52! Week Fourteen

52 14
By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Eaglesham, Thibert, Sinclair, Lanham, Jones, Richards, 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

“Sand and Rust”

Week 14, Day 6

Renee Montoya and Charlie fly 31 hours to Kahndaq to discover a massive celebration decreed by Black Adam in honor of Isis.

In Metropolis, Dr. Avasti visits John Henry Irons and discovers him nearly completely covered in the steel skin forced on him by Luthor. After he shows her the armor he made for his niece, he breaks down, afraid that he has lost Natasha to Luthor. Dr. Avasti tries to comfort him.

Dr. Magnus tries to revive Mercury but fails. Two government agents hint that if Dr. Magnus won’t hand over the Metal Men, the authorities will take it. Later, Magnus arrives at the Haven to visit Dr. Morrow to find that Morrow is missing. However, he left Magnus a message in machine code.

Week 14, Day 7

Renee and Charlie track down a lead and discover several dead bodies. As the leave the building, they are arrested by Kahndaq authorities.

Back home, Dr. Magnus finally manages to revive Mercury.

Thoughts

If there’s any theme to this issue, it’s perhaps friendship, or at least companionship: Renee’s and Charlie’s association, John and Dr. Avasti’s budding relationship, and the Doctors Magnus’ and Morrow’s mutual respect. Beyond that, there’s not much going on this issue. I did like the short scene between John and Avasti — it’s quite apparent the good doctor has feelings for John, so where will this end up?

I love the scenes with Magnus. When one of the government agents remarks about the fortune in platinum, Magnus looks at her body and says, “I don’t really think of her in those terms.” Later, after Mercury is revived, Magnus’ look of joy was obvious. Speaking of, Eaglesham does a fine job at all these characters and with their physicality — the scene with the agent tossing Magnus’ meds demonstrates that well.

The Origin of Metamorpho

by Waid, Powell, Mulvihill, Napolitano, Richards, Wacker (With special thanks to Chiarello)

Considering that Metamorpho appeared in the previous issue, wouldn’t it have made more sense to include this origin there? Regardless, I found the bit about Rex being “a soldier of fortune extraordinaire. Adaptable to all cultures and circumstances” to be interesting because in all the stories I’ve read with Metamorpho, I would not describe him in that way. He’s less Indiana Jones and more Mutt Williams. The Powell art here is amazing and makes me want to read a Metamorpho comic book by Mr. Powell.

52! Week Twelve

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Barrows, Stull, Lanham, Baron, Jones, Richards, and 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 15 years later. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Mighty”

Week 12, Day 1

Gotham City: Maggie Sawyer chastises Renee for her involvement in the Ridge-Ferrick Holding building. Later, Renee waits for Charlie to “wake up” from his meditation so that they can follow up on their only lead. Charlie tells Renee that she wins and that they are going to Khandaq.

Khandaq: Black Adam changes the course of a river to help a village, and he and Adrianna discuss Adam’s responsibilities. Later, Adam takes Adrianna to the Rock of Eternity.

Rock of Eternity: Black Adam introduces Adrianna to Captain Marvel, who is having trouble adjusting to his responsibility as the new Shazam. When Marvel asks why they are visiting, Adam announces that he wants to invite Adrianna to the Marvel family.

Philadelphia: Ralph confronts Cassie about what the Cult of Conner stole from his storage locker. When she tells Ralph they took Sue’s clothes and his wedding ring in an effort to resurrect Sue, Ralph tells her, “Let me help.”

Rock of Eternity: Adam explains that he wants to give a magical scarab containing the powers of Egypt’s most powerful goddess, Isis, to Adrianna. Marvel, through the wisdom of Solomon, sees that she is worthy, but Adrianna worries about the power corrupting her. In the end, she acquiesces, saying the magical phrase “I am Isis!”. She then tells Adam that she will join his mission … after they find her brother.

Thoughts

I love this cover! The contrasting black and white colors between the costumes and flag with that subdued, sepia-like background really make the characters pop. It also foreshadows the relationship between Black Adam and Adrianna.

Originally a Filmation character in the self-titled Isis show and part of the Shazam/Isis Hour on Saturday mornings from 1975-1977 (and then rerun during the 1977-1978 season), Isis makes her DCU debut, and the powers that be paid homage to the show in the following ways:

  • The title of this issue, “Mighty”, is a play on what the television character, Andrea Thomas, would say to transform into Isis (“Oh, Mighty Isis!”), which sounds so much more like an incantation or conjuration than “I am Isis!”.
  • Adrianna Tomaz (from 52) vs Andrea Thomas (from Isis)
  • Hatshepsut is the Egyption queen in both versions of the character
  • The costumes are similar, though Adrianna’s shows a lot more skin

Black Adam’s (and now Isis’) story continues to be the one that intrigues me the most. Unfortunately, I know how this ends up, thus diluting the character growth potential. Adjacent to this is the situation with Captain Marvel and his position as protector of the Rock of Eternity. I’d forgotten about this turn of events and the impact on the good Captain, but it does make for a somewhat comitragical scene with manic Billy. However, I can’t say that I like this development, though at least now we know why Black Adam didn’t transform when he said “Shazam” in a previous issue.

