52! Week Twenty-Four

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Jimenez, Lanning, Baron, 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

“Just Imagine”

Week 24, Day 1

While talking to reporters about his Star City mayoral campaign, Oliver Queen receives a call on his JLA communicator from Firestorm, who asks him to join the new Justice League. Queen turns down the offer and tells Firestorm not to call anyone else.

Week 24, Day 2

At the original Justice League of America’s HQ in Rhode Island, J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, talks to himself, addressing his former JLA member, Booster Gold, saying how he has helped eliminate Checkmate in retaliation for its role in Blue Beetle’s murder.

Week 24, Day 3

Black Adam and Isis speak to the Great Ten, announcing an alteration to the Freedom of Power Treaty, which no longer includes executing metahuman criminals. Oriris, however, is bored and wants “to do something fun”. Black Adam tells August General that the Black Marvel Family is available to help if the Great Ten and China need it.

Week 24, Day 6

While the new Justice League is talking to reporters, they are attacked by pirates and cyborgs emerging from a rift. Suddenly, many of the bystanders transform into their Everyman personas to help. Skeets also appears and tells Firestorm it is responsible for the pirates and cyborgs to draw out an enemy. Skeets then attacks Firestorm and the assembled Everymen and Justice Leaguers, including Super-Chief, who is transported to a land of the dead. The original Super-Chief, Flying Stag, retrieves the Manitou Stone and tells Ralph Dibny that “Magic never comes without a price”.

Week 24, Day 7

J’onn J’onzz, in his guise as an advisor to the President, is present when the President is told that Checkmate has been recertified as a U.N. agency, negating J’onn’s efforts.

In Belle Reve, Amanda Waller has Atom Smasher picking members for a new Suicide Squad mission.

Thoughts

Phil Jimenez’ and Andy Lanning’s art is a welcome change to this series, especially because of all the group shots and different and varied body types/faces (Perez clone that Jimenez is — and I love him for it!).

Both Martian Manhunter and Ollie Queen are after justice this issue: J’onn refers to justice being served for Blue Beetle’s murder, while Ollie’s campaign slogan is “Justice … For All!”. Also, Ollie’s campaign manager is named Maggin, presumably after Elliot S! Maggin, a long-time DC Comics writer (who also wrote stories about Green Arrow).

The new Justice League has an intriguing membership: Firehawk (a character whose design I’ve always liked, even if Jones gives her a new costume on the cover), Firestorm, Bulleteer, Super-Chief, and Ambush Bug. How did this group get together? It makes sense that Firehawk and Firestorm team up, but Super-Chief (who just took on the mantle and has now joined the team)? Ambush Bug?! Speaking of Ambush Bug, we get an issue filled with his fourth-wall breaking and pop culture referential dialog. His shirt on the cover reads “This Shirt’s a Clue” and his first words are the title of the issue, with the background of the word balloon filled with “Week 24”. :) Other references include:

  • He yells into the phone, “The weekly grind is tearin’ me apart! Fifty-two!” Is this commentary from Giffen and company?
  • His Bugs Bunny (or other Warner Bros cartoon character) like dialog:
    • “…so I says to Schwartz, I says…”
    • “Doink!” as he stabs two pirates in their eyes.
    • “Mommy”, just after Super-Chief is zapped away and Bug stands triumphantly over a defeated pirate.
  • “Didn’t mean to interrupt your exposition-filled conversation…”

It’s kind of creepy the way J’onn infiltrates the U.S. government, despite his noble purpose. Also, how he has created statues of all the fallen JLAers in the cave. It seems like he’s gone off some deep end — out of guilt about Blue Beetle?

