52! Week Six

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennett, Jose, Sinclair, Napolitano, 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

“China Syndrome”

Week 6, Day 1. Booster Gold pays an actor for portraying a villain he fought. In China, Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and John Stewart fight the Great Ten in pursuit of Evil Star.

Dr. Magnus visits Professor Morrow again, while a technician installs a camera to monitor Morrow. Someone has hijacked the video feed and is also watching Morrow.

The fight with the Great Ten turns for the worse with the Green Lanterns  when Black Adam arrives. Adam explains that China has joined his coalition. Fortunately for the Green Lanterns, Russia has not joined with Adam and offers the Lanterns safe passage.

Week 6, Day 2. Booster Gold and Skeets arrive at Rip Hunter’s underground bunker in Arizona. There, Booster finds Hunter’s chalkboard notes that proclaim that time is broken and it’s Booster’s fault.

Thoughts

“China Syndrome” shares its title with the 1979 movie, and also references a nuclear catastrophe where the components melt through the Earth to China. So, is the analogy here that the Green Lanterns are the “syndrome”? Or is it Black Adam? His coalition is certainly gaining momentum, so I’m curious how this plays out (I don’t really recall), but I have a feeling the creators whiff this one. They certainly spent a lot of real estate on this conflict (11 pages), but at least it was nice to look at.

Speaking of Green Lantern, Hal’s reference to Black Adam’s murder of Terra-Man seemed oddly … tone deaf, calling it “a tad theatrical”. Oof. Finally, the Great Ten are certainly an interesting new group of super characters with a lot of potential. A pity they weren’t used more/better. I should seek out the mini series and other appearances.

In the conversation between Morrow and Magnus, the scene starts off with an egg, and I believe we saw an egg or something shaped like an egg last issue, so considering who they are teasing, this foreshadowing was fun to see. It’s almost Watchmen-esque, I dare say. I also find the bit of dialogue from whom is being teased to be quite funny:

Servant: If it’s all right to call you “Great One.”

“Great One”: I’m fine with that. Now GO!

Booster is not fairing very well in this series. In fact he’s slipped from annoying glory hound to pathetic loser. At least we get the famous Rip Hunter “crazy board”. I remember reading this the first time and being excited about what all of it meant. The internet message boards were also abuzz about it. Let’s see what I can glean from this. Keep in mind, I know the outcome of some of this material, but have forgotten or just don’t know the result of others.

Time Is Broken:

