris to “convince the world of that”. Beast Boy asks Raven what emotions she detects from Osiris and she says, “Just one. Hope”.

Week 32, Day 3

Adam Strange tells Animal Man that he can go home to warn the Earth of the forthcoming conflict with Lady Styx, but Buddy says that they have to stop them “right here”, and Starfire agrees.

Week 32, Day 4

Ralph awakens in Nanda Parbat wanting to see Rama Kushna. He is introduced to the man who saved his life, Yao Fei, the Accomplished Perfect Physician, of the Great Ten. Fei tells Ralph about himself and the Yeti, who is also a member of the Great Ten and who is now running wild and killed 30 people. After Ralph is told that Rama Kushna cannot see him, he joins Fei to capture the Yeti.

Week 32, Day 5

The Yeti finds Ralph and Fei and they struggle briefly before Ralph is able to reattach a talisman that inhibits the Yeti’s rage, enabling the man, Hu Wei, to return. It is then that Ralph is told that Rama Kushna will see him.

Week 32, Day 6

Rama Kushna tells Ralph that there is no death, “Death is an illusion of being in time.” He demands to know why it all then hurts so much. He is bathed in light, and is told, “You wished to be with her again. Come closer. I will show you how.”

Week 32, Day 7

Ralph prepares to leave and ponders what Rama Kushna told him: “The end is already written.” As he leaves, he tells Fei, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Thoughts

The Rama Kushna thing is a big red herring (or is it?), serving to push the Great Ten more so than Ralph’s ordeal. But I’m ok with that because the Great Ten (or it’s members) continue to intrigue me. Much panel space is taken up by Yao Fei’s back story, and with what Hu Wei mumbles after he reverts to his man form (“they wanted me to have no conscience…”), I need to find out what was going on with this Chinese superhero group at that time!

The Accomplished Perfect Physician is a Doctor Strange analog, but he uses sounds to do various things, which reminded me a lot of Tyroc from the Legion of Super-Heroes. And the Yeti is like the Hulk, but with the added element of being manipulated by (I’m assuming) his government.

I liked three things about the Teen Titans portion of the issue. One was the membership drive and the few panels that showed those wanting to join. Some of the applicants I recognize (Red Star, Miss Martian, Harlequin), but there’s also a Robin-looking character (who says something about his Earth — which one?) and is that Zachary Zatara wanting to rejoin?! Second is Captain Marvel, Jr. being won over by Osiris’ assertion that the Black Adam family only wanting to make the world a better place. Finally, speaking of Osiris, the fact that Raven only detects hope in the young man (even if I do feel a bit manipulated by the writer — it’s presented so matter of factly that I am immediately suspicious) helps to validate the character.

Finally, what does Buddy and the others expect to accomplish against Lady Styx? The smart play is for one of them to warn Earth, but that’s not heroic I suppose.

The Origin of Blue Beetle

By Waid, Hamner, Sinclair, Lanham, Richards, Schaefer, Wacker, and Siglain

This version of Blue Beetle is probably the best replacement character DC has ever produced, definitely improving upon the original. I love his design and concept, and I am disappointed that he’s not being utilized in the post-Rebirth era.

Pull List Review: 12/21/11 Comics

First things first: the new Avengers trailer:

Boo-yah! Am I right? :D

Now for week 3 of my quickie December 2011 comic reviews.

Batman #4: Usually I don’t care for adding new stuff to an established character’s origin as if it’s been there all along, but I did enjoy the addition of Bruce Wayne, Lil’ Detective. The Greg Capulo art is getting better (or better with me at least, save for how all of his dark-haired characters look the same sans masks) and that last page incorporating the credits into the maze was neat.

Batman, Inc.: Leviathan Strikes! #1: Does anyone know why DC delayed the release of these two Batman, Inc. issues (what would have been #9 & 10)? Was it just the New 52 launch? Regardless, I got to see Stephanie Brown as Batgirl one last time and was by far the better story of the two in this $7 collection, though, speaking of the second story, was it really a surprise just who Leviathan was revealed to be? I was actually a little disappointed. Despite that, I will be getting this series when it returns later this year.

