52! Week Forty-Eight

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Robertson, Baron, Fletcher, Richards, Schaeffer, 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

“Asked and Answered”

Week 48, Day 1-3

Renee Montoya and Nightwing search for Bruno Mannheim in order to find Batwoman and prevent her murder.

Week 48, Day 4

In a fight with one of Mannheim’s fusion men, Nightwing and Renee discover a device that Nightwing first thinks is a bomb.

Whisper A’Dair and Mannheim discuss the upcoming sacrifice, but Brother Abbot once again questions the prophecy, to which Mannheim declares Abbot will be “carved apart for his heresies!”

Renee interrogates one of the fusion men, but she and Nightwing are ambushed by more of Mannheim’s acolytes. Abbot helps defeat most of them, but one is able to activate the device, which is not a bomb, but an energy beam that “tears into … the city, igniting everything it touches. By dawn, a pit of fire will roar at your city’s heart”.

They see that there are multiple beams drilling into Gotham. Abbot tells them that Batwoman’s heart is supposed to open the pit, fulfilling the prophecy. Nightwing devises a plan, but Renee tells him that he and Abbot should go after the devices instead and that she will rescue Batwoman on her own. She applies pseudoderm to her face and the Question leaves, after Abbot tells her where to go.

The Question is about to shoot Mannheim before he can carve Batwoman’s heart out of her chest, but more fusion men attack her. By the time she dispatches them, Mannheim has plunged a knife into Batwoman’s chest. The Question fires, missing Mannheim. She talks to the still conscious Batwoman, but Mannheim attacks her from behind and manages to wrestle the gun from her. Before he can fire, Batwoman removes the knife from her own chest and throws it into Mannheim back and he falls. Question tells Batwoman to “stay with me…”.

Week 48, Day 5

Chang Tzu issues a public broadcast to announce that he and his Science Squad have Black Adam” “Now…. How much am I bid?”

Thoughts

I get two issues in a row where the art is a bit lackluster for me, but I did like the Question pinup page. This issue is considered Renee’s first as the Question, even though she’s worn the mask and hat before this but she does accept the role now and we get a big stylized question in the background making it official, I suppose. I liked how Renee, in her inner monologue, references the girl she killed in Kahndaq, which sent her on a bender that Charlie helped her back from, and that, with her acceptance of the role as the Question, brings her story full circle — the rest is just denouement.

I found the Mannheim stuff at the beginning confusing. He grumbles about not having yet killed Batwoman, with Adair reminding him about the prophecy’s timeline, yet when Abbot questions the prophecy, he screams “off with his head!” — he’s inconsistent. He also references needing a key that A’Dair assures him will be found by Abbot, but nothing is made of that again. Speaking of Abbot, after Mannheim declares that Abbot will be “carved apart”, his lackeys just happen to take him to the same warehouse that Nightwing and Renee are at? How convenient.

As far as the Science Squad, why start a bidding war for Black Adam? Maybe they’re strapped for cash after Adam’s assault?

I’m getting a bit worried for these final issues, if these last two are any indication. Was the creative team getting tired? Were they focused on the next big project? Or are these last two issues just a blip and the final four issues will give us a banger of an ending?

The Origin of the Birds of Prey

By Waid, Scott, Hazlewood, Sinclair, Fletcher, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

I did not know that Oracle “learned the ropes of espionage as an ally of the Suicide Squad before starting her own … operation”. I did know from reading some issues of Birds of Prey that there was a botched mission involving Power Girl, but I’ve yet to read the details of that particular incident. Also missing is my having read the issues involving Big Barda and Manhunter — those sound like fun!

I really like the Scott/Hazlewood art in this. I’m not always a fan of when Scott inks herself, but these two together do a good job (as they did in Teen Titans and Secret Six).

52! Week Forty-Seven

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Camuncoli, Ruggiero, Pantazis, Leigh, Richards, Schaeffer, 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

“Revelations”

Week 47, Day 1

Tim Drake waits outside a cave in Nanda Parbat for Bruce Wayne and is challenged by a monk to solve this riddle:

There’s a goose inside a bottle. … How do you get the goose out without injuring it or breaking the bottle?

Week 47, Day 2

Diana and Tim discuss Bruce’s undertaking of his “spiritual purification”.  She tells Tim, “Something vast and grand is happening and it brought us all here. I hope he finds what he’s looking for. And you, Tim”.

