52! Week Thirty

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennett, Jose, Baron, Balsman, 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

“Dark Knight Down”

Week 30, Day 1

Nightwing and Robin search for Batman, discovering his cape and cowl, but no Bruce Wayne.

Kate Kane has her doctor friend treat Charlie at her apartment and offers to let him and Renee stay as long as they need to. Later, while Kate goes out to search for Mannheim, Renee stays with Charlie, meditating.

Robin discovers enough weapons “that could start World Wars 3, 4, and 5”. He tells Nightwing that he will talk to Bruce, and Nightwing tells Robin that he is “going back to work”.

Week 30, Day 3

In the desert, Bruce Wayne encounters a member of the Ten-Eyed Brothers and they fight. Once Bruce has defeated him, other Brothers appear, telling him as they raise their swords, “If you flinch. If you shudder. You will not survive.” “Do it,” he tells them. Later, Robin finds Bruce kneeling in the sand. Bruce tells him that the Brothers kill demons and he asked them to kill his. “It’s over,” he says. “Batman is gone.”

Week 30, Day 7

Batwoman fights and interrogates the man-beasts for Mannheim’s whereabouts, when Nightwing arrives to help. He offers to help, and Batwoman accepts.

Thoughts

I spent more time researching this cover than any other so far. It looked so clearly like an homage to a classical work of art that I had seen before, but could not recall. I even went to Comics Twitter for help! The best match I could find was a work by Italian Renaissance painter Raphael, Saint Michael Vanquishing Satan. Regardless of the inspiration, this is a beautiful cover that pulls from classical, religious imagery, with Bruce Wayne vanquishing the “demon” Batman, similar to how the Archangel Michael vanquishes the devil in Raphael’s painting, with the addition of the Eye of God (?) in the background. The image of Bruce in his costume, but without the cowl, also reminds me of when Bruce Wayne was lost in time during Final Crisis, but that would be a few years away at this point.

Seeing Batman, both in flashback and when we see Bruce Wayne, was a bit jarring, but I’m surprised, given how Batman-happy DC has been for decades, it’s taken this long to get him and other members of the Batfam into the story. But I do love the first few pages as Nightwing describes his time as Robin and how the artists portrayed the cascading craziness and events in Batman’s life, from Robin’s death, to Joker shooting Barbara, to Bane breaking Batman’s back, and the rest (though the panel showing him holding a gun to someone’s head is foreign to me…). While I enjoy a Nightwing/Robin team-up normally, I would have preferred a return to the Cult of Conner plot or more with Ralph. However, seeing Bruce Wayne declaring that Batman is gone while the sun rises behind him (signifying a cleansing, a renewal) almost makes this breach of 52 contract worthwhile.

Speaking of team-ups, again, I would normally quite enjoy Nightwing joining forces with, well, anyone, but his male gazing of Batwoman was quite cringe-worthy. I assume Rucka wrote this sequence, but I find it hard to believe that given when Dick says Batwoman is quite the eyeful and “What can I say? I have a thing for redheads.” Later, Dick is clearly ogling Batwoman’s chest. Blech.

I’ve spent far too much on the bat family here, so I will end with my appreciation of the panel showing Renee meditating with Charlie smiling in the background. The affection between these two characters is one of the highlights of this series.

The Origin of the Metal Men

By Waid, Rouleau, Sinclair, Balsam, Richards, Schaefer, Wacker, and Siglain

I’ve never been much of a Metal Men fan, but this entry taught me that Elementics is a thing in the DC Universe. Magnus’ invention of the Responsometer is one of those comic book conceits that should be a much bigger deal than it is shown to be, but then, the Metal Men have often been depicted as comedy relief, undercutting the invention.

When it comes to the Metal Men’s “powers”, Gold is described as “infinitely ductile”, but interestingly, platinum is considered the most ductile metal. Also, Tin is “remarkably malleable”, but gold is considered the most malleable metal (all according to my google search anyway). I wonder if any creators have played with these differences?

There is a reference of the Metal Men being able to “alloy themselves” — presumably to join together as a giant robot (I vaguely recall seeing this in some comic book)? I just appreciate the use of the word “alloy” in that context.

52! Week Twenty-Nine

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Batista, Jadson, 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

“Name Calling”

Week 29, Day 2

Wildcat and the original Green Lantern and Flash are the only ones who gather at the JSA headquarters, lamenting the possible end of their team. Outside, the members of Infinity, Inc. pass by as part of a Thanksgiving parade. Inside, Wildcat grumbles that these new kids “fight with no heart”. It is then that Infinity, Inc. introduces its newest member, Jade.

