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-One

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Batista, Ramos, Green, Meikis, 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

“Human Resources”

Week 31, Day 1

Adam Blake, Captain Comet, sends out a telepathic distress call five light years wide, asking for help against Lady Styx’s hoard. Meanwhile, two Green Lanterns investigate the disappearance of one of their own, thus hearing about Captain Comet’s efforts to save the people of Vardu. The Guardians, fearing an unknown threat, recall their officers from the occupied zones. Comet continues his telepathic SOS, describing the destruction of a planet’s ecosystem by the Believer Cubes and then the assault by the walking dead who chant Lady Styx’s creed: “Believe in her.”

Week 31, Day 2

Jade, of Infinity Inc., confides in Starlight (Natasha Irons) that fellow member Everyman creeps her out and she suspects that he has invaded her room. Skyman joins the conversation, grossing Jade out with the idea that Everyman, whose shapeshifting abilities require that he digest the organic material of his target, might be looking for her toenail clippings or hair. Natasha leaves, intending to talk to Jade, after she kisses Skyman, who then transforms into Everyman.

Week 31, Day 3

At the Superboy memorial, a constantly drinking Ralph Dibny asks Cassie Sandsmark if anyone in her Cult of Connor were spellcasters, necromancers, or telekinetics. She tells him no, and then reveals that she now agrees with Ralph that the Cult leader, Devem, is a phony and that she believes Supernova is Superboy.

Week 31, Day 4

Ralph meets with Supernova, telling him he should tell Cassie that Connor is not behind the mask. Supernova is more interested in knowing how Ralph deduced who he was. After Ralph vaguely explains, Supernova tells Ralph not to contact him again, and flies away saying, “There’s too much at stake.”

Week 31, Day 6

The Green Lanterns on Vardu are defeated, and the Guardians refuse Lantern Xax’s call for help. A terrified Comet sends out his last telepathic call before he jettisons his own consciousness.

Week 31, Day 7

Two Green Lantern rings are delivered to Lady Styx and she eats them. Nearby, Starfire, Animal Man, Adam Strange, and Lobo watch Styx’ armada leave Vardu.

Thoughts

What a scary opening! I had completely forgotten this part of 52, and man, it has put Lady Styx and her hoard in a new light, something that her appearances before now, not to mention the discussion about her, has not accomplished. In fact, that ending shot of Captain Comet with the look on his face and flayed body was positively chilling!

Not having remembered Lady Styx from this series, upon rereading I thought she was a knock-off of Annihilus and its Annihilation Wave from Annihilation, but the concept predated Lady Styx’s first appearance by six months (I believe)! So unless the writers at DC had advance knowledge of what Marvel was doing that year, it’s yet another example of Big 2 publishing coincidence or Keith Giffen was burning the candle at both ends….

Captain Comet is one of those DC characters I have little experience with or frankly interest in, but man, reading his appearance in this issue now has me very interested, not to mention wanting to discover what happens to him later in this series (if there’s more…).

The Guardians are such assholes and cowards. Nuff said.

Speaking of assholes, Everyman assuming Skyman’s identity to get into Starlight’s pants is just such a soap opera cliché. Everything having to do with Natasha Irons in this series is just bad, isn’t it? (Though, I will admit, I like that Everyman has to digest the organic material of the person or creature to which he transforms. Yes, it’s gross, but a nice twist on the whole shapeshifting power.)

Did you deduce Supernova’s identity from the clues Ralph threw out? I know who Supernova is and I still don’t get those clues!

The Origin of Robin

By Waid, Williams II, Sinclair, Fletcher, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

Dick Grayson will always be my favorite Robin, but Tim Drake comes close! I’ve always loved that he deduced who Batman and Robin were when he was a child! And then to prove himself to Batman and his other trainers, plus be the most measured, and smartest, of the Robins, just makes him an enduring character. Unfortunately, Damian Wayne eventually was introduced, sending Tim into an identity crisis: Robin, Red Robin, Drake, Robin again? Hot take: I think Tim should retire and become the new Oracle.

52! Week Twenty-Six

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Olliffe, Geraci, Pantazis, 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

“Halfway House”

Week 26, Day 1

The Black Marvel family transport Renee Montoya and Charlie 57 km east of Nanda Parbat, where they are greeted by Aristotle Rodor and Richard Dragon, who announces to Renee in a cryptic way that class is now in session.

Week 26, Day 2

John Henry Irons, Steel, appears on Jack Ryder’s talk show, You Are Wrong, to voice his accusations against Lex Luthor’s Everyman project. Natasha joins the interview to refute her uncle, and then gets a call about an explosion and she rushes off to help.

Week 26, Day 4

The Black Marvel family join Dr. Sivana’s ex-wife, Venus, and their children — Junior, Georgia, Beautia, and Magnificus — for dinner. Lady Sivana then requests the Black Marvels’ help in locating the missing Dr. Sivana.

At Oolong Island, Dr. Cale arrives to help the other assembled mad scientists with the Four Horsemen project.

