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 Thirty

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

“Dark Knight Down”

Week 30, Day 1

Nightwing and Robin search for Batman, discovering his cape and cowl, but no Bruce Wayne.

Kate Kane has her doctor friend treat Charlie at her apartment and offers to let him and Renee stay as long as they need to. Later, while Kate goes out to search for Mannheim, Renee stays with Charlie, meditating.

Robin discovers enough weapons “that could start World Wars 3, 4, and 5”. He tells Nightwing that he will talk to Bruce, and Nightwing tells Robin that he is “going back to work”.

Week 30, Day 3

In the desert, Bruce Wayne encounters a member of the Ten-Eyed Brothers and they fight. Once Bruce has defeated him, other Brothers appear, telling him as they raise their swords, “If you flinch. If you shudder. You will not survive.” “Do it,” he tells them. Later, Robin finds Bruce kneeling in the sand. Bruce tells him that the Brothers kill demons and he asked them to kill his. “It’s over,” he says. “Batman is gone.”

Week 30, Day 7

Batwoman fights and interrogates the man-beasts for Mannheim’s whereabouts, when Nightwing arrives to help. He offers to help, and Batwoman accepts.

Thoughts

I spent more time researching this cover than any other so far. It looked so clearly like an homage to a classical work of art that I had seen before, but could not recall. I even went to Comics Twitter for help! The best match I could find was a work by Italian Renaissance painter Raphael, Saint Michael Vanquishing Satan. Regardless of the inspiration, this is a beautiful cover that pulls from classical, religious imagery, with Bruce Wayne vanquishing the “demon” Batman, similar to how the Archangel Michael vanquishes the devil in Raphael’s painting, with the addition of the Eye of God (?) in the background. The image of Bruce in his costume, but without the cowl, also reminds me of when Bruce Wayne was lost in time during Final Crisis, but that would be a few years away at this point.

Seeing Batman, both in flashback and when we see Bruce Wayne, was a bit jarring, but I’m surprised, given how Batman-happy DC has been for decades, it’s taken this long to get him and other members of the Batfam into the story. But I do love the first few pages as Nightwing describes his time as Robin and how the artists portrayed the cascading craziness and events in Batman’s life, from Robin’s death, to Joker shooting Barbara, to Bane breaking Batman’s back, and the rest (though the panel showing him holding a gun to someone’s head is foreign to me…). While I enjoy a Nightwing/Robin team-up normally, I would have preferred a return to the Cult of Conner plot or more with Ralph. However, seeing Bruce Wayne declaring that Batman is gone while the sun rises behind him (signifying a cleansing, a renewal) almost makes this breach of 52 contract worthwhile.

Speaking of team-ups, again, I would normally quite enjoy Nightwing joining forces with, well, anyone, but his male gazing of Batwoman was quite cringe-worthy. I assume Rucka wrote this sequence, but I find it hard to believe that given when Dick says Batwoman is quite the eyeful and “What can I say? I have a thing for redheads.” Later, Dick is clearly ogling Batwoman’s chest. Blech.

I’ve spent far too much on the bat family here, so I will end with my appreciation of the panel showing Renee meditating with Charlie smiling in the background. The affection between these two characters is one of the highlights of this series.

The Origin of the Metal Men

By Waid, Rouleau, Sinclair, Balsam, Richards, Schaefer, Wacker, and Siglain

I’ve never been much of a Metal Men fan, but this entry taught me that Elementics is a thing in the DC Universe. Magnus’ invention of the Responsometer is one of those comic book conceits that should be a much bigger deal than it is shown to be, but then, the Metal Men have often been depicted as comedy relief, undercutting the invention.

When it comes to the Metal Men’s “powers”, Gold is described as “infinitely ductile”, but interestingly, platinum is considered the most ductile metal. Also, Tin is “remarkably malleable”, but gold is considered the most malleable metal (all according to my google search anyway). I wonder if any creators have played with these differences?

There is a reference of the Metal Men being able to “alloy themselves” — presumably to join together as a giant robot (I vaguely recall seeing this in some comic book)? I just appreciate the use of the word “alloy” in that context.

52! Week Twenty-Five

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennet, Eaglesham, Jimenez, Olliffe, Jose, Thibert, Lanning, Geraci, Sinclair, 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

“Liminal Times”

Week 25, Day 1

Bruno Manheim explains his vision of Crime to Mirage, with bloody results. Later, he addresses other Gotham crime bosses, telling them that they work for him and Intergang or “we make you extinct”.

Week 25, Day 3

On Halloween, Captain Marvel, Jr. and Mary Marvel battle a giant-sized, Satanesque Sabbac when the Black Marvel Family arrive to defeat the villain, winning over the hearts of the assembled trick-or-treaters.

Ralph Dibny continues his tour of Hell with the Helmet of Fate. The Hemet shows Ralph the trapped and ravaged soul of Felix Faust as a lesson and a warning: “Our next stop … you will make your first bargain. Be prepared to honor it.”

Week 25, Day 3

Infinity, Inc. stop Icicle and Tigress from robbing a bank and debut their newest member, Matrix. Alan Scott watches this and then speaks to Michael Holt, telling him that the UN Security Council asked Alan to be the White King. He then asks Michael to join him as his Bishop.

Week 25, Day 4

Dr. Magnus tells Dr. Morrow that he refuses to build a plutonium robot for Intergang. Meanwhile, Bruno Mannheim arrives on Oolong Island to discuss with Chang Tzu a solution to the Kahndaq problem. Tzu tells Mannheim they have weapons “so terrible … we call them the Four Horsemen”.