Daredevil #7: Love love love that cover–it’s so elegant in it’s simplicity. This issue is a nice change of pace from the story that’s been developing, but it was the Nelson & Murdock office party that was the best part of this. 1) Matt comes into the party wearing a “I am not Daredevil” shirt along with devil horns on his head. 2) When Kirsten McDuffie says hello, Matt offers to get her wine but “accidentally” knocks the bottle over so that when they both catch it, they end up touching hands (I bet Matt does this bit all of the time–he’s such a player!). The A story is fine, but really is just a respite before the next big plot.

Fantastic Four #601: Ok, bone picking time. This is how Marvel keeps down cost? A flimsy cover stock? As for the issue, there are some nice moments in it: Spidey’s reaction to seeing Johnny back, Sue’s tears of joy at the same, Ben shedding a tear as well, and Reed (of course) being able to tell Johnny exactly how long he had been presumed dead (2757 hours). By the way, just how much more can Earth-616 take? After the events of Fear Itself, and now this (and who knows what other apocalyptic events that have happened in other Marvel books), the poor populace has taken quite a beating.

Justice League #4: More lovely bits! Cyborg makes a full-on appearance, as does Aquaman, who quips to the assembled almost Leaguers, “I don’t see a leader.” To which Batman replies, “Then you’re not looking at me.” Later, when dick Hal accidentally (or is he copping a feel?) touches Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth and reveals he’s really just trying to impress people, Batman laughs (though not on panel). Oh, yeah, and Darkseid arrives. The art this issue seemed less clean, or maybe it’s just because there are a lot of explosions.

Nightwing #4: Just when I was enjoying the thought of Raya sticking around long-term, the first few pages spell it out: she tells Dick that their fling is just that, nothing more (and that sentiment is reinforced at the end as well). But to complicate matters for the former Boy Wonder, Batgirl shows up, but she does apologize for the way she treated Dick in Batgirl #3, so I liked that bit of continuity. And can we have a moratorium on using the body double trope? That is so hackneyed.

Wonder Woman #4: Cliff Chiang’s Diana is gorgeous! I love his rendition of the Amazon Princess more and more each issue. And Brian Azzarello’s take on the Olympians has grown on me to the point that I love them all so far. How refreshing to see War portrayed not as a megalomaniac bent on utter destruction? At the end though–did Hera do that to the Amazons? Based on how she was treating Hippolyta earlier, it doesn’t make sense, but then, Hera is known for her mood swings.

I also read Birds of Prey #4 (still liking this book, and the ending to this issue has me intrigued), Blue Beetle #4 (yawn), Catwoman #4 (why does Selina like wearing the red wig so much? And holy cow that last page!), DC Universe Presents #4 (we really have one more issue of this thing?), Lady Mechanika #3 (I love the look of this book, but the jokes are really lame), LSH #4 (yawn), Supergirl #4 (yawn), Thunder Agents #2 (I liked the Frazer Irving cover. The story is so-so.).

Pull List Review: 11/16/11 Comics

Batman #3: This issue literally ends with a bang! Snyder has created some cool stuff in this title, and I can’t wait to see what comes next. That whole 13th floor thing was CREEPY! I am still loving the bat-tech in this title. You don’t really get that in the other Bat titles that I’ve read (in fact, it’s almost as if we have at least four or five versions of Batman, which is not a good thing). I read a tweet from the artist that the physical likeness between Bruce and Lincoln is intentional, which is a complaint I believe I made on one of the LBR podcasts. I found it funny that he felt it necessary to make that announcement.

Birds of Prey #3: Stakes are raised big time in this issue, but before that, Canary takes the group to get the newest BoP recruit: Poison Ivy. Starling and Katana attack Ivy, to which Dinah exclaims, “Guys! C’mon! What the hell?” I got a chuckle out of that. Still good, still buying it.

