52! Week Five

by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, Chris Batista, Jimmy Palmiotti, Alex Sinclair, Phil Balsman, Jann Jones, Harvey Richards, and Stephen Wacker. Cover by J.G. Jones and Alex 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

“Stars in Their Courses”

Week 5, Day 1. Ellen Baker, wife of Buddy Baker (Animal Man), takes down a “Welcome Home” banner from her house, telling her daughter that her neighbors told her that she is in “denial”. Just then, Alan Scott, the original (and best) Green Lantern appears to tell her that Animal Man was missing in action. Ellen replies, “‘Missing’, huh? So there’s still hope”, as she unfurls the banner.

In Metropolis, Lex Luthor has announced that synthesized the metagene, which means that “every man and woman can be a superhero”.

Steel is listening to this news when he receives a call to come to St. Camillus, a hospital that now treats superhuman ailments. He consults with Dr. Pieter Cross, aka Doctor Mid-Nite, and Green Lantern Alan Scott, asking about the 25-foot tall, unconscious Hawkgirl that he saw outside. Green Lantern explains that she was part of the team he led into outer space and that there was an accident involving zeta beam technology. It fused Firestorm and Cyborg into one, deformed body and pieces of Red Tornado into Mal Duncan’s (Herald) body. Alan thinks the fractured zeta beams also tore apart Adam Strange, Animal Man, and Starfire. And we learn that Alan’s daughter, Jade, also died. It’s then that Mal goes into cardiac arrest.

In Gotham City, Captain Maggie Sawyer pays a visit to the recuperating Renee Montoya. Sawyer wants to know what exactly happened to Renee because despite what Renee told her, the warehouse is clean and there is no evidence of what Renee recounted. Sawyer is concerned that Renee is in over her head and wants to help, but Renee rebuffs the Captain, who then leaves.

Back at St. Camillus, Steel shock’s Mal, causing the attached Red Tornado part on his chest–a speaker–to replay Tornado’s last words:

It’s coming! 52! 52!

Week 5, Day 7. On an alien world, Buddy Baker wonders aloud to Starfire if the heroes back on Earth won. Starfire wonders how far away from Earth they are and if Adam Strange will be able to get them back home. Buddy encourages Adam to work faster because something is out there, waiting.

Thoughts

The first thing that struck me about this issue was the title. “Stars in Their Courses” has to be referencing Isaac Asimov’s astronomy essay, “The Stars in Their Courses” (and not the Civil War book by Shelby Foote), but I don’t know what connection that essay has to this story. Anyone read that essay and can shed some light on this?

How odd that we only have two days this week. I reviewed the issue multiple times in case I had missed a time stamp. However, I like that not every issue has to have the same time structure (i.e., every few pages is a new day) within the already established pattern of every issue IS a week in the DCU.

Lex Luthor’s metagene announcement should have had more of an impact on this series and the DCU, based on what I can recall, so I’ll be paying more attention to that this time around. I liked the look that Lois and Clark give each other as they listen to this news.

I love Ellen Baker’s belief that her husband will return and Buddy’s total devotion to his wife despite a wet, naked, alien princess walking around him — he doesn’t even really look at Starfire. I know from reading The Last Days of Animal Man that there is some sort of connection, perhaps even attraction?, between Buddy and Koriand’r, so I’ll be looking for that in this series (but I hope it’s not there — that would be easy, lazy storytelling).

A small thing: when we see Hawkgirl lying unconscious on the bed of a semi, I estimated her height based on the other characters around her and thought she was between 20-25 feet tall. It was gratifying when Steel explicitly states she’s 25-feet tall. I appreciate that attention to detail by the artist.

Alan Scott’s emotional state was the highlight of this issue. He was referred to in The Golden Age as the “big guy”, and while that’s an Elseworld’s story, I’ve thought of Alan as the big guy ever since. However, even big guys break down at times, and seeing Alan’s stoic composure start to crumble as he describes what happened to his team was a small, but powerful moment.  After that, he pauses and then looks at Steel, asking him,

A man shouldn’t have to mourn his own children, should he? We shouldn’t have to bury our children.

Gut wrenching…. We didn’t really need the button a few word balloons later where Alan tells Steel that his daughter, Jade, also died.

Finally, “52” as a concept makes itself known in the series. I remember wondering what this could mean. Sure, the sly references to the series title up to this point were cute and all, but what did Red Tornado see?! I also recall being happy about what it did eventually mean, but we’ll get to that much later.

