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.

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.

52! Week Twenty-One

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennett, Jadson, Baron, Lanham, 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

“Teambuilding Exercises”

Week 21, Day 1

Natasha Irons convinces Lex Luthor to allow speedster Eliza (aka Trajectory) to rejoin the team, making Eliza very happy. She professes her love of the speedster heroes and her desire to prove herself so she can join the Teen Titans.

Week 21, Day 2

Ralph Dibny and the Helmet of Fate convince a demonguard to open a gate to Hell.

Week 21, Day 3

Under the direction of Lex Luthor, his new Infinity, Inc. team debuts by apprehending Blockbuster. While the newly arrived Teen Titans clean up the damage caused by the fight, new team leader Beast Boy warns Natasha about Luthor’s intentions. Luthor helps Blockbuster escape his bonds, and Trajectory races off by herself. Luthor turns off her powers and Blockbuster kills her.

Week 21, Day 6

At Trajectory’s funeral in Alabama, Hot Spot, Little Barda, and Power Boy quit the Teen Titans, while John Henry Irons tries to talk to Natasha about Luthor. Beast Boy offers to help John.

Week 21, Day 7

In Australia, Johnny Warrawa grafts Red Tornado’s head onto a crude, robotic body.

Thoughts

The collaborators do a fine job of endearing us to Eliza in a few pages, especially after her previous appearance as a neophyte drug addict, which makes what happens to her all the more tragic. And we see what Dr. Avasti told John Irons the previous issue come true, meaning that Luthor can indeed turn on and off an Everyman’s program participant’s  metagene. Speaking of John, I’m starting to wonder if what Luthor did to him affected his mind. For a guy who created his own super armor, to confront Natasha at the funeral as he did was just stupid.

We get not one, but two superteam debuts: Infinity, Inc. and the Teen Titans. Luthor buying the Pemberton Estate and the associated Infinity, Inc. trademark is so Luthor. What was new to me was this version of the Teen Titans. Did I forget how these particular members ended up as the Teen Titans or did we ever get the story? I want to read more about the Raven/Zachary Zatara and Little Barda/Power Boy relationships, not to mention Beast Boy taking on a leadership role. Regardless, this team was short-lived with the three desertions.

It’s painful to see how Ralph treated the demon, and now Ralph’s descent into hell is  literal. But will this story be another telling of Orpheus and Eurydice or something far worse?

52! Week Seventeen

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Batista, Jose, Jadson, Baron, Balsman, 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

“Last of the Czarnians”

Week 17, Day 1

Luthor and his home-grown “Justice League” watch footage of the group foiling a terrorist attack by Kobra. Luthor is pleased at the coverage but Eliza, the speedster, complains about always being in super-speed mode and needing a drug, the Sharp, to slow herself down.

Week 17, Day 2

Adam Strange is piloting his ship, the Warbird, through a dense asteroid field while Animal Man is helping copilot (“Left!”) and Starfire is outside, blasting the larger rocks into smaller pieces. Strange admits to Buddy that he’s spent a week with Starfire and “there’s just … something I can’t stand about that whole stuck-up alien princess act”.

Week 17, Night 4

Strange delivers a dire message to his crew: they are running out of breathable air and the ship’s sub-light engine won’t get them home for a few decades. He tells them, “This was only ever a lifeboat …”. Later, while Strange sleeps, Starfire and Animal Man talk about family and overcoming the existential dread they’re in. It is then that Devilance, the Pursuer, arrives, ripping the blade from the being’s power staff off of the Warbird. Animal Man notices something outside with Devilance, and Starfire whispers trepidatiously, “X’Hal. Lobo”.

Starfire goes out to negotiate with Lobo, and Strange explains to Buddy that Lobo is a “superhuman bounty hunter” and the last of his race because he “killed every single living thing on his home planet, for fun”. But Starfire hires Lobo to lead them through the asteroid field with promise of payment, but Starfire also thinks Lobo needs their help.

Week 17, Day 7

Red Tornado’s torso is discovered in Australia and he keeps repeating “52”.

Thoughts

Given this issue’s cover, has Lobo always been one of those characters who broke the fourth wall, like Giffen’s Ambush Bug? Here, Lobo sits atop the Trinity’s accoutrement from issue one, telling us, “Only 35 more to go”, so this suggests yes? I think I need to go flip through my L.E.G.I.O.N. books for a comparison….

All is not well within Luthor’s altered humans, but he seems unperturbed by Eliza’s reaction, with his focus only on Natasha really. Is this all to get under (literally and figuratively) John Henry Irons’ skin? When will Natasha see the light (ironic considering her powerset) regarding her “benefactor”? I do find Eliza’s revelation about how her superspeed is affecting her. Is that something that was ever touched on in Flash comic books?

I loved the scenes between Starfire and Animal Man as they pondered their situation, but it seems like the collaborators are slyly pushing these two together in a romantic way, but so far, Buddy is completely focused on his wife and family (and I hope it stays that way). I thought there was a missed opportunity when Strange is telling them how dire their situation really is — perhaps that scene should have come before Buddy and Starfire’s conversation (with the appropriate tension ratcheted up) or allowing the gravity of the announcement to sink in without being cut short by Devilance’s arrival, but this is just Monday morning comic book plotting on my part.

Speaking of Starfire, I don’t recall how her character was portrayed elsewhere in the DCU at this time, but it seems like the series collaborators have fundamentally shifted her personality to fit Strange’s description of her, though her empathetic nature from her early New Teen Titans days is displayed in the scene with Buddy. It’s like, generally, they have taken her emotionality and turned it more towards anger or frustration over any other emotion.

The Origin of Lobo

by Waid, Giffen, Jadson, Hories, Napolitano, Richards, Wacker

It’s always nice to see Keith Giffen pencils, and that Lobo is one of his co-creations makes this origin even more delightful. Lobo has never been on the DC characters that I enjoyed. I don’t care for crass for crass’ sake, and this period when he “found religion” was probably the only time I found the character interesting. That and his adoration of those space dolphins.

Perhaps this has played up somewhere that I haven’t read, but reading this origin it occurs to me that Lobo is the anti-Superman: last of his race and super-powerful but without the morality that Clark Kent grew up with.