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 Six

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennett, Jose, 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 15 years later. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“China Syndrome”

Week 6, Day 1. Booster Gold pays an actor for portraying a villain he fought. In China, Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and John Stewart fight the Great Ten in pursuit of Evil Star.

Dr. Magnus visits Professor Morrow again, while a technician installs a camera to monitor Morrow. Someone has hijacked the video feed and is also watching Morrow.

The fight with the Great Ten turns for the worse with the Green Lanterns  when Black Adam arrives. Adam explains that China has joined his coalition. Fortunately for the Green Lanterns, Russia has not joined with Adam and offers the Lanterns safe passage.

Week 6, Day 2. Booster Gold and Skeets arrive at Rip Hunter’s underground bunker in Arizona. There, Booster finds Hunter’s chalkboard notes that proclaim that time is broken and it’s Booster’s fault.

Thoughts

“China Syndrome” shares its title with the 1979 movie, and also references a nuclear catastrophe where the components melt through the Earth to China. So, is the analogy here that the Green Lanterns are the “syndrome”? Or is it Black Adam? His coalition is certainly gaining momentum, so I’m curious how this plays out (I don’t really recall), but I have a feeling the creators whiff this one. They certainly spent a lot of real estate on this conflict (11 pages), but at least it was nice to look at.

Speaking of Green Lantern, Hal’s reference to Black Adam’s murder of Terra-Man seemed oddly … tone deaf, calling it “a tad theatrical”. Oof. Finally, the Great Ten are certainly an interesting new group of super characters with a lot of potential. A pity they weren’t used more/better. I should seek out the mini series and other appearances.

In the conversation between Morrow and Magnus, the scene starts off with an egg, and I believe we saw an egg or something shaped like an egg last issue, so considering who they are teasing, this foreshadowing was fun to see. It’s almost Watchmen-esque, I dare say. I also find the bit of dialogue from whom is being teased to be quite funny:

Servant: If it’s all right to call you “Great One.”

“Great One”: I’m fine with that. Now GO!

Booster is not fairing very well in this series. In fact he’s slipped from annoying glory hound to pathetic loser. At least we get the famous Rip Hunter “crazy board”. I remember reading this the first time and being excited about what all of it meant. The internet message boards were also abuzz about it. Let’s see what I can glean from this. Keep in mind, I know the outcome of some of this material, but have forgotten or just don’t know the result of others.

Time Is Broken:

  • “52” abounds in this scene. Not only multiple times on the chalkboards, but in pages on the floor (520 Kane) and on clock or other digital displays.
  • There are more numbers on paper on the floor: 51, 53, 54, 55, 56. Considering the focus on 52, those higher numbers are intriguing.
  • Other pages of interest on the floor:
    • Infinity, Inc. — Were they bringing back this team?! (Yes, but differently.)
    • Casey the Cop — I still have no idea who this is.
    • Silverblade — same
    • Find the Sun Devils — It was these kinds of hints that got the DC fan in me excited. While I had not read Sun Devils, I knew of it and liked the idea of DC bringing back these older concepts — it was almost like the early to mid-80s when DC was trying all sorts of unusual and interesting concepts and formats.
    • What is Spanner’s Galaxy? — Same as the prior note for this series.
    • Finally, a bound book has the title of “Who’s Who”. :)
  • There’s also the globe behind the chalkboard with “World War III Why? How?” written in red text. Of course, we’d get to that much later in the run of 52.
  • Chalkboard 1:
    • Dead by lead? — Daxamite’s are “allergic” to lead. A reference to Mon-El in the 20th century?
    • Not only is Time Is Broken, “further time is different”. The omission of the comma after “further” could change the meaning of this phrase: “further time” could mean future time. Or was Rip just being lazy in his writing?
    • The four horsemen will end her rain — I know we eventually get the mini series involving the Four Horsemen, but “rain”? Is that just a misspelling of “reign”? If so, whose reign? If not, what?!
    • He won’t smell it — What the Rock is cooking???
    • Find the last “El” — Which one is that?
    • What looks like “sonic disruption” is scribbled over at the end (“sonic disrupt”), and “disrupt” is also crossed out. — The DC multiverse is often described as existing on different vibrational frequencies, but they’re aren’t sonic in nature. There was also a mini series in the late 80s called Sonic Disruptors.
    • Apparently pointing down from the “sonic” line is Time Masters –> Time Servants — This sounds ominous. I really don’t know Rip Hunter’s history well enough to speculate what this could mean, other than DC appears to be expanding his role.
    • The reach — Repeated three times. Have no clue what this is.
    • The tornado is in pieces — Obviously a reference to the destroyed Red Tornado.
    • “I’m not kryptonite” — ???
    • It hurts to breathe — ???
    • The scarab is eternal? — Expanding the Blue Beetle mythos?
    • There are a few arrows pointing from circled 52s to a circled “Earth”. — Is this just the conceit that “our” Earth is at the center of the multiverse?
    • Also pointing toward that “Earth” is “Where is the Curry heir?” — Was Aquaman dead at this time?
    • Who is Super Nova? — Ahh! I remember this one exciting me more than some of the others, but I had misremembered the character of Nova (Superman’s identity when his lost his powers in a couple stories in World’s Finest Comics from the late 60s) as this one.
    • Man of Steel — Who is this referencing? Clark Kent or John Henry Irons?
  • Chalkboard 2:
    • Pointing from the word “Broken”, there are several items:
      • “What happened to the son of Superman?” — Was this a reference to the Super Sons backup stories from the 70s?
      • Pointing from that is “Who is Diana Prince?” — I don’t recall, but is this where we get the eventual return of Diana’s alter ego?
      • Where is the Batman? — Don’t worry, he’ll be back.
      • Pointing from that is “Who is the Batwoman?” — Hinting at the debut of the best version of that character.
      • Te versus (Au + Pb) — Te is Tellurium and has the atomic number of 52 on the periodic table. Au and Pb is an obvious reference to two of the Metal Men.
      • Don’t ask the Question. It lies. — Works on a couple levels. Is this big Q (i.e., the character) or little Q (concept) “question”? If the former, why “it”?
      • Secret Five! — ???
      • Who is Super Nova? — Significance of a second appearance?
      • World War III? Why? How? — Notice this time there is a question mark this time after WW III.
      • Pointing from a circled 52 is “Immortal Savage” — Hinting at a big change for the character?
      • Someone is monitoring. They see us. They see me. — Monitors? Something else?
      • Khimaera lives again — Had to look this up and relates to Hawkgirl during the One Year Later run.
      • The Lazarus Pit rises — Probably One Year Later Batman related?
      • The old gods are dead, the new gods want what’s left. — Bringing back the Fourth World characters again?
      • I’m supposed to be dead / When am I? / OTHERS? — No wonder Rip Hunter went into hiding (or is he captured?). Imagine having the insight that Rip does and knowing that you aren’t where (or maybe when?) you are supposed to be (or not to be); it might drive you crazy.
    • On the adjacent page to the chalkboards is a broken time bubble ship with screens behind it depicting either significant moments in time or what are possibly variations in the timeline:
      • Prisoner 7053 — Rosa Parks after her arrest.
      • Abe Lincoln with General Grant (?).
      • A ship with a cross on its sails.
      • What looks like Elvis singing at Sun Records.
      • Native Americans throwing boxes over the side of a ship — This is what made me think of timeline alterations. What if this is a alternate reality where the Native Americans threw the British tea into Boston Harbor?
      • A T-Rex
    • There are a plethora of clocks all around the lab indicating what I presume is 11:52. It could also be a Watchmen reference?
    • Finally, there is a magnet dangling from a tripod. Given how the magnet is colored, it’s clearly supposed to draw your attention, but I don’t understand the significance.

History of the DCU, part 5

by Dan Jurgens, Andy Lanning, Guy Major, Jeromy Cox, Nick J. Napolitano, Eddie Berganza, Ivan Cohen, and Jeanine Schaefer

Post-Crisis recitation (highlights):

  • The new Justice League and Suicide Squad
  • The death of Jason Todd and the debut of Tim Drake as Robin
  • Millennium and Invasion
  • Team Titans
  • Death of Superman and Bane breaking Batman’s back
  • Return of the Supermen
  • The character assassination of Hal Jordan and the debut of Kyle Rayner as the sole Green Lantern

“Zero Hour was coming.”