Osiris has quickly become annoying. How can you take a new character with such potential and immediately make him unlikable? The short answer being, of course, you’re not supposed to like him. I recall what happens to him in the end, but not the journey. Speaking of newly debuted characters, why introduce Jon Standing Bear in the previous issue just to kill him off here?! Wasteful! Not so wasteful are the Dial H like characters (Luthor’s Everymen) with great or not so great names like:

  • Dynamole
  • The Crimson Ghost
  • Jack of All Trades (who looks somewhat like Spider-Man)
  • The Tornado Ninja (an homage to Samurai from the Super Friends cartoon?)
  • E.S. Pete (sounds like something from the Silver Age Legion of Super-Heroes)
  • Poledancer (yikes!)
  • et al

I’ve long suspected Skeets of being up to something, but here, he’s using his time hopping abilities to draw out some, as yet unnamed, enemy, and it doesn’t care who gets in the way. In fact, its now on the offensive with weapons and attacking the heroes.

Other bits:

  • A Jack Ryder advertisement can be seen on the trolley outside Ollie’s campaign office. It reads “You Are Wrong!”
  • Ambush Bug is eating from a bag of chips that features a squirrel. The logo cleverly reads “Ch’ps”, so this has to be an homage to Green Lantern Ch’p.
  • Wherever the new JL is when Firestorm calls Ollie, there is a poster on the wall of Starfire in a bikini (thank you again, Mr. Jimenez). I wonder if this is from one of the photoshoots she did in New Teen Titans?
  • In the J’onn J’onzz monologue, there is a reference to Secretary of State Kakalios. It was an unusual name, so I looked it up and discovered that James Kakalios is the author of The Physics of Superheroes, which was published the year before 52. That has to be a tip of the hat to the author, right?
  • A pirate closely resembling Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow is seen in a newspaper near the end of the issue.
  • The ambassador talking to the President is named Trautmann, after artist/designer Eric Trautmann?
  • Every issue ends with some preview images from the next issue. Here, Ambush Bug is playing the roles of the Question, Isis, and Batwoman. You gotta love a running gag.

The Origin of Booster Gold

by Waid, Jurgens, Lanning, Sinclair, Brosseau, Richards, Wacker

I feel like we have already visited Booster Gold’s origin in this series (in story), but this  time, the origin entry has an additional tag: “An excerpt from the Justice League archives”.  My problem with this is the meta-editorial commentary (such as the “gratuity not included” notation) in this entry, so which Justice Leaguer has supposedly written this “excerpt” (though Batman does have a dry sense of humor…)?

52! Week Twenty-One

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

“Teambuilding Exercises”

Week 21, Day 1

Natasha Irons convinces Lex Luthor to allow speedster Eliza (aka Trajectory) to rejoin the team, making Eliza very happy. She professes her love of the speedster heroes and her desire to prove herself so she can join the Teen Titans.

Week 21, Day 2

Ralph Dibny and the Helmet of Fate convince a demonguard to open a gate to Hell.

Week 21, Day 3

Under the direction of Lex Luthor, his new Infinity, Inc. team debuts by apprehending Blockbuster. While the newly arrived Teen Titans clean up the damage caused by the fight, new team leader Beast Boy warns Natasha about Luthor’s intentions. Luthor helps Blockbuster escape his bonds, and Trajectory races off by herself. Luthor turns off her powers and Blockbuster kills her.

Week 21, Day 6

At Trajectory’s funeral in Alabama, Hot Spot, Little Barda, and Power Boy quit the Teen Titans, while John Henry Irons tries to talk to Natasha about Luthor. Beast Boy offers to help John.

Week 21, Day 7

In Australia, Johnny Warrawa grafts Red Tornado’s head onto a crude, robotic body.

Thoughts

The collaborators do a fine job of endearing us to Eliza in a few pages, especially after her previous appearance as a neophyte drug addict, which makes what happens to her all the more tragic. And we see what Dr. Avasti told John Irons the previous issue come true, meaning that Luthor can indeed turn on and off an Everyman’s program participant’s  metagene. Speaking of John, I’m starting to wonder if what Luthor did to him affected his mind. For a guy who created his own super armor, to confront Natasha at the funeral as he did was just stupid.

We get not one, but two superteam debuts: Infinity, Inc. and the Teen Titans. Luthor buying the Pemberton Estate and the associated Infinity, Inc. trademark is so Luthor. What was new to me was this version of the Teen Titans. Did I forget how these particular members ended up as the Teen Titans or did we ever get the story? I want to read more about the Raven/Zachary Zatara and Little Barda/Power Boy relationships, not to mention Beast Boy taking on a leadership role. Regardless, this team was short-lived with the three desertions.