Obsidian appears, telling his father, “This isn’t right.” Jade tells the onlookers that she and the rest of Infinity, Inc. are here to do the superheroes’ job better. Obsidian then breaks through the window, demanding that Jade take off her uniform. Green Lantern steps in, stopping his son from doing any more harm. Nuklon tells Green Lantern that “the world doesn’t need antiques watching out for it when it’s got hundreds kids like us.”

On Oolong Island, the mad scientists have gathered for dinner while Sivana carves a ptero-turkey breast with a chainsaw. Dr. Magnus leaves the table after being drenched in ptero-turkey, and Dr. Cale follows him, revealing that she knows he stole Komrade Krabb’s gold watch. She also tells him that her specialty on the island is alien technology: “A higher, brighter, more terrible world has fallen to earth …. Oh, to live in such times. To see the world changed, forever.”

Chung Tzu arrives, seemingly irritated that he was not invited to dinner. He then demands an update from Dr. Magnus on the slow-moving Plutonium Man project. Dr. Cale then suggest that Chung Tzu remove Dr. Magnus’ medication to allow his “wild, dangerous, creative streak he’s been suppressing” to return. As guards take Magnus’ meds, he begs Professor Morrow for help.

At JSA headquarters, the Flash and Wildcat have finished boarding up the windows and Flash leaves to join his family, leaving Wildcat alone.

Week 29, Day 3

Dr. Avasti visits the Steelworks and finds John Henry Irons’ silver skin falling off. He tells her that Luthor’s Everyman program has “an expiration date.”

Thoughts

In the spirit of the issue’s title, there’s nothing sadder than a bunch of has-beens complaining about the new generation, right? And how appropriate that my least favorite DC Comics character is the whiny baby doing the complaining? Put a sock in it, Wildcat! I did like the panel where Green Lantern says, “Extant is dead,” with a picture of his dead daughter behind him. Though, maybe that was a little too on the nose?

When Obsidian assaults the new Jade, demanding she take off her uniform, now!, what did he expect her to do, unclothe in public? There was talk in this issue about how Obsidian has been crazy before but that he’s now better, but is he? Given how the “old” guard acted in this scene, perhaps Nuklon has a point?

The table setting on the splash page was kind of fun, especially with the ptero-turkey tray on a set of tracks (though, given how long the tray is, there’s no way it could turn the small corners) and the sheer glee on Sivana’s face as he slashed that bird.

In her last appearance, Dr. Cale seemed to be sane amongst the insane, but her discussion with Dr. Magnus and later her pricking her finger and sucking her blood proves otherwise. Plus, she is a cold one revealing Magnus’ Achilles heal as she did (but how did she know about his medication?).

It’s unfortunate that the creators decided to lean into the absurdity of Chung Tzu in this issue. He’s already absurd looking, but why also make him insecure and homicidal? It just served to diminish his authority to me. However, Professor Morrow’s silent indifference as Magnus was hauled away, pleading with Morrow to help him, only made Morrow more interesting to me. As Sivana told him, “Thank God there’s still some real evil in you, Tom. Thought you were turning pansy.” While this a great bit of characterization, I still have hope that Morrow will end up helping his former protégé.

By god, I am starting to loath Steel and his constant whining about Luthor’s experiment. Put up or shut up already, Irons! If something doesn’t change soon regarding this lot, Steel may join Wildcat on my most-despised list. They should have just given us another two-page Origin instead of this broken record.

52! Week Twenty-Six

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Olliffe, Geraci, Pantazis, 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

“Halfway House”

Week 26, Day 1

The Black Marvel family transport Renee Montoya and Charlie 57 km east of Nanda Parbat, where they are greeted by Aristotle Rodor and Richard Dragon, who announces to Renee in a cryptic way that class is now in session.

Week 26, Day 2

John Henry Irons, Steel, appears on Jack Ryder’s talk show, You Are Wrong, to voice his accusations against Lex Luthor’s Everyman project. Natasha joins the interview to refute her uncle, and then gets a call about an explosion and she rushes off to help.

Week 26, Day 4

The Black Marvel family join Dr. Sivana’s ex-wife, Venus, and their children — Junior, Georgia, Beautia, and Magnificus — for dinner. Lady Sivana then requests the Black Marvels’ help in locating the missing Dr. Sivana.

At Oolong Island, Dr. Cale arrives to help the other assembled mad scientists with the Four Horsemen project.

Bored at dinner, Osiris leaves, and then the rest are seemingly attacked by a mutated crocodile, who grabs some food off the table and escapes. Later, Osiris encounters the crocodile man who tells Oriris that Dr. Sivana experimented on him, turning him into the creature he now is, and that he is so very hungry.

Thoughts

I love the old Hollywood horror movie inspired cover. It teases us with the red coming from the Black Marvel family but ending in a claw shape — is the claw symbolism? Plus, while red here denotes evil or blood or danger (at minimum), you get to see Black Adam in Captain Marvel red and yellow, which totally subverts the symbolism while reinforcing it. Deftly conceived by Jones, and, my god, Sinclair owns this image with the beautiful coloring.