Blue Beetle #3: I get that they wanted to tell the origin story for this character, but I want Jaime to actually do something besides argue with the scarab. Three more issues and I’m done.

Catwoman #3: You know what? Complain about the sexuality or the treatment of women already portrayed in this comic, but it’s still a pretty darned good read. Selina’s reaction to her fence’s murder (because of her, natch) is good angsty stuff, all drawn to great effect by March. I never thought I’d be reading a Catwoman comic every month, yet, here I am.

DCU Presents #3: So do not care about this Deadman story. This should have been two, maybe three issues tops and move on to the next story, but no, we have two more issues. I will be getting the next storyline featuring the Challengers of the Unknown, but after that, I think I’ll only get whatever characters interest me instead of getting the book monthly.

Justice League #3: Love love love this portrayal of Diana. She’s a fighter and loves it. It’s what I think an Amazon’s mindset would be. Interesting that Steve Trevor is her Pentagon liaison. Many great lines in this issue:

  • Flash to Batman: “I thought you were a vampire or something.”
  • Hal to Barry when Diana arrives on the scene: “Dibs.”
  • Superman to Diana” You’re strong.” Diana (smiling slightly): “I know.”
  • Aquaman to everyone: “So who’s in charge here? I vote me.”

And that two-page spread of Wonder Woman was lovely to look at. :D This is my favorite book of the DCnU.

LSH #3: Unless something really, really interesting happens in the next three issues, I’m done. (And that makes me sad.)

Nightwing #3: I usually don’t like it when writers throw in new people from the main character’s past, but I am liking this new redheaded, childhood friend of Dick’s. I imagine that the other redhead that Dick loves who shows up next issue will cause some problems for our favorite former sidekick. I’m also really digging the Barrows/Pansica pencils in this book.

Red Hood & the Outlaws #3: My last issue, but I still cannot get over the fact that Scott Lobdell is actually making me care about Jason Todd. WTF?! That cherished memory that Jason traded to accomplish his mission was just awesome. Out of character for Batman, perhaps, but for emotional impact, the scene was very cool.

Supergirl #3: Much like Blue Beetle and the LSH, something needs to change for me to continue with this title. I’m bored, and I shouldn’t be.

Wonder Woman #3: What is wrong with you, Internet? Why does this slight change to Diana’s origin make you bleed from your ears? I like this new twist–it makes perfect sense, and sets up a new adversary for Diana. However, to be Diana and have to listen to your mother tell you how you were conceived is kind of gross. The ending to the issue was perfect.

Pull List Review: 10/19/11 Comics

Batman #2: That great cliffhanger from last issue is undercut, though deftly, with the reveal that there’s a perfectly logical reason that Dick Grayson’s DNA was found on a victim. Plus, we get to see that Wayne money being spent on wonderful Bat toys (“photogrammetric scanner”). This is actually one thing I really enjoyed about Snyder’s Batman: he really uses the tech aspect of Batman AND we get the detective aspect as well. I also loved where Bruce tells Dick that out of everyone, save perhaps Alfred, Dick knows him best. Aww. I love touchy feely Batman. :) This is by far the Batman book to be reading, I will concede that point, but sometimes Snyder’s Batman narration goes a little over the top. Case in point, at the end, Batman tells us that he’s the only legend that Gotham needs. *shudder*

Birds of Prey #2: Hmm, I have to admit, I love Starling. She’s the break-out character of this book so far. I love Dinah, too, and like how much of the narration filters through her, but Starling is just fun to watch. I still do not care for Katana, but I do like that they’re portraying her to be a bit crazy, perhaps. I’d actually like that better than if the whole dead husband residing in her sword thing is true. And how weird is it to see Poison Ivy not clad in some green suit? It’s good to go against type sometimes, but an orange leaf motif? Definitely different.