It’s painful to see how Ralph treated the demon, and now Ralph’s descent into hell is  literal. But will this story be another telling of Orpheus and Eurydice or something far worse?

52! Week Eighteen

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Barrows, Stull, Sinclair, Lanham, Jones, Richards, 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

“Dismantled”

Week 18, Day 1

Detective Chimp, Terri Thirteen, and Edogawa Sangaku arrive at the House of Mystery to find their colleague, Tim Trench, wearing the Helmet of Fate. When Terri touches Tim, his body turns to water, leaving the Helmet in a puddle.

Week 18, Day 2

Charlie is awarded the Order of the Crescent for helping to stop the suicide bomber by Black Adam and Isis. Renee was supposed to have been present as well, and her absence offends Adam. Adam finds a drunk Renee with a Kahndaqian woman. When Adam tries to give Renee the medal, she swats it away, angering him. He picks her up by her throat, and Renee tells him, quietly, “… just do it…”, but Isis intervenes. Charlie tells them they are focusing on the suicide bomber instead of why she was at the wedding in the first place: they should be going after Intergang.

Week 18, Day 3

Detective Chimp has tracked Ralph Dibny to Marseilles, France, and has brought the sealed Helmet of Fate with him to enlist Ralph’s help to unravel the mystery. Ralph tells him it’s time to call in the Shadowpact.

Week 18, Day 4

Clark Kent is in Cincinnati, OH, to cover Booster Gold’s funeral. While there, Skeets encounters a young man who seems “vaguely … familiar” to it. He is Daniel Carter, who, according to Skeet’s scans, is a direct ancestor of Booster’s. Skeets tells Daniel to contact it to talk about his future.

Week 18, Day 7

The Shadowpact and Ralph have assembled in Giza, Egypt, the “shadow of the helm’s birthsite”, to scry what has happened recently to the helmet. The Helmet begins talking to Ralph, telling him that it can give him the “answers you seek” if he is prepared to “make every sacrifice I ask of you”. Ralph announces he is ready, and walks off with the Helmet. The Shadowpact look on puzzled, and Enchantress says, “Is it just me, or does he think that the Helmet was talking to him?”

Thoughts

This might be my favorite issue yet. In fact, I want to do a spotlight episode on the podcast on this issue! So many things to cover and explore….

First, here’s another cover I love. It has a very pulpy paperback cover feel to it, especially with the large Helmet of Fate looming over everyone and the scratchy letters, “Calling Dr. Fate”, in the bottom corner. Plus, Sinclair’s coloring of the Helmet here is gorgeous with the way light bounces off the metal — it’s not a spit-polished helmet by any means; that helmet has some history to it!

I also love the way they roll out the credits in the first few pages. Usually, they presented in a banner-like way across the pages, but this issue, they’ve placed the credits on pages framed to the walls or on mirrors in the House of Mystery. It helps direct our eyes to the other items on the walls, giving us a brief look into this group of occult investigators, the Croatoan Society: Detective Chimp, Terri Thirteen, Edogawa Sangaku, Tim Trench, and formerly Ralph Dibny. Ok, this was a new group created in this very issue (as far as I can tell), but the way they are written, it seems like they’ve been working in the DCU for a while. And their base of operations is the House of Mystery! How did this not turn into a series (or at least a mini)?! Given that this is the Sangaku character’s first appearance, I found this bit of trivia, so you know the collaborators on this issue are having some fun, especially because nothing came out after this issue regarding the character. Oh well.

Renee is reverting to type, unable to cope with killing the young girl from the previous issue (and I don’t blame her!), but it’s the way she taunts Black Adam, knowing what he could do to her — that she wants him to do it — that is heartbreaking. I’m glad that they’re showing the consequences of Renee’s actions, i.e., she isn’t instantly over it. But how long will this continue to haunt her?

