52! Week Forty-One

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Camuncoli, Ramos, Sinclair, Leigh, Richards, Schaeffer, 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

“Miracles & Wonders”

Week 41, Day 1

Adam Strange and Starfire are attacked by bounty hunter Meklon, and their ship is severely damaged. However, they are able to defeat Meklon and continue on their journey home.

Week 41, Day 2

Renee Montoya returns from meditating with mountain monks. After sparring briefly in an ice cave, Richard Dragon challenges her to “deal with who you are … so you can see who you can be”. She tells him that she can’t and runs off.

Week 41, Day 3

Ralph Dibny visits Haven Correctional Facility to visit an inmate. He bargains with the director to let him see an inmate by telling him the way that Doctor Morrow escaped was teleportation microcircuitry embedded in the security cameras.

Ralph then talks to Professor Milo, revealing that he knows Milo has smuggled the Silver Wheel of Nyorlath as part of his wheelchair. Ralph rips the wheel off, causing Milo to fall. Haven’s director bursts in, calling for Security. It’s then that Ralph realizes that Milo had not been faking paralysis as he thought, and then the Helmet of Fate transports Ralph, with the Wheel, away from Haven.

Week 41, Day 5

Renee has a conversation with Diana, who is in Nanda Parbat to meet with someone who will help her “start a new life, I suppose…”. Diana tells her,

You are looking for reason, and you are looking for it without. But the only reason you will find will be the reason you bring to the experience … and that can only come from looking within.

Later, Renee sits in an ice cave with a lit candle and a contented look. When the flame goes out, the smoke forms into a question mark.

Week 41, Day 7

Adam is despairing as his and Starfire’s ship is tumbling into a K-type star. Starfire, who was injured by Meklon earlier, threatens Adam, inspiring him to try something. Then  Green Lanterns Opto309V and Mogo arrive, saving them.

Thoughts

Another nice cover tying into Renee’s ice cave and the other events of the issue. Plus, there’s the connection to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave at work here, with Renee no longer trapped in the prison of her own making.

Well, it’s about time Renee accepts who she has been since Charlie got sick. Now what will she do as the Question? Her encounter with Wonder Woman was completely unexpected, and honestly, I didn’t realize it was Diana at first. This marks the first time we see the third part of the Trinity as we head into the last part of the series. Given what transpired with Wonder Woman previous to 52, and why she’s in Nanda Parbat, Diana’s journey during this time is the most relevant and interesting over the men — it makes me want to read Wonder Woman comic books from this time to see how it was dealt with in her title (or was it?).

Ralph just sinks lower and lower. In his drive to bring back his wife, he is losing bits and pieces of his humanity along the way. If Sue could see him now, she’d be ashamed.

The Origin of Starfire

By Waid, Benitez, Sinclair, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

It’s mentioned that her closest bond is with Dick Grayson, “the only Titan accustomed to having a partner that intimidating”. That’s fascinating if you consider how Starfire has been depicted during the years leading up to and after 52 and is very different from how she was shown originally, but still no less intimidating.

52! Week Thirty-Nine

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Smith, Snyder, Sinclair, Leigh, Richards, Schaeffer, 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

“Powers & Abilities”

Week 39, Day 1

Natasha and Jake follow Dr. Laughlin into a lab to confront him when the lab explodes. They attempt to put out the fire when Security and Mercy Graves arrive. While Natasha and Jake hide above them on the ceiling, Graves tells Security to salvage everything they can.

Week 39, Day 3

Ralph Dibny and the Helmet of Fate arrive at the ruins of Atlantis. They ask a distraught magician where they can find the Shackles of Arion. Once at the location, the Helmet tells Ralph that in order to take an enchanted link of the shackles, he must make an exchange. Ralph offers his wedding ring, which the Helmet uses to replace one the links.

Week 39, Day 6

On Oolong Island, a space warp is opened for the Horsemen to enter. Doctors Tyme and Sivana discuss the latter’s discovery of Suspendium, which is artificial time in particle form. Sivana tells Dr. Morrow that he had bombarded Mister Mind with Suspendium radiation to see what would happen, but he was brought to the Island before he could see the result.