Blue Beetle #2: More of Jaime’s personality is coming out in this issue, so that’s good. Also, the interaction between Jaime and the scarab is interesting, but since I’ve been watching Blue Beetle in the Batman: Brave and the Bold cartoons, this is nothing really that new. I like how the alien connection keeps coming back thus far, but overall, I’m not really seeing anything in this book that screams at me to read it yet.

Catwoman #2: I only bought number one because of the hype surrounding it and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it (disturbing coupling scene aside), but it was watching the Catwoman short on the Batman: Year One DVD that prompted me to pick issue two off the shelf at my comic book shop recently. I enjoyed this issue as well, again surprisingly. I’m not totally on board yet, but if my shop has an issue on the stand, I will buy number three next time I’m in.

Fear Itself #7: And we’re done. The Serpent is vanquished, and Thor is dead. Again. Actually, it really bugged me the way Spider-Man and the other heroes seemed very nonchalant about their friend’s passing. Is it just because they figure that he’ll be back? Does death really hold so little meaning to these characters in the Marvel U? Overall, this story was what I expected it to be: a protracted fight scene with little treasures scattered throughout, ending with everything pretty much as it was before. Of the little gems in this issue, I liked that a mere human came back to help Cap, that Odin cast out everyone from Asgard, and that Cap’s shield, broken to pieces previously, was repaired in Asgard, though it does still have a battle “scar” (like the Liberty Bell–is that just a little too on the nose?).

Justice League #2: This comic remains at the top of my reading pile (it’s number one overall). Jim Lee’s work on this is solid (his Superman is the best out of anyone I’ve seen so far) and Geoff Johns continues to build the story in a way that naturally flows, each character introduction growing in an organic way. I love the way that all of the characters react and interact with each other. I love how Batman, and not just in this comic, is being portrayed in the DCnU–he’s less the stoic, “I am the goddamn Batman!”, and more analytic and commanding. People aren’t listening to him just because he’s Batman, but because what he’s saying makes sense. Similar, too, with Superman. He’s not the arrogant strong man or boy scout that he’s been portrayed in the past, but someone who will, if provoked, break heads, and he’s not afraid to use his powers more aggressively. Hal does come across as a bit of an ass, but that makes sense to me. And this Flash is a character I wouldn’t mind reading more of, unlike in his own series. Can’t wait for issue three!

Nightwing #2: The cover reads: “Saiko Killer!” Really? Can’t we have a little bit of subtlety? And who didn’t think that Dick and long lost circus pal Raya would end up sleeping together? Duh! She’s a red head and he’s, well, Dick Grayson. :D

Star Trek/LSH #1: The title alone was enough to sell me, but I worried about the execution. Basically, this issue is two storylines–one Star Trek and one Legion– that don’t ever really merge (sort of they did), so that leaves next issue and the remaining four to introduce the villain(s), resolve the crisis, return to the status quo, but most importantly, get the two groups to interact to produce those nerdgasms! I love that what we get from the two groups is our classic Trek line up (not the new Trek) and Paul Levitz 80s era Legionnaires, including the founding three. The plot crux involving the goatee Trek universe is overdone, so I hope we get something that’s a little more interesting than what’s come before. The art reminds me a bit of Dave Cockrum’s work, which is fitting, and the Phil Jimenez cover is bee-utiful! One of the things I define as successful in a Star Trek comic is if the artists can draw the starships well enough, and not get sloppy, but so far, so good.

Wonder Woman #2: Weird to see Hippolyta as a blonde–change for change’s sake, hmm? I am really liking Cliff Chiang’s art. It was talked about some time ago, but here is where the idea that Diane does have a father is introduced. When I first heard about it, I didn’t like the idea, but having pondered it a bit, so what? Does it fundamentally change what Wonder Woman is about? I doubt it very much. I’m not saying I prefer this change, but I don’t think it’ll have much of an impact on the future–for this storyline, sure, but long term?

I also read DC Universe Presents #2 (the only thing really interesting in this issue was the old woman angel in the library), LSH #2 (oh noes! A renegade Daxamite’s on the loose!), and Red Hood & the Outlaws #2.