52! Week Twenty-Seven

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Moll, Jose, Benes, Ramos, Rollins, Nelson, Pantazis, Brosseau, 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

“The Past Best Hope”

Week 27, Day 1

Ralph Dibny takes charge of his journey with the Helmet of Fate and they visit the Spectre. Ralph asks if the Hand of God can bring his wife back, to which the Spectre declares, smiling, “Absolutely”. Spectre then takes Ralph and the Helmet of Fate to deep space where the Eclipso possessed Jean Loring is imprisoned. Ralph accepts the Spectre’s bargain, and Ralph tells Jean Loring, “I’ll show you hell …”.

Week 27, Day 2

Elsewhere, Waverider sits in a room with many clocks. At 5:25:20 a.m., the Time Commander appears, trapped in an hourglass. He chastises Waverider for betraying him and the other time stealers and then disappears. Immediately, Skeets appears, and Waverider asks it if it’s Skeets’ fault, “You’re the one Rip Hunter was warning us about”. Skeets’ denies that it is not the one who is “splintering the historical mainline”, but demands to know when is Rip Hunter. It proceeds to torture Waverider for the information.

Week 27, Day 5

While Richard Dragon trains Renee Montoya, she discovers that Charlie has cancer and doesn’t have long to live. Meanwhile, Aristotle Rodor examines the Crime Bible and one particular passage makes Renee think that Kate Kane is in danger.

Week -84, Day -2

Ralph has transported Jean to the past, to the moment before she has called Sue and murdered her. Using Spectre-given power, Ralph transforms Jean, suppressing the Eclipso entity so that Jean will experience the guilt in an eternal loop. Jean begs for forgiveness, and as the phone rings, she turns to Ralph, telling him, “Ralph … look away … You’re only punishing yourself …”. Ralph screams and takes them back to space, his deal with the Spectre undone. Ralph tells the Helmet that he knows that he can get Sue back, and to do that, they need to go to Nanda Parbat.

Thoughts

First, I love the detail that Jones and Sinclair put into the Spectre’s hood and glove — they look like they’re made of actual fabric! Speaking of the Spectre, his (its?) smile when he says to Ralph, “Absolutely!”, is creepy as hell.

I love that the confrontation between Waverider (Is this room full of clocks where he was last issue too? Was he hiding specifically from Skeets or something more sinister?) and Skeets lasts in between the space of one second. I know they had to use the 5:25:20 time to make the 52 reference work, but is there some significance to two fifty-twos? Is this a heretofore unknown reference to the Dark Multiverse? ;)

Charlie dying is one of the main things I do remember about 52, and Renee taking on the mantle of the Question was one of the best things to come out of the series (besides the reveal of the return of the multiverse).

But it is the scene set in the past that is the best part of this issue. First, I love the negative values of the time caption — who had to figure that out and is it even accurate?! I have to wonder if the issue title is a play on a line from Lincoln’s second State of the Union, “the last best hope” (please don’t tell me whomever chose that title was merely a Babylon 5 fan …)? If so, the “best hope” has to be a reference to Jean Loring’s redemption, right? That brief moment when she shows concern for Ralph was very moving. Anyway, I found it interesting that DC wanted to redeem Jean to a degree, while still having her remain as Eclipso (I was never a fan of her in that role). Now I want to find out what happened to her next.

The Origin of Black Canary

by Waid, Chaykin, Pantazis, Napolitano, Richards, Schaefer, Siglain

Did Dinah’s mother get pissed at her teammates going behind her back to train her daughter? I would be. I did like that they didn’t mention the events in The Longbow Hunters, something that seems to define and haunt Black Canary.

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 Twenty-Four

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Jimenez, Lanning, Baron, Brosseau, 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

“Just Imagine”

Week 24, Day 1

While talking to reporters about his Star City mayoral campaign, Oliver Queen receives a call on his JLA communicator from Firestorm, who asks him to join the new Justice League. Queen turns down the offer and tells Firestorm not to call anyone else.

Week 24, Day 2

At the original Justice League of America’s HQ in Rhode Island, J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, talks to himself, addressing his former JLA member, Booster Gold, saying how he has helped eliminate Checkmate in retaliation for its role in Blue Beetle’s murder.