The Horsemen leave the Island in the portal, and Morrow warns Dr. Magnus that he’ll make people suspicious if he continues to take things made of tin, mercury, gold, and lead. Magnus distracts Morrow with an article that revealed that Red Tornado has appeared on Earth. Morrow is very intrigued and leaves. Magnus then tells a miniature Mercury to stay out of sight.

Black Adam, Isis, and Sobek discuss Osiris and the guilt he feels for killing Persuader. Then a loud boom is heard and Sobek notices that Isis’ garden is dying.

Week 39, Day 5

Natasha uses one of her robot insects to spy on Lex Luthor in the Alpha Lab, and Jake arrives to warn her that Security is coming. He also tells her that he has something to show her and takes her to a room where the real Jake, what’s left of him, is lying on a table, a plate with a knife and fork nearby. The Jake that brought Natasha there transforms into Everyman and reveals that while he only needs to ingest a little bit of organic material, he’s discovered that he likes how it tastes. He then transforms into Natasha. Natasha attacks Everyman, declaring that “You’re going to get what you deserve”. Luthor arrives, blocking a flame blast intended for Everyman. He attacks Natasha and Graves removes her powers. Luthor tells Natasha that Dr. Laughlin had lied about Lex not being compatible with the Everyman Project. After Luthor punches and slaps her, she tells him he is “as much an animal as Everyman”. “Wrong,” says Luthor, “I’m Superman.”

Thoughts

What happened to this issue? First, the ticker on the cover states that Montoya fights a dragon (she’s not in the issue), and then there’s a Day 5 sequence that followed a Day 6 sequence. Were the editors asleep that month? OR, is something going on with time itself???

I love the composition of this cover: Lex flying, in a very Superman-like pose, above the Earth with the sun behind him, illuminating him — I love what Sinclair is able to do with “light” in his coloring work. Also, I really like how they thematically tie the cover to the final page of the issue, with the reveal that Luthor presumably has Superman’s powers. Even better is that the way Luthor’s shirt has been burned away in the shape of Superman’s chest shield.

I think that Ralph sacrificing his wedding ring will turn out to be a moment of irony, and it’s sad but poignant — what wouldn’t we give up to reobtain something so important and precious to us?

We’re certainly starting to get tidbits of information connecting events, such as Sivana’s revelation about his experiment with Mister Mind and that he’s observed that the Suspendium is acting strangely. Also, Morrow’s throw-away line about Magnus talking to himself is because he’s actually been talking to a recreated mini Mercury. So the manic Magnus we’ve seen over the last few issues is a ruse or has Magnus figured out how to work through his state without medication?

The sense of dread that has been building up on Oolong Island with Magnus in particular and overall with the mad scientists’ projects has now turned to serve a comic book trope. Yes, the Four Horsemen (well, the three we’ve seen on Oolong Island) look menacing and will no doubt be a problem, but they’re really just a bunch of villains the heroes will defeat eventually. I guess I was hoping for something more.

The splash page reveal of the real Jake’s body was really gross. Most of his left arm and leg and his right foot have been cut off (and hanging above) and it was only upon rereading the issue that I noticed Jake’s body is on top of a checkerboard tablecloth with a plate nearby. *gag* Well done art team, well done! Speaking of the art, I noticed that Andy Smith was new to this series, and I thought he did a fine job as penciller. I wonder why he didn’t do more than just this issue?

The beating Luthor gives Natasha is brutal, especially after her powers have been removed, but given the massacre he created on New Year’s Eve, this is just par for the course, I suppose. I guess I’m not used to seeing Luthor behave so aggressively. It’s almost like the Everyman Project procedure alters (certain?) people, or maybe it just accentuates the worst aspects of them (like Everyman himself)? In preparing for this post, I discovered that there is an after-effect of the Everyman Project in its participants that plays out with Natasha and others — I should find and read those issues as well.

The Origin of Mr. Terrific

By Waid, Van Sciver, Sinclair, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

I did not know (nor remember in this entry at all) Mr. Terrific’s brother nor his almost suicide. Most of the other personal information about this character — that he was extremely smart, athletic, and the impact his wife’s death had on him — I had learned from other stories over the years.