I love when Ralph tells Cassie that people confuse him for his stretchy counterpart, but “[Plastic Man’s] the clown … Elongated Man is the detective”. Also, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to help bring back a loved one?

The Origin of Wonder Woman

by Waid, Hughes, Martin, Napolitano, Richards, Wacker, with special thanks to Chiarello

Interesting that they start out with Wonder Woman’s origin because 52 was supposed to be about the DCU without the Big 3’s presence. Perhaps it was to coincide with volume 3 of her series that had debuted the previous month.

I like the version of this character as summarized by these two pages, and the Adam Hughes art is nice to look at, mostly.

52! Week Eleven

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 15 years later. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Batwoman Begins”

Week 11, Night 5: In Washington, DC, Ralph confronts some members of the Cult of Conner, who turn out to be teenagers. He then gets a call that someone has broken into his storage unit in Opal City.

Week 11, Day 6: Charlie and Renee meet with Kate Kane, who provides a lead regarding the warehouse on Kane Street: it’s being leased by Ridge-Ferrick Holding. Later, Charlie helps Renee confront an ugly truth about herself involving her murdered partner. The two break and enter the Ridge-Ferrick Holding building and are captured by Whisper A’Daire and her were-minions. Batwoman appears, taking out the lycanthropes.

Week 11, Night 7: Ralph finds the Cult of Conner symbol painted on his damaged storage unit, and he searches the boxes for what is stolen, which is revealed to be some of Sue’s clothing that the cult members have placed on a dummy.

Thoughts

This was the first issue to not include the title within the issue, so I, and everyone else apparently, used the cover phrase. Batwoman makes her bombastic debut in a four-page fighting sequence. As I mentioned last time, this issue is considered her first appearance, despite her brief appearance in the previous last issue.

Ralph is definitely sliding into the crazy because we see him attacking the Cult members, who turn out to be teenagers. His desperation is obviously mounting, but at least his realization about the cultists’ age snap him out of his fervor.

So how many times must we hear how much Kate and Renee once meant to each other? Hell, Charlie voices it here after we’ve been told over two issues by Renee. Perhaps we’re only getting the repeat in case issue 11 is someone’s first issue of 52? The more interesting thing about Charlie and Renee’s conversation was how Renee hates herself for doing the right thing by not killing her partner’s murderer. How will this get resolved for her?

Whisper A’Daire was a new character to me, but how many red-heads can Renee have a “thing” for (or for her)?

The final scene was funny and disturbing. When Ralph searches the storage unit, you see how many boxes are labeled for Sue’s hats, and there’s a box with a note from Sue telling Ralph to throw it away. Also, does Monaco have some significance to the overall story or just a generic Dibny detail? I like how the artist interspersed the panels of the cultists dressing the dummy while Ralph searched the boxes. The final two panels on the penultimate page were sublime: Ralph views a photo of better times with his wife and the overlapping panel is of a cultist sliding Ralph’s wedding ring onto the Sue dummy’s finger. It almost gave me shiver. So, are the cultists trying to help Ralph or do they have some other (sinister) purpose regarding Sue?

History of the DCU, part 10

by Jurgens, Lanning, Napolitano, Cox, Major, Berganza, Cohen, and Schaefer

The events of Infinite Crisis are summarized and ends with a revelation: instead of Jade dying in space, it was supposed to have been Donna Troy. With this revelation comes a Monitor and a To Be Continued “in the DC universe everywhere”. But were they?

52! Week Nine

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Moll, Nguyen, Baron, Fletcher, Jones, Richards, and 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 15 years later. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Dream of America”

Week 9, Day 1: In Metropolis, Lex Luthor and guests gather for a 4th of July celebration where he talks again about his dream “where every man becomes a super man”. Steel crashes the party demanding to know where his niece is. Steel threatens Lex, and Natasha arrives, along with some new friends. In short order, Natasha assaults her Uncle, possessing strength and resilience thanks to Lex’s genetic manipulation. The fight between the family members ends with her punching Steel over buildings into the harbor.

Animal Man awakens on that alien world, a captive to Devilance, the Pursuer. The giant explains that he has captured Buddy, Adam Strange, and Starfire because

You saw beyond the veil, beyond the two score and twelve walls of heaven. That knowledge belongs to the gods alone!