Week 24, Day 3

Black Adam and Isis speak to the Great Ten, announcing an alteration to the Freedom of Power Treaty, which no longer includes executing metahuman criminals. Oriris, however, is bored and wants “to do something fun”. Black Adam tells August General that the Black Marvel Family is available to help if the Great Ten and China need it.

Week 24, Day 6

While the new Justice League is talking to reporters, they are attacked by pirates and cyborgs emerging from a rift. Suddenly, many of the bystanders transform into their Everyman personas to help. Skeets also appears and tells Firestorm it is responsible for the pirates and cyborgs to draw out an enemy. Skeets then attacks Firestorm and the assembled Everymen and Justice Leaguers, including Super-Chief, who is transported to a land of the dead. The original Super-Chief, Flying Stag, retrieves the Manitou Stone and tells Ralph Dibny that “Magic never comes without a price”.

Week 24, Day 7

J’onn J’onzz, in his guise as an advisor to the President, is present when the President is told that Checkmate has been recertified as a U.N. agency, negating J’onn’s efforts.

In Belle Reve, Amanda Waller has Atom Smasher picking members for a new Suicide Squad mission.

Thoughts

Phil Jimenez’ and Andy Lanning’s art is a welcome change to this series, especially because of all the group shots and different and varied body types/faces (Perez clone that Jimenez is — and I love him for it!).

Both Martian Manhunter and Ollie Queen are after justice this issue: J’onn refers to justice being served for Blue Beetle’s murder, while Ollie’s campaign slogan is “Justice … For All!”. Also, Ollie’s campaign manager is named Maggin, presumably after Elliot S! Maggin, a long-time DC Comics writer (who also wrote stories about Green Arrow).

The new Justice League has an intriguing membership: Firehawk (a character whose design I’ve always liked, even if Jones gives her a new costume on the cover), Firestorm, Bulleteer, Super-Chief, and Ambush Bug. How did this group get together? It makes sense that Firehawk and Firestorm team up, but Super-Chief (who just took on the mantle and has now joined the team)? Ambush Bug?! Speaking of Ambush Bug, we get an issue filled with his fourth-wall breaking and pop culture referential dialog. His shirt on the cover reads “This Shirt’s a Clue” and his first words are the title of the issue, with the background of the word balloon filled with “Week 24”. :) Other references include:

  • He yells into the phone, “The weekly grind is tearin’ me apart! Fifty-two!” Is this commentary from Giffen and company?
  • His Bugs Bunny (or other Warner Bros cartoon character) like dialog:
    • “…so I says to Schwartz, I says…”
    • “Doink!” as he stabs two pirates in their eyes.
    • “Mommy”, just after Super-Chief is zapped away and Bug stands triumphantly over a defeated pirate.
  • “Didn’t mean to interrupt your exposition-filled conversation…”

It’s kind of creepy the way J’onn infiltrates the U.S. government, despite his noble purpose. Also, how he has created statues of all the fallen JLAers in the cave. It seems like he’s gone off some deep end — out of guilt about Blue Beetle?

Osiris has quickly become annoying. How can you take a new character with such potential and immediately make him unlikable? The short answer being, of course, you’re not supposed to like him. I recall what happens to him in the end, but not the journey. Speaking of newly debuted characters, why introduce Jon Standing Bear in the previous issue just to kill him off here?! Wasteful! Not so wasteful are the Dial H like characters (Luthor’s Everymen) with great or not so great names like:

  • Dynamole
  • The Crimson Ghost
  • Jack of All Trades (who looks somewhat like Spider-Man)
  • The Tornado Ninja (an homage to Samurai from the Super Friends cartoon?)
  • E.S. Pete (sounds like something from the Silver Age Legion of Super-Heroes)
  • Poledancer (yikes!)
  • et al

I’ve long suspected Skeets of being up to something, but here, he’s using his time hopping abilities to draw out some, as yet unnamed, enemy, and it doesn’t care who gets in the way. In fact, its now on the offensive with weapons and attacking the heroes.