  • “52” abounds in this scene. Not only multiple times on the chalkboards, but in pages on the floor (520 Kane) and on clock or other digital displays.
  • There are more numbers on paper on the floor: 51, 53, 54, 55, 56. Considering the focus on 52, those higher numbers are intriguing.
  • Other pages of interest on the floor:
    • Infinity, Inc. — Were they bringing back this team?! (Yes, but differently.)
    • Casey the Cop — I still have no idea who this is.
    • Silverblade — same
    • Find the Sun Devils — It was these kinds of hints that got the DC fan in me excited. While I had not read Sun Devils, I knew of it and liked the idea of DC bringing back these older concepts — it was almost like the early to mid-80s when DC was trying all sorts of unusual and interesting concepts and formats.
    • What is Spanner’s Galaxy? — Same as the prior note for this series.
    • Finally, a bound book has the title of “Who’s Who”. :)
  • There’s also the globe behind the chalkboard with “World War III Why? How?” written in red text. Of course, we’d get to that much later in the run of 52.
  • Chalkboard 1:
    • Dead by lead? — Daxamite’s are “allergic” to lead. A reference to Mon-El in the 20th century?
    • Not only is Time Is Broken, “further time is different”. The omission of the comma after “further” could change the meaning of this phrase: “further time” could mean future time. Or was Rip just being lazy in his writing?
    • The four horsemen will end her rain — I know we eventually get the mini series involving the Four Horsemen, but “rain”? Is that just a misspelling of “reign”? If so, whose reign? If not, what?!
    • He won’t smell it — What the Rock is cooking???
    • Find the last “El” — Which one is that?
    • What looks like “sonic disruption” is scribbled over at the end (“sonic disrupt”), and “disrupt” is also crossed out. — The DC multiverse is often described as existing on different vibrational frequencies, but they’re aren’t sonic in nature. There was also a mini series in the late 80s called Sonic Disruptors.
    • Apparently pointing down from the “sonic” line is Time Masters –> Time Servants — This sounds ominous. I really don’t know Rip Hunter’s history well enough to speculate what this could mean, other than DC appears to be expanding his role.
    • The reach — Repeated three times. Have no clue what this is.
    • The tornado is in pieces — Obviously a reference to the destroyed Red Tornado.
    • “I’m not kryptonite” — ???
    • It hurts to breathe — ???
    • The scarab is eternal? — Expanding the Blue Beetle mythos?
    • There are a few arrows pointing from circled 52s to a circled “Earth”. — Is this just the conceit that “our” Earth is at the center of the multiverse?
    • Also pointing toward that “Earth” is “Where is the Curry heir?” — Was Aquaman dead at this time?
    • Who is Super Nova? — Ahh! I remember this one exciting me more than some of the others, but I had misremembered the character of Nova (Superman’s identity when his lost his powers in a couple stories in World’s Finest Comics from the late 60s) as this one.
    • Man of Steel — Who is this referencing? Clark Kent or John Henry Irons?
  • Chalkboard 2:
    • Pointing from the word “Broken”, there are several items:
      • “What happened to the son of Superman?” — Was this a reference to the Super Sons backup stories from the 70s?
      • Pointing from that is “Who is Diana Prince?” — I don’t recall, but is this where we get the eventual return of Diana’s alter ego?
      • Where is the Batman? — Don’t worry, he’ll be back.
      • Pointing from that is “Who is the Batwoman?” — Hinting at the debut of the best version of that character.
      • Te versus (Au + Pb) — Te is Tellurium and has the atomic number of 52 on the periodic table. Au and Pb is an obvious reference to two of the Metal Men.
      • Don’t ask the Question. It lies. — Works on a couple levels. Is this big Q (i.e., the character) or little Q (concept) “question”? If the former, why “it”?
      • Secret Five! — ???
      • Who is Super Nova? — Significance of a second appearance?
      • World War III? Why? How? — Notice this time there is a question mark this time after WW III.
      • Pointing from a circled 52 is “Immortal Savage” — Hinting at a big change for the character?
      • Someone is monitoring. They see us. They see me. — Monitors? Something else?
      • Khimaera lives again — Had to look this up and relates to Hawkgirl during the One Year Later run.
      • The Lazarus Pit rises — Probably One Year Later Batman related?
      • The old gods are dead, the new gods want what’s left. — Bringing back the Fourth World characters again?
      • I’m supposed to be dead / When am I? / OTHERS? — No wonder Rip Hunter went into hiding (or is he captured?). Imagine having the insight that Rip does and knowing that you aren’t where (or maybe when?) you are supposed to be (or not to be); it might drive you crazy.
    • On the adjacent page to the chalkboards is a broken time bubble ship with screens behind it depicting either significant moments in time or what are possibly variations in the timeline:
      • Prisoner 7053 — Rosa Parks after her arrest.
      • Abe Lincoln with General Grant (?).
      • A ship with a cross on its sails.
      • What looks like Elvis singing at Sun Records.
      • Native Americans throwing boxes over the side of a ship — This is what made me think of timeline alterations. What if this is a alternate reality where the Native Americans threw the British tea into Boston Harbor?
      • A T-Rex
    • There are a plethora of clocks all around the lab indicating what I presume is 11:52. It could also be a Watchmen reference?
    • Finally, there is a magnet dangling from a tripod. Given how the magnet is colored, it’s clearly supposed to draw your attention, but I don’t understand the significance.

History of DCU, part 5

by Dan Jurgens, Andy Lanning, Guy Major, Jeromy Cox, Nick J. Napolitano, Eddie Berganza, Ivan Cohen, and Jeanine Schaefer

Post-Crisis recitation (highlights):

  • The new Justice League and Suicide Squad
  • The death of Jason Todd and the debut of Tim Drake as Robin
  • Millennium and Invasion
  • Team Titans
  • Death of Superman and Bane breaking Batman’s back
  • Return of the Supermen
  • The character assassination of Hal Jordan and the debut of Kyle Rayner as the sole Green Lantern

“Zero Hour was coming.”

52! Week Two

by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, Joe Bennett, Jack Jadson, Alex Sinclair, Travis Lanham, Joe Prado, Jann Jones, Harvey Richards, and Stephen Wacker. Cover by J.G. Jones and Alex 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

“Looking Back at Tomorrow”

Week 2, Day 1. Ralph Dibny investigates the defacement of his wife’s tombstone and encounters a young man from a past case.

Week 2, Day 2. Booster Gold takes Skeets to Dr. Will Magnus, who is able to repair the robot. Later, Dr. Magnus visits Dr. Morrow, who reveals that other “mad” scientists are being taken.

Week 2, Day 3. The Question wakes Renee Montoya, who shoots (at) him. He disappears, leaving behind an invitation.

Week 2, Day 4. Booster Gold barely saves a jet that was supposed to have crashed, no thanks to the still glitchy Skeets. The Question offers Renee a job to discover who is using an apparent abandoned building.

