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.)

52! Week Ten

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Batista, Palmiatti, Jadson, Sinclair, Fletcher, Cohen, 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

“Stop the Press”

Week 10, Day 1: In Kahndaq, Black Adam meets with his allies and potential allies. He is interrupted by the young woman, Adrianna Tomaz (who was given to him as a gift in issue three), who is attempting to flee.

Week 10, Day 2: At the Daily Planet, Perry White reprimands Clark Kent for allowing the Daily Star to get the scoop on the newest Metropolis superhero, Supernova. Perry tells Clark that because of his poor performance over the last few months, Clark is fired. Clark then sees Supernova flying by the Daily Planet and jumps out the window. His tactic pays off because Supernova catches him, allowing Clark to interview him.

Black Adam’s palace guards release Adrianna from her overnight holding cell and she and Black Adam have a conversation. She tells him that he will “plunge this world into war”.

Week 10, Day 3: Lois chastises Clark for throwing himself into harms way for a story, the irony of which is not lost on her husband. He tells Lois that he thinks Supernova is on the level.

Week 10, Day 4: Booster Gold is feeling sore that he’s had to relocate from his penthouse condo to a three-room rental and is looking to take it out on Supernova.

Week 10, Day 6: Will Magnus visits Dr. Morrow again, and he shows Morrow an empty cocoon that Dr. Sivanna had been treating with radiation.

Thoughts

Look at the artistry on display with this Jones/Sinclair cover. The folds and wrinkles in Clark Kent’s clothing and the look of the newspapers falling around him are just spectacular.

Notice the issue title is “Stop the Press”, not “Presses”. Aside from Clark’s employment issue (which is quickly resolved), these phrases usually mean that urgent information has come to light and needs to be disseminated. So what is that information this issue? That Black Adam’s mission will fail? That Clark is not a great reporter? That Dr. Morrow is still grateful that Magnus visits him?

The opening scene with Black is interesting for a couple reasons:

  • One, he says “Shazam” but the lightning does not come. He appears to be intrigued, but what will come of this? I love how the artists drew this scene, especially the middle panel: it’s just Adam staring into the sky with some birds in the distance — its a quit moment for him before all of the drama.
  • Two, the gathering. I have to confess, while I did recognize the big guy from the Great Ten and a Rocket Red, I had to look up the others in this two-page spread. From left to right, we have: Queen Cobra (who is new, according to my internet source), Sonar (whom I thought I recognized but wasn’t sure because of the way he was drawn), Lady Zand (whom I thought at first was Blackfire), Ibis the Invincible (whom I thought was a new Sargon the Sorcerer at first), August General in Iron, Cascade (whom I did not know was from the Global Guardians), and Rocket Red. I’m sure some of the “normals” in the scene are based on people who either work at DC Comics or from the artist’s life — there’s just too many of them looking at the camera to not be more than background characters.

Clark Kent is fired for underperforming. This is just calling out what we already know — Clark, in normal circumstances, is the equivalent of an athlete who is doping. Is he even a good reporter? I’ve always disliked that Clark got his job because he cheated (writing about himself), and it seems this reliance on his super abilities has only continued over the years. Hell, he even borrows a page from Lois’ playbook by falling into the arms of a superman! (And the later scene of her chastising Clark for that act was priceless.) Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

I loved the scene between Adrianna and Black Adam with her speaking truth to power. She’s also not a bit player and not a victim. Is their argument their meet-cute?

The scene with Lois and Clark is notable not just for their conversation about what Clark did and Supernova, but also for the fact that this is the first scene with one of the Trinity since the series started and we get an update on the other two! Speaking of Supernova, we see that he apparently can teleport, flies, has destructo-vision or something (more teleportation, perhaps?), and he gets Superman’s seal of approval.

Finally, in the scene with Morrow and Magnus, the former doctor is tidying up his cell by returning some books to a shelf. One is Brave New World and the other is 1984. Given the dystopian futures in both novels, how ominous is this message? Is Morrow preparing for his role in this future (taking inspiration from the stories) or are these just his version of “light” entertainment? In the next panel, we see Frankenstein, which is more up Morrow’s alley, but what do all of these books have in common with him, his situation, or this series generally?

History of the DCU, part 9

by Jurgens, Lanning, Napolitano, Cox, Major, Berganza, Cohen, and Schaefer

This installment was a reminder of everything going on between Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis, including Villains United, the Rogue War, the return of Hal Jordan, Day of Vengeance, the Rann-Thanagar War, the murder of Blue Beetle by Max Lord, Batman’s OMAC Project, and Wonder Woman’s execution of Max Lord. There’s also the rebirth of Jason Todd and Donna Troy, so this time in DC Comics publishing history wasn’t all about distrust, death, and destruction.