52! Week Twenty-Eight

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Johnson, Jadson, Ramos, Jose, Baron, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, Wacker, 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

“Beyond the Black Stump”

Week 28, Day 2

Renee and the Question have returned to Gotham to warn Batwoman of the Book of Crime prophecy involving her death.

In Australia, a Ridge-Ferrick crew arrive to escort a local village from their homes, but mechanic Johnny sics his robot with the Red Tornado’s head on the crew. The robot unleashes a tornado as it yells “52!” repeatedly. Another villager takes a sledgehammer to the robot to stop it from killing anyone. Johnny is arrested and the Red Tornado’s head is tossed into a salvage truck, still repeating “52!”.

Lobo, Starfire, Animal Man, and Adam Strange evade an attack from the Head of Ekron.

Well 28, Day 4

The group have found a hiding spot, but the Head of Ekron searches close by.

Week 28, Day 5

Batwoman defeats some thugs in a church, but is defeated by Bruno Mannheim. He threatens to devour her, but Renee and the Question arrive to help. Despite that, Mannheim escapes.

Week 28, Day 7

Adam Strange and the others plan to lay some traps for the Head of Ekron, when it appears and Adam has to improvise. They are surprised when the Head asks for help and Starfire realizes that the Head is a Green Lantern! It mentions a her that is “a destroying flame”, and the group decides they must stop the Stygian Passover from reaching Earth.

Thoughts

There’s not too much to this issue, other than forwarding a few plots, with the revelation that the Head of Ekron is a Green Lantern being a notable exception.

Is a week enough time for Renee and the Question to travel from Nanda Parbat to Gotham? Renee was in quite a hurry, so …. What does Mannheim mean that “the questions have not yet been answered”? Two panels earlier, he referred to Renee and the Question as “the Questions”, so his later comment must have a double meaning, right? What pertinent detail (answer?) about the Crime Bible prophecy have the Questions missed? This tidbit actually makes me interested in the Book of Crime.

Ridge-Ferrick makes a return appearance, but I’ll admit I had forgotten and had to look it up. I liked that Johnny used a video game (PlayStation?) controller to operate his Red Tornado robot. This scene is where the issue title comes in. A “black stump” is a land marker used in Australia, and going beyond that stump is metaphorical for being in unknown territory, so is that what the wolves at the end of the Red Tornado scene are supposed to represent?

Why does Lobo appear to be covering the Eye with his blood after biting his finger? And where does he go for the final two pages? Given Starfire’s accusation, his disappearance from the scene completely is an odd choice (or editorial failing). Adam’s tantrum amused me: “One more @$%?!$#§ twist!” Is this metafictional commentary about the plot?

The Origin of Catman

by Waid, Eaglesham, Thibert, Sinclair, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, Wacker, and Siglain

Catman was one of my favorite characters from the run of Secret Six that this entry references (Who am I kidding? They were all great.). Is there a coloring or continuity error in the panel showing Blake with dark hair? I also like that Eaglesham drew Blake with a paunch as he approaches the lion pride in the following panel. Under Powers, where it says “uncannily stealthy”, my brain can’t help but read that as “unCATtily”, which makes no sense, but makes me chuckle.

52! Week Twenty-Five

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennet, Eaglesham, Jimenez, Olliffe, Jose, Thibert, Lanning, Geraci, Sinclair, 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

“Liminal Times”

Week 25, Day 1

Bruno Manheim explains his vision of Crime to Mirage, with bloody results. Later, he addresses other Gotham crime bosses, telling them that they work for him and Intergang or “we make you extinct”.

Week 25, Day 3

On Halloween, Captain Marvel, Jr. and Mary Marvel battle a giant-sized, Satanesque Sabbac when the Black Marvel Family arrive to defeat the villain, winning over the hearts of the assembled trick-or-treaters.

Ralph Dibny continues his tour of Hell with the Helmet of Fate. The Hemet shows Ralph the trapped and ravaged soul of Felix Faust as a lesson and a warning: “Our next stop … you will make your first bargain. Be prepared to honor it.”