Bored at dinner, Osiris leaves, and then the rest are seemingly attacked by a mutated crocodile, who grabs some food off the table and escapes. Later, Osiris encounters the crocodile man who tells Oriris that Dr. Sivana experimented on him, turning him into the creature he now is, and that he is so very hungry.

Thoughts

I love the old Hollywood horror movie inspired cover. It teases us with the red coming from the Black Marvel family but ending in a claw shape — is the claw symbolism? Plus, while red here denotes evil or blood or danger (at minimum), you get to see Black Adam in Captain Marvel red and yellow, which totally subverts the symbolism while reinforcing it. Deftly conceived by Jones, and, my god, Sinclair owns this image with the beautiful coloring.

The cover title, “The Beast Who Came to Dinner”, is a much more descriptive one (if perhaps too on the nose), but the writers/editors just had to be cute and call attention  to the fact that we’re now halfway through the series (where is the “halfway house” concept in this issue anyway? Perhaps Nanda Parbat for Renee?). And now that we are halfway, where are we in the story? Not that closer to resolving any of the mysteries or conflicts set up for the last 25 issues, but perhaps setting all that up was the point of the previous act? And we get even more characters thrown into the mix! Given how many creators are on this book and all of the characters and plots, this series should have been a disaster. Thank goodness it wasn’t, but I’m now thinking they put form over function a bit, sort of how a television series will often have some “filler” shows to meet that 22-24 episode requirement, i.e., some of these plots are a bit thin and they just keep stretching them out (I’m looking squarely at you Irons family drama) to fill 52 weekly issues.

Specifically regarding this issue, I do like the little flourish that Olliffe adds in the first scene with flowers springing up on the ground where Isis stepped.

The whole scene with the Sivana children was a nice comedic distraction. It also sets up a future, potential plot-point with Waverider appearing briefly on a monitor, saying, “I know why.” And there’s something about the fact that Venus Sivana’s $20M donation to Kahndaq’s children’s hospital makes Black Adam accept her dinner invitation — he’s become quite the politician in such a short time.

Finally, a minor quibble. Ii the Oolong Island scene, some dialog is mixed up in the last panel where it appears that Dr. T. O. Morrow addresses Dr. Magnus as “Morrow”, or perhaps he’s just entered that phase of megalomania where you refer to yourself in the third person.

The Origin of Hawkman and Hawkgirl

by Waid, Bennett, Jose, Sinclair, Brosseau, Richards, Wacker

This describes accurately the state of affairs of Hawkman and Hawkgirl at the time of publication, leaving out the creepy way that Carter hit on Kendra. That was the only misstep of the Hawkman reboot started in the JSA series and continued in the Hawkman (2002) title.

52! Week Twenty-One

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennett, Jadson, Baron, Lanham, 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

“Teambuilding Exercises”

Week 21, Day 1

Natasha Irons convinces Lex Luthor to allow speedster Eliza (aka Trajectory) to rejoin the team, making Eliza very happy. She professes her love of the speedster heroes and her desire to prove herself so she can join the Teen Titans.

Week 21, Day 2

Ralph Dibny and the Helmet of Fate convince a demonguard to open a gate to Hell.

Week 21, Day 3

Under the direction of Lex Luthor, his new Infinity, Inc. team debuts by apprehending Blockbuster. While the newly arrived Teen Titans clean up the damage caused by the fight, new team leader Beast Boy warns Natasha about Luthor’s intentions. Luthor helps Blockbuster escape his bonds, and Trajectory races off by herself. Luthor turns off her powers and Blockbuster kills her.

Week 21, Day 6

At Trajectory’s funeral in Alabama, Hot Spot, Little Barda, and Power Boy quit the Teen Titans, while John Henry Irons tries to talk to Natasha about Luthor. Beast Boy offers to help John.

Week 21, Day 7

In Australia, Johnny Warrawa grafts Red Tornado’s head onto a crude, robotic body.

Thoughts

The collaborators do a fine job of endearing us to Eliza in a few pages, especially after her previous appearance as a neophyte drug addict, which makes what happens to her all the more tragic. And we see what Dr. Avasti told John Irons the previous issue come true, meaning that Luthor can indeed turn on and off an Everyman’s program participant’s  metagene. Speaking of John, I’m starting to wonder if what Luthor did to him affected his mind. For a guy who created his own super armor, to confront Natasha at the funeral as he did was just stupid.

We get not one, but two superteam debuts: Infinity, Inc. and the Teen Titans. Luthor buying the Pemberton Estate and the associated Infinity, Inc. trademark is so Luthor. What was new to me was this version of the Teen Titans. Did I forget how these particular members ended up as the Teen Titans or did we ever get the story? I want to read more about the Raven/Zachary Zatara and Little Barda/Power Boy relationships, not to mention Beast Boy taking on a leadership role. Regardless, this team was short-lived with the three desertions.

It’s painful to see how Ralph treated the demon, and now Ralph’s descent into hell is  literal. But will this story be another telling of Orpheus and Eurydice or something far worse?