If Mr. Terrific is the third smartest man in the world, who is #1 and 2? Lex Luthor springs to mind, as does Bruce Wayne. While I found a reference online where Geoff Johns stated that Lex and Bruce are #1 and 2 (though not specifically which is which), I prefer to think of Bruce as the fourth smartest (#1 strategist though). Another contender is Ray Palmer, but comparatively, so is Dr. Magnus, i.e., they are experts in their particular field, but overall smartest? Nah (though I guess there is textual evidence that Palmer is considered one of the smartest overall). Head canon!

One of these days, I need to read the Checkmate stories featuring Mr. Terrific and Green Lantern.

52! Week Thirty-Three

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Prado, Derenick, Leisten, Ramos, Baron, Brosseau, 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

“The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

Week 33, Day 4

Central City: A drinking Ralph Dibny and the Helmet of Fate have come to the Flash museum, specifically the Elongated Man room (“If [Barry] were still alive, this would be a wing, not a closet.”), so Ralph can retrieve the same gun he nearly killed himself with earlier in the year.

Week 33, Day 5

Gotham City: While Alfred Pennyworth leads a children’s choir singing Christmas songs, Nightwing brings Batwoman a present: a real batarang.

Metropolis: Dr Laughlin tells Lex Luthor that one of the Everyman Project’s subjects is dying. Luthor then delivers the gift of cars (a Tanahashi 500) to his Infinity, Inc. members. After they leave to drive their vehicles on a private dragstrip (5th Avenue), Mercy delivers some bad news to her boss: Luthor’s genetics is not compatible with the Everyman Project process. As Luthor contemplates this news, wanting a sign “that the time and effort I pour into improving [‘this inequitable little universe’] might actually, for once, be rewarded”, Dr. Laughlin returns to tell him that the subject will “pull through” and that “some … x-factor in his body is … adapting to the Everyman process”. Luthor tells Laughlin to “draft a glowing obituary” because “something inside the boy opened the door to the possibility of genetic adaptation”. As the doctor leaves, Luthor and Mercy toast the Christmas miracle.

Gotham City: Renee Montoya attends to a dilerious Charlie, who sees and talks to his sister, Myra, as well as his father. After Renee gets Charlie back to bed, Kate Kane comforts Renee, and they kiss.

Many people commemorate Christmas Eve in various ways, including Ellen Baker, who looks up at the stars and wishes her husband a happy Christmas; Clark Kent and Lois Lane dance beneath mistletoe; the Gotham City Police department welcomes Commissioner Gordan back; Hal Jordan spends time with family; and Buddy Baker is told the nearby star that Ellen gazed upon is Vega.

Week 33, Day 6, Christmas

The Black Adam family discuss what Captain Marvel Jr. told Osiris, and Isis convinces Black Adam that the “world will see us as monsters unless we show them otherwise”. In front of the Justice Society, Teen Titans, and others, they all change back to their human forms.

At Belle Reve Federal Prison, Amanda Waller does not buy Black Adam’s change of heart and has assembled a new Suicide Squad to deal with him and his family.

Thoughts

Much of this issue is just padding for several ongoing plots, with some nice details along the way. For example, the Flash Museum has an Elongated Man Room — so is there also a Green Lantern Room (or wing)? Alfred saying, “A-one and a-two and a-three,” as he directs a children’s choir. Kate kisses Renee.

I love the mirroring of the star on the two-page spread featuring the DC characters, bookending the spread with the Ellen and Buddy Baker panels. Also, you get the gamet of Christmas time emotions/experiences, from loving couple (Clark and Lois), to friends and family (Firestorm and Cyborg and Hal Jordan with his family), and being alone on the holiday (Fire, Catwoman).

Did you notice the look on Sobek’s face when the Adam Family reverted? The artists did a great job of foreshadowing the menace.

The Origin of Martian Manhunter

By Waid, Mandrake, Sinclair, Brosseau, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

Martian Manhunter has long been one of my favorite DC characters, especially when they expanded his origin to include the reason behind his “vulnerability” to fire (the telepathic plague). What I didn’t know (or forgot?) was that Dr. Erdol’s teleportation beam is associated with the Zeta beam — there’s a reference to Erdol’s beam being “powered by unstable radiation on the volatile Zeta scale”. I don’t know that they need to tie everything together like this, or perhaps J’onn himself did so?

