52! Week Fifty-One

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennett, Jadson, Brabo, Baron, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, 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

“Homecoming”

Week 51, Day 1

Animal Man arrives on Earth and reunites with his wife and kids.

Week 51, Day 2

People gather at Superboy’s memorial to commemorate his sacrifice a year earlier. Diana Prince, Bruce Wayne, and Clark Kent are in attendance, as well as a number of superheroes.

Week 51, Day 3

On Rann, Adam Strange’s sight has returned. Some Green Lanterns question him about what he saw and what happened to the Emerald Eye of Ekron. But Adam leaves to be reunited with his family and the Green Lanterns go off to deal with the fire creatures plaguing Ranagar.

Week 51, Day 4

Lobo returns to the Thrice-Perfected One to offer it the Emerald Eye as requested. Lobo asks the Fish God to release him from his pacifist vows and why it wanted the Eye. The Fish God tells him that the Eye “is the only weapon in the universe which can kill me”. Lobo says, “Ya don’t say…” and the Eye fires on the Fish God.

Week 51, Day 6

The Bakers are having a get-together with friends when aliens arrive at the front door, yelling, “Bounty for Lady Styx! Die! Die! Die!” Starfire arrives, blasting them. She offers Ellen Buddy’s jacket and then collapses.

Week 51, Day 7

Skeets arrives at T. O. Morrow’s Rocky Mountain complex wanting the map that Red Tornado created when he saw “the garden”. Rip Hunter thanks Morrow for luring Skeets there. Skeets explains that he isn’t “Skeets”, but a transformed Mr. Mind who is “so hungry [he] could eat a universe!”

Rip commands Booster to grab what’s left of Skeets while he grabs Red Tornado’s head, and they leave in the time sphere, going “Back to where it all started”.

Thoughts

The ticker on the cover returns and breaks the fourth wall by declaring “51 issues down and one more to go”. Was that really necessary? Also, I love how the gears “falling” out of Red Tornado’s head represent different Earths — it’s a good visual and great coloring.

I like how Buddy is literally glowing with sun energy when he appears in front of Ellen, but is there radiation to be concerned about? It’s certainly a reason to not see them embrace, and I find that curious. Is this supposed to represent the distance still present in their relationship? Buddy seems uncharacteristically confident in this scene, and I wonder if that continues elsewhere.

The DC Database website points out that the Superboy memorial occurs before the one-year mark (as shown in issue 1). Considering that World War III just occurred, and I’m sure many more people were killed or affected in some way, this memorial doesn’t seem like it would be as important as shown? I know it’s a device to circle us back to the beginning and to establish the return of the Trinity, but it lessons the authenticity of the universe we’ve seen thus far. Another thing that doesn’t quite work for me is the scene between Ravager and Kid Devil. I know it’s to provide some explanation as to why those characters had been in the Teen Titans during the year, but it just seemed shoe-horned in. However, this scene reminded me that I need to seek out the issues in which Donna Troy has taken on the Wonder Woman mantle. Also, we are explicitly told why Tim Drake’s Robin costume is now red and black: he looks up at Superboy’s statue and says, “They were his colors”. I really like that tribute and had forgotten it for the last 15 years!

I know this is just a timing thing, but having just finished the Gerads/Shaner/King Strange Adventures series and seeing the reunion of Adam with Alanna and Aleea in this issue is … bittersweet?

So what does Lobo do with the Emerald Eye of Ekron after this series?

Finally, I had forgotten that we got the Mr. Mind reveal in this issue, so this surprised me. And boy were they channeling the ending of Back to the Future with this cliffhanger, huh? I’m really looking forward to the conclusion of this story and the revelations within!

The Origin of the Justice League of America

By Waid, Reis, Albert, Sinclair, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

Reis/Albert do a great job of making the Appellaxians look menacing (but Superman’s legs look a little wonky in panel 3). I always liked the idea that it was a honor for a hero to be invited to join the League, but the ones who aren’t invited have to be a little upset by not getting an invitation, right? And what is the criteria for being offered membership? Has the League in the comic books ever done a Justice League Unlimited-type approach where every hero is a member and are called on when those powers or skills are required for a mission? That could make for an interesting set of stories over time….

52! Week Fifty

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Justiniano, Wong, Sinclair, Lopez, Richards, Schaeffer, 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

“World War III”

Week 50, Day 2

The Marvel family battles Black Adam in Egypt.

Week 50, Day 3-5

The JSA search the world for Black Adam, and discover he’s in China.

Week 50, Day 6

Members of the Great Ten discuss what to do about Black Adam, because “he knows the part our leaders played in his betrayal”. August General-in-Iron orders the Great Ten to stop Black Adam.