The cover title, “The Beast Who Came to Dinner”, is a much more descriptive one (if perhaps too on the nose), but the writers/editors just had to be cute and call attention  to the fact that we’re now halfway through the series (where is the “halfway house” concept in this issue anyway? Perhaps Nanda Parbat for Renee?). And now that we are halfway, where are we in the story? Not that closer to resolving any of the mysteries or conflicts set up for the last 25 issues, but perhaps setting all that up was the point of the previous act? And we get even more characters thrown into the mix! Given how many creators are on this book and all of the characters and plots, this series should have been a disaster. Thank goodness it wasn’t, but I’m now thinking they put form over function a bit, sort of how a television series will often have some “filler” shows to meet that 22-24 episode requirement, i.e., some of these plots are a bit thin and they just keep stretching them out (I’m looking squarely at you Irons family drama) to fill 52 weekly issues.

Specifically regarding this issue, I do like the little flourish that Olliffe adds in the first scene with flowers springing up on the ground where Isis stepped.

The whole scene with the Sivana children was a nice comedic distraction. It also sets up a future, potential plot-point with Waverider appearing briefly on a monitor, saying, “I know why.” And there’s something about the fact that Venus Sivana’s $20M donation to Kahndaq’s children’s hospital makes Black Adam accept her dinner invitation — he’s become quite the politician in such a short time.

Finally, a minor quibble. Ii the Oolong Island scene, some dialog is mixed up in the last panel where it appears that Dr. T. O. Morrow addresses Dr. Magnus as “Morrow”, or perhaps he’s just entered that phase of megalomania where you refer to yourself in the third person.

The Origin of Hawkman and Hawkgirl

by Waid, Bennett, Jose, Sinclair, Brosseau, Richards, Wacker

This describes accurately the state of affairs of Hawkman and Hawkgirl at the time of publication, leaving out the creepy way that Carter hit on Kendra. That was the only misstep of the Hawkman reboot started in the JSA series and continued in the Hawkman (2002) title.

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-Three

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Johnson, Snyder, 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

“The Island of Professor Morrow”

Week 23, Day 1

Dr. Magnus arrives on Oolong Island and is greeted by Professor T.O. Morrow. Morrow tells Magnus that various mad scientists (including Bug Baron, Dr. Sivana, Dr. Rigoro Mortis, and Ira Quimby) have been assembled by their benefactors to “let their imaginations run wild” and that they want Magnus to “join us in creating the future”. He also tells Magnus that “no … you really don’t have a choice”.

Week 23, Day 5

In Yemen,  Whisper A’Daire’s addresses her Cult of Cain while the Question and Renee Montoya watch for an opportunity to steal the Crime Bible. Isis’ brother, Amon, is brought forth and brutally beaten for trying to escape earlier. Renee wants to intervene, but Question convinces her to wait. Just then, they are discovered and fight the cultists, resulting in Renee being injured. Black Adam and Isis arrive and subdue the cultists. Isis heals Renee’s wound and then discovers her injured brother. His wounds are too extensive for her to heal, so Black Adam tells Amon to say his name. When Amon does, lightning flashes, transforming Amon into Osiris.

Week 23, Day 6

Isis reminds Black Adam of her promise to help him change the world once they found her brother, and now that they have, she announces that the Black Adam family is going to China.

Thoughts

I love the idea of all these DCU mad scientists being collected and allowed to let loose with their creations, but who are the mysterious benefactors and what is their goal? Of course, these scientists being man-children, the island is also populated by beautiful women in bikinis — are they also prisoners? What other functions do they perform besides as eye-candy for, at least in the scene we are shown, the somewhat oblivious old, white guys? I really dislike this male-gazing (or worse).

So, at what point does Montoya just shoot the Question for his role in continuing to allow children to suffer? He told her to shoot the bomber in a previous issue, and now he wants her not to save Amon. Fortunately, plot-wise, they are discovered just after their conversation, allowing Renee to help save the boy regardless. I dislike these filler panels because the things the Question wants to happen (not to save Amon and to avoid detection) are immediately rendered pointless.

Black Adam tells Isis after he gave Amon access to his super-powers that he has always been able to share some of his power (as Captain Marvel did with Freddy Freeman), but that he never had family to which he could share his gifts. It’s a touching scene, but it made me wonder: does the sharing make the Shazam family members less powerful? If so, how many people could Captain Marvel or Black Adam share their power with before it impacts their own abilities? Regardless, I loved the idea of the Black Adam family and was disappointed in how this storyline ended up.

The Origin of Wildcat

by Waid, Ordway, Sinclair, Leigh, Richards, Wacker

Who cares? (I hate this character.)