Other bits:

  • A Jack Ryder advertisement can be seen on the trolley outside Ollie’s campaign office. It reads “You Are Wrong!”
  • Ambush Bug is eating from a bag of chips that features a squirrel. The logo cleverly reads “Ch’ps”, so this has to be an homage to Green Lantern Ch’p.
  • Wherever the new JL is when Firestorm calls Ollie, there is a poster on the wall of Starfire in a bikini (thank you again, Mr. Jimenez). I wonder if this is from one of the photoshoots she did in New Teen Titans?
  • In the J’onn J’onzz monologue, there is a reference to Secretary of State Kakalios. It was an unusual name, so I looked it up and discovered that James Kakalios is the author of The Physics of Superheroes, which was published the year before 52. That has to be a tip of the hat to the author, right?
  • A pirate closely resembling Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow is seen in a newspaper near the end of the issue.
  • The ambassador talking to the President is named Trautmann, after artist/designer Eric Trautmann?
  • Every issue ends with some preview images from the next issue. Here, Ambush Bug is playing the roles of the Question, Isis, and Batwoman. You gotta love a running gag.

The Origin of Booster Gold

by Waid, Jurgens, Lanning, Sinclair, Brosseau, Richards, Wacker

I feel like we have already visited Booster Gold’s origin in this series (in story), but this  time, the origin entry has an additional tag: “An excerpt from the Justice League archives”.  My problem with this is the meta-editorial commentary (such as the “gratuity not included” notation) in this entry, so which Justice Leaguer has supposedly written this “excerpt” (though Batman does have a dry sense of humor…)?

52! Week Twenty-One

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennett, Jadson, Baron, Lanham, 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

“Teambuilding Exercises”

Week 21, Day 1

Natasha Irons convinces Lex Luthor to allow speedster Eliza (aka Trajectory) to rejoin the team, making Eliza very happy. She professes her love of the speedster heroes and her desire to prove herself so she can join the Teen Titans.

Week 21, Day 2

Ralph Dibny and the Helmet of Fate convince a demonguard to open a gate to Hell.

Week 21, Day 3

Under the direction of Lex Luthor, his new Infinity, Inc. team debuts by apprehending Blockbuster. While the newly arrived Teen Titans clean up the damage caused by the fight, new team leader Beast Boy warns Natasha about Luthor’s intentions. Luthor helps Blockbuster escape his bonds, and Trajectory races off by herself. Luthor turns off her powers and Blockbuster kills her.

Week 21, Day 6

At Trajectory’s funeral in Alabama, Hot Spot, Little Barda, and Power Boy quit the Teen Titans, while John Henry Irons tries to talk to Natasha about Luthor. Beast Boy offers to help John.

Week 21, Day 7

In Australia, Johnny Warrawa grafts Red Tornado’s head onto a crude, robotic body.

Thoughts

The collaborators do a fine job of endearing us to Eliza in a few pages, especially after her previous appearance as a neophyte drug addict, which makes what happens to her all the more tragic. And we see what Dr. Avasti told John Irons the previous issue come true, meaning that Luthor can indeed turn on and off an Everyman’s program participant’s  metagene. Speaking of John, I’m starting to wonder if what Luthor did to him affected his mind. For a guy who created his own super armor, to confront Natasha at the funeral as he did was just stupid.

We get not one, but two superteam debuts: Infinity, Inc. and the Teen Titans. Luthor buying the Pemberton Estate and the associated Infinity, Inc. trademark is so Luthor. What was new to me was this version of the Teen Titans. Did I forget how these particular members ended up as the Teen Titans or did we ever get the story? I want to read more about the Raven/Zachary Zatara and Little Barda/Power Boy relationships, not to mention Beast Boy taking on a leadership role. Regardless, this team was short-lived with the three desertions.

It’s painful to see how Ralph treated the demon, and now Ralph’s descent into hell is  literal. But will this story be another telling of Orpheus and Eurydice or something far worse?

52! Week Eighteen

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Barrows, Stull, Sinclair, Lanham, 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

“Dismantled”

Week 18, Day 1

Detective Chimp, Terri Thirteen, and Edogawa Sangaku arrive at the House of Mystery to find their colleague, Tim Trench, wearing the Helmet of Fate. When Terri touches Tim, his body turns to water, leaving the Helmet in a puddle.

Week 18, Day 2

Charlie is awarded the Order of the Crescent for helping to stop the suicide bomber by Black Adam and Isis. Renee was supposed to have been present as well, and her absence offends Adam. Adam finds a drunk Renee with a Kahndaqian woman. When Adam tries to give Renee the medal, she swats it away, angering him. He picks her up by her throat, and Renee tells him, quietly, “… just do it…”, but Isis intervenes. Charlie tells them they are focusing on the suicide bomber instead of why she was at the wedding in the first place: they should be going after Intergang.