Week 50, Day 7

The JSA, JLA, and other superheroes gather at the Chinese border. They have been warned by the Chinese government to not enter the country or the “missiles start flying”. Alan Scott tells them to be ready, “I’m betting they’ll need the Justice Society soon enough”.

Black Adam defeats the Great Ten one by one by, and August General-in-Iron reluctantly allows the assembled superheroes in to help.

Captain Marvel crashes into the Rock of Eternity after being expelled from the Egyptian gods’ presence: they refused Marvel’s plea to take away Black Adam’s powers. He’s asked, “And there’s no way to force the change?”

Steel is about to launch a nanite-filled missile at Black Adam when Booster Gold appears and takes it. He tells Steel, “it wasn’t gonna work anyway, trust me…”.

One by one, the American superheroes fall to Black Adam. Green Lantern declares that they need help and see members of Infinity, Inc. He implores them join him, but they flee in fear.

Zatanna contacts Flash with a plan, who then tells Green Lantern to haul Adam up in the air. Captain Marvel flies to intercept, calling the lightning, which he grabs and hurls it at Adam. There’s a massive explosion of light and Black Adam transforms into Teth-Adam and, as he falls, he yells “Shazam!” multiple times. He is caught by Atom Smasher.

The JSA search for Black Adam. The Flash yells, “Tell me we didn’t lose him after all that!”, and Atom Smasher says, “The light … the shockwave … no one saw exactly what happened”. Captain Marvel tells them that Adam is no longer a threat. He reveals that as the guardian of the magic, he was able to change Adam’s magic word and that Adam will never guess it. We see Adam walking the streets, saying one word after another.

T. O. Morrow arrives at a base in the Rocky Mountains and begins to examine Red Tornado’s head. He sees what Red Tornado saw “in the great beyond” and exclaims, “Oh God”. Then Booster Gold and Rip Hunter arrive, with the latter telling him, “Get your ass in gear, Prof. ‘Cause we’re already way outta time”.

Thoughts

Minor note: this cover is the only one of the series that does not have the “news ticker” at the bottom.

For much of this series, I have been on Black Adam’s side: he’s a reformed “bad guy” who fell in love, built a family, and tried to accomplish some good in the world. Then one bad day changes all of that and he slaughters a country (later, he’s referred to by one of the Great Ten as a “suffering, dying bull destroying everything in his path”).

While most of the superhero community would like nothing more than to lock Adam up forever, some are still trying to help him. On page one, Captain Marvel implores with Adam, “Stop this. Let me help you.” Marvel doesn’t yell or command, he is sympathetic despite Adam’s sins. Atom Smasher continues to defend Adam believing that Adam wouldn’t kill innocent children when we know he did. There’s also a two-page spread showing all of the superheroes charging Black Adam in the forefront — I tip my hat to the creators on this image because I have been conditioned to root for the underdog and this shows a defiant Adam waiting to confront his adversaries.

How are we as readers supposed to judge Black Adam based on all that has happened? While I think the creators and DC failed to adequately show the destruction and pain Black Adam caused on a human level (we see lots of structures being destroyed), I enjoy the narrative dichotomy of this character’s path, and god help me, I’m still rooting for the guy at the end! In fact, there’s a panel of him saying “Eternity” before he disappears into the crowd and that just elicited pangs of sympathy within me (good job creators!). It’s not that I want him to guess/discover the magic word and continue with his rage-filled vengeance but eventually find some peace. I’m very curious what happens next to this Black Marvel.

52! Week Forty-Nine

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Barrows, Green, Ramos, Baron, Leigh, Richards, Schaeffer, 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

“Eve of Destruction”

Week 49, Day 1

The JSA arrive on Oolong Island demanding that Chang Tzu let Black Adam go. Then, members of the Great Ten arrive to tell the JSA if they continue, there will be war.

Chang Tzu asks Will Magnus if the Plutonium Man is complete and how Magnus endows the “metals with life”? Magnus tells him

… it’s really the responsometer that does all the work. Once a metal is animated, it takes a form that perfectly expresses its own nature. … Metal Men pretty much build themselves.

Then the Metal attack Chang Tzu.

Green Lantern tells the Great Ten they can’t declare war on the JSA — they’re free agents — but the Great Ten call this “nonsense”.

With the help of Thundermind, Green Lantern now knows that the Great Ten are there to protect the secret that Chang Tzu is a member of the Great Ten.