In Gotham City, Whisper A’Dair sacrifices a man trying to divine who Batwoman is. Later, she and Bruno Mannheim discuss the failure, and Brother Abbott criticizes Mannheim’s interpretation of the Crime Bible. They fight, and Whisper comes to a realization: the twice-named daughter of Cain can be found because her name is “Cain”.

Week 47, Day 3

Dr. Magnus works on his new Metal Man as he listens to the tortured screams of Black Adam. When he activates the golem’s responsometer, it calls out, “Crush. Raze. Trample.” His mini Metal Men implore him to switch it off.

Week 47, Day 4

Animal Man travels to Space B and converses with the aliens who created and have since upgraded him. They tell him that he can access any “point in space or in time”. To illustrate, they show Buddy a point one month ahead in his personal timeline where Ellen is being comforted by another man.

Week 47, Day 5

Beast Boy can’t believe Natasha has turned down his offer to join the Teen Titans. He discovers that she is joining her uncle’s new Steelworks facility. Dr. Avasti tells John she quit her job at STAR Labs and wants to know if he’s hiring. She then kisses him.

Week 47, Day 6

The Question visits Kate Kane’s apartment to find it in shambles. Nightwing arrives to tell Renee that “they took her. We’re going to get her back.”

Week 47, Day 7

Diana converses with Rama Kushna, asking the deity, “What have I become?” Rama Kushna answers with,

When did you, in all your perfection, ever share the pains mortals feel each day of their lives?  Until now. Welcome to the world, Wonder Woman. Here is wisdom.

The monk returns to offer Tim more soup, and Tim wonders if Bruce should have returned by now. He also tells the monk he realized that “there’s only a goose in the bottle because you said so,” to which the monk responds, “You are correct. The goose and the bottle are only words”. Then, Bruce emerges from the cave, smiling.

Thoughts

This is probably my least favorite issue of the series thus far, both in terms of the art and the vignettes. Specifically, the Batman and Wonder Woman segments feel disjointed from the rest of the series, and my major issue with the art is that everybody looks similar, like the artist had one male and female template.

Regardless, there are some interesting things in this issue:

  • The dissent in Bruno Mannheim’s organization is interesting (and expected), so I hope we see that play out more.
  • I’m more interested in Space B in regards to Animal Man than I am in the issue with “future” Ellen. Does Space B play into what’s coming at the end of this series? Is it played with anywhere after this?
  • It was nice to see Natasha’s and John’s story come to a close (I assume), especially given it’s been my least favorite of the series. I was also glad to see John and Dr. Avasti moving on with their relationship.
  • What is the “wisdom” that Rama Kushna shows Diana?

The Origin of the Teen Titans

By Waid, Kerschl, Peru, Lopez, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

I like how they focused on Cyborg as the central figure of this incarnation of the Teen Titans. What I intensely disliked about the Teen Titans title is the one year jump that occurred during 52. Up to that point, this was one of my favorite titles at the time.

52! Week Forty-Five

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Batista, Igle, Ramos, Sinclair, Lopez, Richards, Schaeffer, 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

“Every Hour Wounds, the Last Kills”

Week 45, Day 3

Shiruta, Kahndaq. The Marvel family help Black Adam with the burial of Isis and Osiris and later try to comfort him, but Black Adam rebuffs their compassion and they leave.

Renee Montoya speaks with Adam, letting him know that Charlie has died and to offer he aid. Black Adam does not take kindly to her “pity” and bids her to go home as he leaves for Bialya.

Week 45, Day 4

Bialya. The Horseman who is Death has taken refuge in Bialya, and the country’s president pleads with Bruno Mannheim for help against Black Adam. Mannheim informs the President that he needs to deal with the situation on Oolong Island and it was “Nice knowin’ ya”.

It is then that Black Adam arrives and kills the President. He begins his assault on the country. Across the world, Black Adam’s actions and potential responses are discussed. Amanda Waller ponders needing 100 members of the Suicide Squad to go up against Black Adam, but Atom Smasher refuses to participate further.

Week 45, Day 5

Bialya. Black Adam continues his swath of destruction. He sees a flower in a pool of blood and cries. Then he is attacked by Bialyans and demands to know where Death is.

Week 45, Day 6

The Great Wall of China. The Great Ten discuss needing to deal with Black Adam should the security of China be threatened.

Death finally confronts Black Adam, telling him that his murdering of Bialya’s people have made it stronger. But Black Adam uses the magic lightning to weaken Death. He tells it, “You are going to answer every question I ask. Then … I am going to spend the rest of the night slowly ending your life”.