Week 18, Day 3

Detective Chimp has tracked Ralph Dibny to Marseilles, France, and has brought the sealed Helmet of Fate with him to enlist Ralph’s help to unravel the mystery. Ralph tells him it’s time to call in the Shadowpact.

Week 18, Day 4

Clark Kent is in Cincinnati, OH, to cover Booster Gold’s funeral. While there, Skeets encounters a young man who seems “vaguely … familiar” to it. He is Daniel Carter, who, according to Skeet’s scans, is a direct ancestor of Booster’s. Skeets tells Daniel to contact it to talk about his future.

Week 18, Day 7

The Shadowpact and Ralph have assembled in Giza, Egypt, the “shadow of the helm’s birthsite”, to scry what has happened recently to the helmet. The Helmet begins talking to Ralph, telling him that it can give him the “answers you seek” if he is prepared to “make every sacrifice I ask of you”. Ralph announces he is ready, and walks off with the Helmet. The Shadowpact look on puzzled, and Enchantress says, “Is it just me, or does he think that the Helmet was talking to him?”

Thoughts

This might be my favorite issue yet. In fact, I want to do a spotlight episode on the podcast on this issue! So many things to cover and explore….

First, here’s another cover I love. It has a very pulpy paperback cover feel to it, especially with the large Helmet of Fate looming over everyone and the scratchy letters, “Calling Dr. Fate”, in the bottom corner. Plus, Sinclair’s coloring of the Helmet here is gorgeous with the way light bounces off the metal — it’s not a spit-polished helmet by any means; that helmet has some history to it!

I also love the way they roll out the credits in the first few pages. Usually, they presented in a banner-like way across the pages, but this issue, they’ve placed the credits on pages framed to the walls or on mirrors in the House of Mystery. It helps direct our eyes to the other items on the walls, giving us a brief look into this group of occult investigators, the Croatoan Society: Detective Chimp, Terri Thirteen, Edogawa Sangaku, Tim Trench, and formerly Ralph Dibny. Ok, this was a new group created in this very issue (as far as I can tell), but the way they are written, it seems like they’ve been working in the DCU for a while. And their base of operations is the House of Mystery! How did this not turn into a series (or at least a mini)?! Given that this is the Sangaku character’s first appearance, I found this bit of trivia, so you know the collaborators on this issue are having some fun, especially because nothing came out after this issue regarding the character. Oh well.

Renee is reverting to type, unable to cope with killing the young girl from the previous issue (and I don’t blame her!), but it’s the way she taunts Black Adam, knowing what he could do to her — that she wants him to do it — that is heartbreaking. I’m glad that they’re showing the consequences of Renee’s actions, i.e., she isn’t instantly over it. But how long will this continue to haunt her?

I love that Ralph is the detective that Detective Chimp seeks out regarding the Helmet of Fate, a “locked-room mystery with a severe touch of the weird”. It adds a dimension to Ralph that I don’t know has ever been explored, but I’m also not well read on the Elongated Man’s adventures. Unfortunately, we do find out that Detective Chimp is a member of the Republican National Party.

Booster’s funeral provides us with some characters rarely, or only just, seen, as far as I know. In fact, while I recognized two, I had to look them up. Of note are Beefeater, with his punctuated “oi”s, and Odd Man, who first appeared in Detective Comics #487 in a story I read for the first time only a few month’s ago (at the time of this writing).

Finally, we get to see Shadowpact, which is a group that I love, even if the series wasn’t all that great. But we do get a great moment at the end of this issue when Ralph walks off with the Helmet of Fate after its conversation with him, and Enchantress reveals to us that the Helmet hadn’t said anything! So, is Ralph hallucinating or is something sinister at work here (I’m guessing the latter).

So many good elements here, rife with old and now new DC history, with some plot-forwarding as well. I really enjoyed this issue.

The Origin of The Question

by Waid, Bennett, Sinclair, Napolitano, Richards, Wacker

I’ve never been a big fan of The Question. He’s a detective-like character with a pretty basic gimmick, his pseudoderm mask. Oh, and it just so happens he was trained in martial arts by Richard Dragon. Yawn. However, when they changed the Question in the Justice League Unlimited animated series into a conspiracy theorist oddball, that’s when he became interesting. Given what happens to Charlie in 52,  I think the passing of the torch to Renee was a good evolution of the concept.