History of DCU, part 4

by Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Guy Major, Jeromy Cox, Rob Leigh, Eddie Berganza, Ivan Cohen, and Jeanine Schaefer

The major losses in Crisis on Infinite Earths — Supergirl and Flash dying — and the finale of the series is summarized. This installment offered me nothing new or interesting. Why are they wasting valuable pages on this stuff?! I know, I know, it’s to inform any new readers pulled into the DCU after Infinite Crisis, but they could at least try to make these few pages interesting to old timers too!

RandoMonday: Legends #1

Here’s a comic chosen at random from my collection.

Legends 1

Legends #1 by John Ostrander (plotter), Len Wein (scripter), John Byrne (penciller), Karl Kesel (inker), Steve Haynie (letterer), Tom Ziuko (colorist), Mike Gold (editor), and Byrne (cover) (there’s another name written on the cover to this issue, but I can’t make it out and it’s not listed anywhere that catalogs such information; if anyone knows whose name that is, please let me know)

Yeah! A number one issue comes up in the randomizer, and it’s the event follow-up to Crisis (in the editor’s notes near the back of the book, Dick Giordano is quoted as calling it “Crisis Two”)! Legends helped reintroduce some characters or new takes on characters and even launch new books post-Crisis. We get Darkseid and his cronies attempting to discredit the superheroes  in an attempt to make humanity “more compliant”. This issue focuses on Firestorm, the new version of Flash, aka Wally West, with Changeling taking on a supportive role, Captain Marvel, the Big Red Cheese, and Cosmic Boy from the Legion of Super-Heroes. At the very end, the Detroit era Justice League shows up to help Cosmic Boy take on new villain Brimstone. It’s also the first appearance of Amanda Waller and the hint of the Suicide Squad.

Even when I first read this series, I thought that the basic premise was a little weak. After all, how can humanity so easily turn its back on the superheroes that they admire and depend upon so much? Of course, there’s some subtle and not so subtle manipulation going on via Glorious Godfrey and other Darkseid minions, including convincing Billy Batson that he killed villain Macro Man and vowing that he would never become Captain Marvel again. However, the creators do a fairly good job juggling all the plots and characters while getting into the heads of a few to provide some much needed characterization and potential character development. I enjoyed in particular the talk between Flash and Changeling, where Wally talks about the pressure he was feeling to live up the legacy of Barry Allen. When Changeling challenges Wally to sidestep the issue by becoming someone else (for example, “Blue Bolt or Speed Demon or Charlie Hustle…”), Wally brushes that suggestion off by telling his friend, “If I do that, the legend dies, and I refuse to allow that to happen”. This is the series in a nutshell from the heroes’ perspective.

It was also nice at that time to see Byrne drawing more DC characters. Maybe half of his Man of Steel miniseries introducing the post-Crisis Superman had come out by this time, so I was hankerin’ for more of his work in the DCU. Karl Kesel does a good job at keeping Byrne’s line work in check and evoking Kirby with the Fourth World characters.

Despite my issue with the premise, I recall really enjoying this series, and I plan to do a spotlight on the whole series one day, either here or on the podcast.

Acquisition Avalanche!

I’ve acquired some comics and other things in the last year (most of which is in the last few months), so I wanted to show them to you. Thanks for watching!

www.youtube.com/user/longboxreview/

RandoMonday: Brightest Day #0

Here’s a cover image chosen at random from my collection.

Brightest Day #0 by Geoff Johns & Peter J. Tomasi (w), Fernando Pasarin (p), Fernando Pasarin, John Dell, Cam Smith, Prentis Rollins, Dexter Vines, & Art Thibert (i), Peter Steigerwald with Beth Sotelo (c), Nick J. Napolitano (l), David Finch, Scott Williams, & Peter Steigerwald (cover)

Coming out of the hugely successful Blackest Night, this 25-issue series (24 + this zero issue) was, to me, full of possibility. Many people returned from the dead during Blackest Night, and this series followed those characters. Getting some spotlight this issue was Deadman as the narrative linchpin, Aquaman, Captain Boomerang, Hawkman and Hawkwoman, Maxwell Lord, J’onn J’onzz, Jade, Firestorm, Osiris, and Hawk and Dove. What did the white lantern entity want, how was Deadman supposed to help, and why did these people return from the dead? Unfortunately, I don’t think there was an adequate resolution to the promising setup. Nor was there enough time to see the long-term ramifications of the events coming out of Brightest Day because the New 52 happened shortly after Brightest Day ended. A pity.

Despite so many names in the credits box, the art in this issue is quite good and consistent.

Pull List Review: 12/28/11 Comics

Here are my final 2011 comic book reviews. What a great year for reading comics, mostly for DC’s relaunch. Say what you want about the titles, at least they were interesting or infamous. Also, given that I finally received all of my January 2012 comics, I will be trying something different for my Pull List Reviews very soon. Now on with the old before I can begin with the new!

