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.

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!

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.