Thoughts

“Liminal” means transitional, so having a bunch of storylines present in this issue seems to fit the title. It’s also curious how many artists we get, which is a first for the series. Was there some kind of transition or shift going on behind the scenes? Or was it that the weekly grind has finally caught up with the creative team? Perhaps the theme of “transition” would have been better for the 26th issue? Regardless, this issue does give me the sense that things are starting to move forward (or at least moving) for some of these plots.

This issue has another wonderful cover for the series showing three trick-or-treaters representing four of the thus far prominent storylines with Steel, Booster Gold, and Renee Montoya dressed as the Question (a melding of her and Charlie or foreshadowing?). The fourth representative is the Helmet of Fate being used as candy receptacle. Does this represent some as yet unknown connection between Booster Gold and the Helmet?!

I had forgotten that Bruno Mannheim was positioned as an apostle of crime — I tend to think of him as the Intergang representative only — but here DC is clearly giving him a bigger role (more a Kingpin-like character with supernatural connections).

The transitional theme continues with the adoration of the Black Marvel Family by the kids — Captain Marvel, Jr and Mary Marvel are almost an afterthought in this scene. Not having read the Power of Shazam, this was probably the first time I saw Mary Marvel in her white costume, which I love. You get the whole red, white, and blue motif with the three Marvels, and white is such an underused color in superhero comics that it makes her stand out (as she should).

While I loved the Jimenez art in the Felix Faust pages, I thought that sequence went on too long, but we do get that amazing sequence of panels showing Faust’s soul crumbling and blowing away in the breeze as Fate’s Helmet warns Ralph about the bargain he will soon strike. This is the amazing storytelling aspect of comic books that I love.

I recall when Alan Scott took over Checkmate and had wanted to read that series, but never bought the issues. Reading this introduction makes me want to read them again to understand why he would want to take on this role (his explanation to Michael notwithstanding) and how things developed.

Finally, we get to see the “master” of Oolong Island and it is the wonderfully redesigned Chang Tzu (formerly the offensive Egg-Fu), but even this cybernetically supported, nightmare inducing “egg” is subservient to Intergang. I’m looking forward to where this leads (besides the 52 Aftermath mini-series tie-in).

The Origin of Nightwing

by Waid, Perez, Sinclair, Balsman, Richards, Wacker

I’m sure I did then and I certainly do now love to see George Perez drawing my favorite (former) Robin again, complete with his trademark detailed backgounds.

It also just now occurs to me reading this origin that given Dick’s circus upbringing, he must hate that the Joker is a perverted clown (the “clown prince of crime”) compared to the people — his companions and friends — who performed as clowns in his youth. I wonder if anyone ever played with that idea over the years?

I love how Waid referred to Robin as the “laughing young daredevil”. Aside from the bad puns and a propensity to get himself captured and subsequently rescued by Batman all the time, I don’t know that this aspect of Dick’s personality was ever fully explored either.

This origin also mentions the post-Infinite Crisis revelation that Dick wasn’t supposed to have survived it. I read Nightwing during this time and don’t recall that DC ever adequately addressed this plot point.

Finally, I love this bit:

[Nightwing’s] ability to read people makes him not only an amazing detective but a team leader without equal, a trait not even his former mentor shares.

Nightwing rules!

LBR X Retrosode 6: New Teen Titans Spotlight

Direct Download (57:51)

LBR X logo 1400

2020 is the 10th anniversary of the Longbox Review podcast, and to celebrate, I am spotlighting 10 episodes from the archive. This is a rebroadcast of episode 92 from 2015 where I talk about one of my very favorite comic book titles of all time, The New Teen Titans.

Thank you for supporting the podcast over these 10 years.

Original post: https://longboxreview.com/2015/12/19/podcast-episode-92-new-teen-titans-spotlight/

RandoMonday: Batman and Robin #23

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

BatmanandRobin23

Batman and Robin #23 by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, Mark Irwin, John Kalisz, Carlos M. Mangual, Darren Shan, and Rachel Cluckstern

“Acceptance”. *sigh* This issue came six months (!) after Damian Wayne/Robin was murdered by his clone in the epic battle between Talia Al Ghul and Batman (as seen in Batman, Incorporated, specifically issue 8). In this issue, for the past three days, Batman is using virtual technology to prove he could have saved his son, so Alfred calls Dick Grayson in to talk his mentor out of this futile exercise. But because Dick knows Bruce so well (and in many ways, better than anybody), he doesn’t talk Bruce out of it, he joins him. Together, Batman and the former Robin are able to save Damian, allowing Bruce to reach a form of acceptance. But there is another man who’s needs to reach that stage of grief: Alfred. He runs a simulation where he prevented Damian from leaving Wayne Manor in the first place, thus preventing his death. Bruce then tells Alfred he is sorry, “I was too selfish to realize we both lost a son.” Reading that again after six years still gets to me.

This volume of Batman and Robin is one of the best Batman series ever. Gleason, Tomasi, and the others paint a haunting portrait of a man who lost a son and cannot really move past it. Yes, in this issue, Bruce does come to a form of acceptance, but it is a only a step that allows him to move to a different obsessive stage, setting up the next story arc.

The art in this issue is spectacular. We see some events of Batman, Incorporated #8 retold in ways that make the story even more poignant and personal for Batman. The one panel of Batman on the ground, unable to save his son as we hear the sickening sound effect of “SHUNNK” and the look on his face, especially his one exposed eye, is SO DAMN GOOD. It’s a feint, because Nightwing is the one stabbing Robin’s killer, saving the boy in this simulation, but I also read this as Bruce’s reaction to Nightwing killing to save his son. Imagine how Batman must feel to see his first son kill to save his younger son? It’s a part of the story that goes unexplored, but only serves to highlight how good of a comic book series this is to me.

If you have not read this volume, I highly recommend it.