Week 45, Day 7

Oolong Island. Veronica Cale asks Sivana, “What happens when he finds out who sent the Four Horsemen into Kahndaq…?” Sivana tells her, as the alarm klaxon sounds, “I’ve been waiting for this for a long, long time. The Black Marvel himself, at my mercy! Bring him on!!”

Thoughts

The inevitable happens: Black Adam on a rampage, and apparently it was all part of Sivana’s plan? At least I got a bit of Dr. Cale’s reaction to this — a pity she wasn’t smart enough to foresee this outcome?

Renee has come a long way over the course of this series. She knows the pain Adam is in and offers her help, which, of course, he does not take kindly to. But even threatened with death, Renee is sympathetic, telling him, “Isis was my friend”. This was the best scene in the issue.

There’s a lot of talk about what to do about Black Adam, but not a whole lot of doing by governments or superheroes. If this was America being attacked, I doubt there would be this delay. And Adam’s slaughter of Bialya’s people is just so inhumane. At one point, he sees a vision of Isis telling him to avenge her and Osiris and he continues his destruction (one of the Oolong scientists states, “He sterilized the Earth!”), but given all of the manipulation thus far, I have to wonder if that was really just grief or an outside force spurring him on? I clearly want to be on his side, that his vengeance is righteous, but given the scale of murder and destruction, the architects of this story clearly do not want us feeling sympathy for him. It does make me want to know the outcome to this — obviously, Black Adam continues long after this series, so is he captured, does he retreat, or …? And what is the impact in regards to superhumans and their involvement in humanity’s affairs after this? I guess I’ll have to reread World War III….

52! Week Forty-Four

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Barrows, Green, Ramos, Baron, Leigh, Richards, Schaeffer, 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

“Deaths in the Family”

Week 44, Day 1

Black Adam is struck by lightning, and he tells Isis that Osiris’s power has returned to him. They find Amon dead and Sobek reveals that he is Yurrd, the Unknown, also known as Famine. The other three Horsemen of Apokolips arrive and attack the couple. Black Adam breaks Yurrd’s mouth, and Pestilence infects Isis with its disease. Death is about to kill her when Adam uses one of War’s guns to stop it. He kills Pestilence, and Isis then calls up lava to help Adam against Death, who then flees. Before she dies, Isis tells Adam he was right and that he should avenge her and Amon.

In Nanda Parbat, Renee knows that Isis has died when the flower the demi-goddess gave her wilts away. When she wonders how Adam and Osiris will cope, Tot and Richard Dragon tells her to find out. Tot gives her Charlie’s hat and coat, but she rejects the notion, “I’m not going to be him”. Dragon convinces her that some questions “can only be answered by wearing a mask,” and she dons the hat, a tear falling down her cheek.

Thoughts

I love this cover — the blood on the white background, the reflection of Isis in her brother’s blood — it’s an indication and a portent. I’d love to know how Jones and Sinclair created the splatter and spray — is it just Photoshop brushes?

So the whole Oolong Island machinations were because  Black Adam refused Intergang’s offer in issue 3? What of the Darkseid connection and the Crime Bible? This just looks more like crime family squabbling, but I suppose DC needed to revert Adam somehow. How many times will they continue to play with that toy? It’s become a specific Black Adam trope (they’re doing it now in Justice League). Also, I felt it was too easy for Isis to tell Adam, you were right, destroy the evil in the world and avenge us. Or would that be hackneyed to have Adam struggle against his baser nature and his wife’s dying plea to not succumb to pain and rage?

RIP Isis, we hardly knew ye. It’s especially poignant because at the time of this writing, JoAnna Cameron, who played the character on The Secrets of Isis television series, died within the last week. I would have loved to have seen this character interact more with the larger DCU. I know they brought the character back, but I doubt she’s the same. Perhaps I will seek out her other appearances (including the 1970s The Mighty Isis series).

Last post, I described Sobek biting Amon’s head off as he tried to speak Black Adam’s name, but in this issue, Amon’s head is still attached. Also, given Sobek’s hunger, I would have expected there to be less of Amon intact. Perhaps DC editorial didn’t want to go too bloody (the cover notwithstanding).