I also find it ironic that his Martian vision generates heat when fire is a concern.

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 Thirty-One

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Batista, Ramos, Green, Meikis, Sinclair, Fletcher, 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

“Human Resources”

Week 31, Day 1

Adam Blake, Captain Comet, sends out a telepathic distress call five light years wide, asking for help against Lady Styx’s hoard. Meanwhile, two Green Lanterns investigate the disappearance of one of their own, thus hearing about Captain Comet’s efforts to save the people of Vardu. The Guardians, fearing an unknown threat, recall their officers from the occupied zones. Comet continues his telepathic SOS, describing the destruction of a planet’s ecosystem by the Believer Cubes and then the assault by the walking dead who chant Lady Styx’s creed: “Believe in her.”

Week 31, Day 2

Jade, of Infinity Inc., confides in Starlight (Natasha Irons) that fellow member Everyman creeps her out and she suspects that he has invaded her room. Skyman joins the conversation, grossing Jade out with the idea that Everyman, whose shapeshifting abilities require that he digest the organic material of his target, might be looking for her toenail clippings or hair. Natasha leaves, intending to talk to Jade, after she kisses Skyman, who then transforms into Everyman.

Week 31, Day 3

At the Superboy memorial, a constantly drinking Ralph Dibny asks Cassie Sandsmark if anyone in her Cult of Connor were spellcasters, necromancers, or telekinetics. She tells him no, and then reveals that she now agrees with Ralph that the Cult leader, Devem, is a phony and that she believes Supernova is Superboy.

Week 31, Day 4

Ralph meets with Supernova, telling him he should tell Cassie that Connor is not behind the mask. Supernova is more interested in knowing how Ralph deduced who he was. After Ralph vaguely explains, Supernova tells Ralph not to contact him again, and flies away saying, “There’s too much at stake.”

Week 31, Day 6

The Green Lanterns on Vardu are defeated, and the Guardians refuse Lantern Xax’s call for help. A terrified Comet sends out his last telepathic call before he jettisons his own consciousness.

Week 31, Day 7

Two Green Lantern rings are delivered to Lady Styx and she eats them. Nearby, Starfire, Animal Man, Adam Strange, and Lobo watch Styx’ armada leave Vardu.

Thoughts

What a scary opening! I had completely forgotten this part of 52, and man, it has put Lady Styx and her hoard in a new light, something that her appearances before now, not to mention the discussion about her, has not accomplished. In fact, that ending shot of Captain Comet with the look on his face and flayed body was positively chilling!

Not having remembered Lady Styx from this series, upon rereading I thought she was a knock-off of Annihilus and its Annihilation Wave from Annihilation, but the concept predated Lady Styx’s first appearance by six months (I believe)! So unless the writers at DC had advance knowledge of what Marvel was doing that year, it’s yet another example of Big 2 publishing coincidence or Keith Giffen was burning the candle at both ends….

Captain Comet is one of those DC characters I have little experience with or frankly interest in, but man, reading his appearance in this issue now has me very interested, not to mention wanting to discover what happens to him later in this series (if there’s more…).

The Guardians are such assholes and cowards. Nuff said.

Speaking of assholes, Everyman assuming Skyman’s identity to get into Starlight’s pants is just such a soap opera cliché. Everything having to do with Natasha Irons in this series is just bad, isn’t it? (Though, I will admit, I like that Everyman has to digest the organic material of the person or creature to which he transforms. Yes, it’s gross, but a nice twist on the whole shapeshifting power.)

Did you deduce Supernova’s identity from the clues Ralph threw out? I know who Supernova is and I still don’t get those clues!

The Origin of Robin

By Waid, Williams II, Sinclair, Fletcher, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

Dick Grayson will always be my favorite Robin, but Tim Drake comes close! I’ve always loved that he deduced who Batman and Robin were when he was a child! And then to prove himself to Batman and his other trainers, plus be the most measured, and smartest, of the Robins, just makes him an enduring character. Unfortunately, Damian Wayne eventually was introduced, sending Tim into an identity crisis: Robin, Red Robin, Drake, Robin again? Hot take: I think Tim should retire and become the new Oracle.