Starfire awakens too, and she and Buddy devise a hasty escape plan, helped by a distraction from Adam. They leave with Devilance’s power staff. Unseen by them, Devilance watches them….

Week 9, Night 1: The 4th of July celebration continues that evening in Gotham City. Vic, or Charlie to his friends, visits Renee Montoya, revealing to her that he is the Question. Outside, Vic tells Renee that Gotham is being targeted by Intergang while a red-haired woman in a bat costume listens from a nearby rooftop.

Thoughts

Ugh, the Irons’ family melodrama continues. I know this is comics and soap opera-esque events occur, but Steel threatening to kill Lex so publicly and Natasha hitting her uncle so hard that he spits out blood is just so over the top, even if it does heighten the tension between them. Regardless, because it involves Lex Luthor, you can’t help but think that along with the genetic alterations that perhaps he is also controlling his experiments in some way (both Luthor and Steel implied it in different issues). Besides the same argument John and Natasha continue to have, about the only new plot point here is that Natasha — whom we last saw hooked up to Luthor’s machine looking frightened and vulnerable — is now part of a group of superpowered people wearing purple and green suits. However, I did like the two-page spread of images on pages 6 and 7 showing Natasha punching John out a window and as he fell several floors to the street below. Also, we see fireworks going off in the background, and one of them explode in a shape similar to the light effect around Natasha’s fists — nice touch there.

I have discovered that Devilance, the Pursuer, is indeed a Jack Kirby character first (and last?) seen in Forever People #11 and is one of Darkseid’s minions. Given the connection to Darkseid and his to Intergang, that overall plot is becoming more interesting. I have to wonder if there is any significance to the “walls of heaven” Devilance mentions — is it a reference to Revelation 21:12, or is it just one of those phrases that give Devilance’s words more importance than is actually there, beyond 52 (2 score and 12 = 52)? One quibble with this scene: Animal Man mentions that Devilance had them captured for days and he is shown bound and dangling upside down. How did they relieve themselves in that position? Or did Devilance allow them potty breaks and them truss them back up? And why dangle Animal Man and Starfire in this manner and not Adam Strange? Ahh, but who am I to question the whims of (demi)gods? I like the half-page panel setting this scene: Devilance is squatting over a device that appears to be a cage he will presumably place his captives, along with some other machinery, but it’s his size that is of note (apparently he grew since his appearance in Forever People) and the Kirby costume with all the glory that is short sleeves and shorts! But why change the white part of his costume to purple in an issue where there’s already a lot of “bad guy” purple?

The number 52 makes another appearance in the ballgame score (5 and 2), but I think the collaborators missed an opportunity to place the game in the ninth inning (this being the ninth issue) instead of the seventh (unless there’s a significance to the number 7 that I’m not seeing…). Also making its first(?) appearance is Molly’s Bar, which will be featured in Detective Comics #859 a few years later and plays a role in Kate Kane’s story — I like to think the writer or artist remembered this scene and included the bar in the Detective Comics issue. Speaking of Kate Kane, here we see Batwoman in her , even though some sources indicate that issue 11 is her first. I imagine that #11 features Batwoman in a speaking/action role and this “cameo” is not significant enough to be considered her first appearance. This is where I shrug and say, “Ehh. Comics.”

History of the DCU, part 8

by Jurgens, Lanning, Napolitano, Cox, Major, Berganza, Cohen, and Schaefer

This part covers what I consider one of, if not THE, lowest points in DC Comics history: Identity Crisis. While the story was not wholly a bad one, the “event”, much like is stated in this History, crossed a line that was perhaps unnecessary and tarnished more than a few characters if you also include what happened in Infinite Crisis (which is mentioned at the end). It seems my assessment of Identity Crisis was shared by others, something I was not aware of at the time of publication. Fortunately, things would improve, as they always do.

52! Week Two

by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, Joe Bennett, Jack Jadson, Alex Sinclair, Travis Lanham, Joe Prado, Jann Jones, Harvey Richards, and Stephen Wacker. Cover by J.G. Jones and Alex 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 15 years later. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Looking Back at Tomorrow”

Week 2, Day 1. Ralph Dibny investigates the defacement of his wife’s tombstone and encounters a young man from a past case.

Week 2, Day 2. Booster Gold takes Skeets to Dr. Will Magnus, who is able to repair the robot. Later, Dr. Magnus visits Dr. Morrow, who reveals that other “mad” scientists are being taken.

Week 2, Day 3. The Question wakes Renee Montoya, who shoots (at) him. He disappears, leaving behind an invitation.

Week 2, Day 4. Booster Gold barely saves a jet that was supposed to have crashed, no thanks to the still glitchy Skeets. The Question offers Renee a job to discover who is using an apparent abandoned building.