As for the arrival of the other Horsemen of Apokolips or Monster Society or whatever, they are pretty much a nothing burger, aren’t they? Sure, two of them kill a super being each (well, one really), but four of them couldn’t take out Black Adam, so they are hardly the threat I think the Oolong scientists thought they were. Perhaps I’m missing something and should go read 52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen? (Probably not.) Also, I hoped to have some connection with Veronica Cale given her tears at the sight of these creatures when they left Oolong Island (issue 38). Perhaps that’s to come, but I would have preferred that to the end scene with Renee sort of donning the guise of the Question. I do appreciate, however, that when she puts on the hat, her face is partially obscured, foreshadowing the inevitable (and obvious). It is the last vestige of her as simply Renee Montoya, much like it’s the last remnant of Black Adam, benevolent ruler.

I feel like I have wondered in these posts if the Marvel family members shared the power, meaning that Captain Marvel is actually weaker because Marvel Jr and Mary have a part of his power. This seems to have been confirmed because when Amon died, Black Adam is hit by lightning (which is a nice visual for that) and he tells Isis that “I feel … stronger. [Osiris’s powers] have returned to me.” Maybe this is well known to Shazam-o-philes, but I had always been curious.

Finally, this issue contains a house ad for the series, asking us if we have solved the mystery. There are pictures of characters representing the major storylines of the series, with Rip Hunter’s crazy chalkboard in the background. I reviewed my post about issue 6 where those chalkboards appeared and while some things have been revealed since then, there really hasn’t been a resolution to a lot of the items, meaning there’s a whole lot of revelation needing to happen in the next eight issues.

52! Week Thirty-Eight

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennett, Jadson, Hi-Fi, Leigh, 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

“Breathless”

Week 38, Day 1

Renee continues her voyage to Nanda Parbat with Charlie in tow.

Week 38, Day 2

On Oolong Island, Dr. Morrow visits with Dr. Magnus, who has been off his medication for some time now, eating cold beans out of cans and relishing in how alive he feels now. Morrow tries to persuade Magnus to join him in witnessing the release of the Four Horsemen.

Three of them emerge from their chamber as Chang Tzu quotes verses from the Crime Bible. Two of the Horsemen say, in succession, “Blakk. Ah-dumm”. Dr. Cale tells Morrow that the fourth Horseman, Yurdd, rode out before the others. She then says quietly, “Oh God, what have we made?”

Week 38, Day 3

Renee reaches a Himalayan village, but no one will help her find Nanda Parbat.

Week 38, Day 4

John Henry Irons, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Dr. Avasti examine the body of one the Everymen who died saving people during the “Rain of the Supermen”. Natasha Irons then contacts her uncle, telling him that she’s going to use one of her insect drones to spy on Luthor in order to obtain the Everyman research.

Week 38, Day 5-6

Renee keeps searching, pulling Charlie on a sled. To help keep him warm, she puts on the pseudoderm mask, but a slip causes him to fall off the sled and Renee notices blood under the mask. She thinks she’s lost him, when Charlie removes the mask and asks her, “Who are you going to become? Time to change … like a butterfly …”. It is then that Nanda Parbat appears behind them.

Thoughts

Last issue, I was thinking how the two main stories should be more in line with the title in some way (and I’m sure I extrapolated ways in which they did), but in this issue, my wish was fulfilled: you get Charlie’s difficulty breathing along with the awe-inspiring appearance of three of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It’s something.

Speaking of, Dr. Cale’s lamentation is punctuated by the appearance of blood from her nose, elevating a somewhat pretentious scene. I also find it very interesting that these scientists (minus Sivana at least) are so invested in the Crime Bible, an object of perverse faith. Finally, I have to wonder if Magnus is faking his manic condition to obtain information or if he’s fully succumbed, something that seems to bother Morrow.

Despite the protracted scenes with Renee dragging Charlie up a mountain (that was nice landscape artwork, especially the coloring of it), the final bit where she thinks he’s died and just after when he passes the torch were touching, though the inclusion of the question mark in the snow was a bit heavy handed. Perhaps the futility of Renee’s actions is supposed to underline the futility of humanity itself with the arrival of the Horsemen?

The Origin of Red Tornado

By Waid, Jimenez, Lanning, Hi-Fi, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

I’m supposing that we’ll be getting more of Red Tornado soon because of this entry. Red Tornado is one of two (?) Justice Leaguers who originally came from Earth-2 — it makes me wonder if they ever played with that connection in JLA. Also, was Red Tornado’s desire to be more human what inspired Star Trek: TNG to give Data that same character beat? While I have never particularly cared about this character, I did enjoy his storyline in the 2006 Justice League of America series (noted in the entry here), especially as it pertained to his “soul [having] recently been merged with flesh and blood”, but I’m guessing this change was reversed some time after that.