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.

52! Week Twenty-Seven

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Moll, Jose, Benes, Ramos, Rollins, Nelson, Pantazis, Brosseau, 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

“The Past Best Hope”

Week 27, Day 1

Ralph Dibny takes charge of his journey with the Helmet of Fate and they visit the Spectre. Ralph asks if the Hand of God can bring his wife back, to which the Spectre declares, smiling, “Absolutely”. Spectre then takes Ralph and the Helmet of Fate to deep space where the Eclipso possessed Jean Loring is imprisoned. Ralph accepts the Spectre’s bargain, and Ralph tells Jean Loring, “I’ll show you hell …”.

Week 27, Day 2

Elsewhere, Waverider sits in a room with many clocks. At 5:25:20 a.m., the Time Commander appears, trapped in an hourglass. He chastises Waverider for betraying him and the other time stealers and then disappears. Immediately, Skeets appears, and Waverider asks it if it’s Skeets’ fault, “You’re the one Rip Hunter was warning us about”. Skeets’ denies that it is not the one who is “splintering the historical mainline”, but demands to know when is Rip Hunter. It proceeds to torture Waverider for the information.

Week 27, Day 5

While Richard Dragon trains Renee Montoya, she discovers that Charlie has cancer and doesn’t have long to live. Meanwhile, Aristotle Rodor examines the Crime Bible and one particular passage makes Renee think that Kate Kane is in danger.

Week -84, Day -2

Ralph has transported Jean to the past, to the moment before she has called Sue and murdered her. Using Spectre-given power, Ralph transforms Jean, suppressing the Eclipso entity so that Jean will experience the guilt in an eternal loop. Jean begs for forgiveness, and as the phone rings, she turns to Ralph, telling him, “Ralph … look away … You’re only punishing yourself …”. Ralph screams and takes them back to space, his deal with the Spectre undone. Ralph tells the Helmet that he knows that he can get Sue back, and to do that, they need to go to Nanda Parbat.

Thoughts

First, I love the detail that Jones and Sinclair put into the Spectre’s hood and glove — they look like they’re made of actual fabric! Speaking of the Spectre, his (its?) smile when he says to Ralph, “Absolutely!”, is creepy as hell.

I love that the confrontation between Waverider (Is this room full of clocks where he was last issue too? Was he hiding specifically from Skeets or something more sinister?) and Skeets lasts in between the space of one second. I know they had to use the 5:25:20 time to make the 52 reference work, but is there some significance to two fifty-twos? Is this a heretofore unknown reference to the Dark Multiverse? ;)

Charlie dying is one of the main things I do remember about 52, and Renee taking on the mantle of the Question was one of the best things to come out of the series (besides the reveal of the return of the multiverse).

But it is the scene set in the past that is the best part of this issue. First, I love the negative values of the time caption — who had to figure that out and is it even accurate?! I have to wonder if the issue title is a play on a line from Lincoln’s second State of the Union, “the last best hope” (please don’t tell me whomever chose that title was merely a Babylon 5 fan …)? If so, the “best hope” has to be a reference to Jean Loring’s redemption, right? That brief moment when she shows concern for Ralph was very moving. Anyway, I found it interesting that DC wanted to redeem Jean to a degree, while still having her remain as Eclipso (I was never a fan of her in that role). Now I want to find out what happened to her next.

The Origin of Black Canary

by Waid, Chaykin, Pantazis, Napolitano, Richards, Schaefer, Siglain

Did Dinah’s mother get pissed at her teammates going behind her back to train her daughter? I would be. I did like that they didn’t mention the events in The Longbow Hunters, something that seems to define and haunt Black Canary.

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!