Week 2, Day 6. Ralph visits a grieving Cassie Sandsmark, Wonder Girl, wanting to know why she left a message at his wife’s grave. He shows her a photo that he took of the tombstone with the message: a Kryptonian symbol that means “resurrection”.

Thoughts

The second issue of 52 was a bit different in pacing and content compared to the first. Where I felt delightfully gorged with the content of issue 1, issue 2 was a bit of a lighter affair. There are fewer overall characters being focused on and more page counts for Ralph and Renee/The Question, which also slows down the pacing. Not that this is a bad decision. We can breathe a bit with issue 2 and savor the moments presented.

Ralph continues to be the character I’m drawn to and want to follow more. His conversation with the groundskeeper is delightfully human in a superhero world (and is the young man wearing a Booster Gold jacket?). Ralph can’t help himself in his brief moment of joy when discussing the Dreamland Park case, when the groundskeeper tells Ralph,

“You were amazing. Like, Batman amazing.”
“Batman’s good.”
“Batman doesn’t have a wife who kept me from freaking out while you were tracking down [my brother] Marty.”

This just highlights how much of a team Ralph and Sue were regardless of Ralph’s superhero stature. And with that, the attention turns back to the tragedy of Sue’s death and the injury caused by the defacement of the tombstone, which the storytellers deftly kept hidden from us. The scene ends with Ralph’s famous nose-twitching, but gone is the usual joy associated with it. Truth be told, I was at first put out by the nose twitching, but the tone presented made me recognize the power of that scene.

The first scene with Doctor Magnus, Booster, and Skeets has a few interesting details. Once Magnus has “resurrected” Skeets, the robot seems … different to me. Is it just my unfamiliarity with the character or has it been damaged by whatever that glitch was (is?)? After all, Skeets says, “Y’know” and calls Booster “Boost”. But perhaps I’m just reading into it. (I do vaguely recall something is up with Skeets as the series goes on, but I’ve forgotten the details.) Also, Magnus picks up an American Science magazine with a question mark on the cover, a visual that is repeated a few times throughout this issue.

Magnus gives this magazine to Professor Morrow, the “mad” scientist who is imprisoned in Haven for, as he says, his “own good and the good of others”. This was maybe the first time that I could recall seeing a relationship between all of these scientist/inventors in the DCU. Magnus is a former student of Morrow’s in this continuity at least, and harbors respect for the man. That relationship extends perhaps to community, for Morrow reveals to Magnus that many of their colleagues (“mad” scientists) have gone missing recently: “I think someone’s rounding us up.”  It’s also during this scene that the “52” motif shows up again in one of the newspaper clippings Morrow has concerning Dr. Tyme, which references “last year’s missing 52 seconds…”.

The number turns up again in the next scene with Renee and the Question, when he leaves an address for her–520 Kane St.–complete with another, admittedly overt, question mark). A wisp of smoke is also in the shape of a question mark when the Question appears behind Renee at the address in question (and again when he leaves).

Finally, in the first issue’s opening pages with the swirling shards of reality(?), there was an image that was featured a few times, but I didn’t have a reference for it until this issue. Namely, we are shown a gold statue with a Superman S shield, a monument to the dead Superboy. Here, Cassie is leading a world-wide webcast for Superboy acolytes, so I’ll be interested to see how this plays out over the series. Ralph makes a deductive leap when he confronts Cassie about the message on his wife’s tombstone because that message was an upside down S shield. Whereas the right-side up S means “hope”, the inverted version means “resurrection”. But why does Ralph think Cassie left that message for him? And what exactly is the message? That she is going to resurrect Superboy and/or Sue? Or Sue is somehow key to resurrect Superboy? It’s all just a bit heavy handed, and just seems a means to give the reveal of the message more weight.

History of the DCU, part 1

by Dan Jurgens, Art Thibert, Guy Major, Jerome Cox, Nick J. Napolitano, Eddie Berganza, Ivan Cohen, and Jeanine Schaefer

This issue also has a backup tale, featuring Donna Troy as a sort of chronicler of the universe. She possesses Harbinger’s orb, “which recorded everything that came to pass in all its realities”. She watches the orb summarize the origin of the DCU (at least at that time), covering millennia in a few short panels, until she asks to be told about Superman. We are shown the Superman of Earth-One and Earth-Two, with a mention of only one who would survive.

Besides this brief history lesson, what’s interesting about this passage is what the orb says about Earth-One and Earth-Two:

Of all the Earths, it was those two that would shine the brightest. It is the opinion of many that the presence of a Superman on those worlds pushed them to heights other Earths could not reach.

Of course, Earth-One and -Two are prominent because they simply are in comic book publishing history, but what is the orb saying that, contextually, those Earth’s mean something greater to the larger DCU, or is it merely metafictional eye-winking at the readers? I hope it’s the former.