Alpha Flight #7: While a part of me chuckles at the funnies in this, another part shakes his head because they’re the easy shots, and ones that don’t really make sense. For example, when Hulk-mentality Sasquatch yells, “Squatch smash puny Canadians”, that’s funny sure, but come on. Then both Mac and Logan point at each other and say (in unison), “He started it.” Easy joke, bad characterization. So Heather is some sort of clone created by the Master, but why does she only have four toes? How does that make sense? I actually did enjoy Wolverine’s appearance in this issue, especially his conversation with Heather at the beginning. I am looking forward to seeing how this limited series turned ongoing turned canceled at issue eight series will end.

Aquaman #4: The Trench storyline comes to an unsatisfying end, mostly because there was no connection between hero and adversary, no communication, no attempt at resolution other than death. Having said that, I do like how Arthur is shown making regal decisions about life and death. I wish Geoff Johns would play up the kingly aspect of Arthur’s history. Speaking of Johns, I really hope he stops making jokes at Aquaman’s expense. At first it made some sense to me (it undercut the “lame” reputation that Aquaman supposedly has), but repeating the jokes just calls attention to something Johns purportedly wants to dispel. It’s almost like Johns has a love/hate attitude towards Aquaman himself. I am looking forward to the upcoming “Who Sank Atlantis” storyline that was teased at the end of the book.

Green Lantern: New Guardians #4: So, some extradimensional force caused the various Lantern Corps members’ rings to abandon them and go to Kyle? Huh? And this force arrives in our universe in the form of a solar system-sized spacecraft, complete with planet-shaped modules. Huh? This seems overly complicated. I thought this book had some potential to be some sort of Brightest Day sequel, but it’s somewhat of a mess narratively, and messy in terms of art.

I, Vampire #4: This is how I like John Constantine appearances: understated but with a bit of the usual Hellblazer sass. What a surprise this book has been for me. I initially wrote it off as a book trying to capitalize on the Twilight crowd, but it’s been quite enjoyable so far, especially the art.

Incorruptible #25: Part 2 of the Irredeemable/Incorruptible crossover, but I enjoyed this story much more than Part 1. The relationship between the Plutonian and Max reminds me to some degree of the old Superboy/Lex Luthor dynamic. Maybe I should give Incorruptible another chance to entertain me?

Justice League Dark #4: I’m still not sure about this book. I know I want to really like it, but the story comes across as a bit muddled, and the art, while good at a certain level, doesn’t help narratively. What do we know? Xanadu did something to separate June from the Enchantress and all hell’s broke loose. I just wish after four issues we’d have moved on from that, even just a bit. I do like how Zatanna is shown as talking in reverse, as if it’s second nature and not just an application of her power.

Star Trek #4: After four issues, this series will stop retelling old stories in the new continuity and tell something new altogether, so I’m looking forward to that. As to the resolution of this issue, I have to admit I preferred the choice Spock makes in the television show as opposed to the save by Uhura here. It’s a duh moment, but not nearly as fun, and it makes Kirk look dumb. I also have to wonder why the creative team picked the “Galileo Seven” as the second story to be told as opposed to a different early episode.

Superman #4: Most intriguing thing about this issue is the Commissioner Corporon’s (have you noticed the odd names in this title?) comment that the Mayor didn’t want Superman to go through what he did five years earlier, but DC fails to cross-promote here by saying we should be reading Action Comics for the details (which I am looking forward to reading)! Ok, that and the reveal that Superman supposedly had something to do with the creation of his superpowered tormentors (though, why fire, ice, and lizard dude? How does that make sense?). And does anyone else think that too much is being made about Clark not being with Heather when she was attacked?

Unwritten #32.5: I am really loving these .5 issues giving us past stories in the Unwritten universe. This time we learn of Gilgamesh’s brush with the ancient (?) Mr. Pullman and the fight with the Leviathan. Nicely done story and art.

I also read All-Star Western #4 (What does it say when I find the backup story more interesting than the main one?), Angel & Faith #5 (I never cared for Harmony in the show, and her appearance in last season’s Buffy was much better than this offering.), FF #13 (This used to be one of my favorite books to read every month; now, it’s ok. I do love the relationship between Valeria and Dr. Doom.), Firestorm #4 (The cover art is the best thing about this book.), Savage Hawkman #4 (My last issue. I read it.), Teen Titans #4 (More team building. And Superboy shows up to beat up Wonder Girl. Feh.), and Voodoo #4 (Despite the nice art and lovely John Tyler Christopher cover, I’ve decided to drop this comic come issue 6–it’s just not interesting enough, like Animal Man.).