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 Thirty-Five

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Jimenez, Jurgens, Lanning, Rapmund, Hi-Fi, 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

“Rain of the Supermen”

Week 35, Day 1, New Year’s Day, 12:00:01 A.M.

Everyman Project recipients fall from the sky in downtown Metropolis. A gas main erupts, trapping the nearby citizens, but Supernova arrives, transporting them to the city limits. Infinity, Inc. helps out civilians elsewhere, and Natasha realizes her uncle was right.

Week 35, Day 2

Superheroes from various teams help transport the injured to Saint Camillus Hospital. Plastic Man reunites with his son, Offspring, who saved over 20 civilians. John Irons tells Beast Boy to “get the Titans together” so they can find out why Luthor took all those powers away.

Week 35, Day 3

Lex Luthor tells the Infinity, Inc. members, save Everyman, that they are clean of the “errant gene-sequence” that “caused so many participants to spontaneously reject their enhancements”. Later, Natasha confides in Skyman what her uncle told her, and wants his help to find proof against Luthor. Skyman tells her he will help and that he loves her.

Week 35, Day 6

Adam Strange confronts Lobo who tells the others that they don’t need to figure out how to fight Lady Styx and her armada because he’s taking them to her.

Thoughts

I simultaneously love and hate the issue title, but given Jurgens’ involvement with this issue and his work on Reign of the Supermen, I’m leaning towards love.

Those opening pages by Jimenez and gorgeous and grotesque. The tragedy unfolds as if in slow motion in the way the panels and action are shown on page 1, and then the enormity of the moment hits you with the following two-page spread. That’s some great comic book storytelling. It’s a pity Jimenez couldn’t have drawn the whole issue — not that Jurgens is bad, but side-by-side, there’s an obvious difference in skill and presentation.

I love how Supernova responds to a reporter’s accusation that he vaporized the crowd: “Don’t be absurd.” If you weren’t sure if this Superman or not, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that he’s not.

Has anyone ever touched on one of these Everymen and how this experience affected them? What was the fallout for Luthor?

In the scene between Natasha and Skyman, right after he tells her he loves her and they hug, we see a picture of the team behind them with Natasha next to Everyman — what a great mirroring of the fore-image (and is it foreshadowing???).

In the scene with the space travelers, it’s implied pretty heavily that Lobo isn’t helping the trio against Lady Styx, but is delivering them to her for the bounty, but I wonder if this is just a ruse that we’ll see play out next issue?

52! Week Thirty-Four

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennett, Jose, Baron, 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

“Suicidal Tendencies”

Week 34, Day 1

The Suicide Squad watches for and then engages the Black Adam family.

Week 34, Day 3

The two groups fight, and Osiris pleads for Black Adam not to kill them, but when Persuader chops Isis’ face, Osiris is the one who murders the villain. The family leaves, and Amanda Waller tells her team that she got what she wanted.

Week 34, Day 4

The Infinity, Inc. women shop for clothes for an upcoming New Year’s Eve party and Barbara Gordon (Oracle) makes it so that chaperone Mercy Graves’ card is declined, separating her from the girls, specifically Natasha Irons. Disguised as security, John Henry Irons provides some facts about Luthor’s Everyman Project, challenging his niece to “draw your own conclusions”.

Week 34, Day 5

Clark Kent is injected with a truth serum and asked why Superman is masquerading as Supernova. Kent laughs and tells them truthfully, “he’s not Superman”.

Week 34, Day 7

Charlie is at St. Luke’s in Gotham City and Renee Montoya receives word from the doctor that the end is near. She sits with Charlie, who sings “Danny Boy” quietly, as she watches the New Year’s Eve countdown. Elsewhere, a Luthor employee tells Luthor that they have verified that Kent is telling the truth. An irritated Luthor goes up the roof, seeing his Everymen flying through the sky and glances down at the paper that confirms again that he is not compatible with the Everyman Treatment. He decides to make it so Supernova, who is “winning too many [Metropolitans] hearts”, fails “in the face of a real challenge”. As the city counts down to the new year, and Charlie dies, Luthor ominously presses a remote button.

Thoughts

I like this simple cover with the question mark on the toe-tag — it’s quite effective.

So we have another timing error (something that didn’t happen that often in this series, at least so far). For some reason, they tagged Day 1 and Day 3 in the same scene. I sincerely doubt the fight between the Black Adam family (I know they refer to them as the Black Marvel family, but I prefer my name) and the Suicide Squad lasted three days. I suspect that Day 1 was just supposed to be the Squad surveilling and then engaging on Day 3. Also, I found the “tickling” between Electrocutioner and Plastique gross. I’m sure that when I first read this issue that I minorly freaked out at the first (and final) appearance of the Persuader in the 21st century. I know the L.E.G.I.O.N. book was fond of directly connecting events and characters (if only as ancestors) to their 31st century counterparts, but did they really need to in this case?

I wonder if Geoff Johns was aping himself (I assume Johns is responsible for this part of 52) when he had Osiris body slam Persuader into bloody bits? Orisis’ anguish at being the one who murders as his step-father has done before, while he implored Adam not to earlier, was affecting, as was the the panels showing Isis comforting him in shadow and rain. Finally, has anyone noticed that Sobek is getting bigger and more menacing looking? Or is it just how the individual artists are portraying the character? He’s also speaking much more confidently — I wonder what this means…?