Dr. Morrow attempts to stop Magnus from lowering the island’s defenses, but Magnus gives him the control to teleport to Dr. Sivana’s Omnibot. Morrow tells him, “I don’t deserve your loyalty”. To which Magnus replies, “You were the best teacher I ever knew. I try overlook the whole psychopathic super-villain thing”.

In the Omnibot, Sivana gathers some equipment, thanking Black Adam for allowing him to develop “torture toys” that will work on the Marvel Family.

Dr. Magnus defends himself by firing Lead at Chang Tzu, piercing his shell. Magnus threatens the other scientists with the particle wave ray gun and his bipolar disorder. The scientists run away, and Magnus shoots Chang Tzu a few more times, telling him, “You shouldn’t have taken away my meds!”

With the defense systems down, the JSA enter the compound and begin rounding up the scientists. Atom Smasher locates and frees Black Adam. About Bialya, he implores Adam, “Tell me it wasn’t you”. Adam uses his magic to heal himself and repair his costume. He tells Atom Smasher before leaving the island, “They wanted a war, Albert. I’m going to give it to them”.

IN Metropolis, Nuklon tells the remaining Infinity, Inc. members,

We can still be the future. … We can still prove to the world that we can do it better than those stupid old men in the JSA. We only need the chance.

Thoughts

I love that James Bond homage cover! The ticker at the bottom even pokes a little fun: “The Diabolical Egg-Fu: Shaken, Stirred and Cracked?” Hah!

There are only a few notable items in this issue. One is that Thundermind is helping the JSA by revealing (though it’s only heavily implied) the Great Ten’s motivation for protecting Oolong Island. I’d love to see more between those two groups.

Another is the return of the Metal Men, minus Platinum (and will Magnus do anything with that Plutonium Man?). That scene of the mini Metals attacking Chang Tzu was a nice bit of comedy.

Atom Smasher’s reaction when he realizes that what he thought about Black Adam wasn’t true: the Black Marvel did decimate Bialya. The way the artists drew Atom Smasher’s reaction was very done, considering the full face mask and only white eyes. I wonder if the penciler thought they couldn’t adequately express Al’s emotions if the mask was off? That seems like a wasted dramatic moment.

Then there’s Magnus’ relationship with T. O. Morrow. I loved that exchange between them. Morrow brought Magnus into this situation, revealed Magnus’ bipolar disorder and the need for medication (which they took away), he shoots Mercury and threatens to shoot Magnus, but Magnus still feels a sense of loyalty (or is it compassion?) to the guy.

Finally, Magnus kills Chang Tzu?! Magnus’ quip that “you shouldn’t have taken away my meds!” was very much a 1980s Shwartzenegger action movie moment. But will Magnus answer for this crime (although I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll see of Chang Tzu …)?

The Origin of the JSA

By Waid, Kramer, Bair, Sinclair, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

Nothing really of note here, but I love how this entry reinforces DC’ history of legacy that started with the JSA.

52! Week Forty-Six

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Olliffe, Geraci, Ramos, Baron, Lopez, Richards, Schaeffer, 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

“Mad Science”

Week 46, Day 1

Black Adam fights through various defenses put forth by the Oolong Island scientists. Veronica Cale opens the blast doors to tell Adam that she “made the things that killed your family”, but he walks past her. Once Adam is inside, Ira Quimby galvanizes the scientists to continue fighting. T. O. Morrow then uses tesseract technology to incapacitate Adam, and Komrade Krabb puts a neuro crown on him, rerouting the “electrical impulses [his] brain sends to his body”, incapacitating Adam. Sivana gloats over Adam, telling everyone, “I’ve been making plans for this moment for a very, very long time…”.

Week 46, Day 3

In Metropolis, as Lex Luthor is being escorted to a police van, Clark Kent calls for Steel and the police Chief to follow him. Kent leads them to a room with a lead door, which Steel breaks through, and they discover the real Luthor. The fake Luthor turns out to be Everyman, who decides to reveal himself in order to attack Natasha Irons. Luthor feigns ignorance and Natasha easily dispatches Everyman.

Week 46, Day 4

The JSA search for survivors in Bialya, with the Flash reporting he found no one and Green Lantern states over 2 million are dead. Atom Smasher arrives, telling them that he wants back on the JSA and to help find Black Adam.

Thoughts

I love the double meaning of the title, “Mad Science”, with the emphasis on “Mad” as we see Black Adam flying through the acid rainstorm, his teeth gritted and his eyes couched by shadows.