I love that Ralph is the detective that Detective Chimp seeks out regarding the Helmet of Fate, a “locked-room mystery with a severe touch of the weird”. It adds a dimension to Ralph that I don’t know has ever been explored, but I’m also not well read on the Elongated Man’s adventures. Unfortunately, we do find out that Detective Chimp is a member of the Republican National Party.

Booster’s funeral provides us with some characters rarely, or only just, seen, as far as I know. In fact, while I recognized two, I had to look them up. Of note are Beefeater, with his punctuated “oi”s, and Odd Man, who first appeared in Detective Comics #487 in a story I read for the first time only a few month’s ago (at the time of this writing).

Finally, we get to see Shadowpact, which is a group that I love, even if the series wasn’t all that great. But we do get a great moment at the end of this issue when Ralph walks off with the Helmet of Fate after its conversation with him, and Enchantress reveals to us that the Helmet hadn’t said anything! So, is Ralph hallucinating or is something sinister at work here (I’m guessing the latter).

So many good elements here, rife with old and now new DC history, with some plot-forwarding as well. I really enjoyed this issue.

The Origin of The Question

by Waid, Bennett, Sinclair, Napolitano, Richards, Wacker

I’ve never been a big fan of The Question. He’s a detective-like character with a pretty basic gimmick, his pseudoderm mask. Oh, and it just so happens he was trained in martial arts by Richard Dragon. Yawn. However, when they changed the Question in the Justice League Unlimited animated series into a conspiracy theorist oddball, that’s when he became interesting. Given what happens to Charlie in 52,  I think the passing of the torch to Renee was a good evolution of the concept.

52! Week Thirteen

52 13
By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Nauck, Alquiza, Sinclair, Napolitano, Jones, Richards, and Wacker. Cover by Jones and Sinclair.

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series for its 15th anniversary. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Haystack”

Week 13, Day 2

Ralph calls upon his Justice League friends Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Metamorpho, and Zauriel to infiltrate a Cult of Conner resurrection ceremony, but he needs to decide if he wants to allow the Cult’s attempt to bring back his wife, Sue.

In southwest Asia, Black Adam and Isis free some children from a slavery ring, and Isis convinces Adam not only to not kill the perpetrators, but take in the parentless children as wards of Khandaq.

Ralph does decide to not go through with the ceremony, and he accosts the leader, Devem, causing Wonder Girl to attack Ralph and then Green Lantern. The fight is swiftly over, but a fire breaks out after Devem kicks over a brazier. Ralph continues his angry tirade toward Devem but is interrupted by the dummy stand-in for Sue, who calls out to Ralph. He tells the other heroes to stop, that the ceremony “wasn’t a trick”. Cassie leaves with Devem while the assembled heroes begin evacuating the building. Ralph stays inside, hugging the Sue dummy as the building collapses.

Week 13, Day 3

At the ruins, Green Lantern announces that there is no body, meaning that Ralph got out alive, but worries about his friend’s sanity. We see Ralph under an overpass, repeating “try again” as he cradles the burnt remains of the Sue dummy.

Thoughts

So, I don’t get the issue title. It has to be the “haystack” from the proverbial “needle in a” idiom. But what is the needle? Sue’s soul (the dummy appears to be made out of straw)? Or is it “hope” (to tie both storylines together)?

There are a lot of talking heads this issue with perhaps far too much storyspace taken up by the resurrection ceremony, but I do love seeing the camaraderie between the Justice League members. As Metamorpho says, “Ralph called. I came runnin’.” Green Lantern also tells Ralph that the play is his to call, showing the respect between them.

Isis continues to have a positive affect on Black Adam. He tells her, “You show me hope. And no one has done that in so long…”, as Adam and Isis walk behind the freed children while the sun sets before them.

The panel showing the Sue dummy crawling toward Ralph was very creepy and a great page turn choice. The panel sequence that follows of the dummy speaking to Ralph and his quick realization that the ceremony appears to have worked, with two panels closing in on his face first and then his eye, was superb — Todd Nauck deserves kudos for this.

