52! Week Thirty-Six

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Igle, Champagne, Baron, Brosseau, 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

“How to Win a War in Space”

Week 36, Day 3

Lobo delivers Starfire and Animal Man to Lady Styx and asks for his bounty. Styx tells him, through interpreter Fishy, that there is no bounty and they are all to be broken down into bio-mass “to serve her needs”.

Styx’s minions attack the trio, incapacitating Starfire. Fishy tells Lobo the many insults Lady Styx is hurling his way, causing the Czarnian to abandon his pacifist ways. As Lobo charges Styx, she eviscerates him. Animal Man calls for Adam Strange, who fires from outside, allowing the Head of Ekron to come through. Lobo grabs Styx and throws her at Ekron, who then flies into a sun eater.

During the battle, Animal Man was shot with necro-toxin and is becoming delirious, and then he goes quiet. At the same time on Earth, Ellen Baker seems to sense it and starts to cry.

Week 36, Day 5

Charlie condition worsens, despite Tot’s best efforts to send healing flowers from Nanda Parbat, which gives Renee an idea.

Week 36, Day 6

Renee prepares to take Charlie to Nanda Parbat. Kate tells her that this “looks an awful lot like denial”. Renee tells her it’s “defiance”. Kate implores Renee to stay with her, to fight Mannheim, but Renee tells Kate that Charlie saved her, so she will take him back to Nanda Parbat in the hopes that it will save him or she’ll die trying.

In Kahndaq, Osiris reads a newspaper article that calls him a murderer, and he tells Sobek that if he were to go back to Titans Tower, they would have to arrest him. “No matter what we ever do, the entire world will always hate us.” Sobek offers Osiris an apple, telling him, “I don’t hate you.”

Week 36, Day 7

Despite the many artifacts that Supernova has brought Rip Hunter, the Time Master still can’t power the chronosphere. He also worries that Skeets will find them before they are ready. Supernova tells him, “For now we’re safe.” But then we see Skeets hovering over the Bottle City of Kandor in Superman’s Fortress.

Thoughts

I’ll be honest, I thought given the last issue’s events regarding Lobo and the others, I thought he was betraying them. Instead, we get the classic fake prisoner routine. And who didn’t see Lobo resorting to his old ways?! It was only a matter of time. I thought the “death” of Buddy was poignant only because of the follow-up scene with his wife and kids. The artists did a great job of conveying that loss and pain in just a few panels.

Again, based on last issue, I genuinely thought Charlie had died, so I was surprised to see him still kicking. After having read Batwoman comics that came after this, this Kate Kane seems like another person altogether, but maybe this experience led her to be the character I later read?

So we finally get to see Rip Hunter and he’s not in great shape. He appears to be suffering from some sort of chronal aphasia. I loved the way the scene starts to pull the “camera” back from the room Rip and Supernova are in, to just outside, to the building, even farther out until we see that they are in the Bottle City of Kandor, with Skeets hovering nearby! Such a great bit of storytelling with the reveals and foreboding menace.

Finally, I’m curious if anyone bought the 52 Series 1 action figures advertised in this issue? I think I would have liked to get the Supernova figure.

The Origin of Power Girl

By Waid, Hughes, Fletcher, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

Aside from the lovely Adam Hughes artwork, there wasn’t much that was interesting about this entry. But was the two infant Kryptonians rocketed to Earth something that was part of Power Girl’s original origin or is this a retcon? Her arriving later as an older person mirrors that of Supergirl’s retconned origin from a few year’s prior to this issue, so which came first? It seems really odd that DC would borrow from itself for what is essentially the same character.

And why did DC decide to keep Power Girl around AND have Supergirl? I see more opportunities for interesting stories about her, the cousin from another universe, as she interacts with Superman, but without the hang-up of living up to his legacy (she already did that with her cousin).

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 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-Eight

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Johnson, Jadson, Ramos, Jose, Baron, Leigh, 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

“Beyond the Black Stump”

Week 28, Day 2

Renee and the Question have returned to Gotham to warn Batwoman of the Book of Crime prophecy involving her death.

In Australia, a Ridge-Ferrick crew arrive to escort a local village from their homes, but mechanic Johnny sics his robot with the Red Tornado’s head on the crew. The robot unleashes a tornado as it yells “52!” repeatedly. Another villager takes a sledgehammer to the robot to stop it from killing anyone. Johnny is arrested and the Red Tornado’s head is tossed into a salvage truck, still repeating “52!”.

Lobo, Starfire, Animal Man, and Adam Strange evade an attack from the Head of Ekron.

Well 28, Day 4

The group have found a hiding spot, but the Head of Ekron searches close by.

Week 28, Day 5

Batwoman defeats some thugs in a church, but is defeated by Bruno Mannheim. He threatens to devour her, but Renee and the Question arrive to help. Despite that, Mannheim escapes.

Week 28, Day 7

Adam Strange and the others plan to lay some traps for the Head of Ekron, when it appears and Adam has to improvise. They are surprised when the Head asks for help and Starfire realizes that the Head is a Green Lantern! It mentions a her that is “a destroying flame”, and the group decides they must stop the Stygian Passover from reaching Earth.

Thoughts

There’s not too much to this issue, other than forwarding a few plots, with the revelation that the Head of Ekron is a Green Lantern being a notable exception.

Is a week enough time for Renee and the Question to travel from Nanda Parbat to Gotham? Renee was in quite a hurry, so …. What does Mannheim mean that “the questions have not yet been answered”? Two panels earlier, he referred to Renee and the Question as “the Questions”, so his later comment must have a double meaning, right? What pertinent detail (answer?) about the Crime Bible prophecy have the Questions missed? This tidbit actually makes me interested in the Book of Crime.

Ridge-Ferrick makes a return appearance, but I’ll admit I had forgotten and had to look it up. I liked that Johnny used a video game (PlayStation?) controller to operate his Red Tornado robot. This scene is where the issue title comes in. A “black stump” is a land marker used in Australia, and going beyond that stump is metaphorical for being in unknown territory, so is that what the wolves at the end of the Red Tornado scene are supposed to represent?

Why does Lobo appear to be covering the Eye with his blood after biting his finger? And where does he go for the final two pages? Given Starfire’s accusation, his disappearance from the scene completely is an odd choice (or editorial failing). Adam’s tantrum amused me: “One more @$%?!$#§ twist!” Is this metafictional commentary about the plot?

The Origin of Catman

by Waid, Eaglesham, Thibert, Sinclair, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, Wacker, and Siglain

Catman was one of my favorite characters from the run of Secret Six that this entry references (Who am I kidding? They were all great.). Is there a coloring or continuity error in the panel showing Blake with dark hair? I also like that Eaglesham drew Blake with a paunch as he approaches the lion pride in the following panel. Under Powers, where it says “uncannily stealthy”, my brain can’t help but read that as “unCATtily”, which makes no sense, but makes me chuckle.