The most interesting thing about the Black Adam sequence, besides seeing him laid low by Morrow and the rest (wait until he gets free…), is Cale. She starts by telling Magnus that, “We deserve to die”. She genuinely seems on the verge of repentance, especially in the way her eyes are shown in the panel spanning pages 2 and 3. But then she tells Magnus, “The forces of evil are gathering …. Their goal is eternal slavery and the destruction of free will”. She then jumps on Magnus, saying, “Oh, Will — doesn’t that turn you on?” Later, she confesses to Magnus that as a little girl, she wanted to change the world, but “none of this will be remembered”. That’s when she opens the blast doors (after killing a guard to do so) to confront Black Adam. Does she want him to kill her? Does she feel guilt or just the weight of inevitability? Despite her confession (“It was me,” she tells him meekly), Adam breezes past her, as if she doesn’t exist. This woman continues to vex me — she’s a murderer and callous, but also seemingly insecure and shaken to the core by this experience. What will she like be when we next see her (and I do want to see more of her!)?

A smaller, surprising element was I.Q.’s role in this melodrama. He has appeared before, but his role was inconsequential as I recall. However, here, he talks almost like Glorious Godfrey in the way he inspires the assembled scientists to keep fighting, directing them in their battle, and then punctuates the victory with a somewhat modest, “That’s how I saw it all working out anyway”.

The Origin of Batman

By Waid, Kubert, Baumann, Balsman, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

I’m not sure why DC felt the need to retell Batman’s origin in this series. There’s some nice Andy Kubert art, though.

52! Week Thirty-Seven

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Olliffe, Geraci, SInclair, Lanham, Richards, Schaefer, 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

“Secret Identities”

Week 37, Day 1

Skeets threatens the bottled city of Kandor demanding that Rip Hunter and Supernova surrender themselves to it. Rip tells Supernova to stall Skeets while he reassembles the circuitry of Supernova’s costume. Supernova exits Kandor and he is revealed to be Booster Gold. Rip tells Booster to tell Skeets everything to buy them more time.

Booster tells Skeets, “I’ve known what’s up with you for weeks now”. When Booster visited Rip’s lab, Hunter appeared and told Booster the truth about Skeets and they formulated a plan: Booster would gather weapons after faking his death and assuming the role of Supernova, whose abilities were the result of the Atom’s size-changing belt and the circuitry of the Phantom Zone projector in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

Rip joins Booster in the Fortress and activates the projector on Skeets. However, as Booster observes, Skeets has “eaten the Phantom Zone…!” Rip makes a hasty retreat with Booster, but Skeets follows.

Week 37, Day 4

While Green Lantern helps repair Star City’s electrical grid, Oliver Queen talks with Black Canary about Ralph Dibny, telling her that he’s unstable in trying to bring back his dead wife.

Week 37, Day 5

Lobo presides over Animal Man’s funeral, and then Adam Strange and Starfire head back to Earth. However, Animal Man wakes up, calling out to his comrades, “Don’t leave me!!!” Then the aliens that gave Buddy his powers appear saying, “And so it begins.”

Thoughts

What were they thinking, spoiling the reveal on page 4 on the cover?! That was quite the reveal, though, which can only be overshadowed by the upcoming one regarding Skeets. I like the whole bit about Booster’s dead body being from his future — I wonder if that was ever dealt with in any way in his solo series that followed this?

This issue, with the exception of the Star City interlude, was chock full of revelations: 1) Animal Man didn’t actually die and 2) his alien benefactors appear with an ominous sounding proclamation. Could you imagine the dread Buddy is feeling in that moment when he awakens, thinking he was abandoned light years from home and no way to get there? Alas, he has no time to ponder his predicament. Is there a connection to these aliens and what Rip Hunter is dealing with regarding the timeline and what Skeets has become?

But wait! They’re not done with us yet! This issue also features Dan DiDio’s DC Nation column that proclaims “This column is a clue!” under the 52 banner. I remember the message boards being abuzz about the secret code that, as I recall, I found out some months after this. I’ve never been one to try and figure out stuff like this*, content to let others with more time and inclination to do the legwork. What I don’t recall is if I found out the reveal at the end of the series first or this secret message — I think it was the former. I even went on one of those boards and proclaimed my appreciation for the new paradigm, something I don’t think I repeated.

In case you’re curious, the message was “The secret of fifty-two is that the multiverse still exists.”

The Origin of Firestorm

By Waid, Igle, Champagne, Sinclair, Lanham, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

Was fusing with multiple people a new thing with Jason as Firestorm? I only read a few appearances of this version of the character, and I know his series was a favorite of one of my friends, but I’ve yet to read it. I liked this time at DC Comics when the successors to these characters were younger and not another white dude (like Blue Beetle and not like Kyle Green Lantern).