52! Week Ten

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Batista, Palmiatti, Jadson, Sinclair, Fletcher, Cohen, 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

“Stop the Press”

Week 10, Day 1: In Kahndaq, Black Adam meets with his allies and potential allies. He is interrupted by the young woman, Adrianna Tomaz (who was given to him as a gift in issue three), who is attempting to flee.

Week 10, Day 2: At the Daily Planet, Perry White reprimands Clark Kent for allowing the Daily Star to get the scoop on the newest Metropolis superhero, Supernova. Perry tells Clark that because of his poor performance over the last few months, Clark is fired. Clark then sees Supernova flying by the Daily Planet and jumps out the window. His tactic pays off because Supernova catches him, allowing Clark to interview him.

Black Adam’s palace guards release Adrianna from her overnight holding cell and she and Black Adam have a conversation. She tells him that he will “plunge this world into war”.

Week 10, Day 3: Lois chastises Clark for throwing himself into harms way for a story, the irony of which is not lost on her husband. He tells Lois that he thinks Supernova is on the level.

Week 10, Day 4: Booster Gold is feeling sore that he’s had to relocate from his penthouse condo to a three-room rental and is looking to take it out on Supernova.

Week 10, Day 6: Will Magnus visits Dr. Morrow again, and he shows Morrow an empty cocoon that Dr. Sivanna had been treating with radiation.

Thoughts

Look at the artistry on display with this Jones/Sinclair cover. The folds and wrinkles in Clark Kent’s clothing and the look of the newspapers falling around him are just spectacular.

Notice the issue title is “Stop the Press”, not “Presses”. Aside from Clark’s employment issue (which is quickly resolved), these phrases usually mean that urgent information has come to light and needs to be disseminated. So what is that information this issue? That Black Adam’s mission will fail? That Clark is not a great reporter? That Dr. Morrow is still grateful that Magnus visits him?

The opening scene with Black is interesting for a couple reasons:

  • One, he says “Shazam” but the lightning does not come. He appears to be intrigued, but what will come of this? I love how the artists drew this scene, especially the middle panel: it’s just Adam staring into the sky with some birds in the distance — its a quit moment for him before all of the drama.
  • Two, the gathering. I have to confess, while I did recognize the big guy from the Great Ten and a Rocket Red, I had to look up the others in this two-page spread. From left to right, we have: Queen Cobra (who is new, according to my internet source), Sonar (whom I thought I recognized but wasn’t sure because of the way he was drawn), Lady Zand (whom I thought at first was Blackfire), Ibis the Invincible (whom I thought was a new Sargon the Sorcerer at first), August General in Iron, Cascade (whom I did not know was from the Global Guardians), and Rocket Red. I’m sure some of the “normals” in the scene are based on people who either work at DC Comics or from the artist’s life — there’s just too many of them looking at the camera to not be more than background characters.

Clark Kent is fired for underperforming. This is just calling out what we already know — Clark, in normal circumstances, is the equivalent of an athlete who is doping. Is he even a good reporter? I’ve always disliked that Clark got his job because he cheated (writing about himself), and it seems this reliance on his super abilities has only continued over the years. Hell, he even borrows a page from Lois’ playbook by falling into the arms of a superman! (And the later scene of her chastising Clark for that act was priceless.) Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

I loved the scene between Adrianna and Black Adam with her speaking truth to power. She’s also not a bit player and not a victim. Is their argument their meet-cute?

The scene with Lois and Clark is notable not just for their conversation about what Clark did and Supernova, but also for the fact that this is the first scene with one of the Trinity since the series started and we get an update on the other two! Speaking of Supernova, we see that he apparently can teleport, flies, has destructo-vision or something (more teleportation, perhaps?), and he gets Superman’s seal of approval.

Finally, in the scene with Morrow and Magnus, the former doctor is tidying up his cell by returning some books to a shelf. One is Brave New World and the other is 1984. Given the dystopian futures in both novels, how ominous is this message? Is Morrow preparing for his role in this future (taking inspiration from the stories) or are these just his version of “light” entertainment? In the next panel, we see Frankenstein, which is more up Morrow’s alley, but what do all of these books have in common with him, his situation, or this series generally?

History of the DCU, part 9

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

This installment was a reminder of everything going on between Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis, including Villains United, the Rogue War, the return of Hal Jordan, Day of Vengeance, the Rann-Thanagar War, the murder of Blue Beetle by Max Lord, Batman’s OMAC Project, and Wonder Woman’s execution of Max Lord. There’s also the rebirth of Jason Todd and Donna Troy, so this time in DC Comics publishing history wasn’t all about distrust, death, and destruction.

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 the 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 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 Kahndaq, 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?