Week 2, Day 6. Ralph visits a grieving Cassie Sandsmark, Wonder Girl, wanting to know why she left a message at his wife’s grave. He shows her a photo that he took of the tombstone with the message: a Kryptonian symbol that means “resurrection”.

Thoughts

The second issue of 52 was a bit different in pacing and content compared to the first. Where I felt delightfully gorged with the content of issue 1, issue 2 was a bit of a lighter affair. There are fewer overall characters being focused on and more page counts for Ralph and Renee/The Question, which also slows down the pacing. Not that this is a bad decision. We can breathe a bit with issue 2 and savor the moments presented.

Ralph continues to be the character I’m drawn to and want to follow more. His conversation with the groundskeeper is delightfully human in a superhero world (and is the young man wearing a Booster Gold jacket?). Ralph can’t help himself in his brief moment of joy when discussing the Dreamland Park case, when the groundskeeper tells Ralph,

“You were amazing. Like, Batman amazing.”
“Batman’s good.”
“Batman doesn’t have a wife who kept me from freaking out while you were tracking down [my brother] Marty.”

This just highlights how much of a team Ralph and Sue were regardless of Ralph’s superhero stature. And with that, the attention turns back to the tragedy of Sue’s death and the injury caused by the defacement of the tombstone, which the storytellers deftly kept hidden from us. The scene ends with Ralph’s famous nose-twitching, but gone is the usual joy associated with it. Truth be told, I was at first put out by the nose twitching, but the tone presented made me recognize the power of that scene.

The first scene with Doctor Magnus, Booster, and Skeets has a few interesting details. Once Magnus has “resurrected” Skeets, the robot seems … different to me. Is it just my unfamiliarity with the character or has it been damaged by whatever that glitch was (is?)? After all, Skeets says, “Y’know” and calls Booster “Boost”. But perhaps I’m just reading into it. (I do vaguely recall something is up with Skeets as the series goes on, but I’ve forgotten the details.) Also, Magnus picks up an American Science magazine with a question mark on the cover, a visual that is repeated a few times throughout this issue.

Magnus gives this magazine to Professor Morrow, the “mad” scientist who is imprisoned in Haven for, as he says, his “own good and the good of others”. This was maybe the first time that I could recall seeing a relationship between all of these scientist/inventors in the DCU. Magnus is a former student of Morrow’s in this continuity at least, and harbors respect for the man. That relationship extends perhaps to community, for Morrow reveals to Magnus that many of their colleagues (“mad” scientists) have gone missing recently: “I think someone’s rounding us up.”  It’s also during this scene that the “52” motif shows up again in one of the newspaper clippings Morrow has concerning Dr. Tyme, which references “last year’s missing 52 seconds…”.

The number turns up again in the next scene with Renee and the Question, when he leaves an address for her–520 Kane St.–complete with another, admittedly overt, question mark). A wisp of smoke is also in the shape of a question mark when the Question appears behind Renee at the address in question (and again when he leaves).

Finally, in the first issue’s opening pages with the swirling shards of reality(?), there was an image that was featured a few times, but I didn’t have a reference for it until this issue. Namely, we are shown a gold statue with a Superman S shield, a monument to the dead Superboy. Here, Cassie is leading a world-wide webcast for Superboy acolytes, so I’ll be interested to see how this plays out over the series. Ralph makes a deductive leap when he confronts Cassie about the message on his wife’s tombstone because that message was an upside down S shield. Whereas the right-side up S means “hope”, the inverted version means “resurrection”. But why does Ralph think Cassie left that message for him? And what exactly is the message? That she is going to resurrect Superboy and/or Sue? Or Sue is somehow key to resurrect Superboy? It’s all just a bit heavy handed, and just seems a means to give the reveal of the message more weight.

History of DCU, part 1

by Dan Jurgens, Art Thibert, Guy Major, Jerome Cox, Nick J. Napolitano, Eddie Berganza, Ivan Cohen, and Jeanine Schaefer

This issue also has a backup tale, featuring Donna Troy as a sort of chronicler of the universe. She possesses Harbinger’s orb, “which recorded everything that came to pass in all its realities”. She watches the orb summarize the origin of the DCU (at least at that time), covering millennia in a few short panels, until she asks to be told about Superman. We are shown the Superman of Earth-One and Earth-Two, with a mention of only one who would survive.

Besides this brief history lesson, what’s interesting about this passage is what the orb says about Earth-One and Earth-Two:

Of all the Earths, it was those two that would shine the brightest. It is the opinion of many that the presence of a Superman on those worlds pushed them to heights other Earths could not reach.

Of course, Earth-One and -Two are prominent because they simply are in comic book publishing history, but what is the orb saying that, contextually, those Earth’s mean something greater to the larger DCU, or is it merely metafictional eye-winking at the readers? I hope it’s the former.