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.

 

The Redemption of Nightwing

Welcome to the first entry for Longbox Review dot com in the Super-Blog Team-Up (SBTU)! I want to thank Chris from the Superhero Satellite for inviting me to participate. What is the Super-Blog Team-Up? The Longbox Graveyard provides an excellent overview of the SBTU, along with links to past entries. This latest incarnation of the SBTU is about the theme of Redemption.

When I was first asked to participate, my first thought was, predictably, the redemption of Hal Jordan Green Lantern, but I thought that would be too obvious. I was sure that another participant might choose that as well, so off I went through the dusty synapses of my memory trying to recall favorite stories where redemption was a central focus. Hawk (aka Monarch/Extant) came to mind, as did Atom Smasher and Black Adam. I thought perhaps even examining the Kingdom Come Superman, but that’s when it hit me (or rather, a Google search that landed me on a page that talked about one aspect of this story): the redemption of Nightwing for his complicity in the murder of Blockbuster. Of course! Nightwing is my favorite character in superhero comics, so what better way to explore this theme for the 2019 Super-Blog Team-Up. (Note: all issues mentioned have been linked to Comicbookdb for the creator credits.)

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Christmas Gab Bag 2018

Direct Download (1:48:45)

Happy holidays! George, of the still defunct George and Tony Entertainment Show, returns for the second annual talk about some Christmas comics. Specifically, we discuss:

Pinky and the Brain Christmas Special

Nightwing #64

Marvel Two-in-One #8

Wormwood Gentleman Corpse Christmas Special 2018

Manga Claus, The Blade of Kringle

Avengers Annual 2014

Please send your comments to longboxreview@gmail.com, chat with me @longboxreview on Twitter, and visit longboxreview.com. Please subscribe, rate, and review the show via Apple podcasts.

Thanks for listening!

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