Week 25, Day 3

Infinity, Inc. stop Icicle and Tigress from robbing a bank and debut their newest member, Matrix. Alan Scott watches this and then speaks to Michael Holt, telling him that the UN Security Council asked Alan to be the White King. He then asks Michael to join him as his Bishop.

Week 25, Day 4

Dr. Magnus tells Dr. Morrow that he refuses to build a plutonium robot for Intergang. Meanwhile, Bruno Mannheim arrives on Oolong Island to discuss with Chang Tzu a solution to the Kahndaq problem. Tzu tells Mannheim they have weapons “so terrible … we call them the Four Horsemen”.

Thoughts

“Liminal” means transitional, so having a bunch of storylines present in this issue seems to fit the title. It’s also curious how many artists we get, which is a first for the series. Was there some kind of transition or shift going on behind the scenes? Or was it that the weekly grind has finally caught up with the creative team? Perhaps the theme of “transition” would have been better for the 26th issue? Regardless, this issue does give me the sense that things are starting to move forward (or at least moving) for some of these plots.

This issue has another wonderful cover for the series showing three trick-or-treaters representing four of the thus far prominent storylines with Steel, Booster Gold, and Renee Montoya dressed as the Question (a melding of her and Charlie or foreshadowing?). The fourth representative is the Helmet of Fate being used as candy receptacle. Does this represent some as yet unknown connection between Booster Gold and the Helmet?!

I had forgotten that Bruno Mannheim was positioned as an apostle of crime — I tend to think of him as the Intergang representative only — but here DC is clearly giving him a bigger role (more a Kingpin-like character with supernatural connections).

The transitional theme continues with the adoration of the Black Marvel Family by the kids — Captain Marvel, Jr and Mary Marvel are almost an afterthought in this scene. Not having read the Power of Shazam, this was probably the first time I saw Mary Marvel in her white costume, which I love. You get the whole red, white, and blue motif with the three Marvels, and white is such an underused color in superhero comics that it makes her stand out (as she should).

While I loved the Jimenez art in the Felix Faust pages, I thought that sequence went on too long, but we do get that amazing sequence of panels showing Faust’s soul crumbling and blowing away in the breeze as Fate’s Helmet warns Ralph about the bargain he will soon strike. This is the amazing storytelling aspect of comic books that I love.

I recall when Alan Scott took over Checkmate and had wanted to read that series, but never bought the issues. Reading this introduction makes me want to read them again to understand why he would want to take on this role (his explanation to Michael notwithstanding) and how things developed.

Finally, we get to see the “master” of Oolong Island and it is the wonderfully redesigned Chang Tzu (formerly the offensive Egg-Fu), but even this cybernetically supported, nightmare inducing “egg” is subservient to Intergang. I’m looking forward to where this leads (besides the 52 Aftermath mini-series tie-in).

The Origin of Nightwing

by Waid, Perez, Sinclair, Balsman, Richards, Wacker

I’m sure I did then and I certainly do now love to see George Perez drawing my favorite (former) Robin again, complete with his trademark detailed backgounds.

It also just now occurs to me reading this origin that given Dick’s circus upbringing, he must hate that the Joker is a perverted clown (the “clown prince of crime”) compared to the people — his companions and friends — who performed as clowns in his youth. I wonder if anyone ever played with that idea over the years?

I love how Waid referred to Robin as the “laughing young daredevil”. Aside from the bad puns and a propensity to get himself captured and subsequently rescued by Batman all the time, I don’t know that this aspect of Dick’s personality was ever fully explored either.

This origin also mentions the post-Infinite Crisis revelation that Dick wasn’t supposed to have survived it. I read Nightwing during this time and don’t recall that DC ever adequately addressed this plot point.

Finally, I love this bit:

[Nightwing’s] ability to read people makes him not only an amazing detective but a team leader without equal, a trait not even his former mentor shares.

Nightwing rules!