That final image of Ralph cradling the remains of the Sue dummy is unsettling, especially considering that Sue’s body was burned after she was killed. I do not care for the immediate “he’s lost his mind from grief” trope, especially because Green Lantern just expressed worry for that potential on the previous page.

The Origin of Elongated Man

by Waid, Nowlan, Nap, Richards, Wacker

Now this origin summary makes sense because Elongated Man appears in the issue and is a central character to 52. It’s a good recap of how Ralph became EM and the first superhero to reveal his identity. Speaking of, this is the most interesting aspect of Ralph’s superhero career and something that begs for more. Reading 52 makes me want to read more Elongated Man and Sue Dibny stories.

52! Week Twelve

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Barrows, Stull, Lanham, Baron, 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

“Mighty”

Week 12, Day 1

Gotham City: Maggie Sawyer chastises Renee for her involvement in the Ridge-Ferrick Holding building. Later, Renee waits for Charlie to “wake up” from his meditation so that they can follow up on their only lead. Charlie tells Renee that she wins and that they are going to Khandaq.

Khandaq: Black Adam changes the course of a river to help a village, and he and Adrianna discuss Adam’s responsibilities. Later, Adam takes Adrianna to the Rock of Eternity.

Rock of Eternity: Black Adam introduces Adrianna to Captain Marvel, who is having trouble adjusting to his responsibility as the new Shazam. When Marvel asks why they are visiting, Adam announces that he wants to invite Adrianna to the Marvel family.

Philadelphia: Ralph confronts Cassie about what the Cult of Conner stole from his storage locker. When she tells Ralph they took Sue’s clothes and his wedding ring in an effort to resurrect Sue, Ralph tells her, “Let me help.”

Rock of Eternity: Adam explains that he wants to give a magical scarab containing the powers of Egypt’s most powerful goddess, Isis, to Adrianna. Marvel, through the wisdom of Solomon, sees that she is worthy, but Adrianna worries about the power corrupting her. In the end, she acquiesces, saying the magical phrase “I am Isis!”. She then tells Adam that she will join his mission … after they find her brother.

Thoughts

I love this cover! The contrasting black and white colors between the costumes and flag with that subdued, sepia-like background really make the characters pop. It also foreshadows the relationship between Black Adam and Adrianna.

Originally a Filmation character in the self-titled Isis show and part of the Shazam/Isis Hour on Saturday mornings from 1975-1977 (and then rerun during the 1977-1978 season), Isis makes her DCU debut, and the powers that be paid homage to the show in the following ways:

  • The title of this issue, “Mighty”, is a play on what the television character, Andrea Thomas, would say to transform into Isis (“Oh, Mighty Isis!”), which sounds so much more like an incantation or conjuration than “I am Isis!”.
  • Adrianna Tomaz (from 52) vs Andrea Thomas (from Isis)
  • Hatshepsut is the Egyption queen in both versions of the character
  • The costumes are similar, though Adrianna’s shows a lot more skin

Black Adam’s (and now Isis’) story continues to be the one that intrigues me the most. Unfortunately, I know how this ends up, thus diluting the character growth potential. Adjacent to this is the situation with Captain Marvel and his position as protector of the Rock of Eternity. I’d forgotten about this turn of events and the impact on the good Captain, but it does make for a somewhat comitragical scene with manic Billy. However, I can’t say that I like this development, though at least now we know why Black Adam didn’t transform when he said “Shazam” in a previous issue.

I love when Ralph tells Cassie that people confuse him for his stretchy counterpart, but “[Plastic Man’s] the clown … Elongated Man is the detective”. Also, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to help bring back a loved one?

The Origin of Wonder Woman

by Waid, Hughes, Martin, Napolitano, Richards, Wacker, with special thanks to Chiarello

Interesting that they start out with Wonder Woman’s origin because 52 was supposed to be about the DCU without the Big 3’s presence. Perhaps it was to coincide with volume 3 of her series that had debuted the previous month.

I like the version of this character as summarized by these two pages, and the Adam Hughes art is nice to look at, mostly.