I have long complained about the Irons family drama in these issues, but what is it about what John says to Natasha that elicits her worried reaction? Is it just the way he delivers his message (which should have happened a long time ago)? Ugh!

I love that part of Metropolis’ New Year’s Eve celebration is dropping a Superman shield instead of a traditional Times Square-like ball (or an “L”, if Luthor got his way). I also liked the overlapping images of all the flying characters (Superman analogs), the countdown, Charlie dying, and Luthor’s pressing the button, presumably (and if memory serves) to negate the powers of everyone outside. Though, just on the surface, the villain pressing a button is hardly a dramatic close to an issue. This part of the ending really overshadowed the death of the Question, though I enjoyed the way they portray the passing of the mantle with Charlie singing “Danny Boy”: “It’s you, It’s you must go and I must bide”.

The Origin of Zatanna

By Waid, Bolland, Lanham, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

My first exposure to Zatanna was from a JLA cover (#161) where she wore the more traditional superhero costume — skintight outfit with a cape — and that very tight and long ponytail. I would only see her in what is considered her traditional outfit later, as shown in this issue. And then I found out that she wore what her father wore and I thought that was kind of dumb. Well, now I’m the dummy because I love this look now, especially how Brian Bolland draws the character.

Here it is mentioned that Zatanna’s magic is genetically inherited — I wonder if this aspect was ever explored because the idea of magic and science melded in this way is fascinating to me.

This origin references her (retconned) involvement in Identity Crisis where she mind-wipes the League’s enemies (one of the lowest points in their history), which tarnishes her for a while.

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 Twenty-Nine

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

“Name Calling”

Week 29, Day 2

Wildcat and the original Green Lantern and Flash are the only ones who gather at the JSA headquarters, lamenting the possible end of their team. Outside, the members of Infinity, Inc. pass by as part of a Thanksgiving parade. Inside, Wildcat grumbles that these new kids “fight with no heart”. It is then that Infinity, Inc. introduces its newest member, Jade.

Obsidian appears, telling his father, “This isn’t right.” Jade tells the onlookers that she and the rest of Infinity, Inc. are here to do the superheroes’ job better. Obsidian then breaks through the window, demanding that Jade take off her uniform. Green Lantern steps in, stopping his son from doing any more harm. Nuklon tells Green Lantern that “the world doesn’t need antiques watching out for it when it’s got hundreds kids like us.”

On Oolong Island, the mad scientists have gathered for dinner while Sivana carves a ptero-turkey breast with a chainsaw. Dr. Magnus leaves the table after being drenched in ptero-turkey, and Dr. Cale follows him, revealing that she knows he stole Komrade Krabb’s gold watch. She also tells him that her specialty on the island is alien technology: “A higher, brighter, more terrible world has fallen to earth …. Oh, to live in such times. To see the world changed, forever.”

Chung Tzu arrives, seemingly irritated that he was not invited to dinner. He then demands an update from Dr. Magnus on the slow-moving Plutonium Man project. Dr. Cale then suggest that Chung Tzu remove Dr. Magnus’ medication to allow his “wild, dangerous, creative streak he’s been suppressing” to return. As guards take Magnus’ meds, he begs Professor Morrow for help.

At JSA headquarters, the Flash and Wildcat have finished boarding up the windows and Flash leaves to join his family, leaving Wildcat alone.

Week 29, Day 3

Dr. Avasti visits the Steelworks and finds John Henry Irons’ silver skin falling off. He tells her that Luthor’s Everyman program has “an expiration date.”

Thoughts

In the spirit of the issue’s title, there’s nothing sadder than a bunch of has-beens complaining about the new generation, right? And how appropriate that my least favorite DC Comics character is the whiny baby doing the complaining? Put a sock in it, Wildcat! I did like the panel where Green Lantern says, “Extant is dead,” with a picture of his dead daughter behind him. Though, maybe that was a little too on the nose?

When Obsidian assaults the new Jade, demanding she take off her uniform, now!, what did he expect her to do, unclothe in public? There was talk in this issue about how Obsidian has been crazy before but that he’s now better, but is he? Given how the “old” guard acted in this scene, perhaps Nuklon has a point?

The table setting on the splash page was kind of fun, especially with the ptero-turkey tray on a set of tracks (though, given how long the tray is, there’s no way it could turn the small corners) and the sheer glee on Sivana’s face as he slashed that bird.

In her last appearance, Dr. Cale seemed to be sane amongst the insane, but her discussion with Dr. Magnus and later her pricking her finger and sucking her blood proves otherwise. Plus, she is a cold one revealing Magnus’ Achilles heal as she did (but how did she know about his medication?).

It’s unfortunate that the creators decided to lean into the absurdity of Chung Tzu in this issue. He’s already absurd looking, but why also make him insecure and homicidal? It just served to diminish his authority to me. However, Professor Morrow’s silent indifference as Magnus was hauled away, pleading with Morrow to help him, only made Morrow more interesting to me. As Sivana told him, “Thank God there’s still some real evil in you, Tom. Thought you were turning pansy.” While this a great bit of characterization, I still have hope that Morrow will end up helping his former protégé.

By god, I am starting to loath Steel and his constant whining about Luthor’s experiment. Put up or shut up already, Irons! If something doesn’t change soon regarding this lot, Steel may join Wildcat on my most-despised list. They should have just given us another two-page Origin instead of this broken record.