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.

The Gutters: Scars

Direct Download (47:49)

In this episode of The Gutters, my audio journal, I talk about my COVID-19 vaccine experience, my second head injury, and a death in the family. (Plus other stuff.)

Please send your comments to longboxreview@gmail.com, chat with me @longboxreview on Twitter, and visit longboxreview.com.

Thanks for listening!

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RandoMonday: DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #3, the Justice Society

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

DC Special 3

 

This is one of my very favorite issues in my collection. It is the comic that introduced me to the DC multiverse, and where I fell in love with the Earth-2 concept and characters.

“The All Star Super Squad” by Gerry Conway, Ric Estrada, and Wally Wood: This “double-length novel!” (from All-Star Comics #58-59) introduces us to some younger E-2 heroes–Star Spangled Kid, Robin, and Power Girl–and is the first appearance of Power Girl. Despite the heavy fire-power of the JSA (Doctor Fate, Green Lantern, Flash, and a few others), it takes these three younger heroes working together to defeat the machinations of Brainwave and Degaton. What a way to be introduced to these characters! I loved the differences between the Earth-1 characters that I knew and these “doppelgängers”. Hawkman had that goofy mask instead of the helmet. Robin is working for the U.N. to report about the apartheid policies in South Africa (well before pop culture started its anti-apartheid stance), and Robin had a costume with long sleeves and pants! I loved that design and wished “my” Robin could have something similar. The introduction of Power Girl was really interesting because she was not as powerful as Supergirl, which made her struggles seem a little more heroic to me. Plus, the Estrada and Wood art was fantastic, especially how they drew Power Girl.

“Five Drowned Men” by Gardner Fox, Irwin Hasen, Joe Kubert, Lee Elias, and Frank Harry: I think that this was my first Golden Age story (from All-Star Comics #36). As was the style of the day, this JSA story was a series of individual characters stories with a frame involving all of them. I found it very interesting that the villains of the issue (who were only “bad” because of a drug that “deadens a man’s conscience”) had no superpowers but were still able to defeat or elude the JSAers. The art took some getting used to, but I have a fondness for the various artists now.

Dr. Fate (from 1st Issue Special [1975]) by Martin Pasko and Walt Simonson: So in comparison to the first story of the digest, this made me really love Dr. Fate. A lot of that had to do with the Simonson art and somewhat for the Egyptian connections. I would have loved a Dr. Fate series by this team.

At the end of the digest is a few pages explaining the parallel Earth concept (with art by Ross Andru and I’m guessing that the text was written by Paul Levitz), which was helpful. However, because of one panel showing Earth-1 and Earth-2 counterparts, I thought for a few years that Dr. Fate was somehow a counterpart to Aquaman–that was on me being a poor reader because the text clearly states those characters are unique (but there was a Golden Age Aquaman–was this my first experience with retconning?).

I really love this comic, and my copy of this digest is well read, so I’m on the prowl for a better copy of this special digest.

RandoMonday: JSA: The Return of Hawkman tpb

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

JSA v3 tpb

 

JSA: The Return of Hawkman by David S. Goyer & Geoff Johns (writers), Stephen Sandowski, Steve Yeowell, Buzz, Rags Morales, & Michael Bair (pencillers), Michael Bair, Keith Champaigne, Buzz, David Meikis, Paul Neary, & Rob Leigh (inkers), John Kalisz (colorist), Ken Lopez (letterer), Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, & Andrew Robinson (original covers), and Morales & Kalisz (tpb cover)

I think it was because of the shortage of money in 1999 when JSA arrived that caused me to pass on the monthly issues and instead wait for the trades. I enjoyed the first two trades well enough, but it was this collection that made me really like this series. How do you take the Silver Age, post-Crisis, post-Zero Hour Hawkman and fix him? Well, you let Geoff Johns untwist the tangled knot and reshape it into something workable.

However, the first half of the trade features an attack by a new Injustice Gang, but that’s just to soften the JSA up for the world destroying entity of the King of Tears and his acolyte, Johnny Sorrow. Mr. Terrific comes up with a plan to have Jay Garrick Flash punch a hole in the fabric of time/space to send the King back to its dimension. Instead of ending up absorbed by the Speed Force, Jay returns to Earth, but in ancient Egypt, where he meets Prince Khufu, Teth-Adam, and Nabu. While there, he is shown that a Thanagarian spaceship had crash landed and Khufu discovered the secrets of Nth metal. Flash is given an Nth metal gauntlet to take with him back to his time to battle Onimar Synn, who has now conquered Thanagar. Meanwhile, Hawkgirl was transported to Thanager to help return Carter Hall from the Avatar dimension. Once that is done, Hawkman helps the newly arrived JSA take down Synn, but it’s really the connection that Carter and Kendra have with each other via the Nth metal that does the heavy lifting here.

What a great couple of stories, and the creative team did a really good job of transitioning from one story arc to the next, and along the way, sowing seeds for future arcs. Having reread this trade, I’m still a bit confused as to the whole Thanagarian-Carter Hall connection, but if I don’t think about it too much it’s still a really good superhero story bringing back a beloved character (to me at any rate). If you’re a fan of Hawkman, check out this collection and the self-titled series that followed.

PS: I also recommend that you listen to the Comic Geek Speak crew go over the Hawks’ tangled history in episode 989 of their podcast.

 

RandoMonday: America vs. The Justice Society #4

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

AmericavsJSA4

The final part of the romp through the Justice Society of America’s Golden Age past and beyond. The set up is quite convoluted with the dead Batman accusing the JSA of treason, but in the end turns out to be a way to capture a criminal. It’s explained away as Bruce Wayne being mentally unsound because of cancer, but his “Batman persona … found a convoluted way of letting the JSA prove themselves” as not guilty of the crimes. I guess. Still, the romp through history is quite fun, even if you–like I–hadn’t read all those stories. However, I had read enough to be thrilled when I did recognize a story being retold. There were also a few mentions of things that were going on in Infinity, Inc. that I was reading at the time.

This was one of the JSA’s last hurrahs before Crisis on Infinite Earths and then The Last Days of the Justice Society ended most of the JSAers’ time in the then DCU (of course most of them would return over the years). Now we just have to be content with the younger versions of the JSAers in James Robinson’s Earth 2. Man, I miss the “old” DCU.