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-Eight

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennett, Jadson, Hi-Fi, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, 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

“Breathless”

Week 38, Day 1

Renee continues her voyage to Nanda Parbat with Charlie in tow.

Week 38, Day 2

On Oolong Island, Dr. Morrow visits with Dr. Magnus, who has been off his medication for some time now, eating cold beans out of cans and relishing in how alive he feels now. Morrow tries to persuade Magnus to join him in witnessing the release of the Four Horsemen.

Three of them emerge from their chamber as Chang Tzu quotes verses from the Crime Bible. Two of the Horsemen say, in succession, “Blakk. Ah-dumm”. Dr. Cale tells Morrow that the fourth Horseman, Yurdd, rode out before the others. She then says quietly, “Oh God, what have we made?”

Week 38, Day 3

Renee reaches a Himalayan village, but no one will help her find Nanda Parbat.

Week 38, Day 4

John Henry Irons, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Dr. Avasti examine the body of one the Everymen who died saving people during the “Rain of the Supermen”. Natasha Irons then contacts her uncle, telling him that she’s going to use one of her insect drones to spy on Luthor in order to obtain the Everyman research.

Week 38, Day 5-6

Renee keeps searching, pulling Charlie on a sled. To help keep him warm, she puts on the pseudoderm mask, but a slip causes him to fall off the sled and Renee notices blood under the mask. She thinks she’s lost him, when Charlie removes the mask and asks her, “Who are you going to become? Time to change … like a butterfly …”. It is then that Nanda Parbat appears behind them.

Thoughts

Last issue, I was thinking how the two main stories should be more in line with the title in some way (and I’m sure I extrapolated ways in which they did), but in this issue, my wish was fulfilled: you get Charlie’s difficulty breathing along with the awe-inspiring appearance of three of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It’s something.

Speaking of, Dr. Cale’s lamentation is punctuated by the appearance of blood from her nose, elevating a somewhat pretentious scene. I also find it very interesting that these scientists (minus Sivana at least) are so invested in the Crime Bible, an object of perverse faith. Finally, I have to wonder if Magnus is faking his manic condition to obtain information or if he’s fully succumbed, something that seems to bother Morrow.

Despite the protracted scenes with Renee dragging Charlie up a mountain (that was nice landscape artwork, especially the coloring of it), the final bit where she thinks he’s died and just after when he passes the torch were touching, though the inclusion of the question mark in the snow was a bit heavy handed. Perhaps the futility of Renee’s actions is supposed to underline the futility of humanity itself with the arrival of the Horsemen?

The Origin of Red Tornado

By Waid, Jimenez, Lanning, Hi-Fi, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

I’m supposing that we’ll be getting more of Red Tornado soon because of this entry. Red Tornado is one of two (?) Justice Leaguers who originally came from Earth-2 — it makes me wonder if they ever played with that connection in JLA. Also, was Red Tornado’s desire to be more human what inspired Star Trek: TNG to give Data that same character beat? While I have never particularly cared about this character, I did enjoy his storyline in the 2006 Justice League of America series (noted in the entry here), especially as it pertained to his “soul [having] recently been merged with flesh and blood”, but I’m guessing this change was reversed some time after that.

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!