52! Week Forty-Two

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Robertson, 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

“Trigger Effect”

Week 42, Day 2

Renee Montoya relights the candle. She is still in the cave, eyes closed, telling herself to “gaze into your self-made ABYSS. See what’s staring back.” When she does open her eyes, she sees her reflection, but without her face.

Week 42, Day 3

At the Tower of Fate, the Helmet of Fate tells Ralph Dibny that it is time to utter the incantation to bring his wife back. Ralph puts on the Helmet, pulls out a gun, and shoots himself in the head.

The bullet slams the Helmet into the wall, releasing Felix Faust, and then the Helmet transforms into Ralph’s wedding ring. Faust, surprised, says, “You knew it was me …? How?” Ralph tells him, “Because Faust, I’m a detective”. Ralph then maps out how he knew early on that Faust was behind the ruse. Ralph also admits that he has not been drinking boos for some time now, but gingold — and the Elongated Man punches Faust! He also tells Faust that the gun he just used is not a typical firearm, but a Wishing Gun: “Load a bullet … make a wish … and fire”.

Faust confesses that what Ralph has surmised is true, and then tells him why: after bargaining his soul with the demon Neron for power, Faust negotiated a trade with Neron for a “soul p-pure and stuh-strong at its moment of g-greatest despair … so I ch-chose yours!”

Neron arrives, wanting to take Faust, but Ralph tells the demon that Faust is his now. “I’ve put up with this façade for weeks. I’ve been through Hell and back to get to you.” Neron “trades” Ralph’s wedding ring for Faust by flinging it through Ralph’s heart. Ralph dies, a smile on his face. Neron tries to leave with Faust but realizes that the spell of binding that Ralph cast earlier is still in effect and it is trapped inside Fate’s tower. It vows to make Faust suffer “for eternity”.

Week 42, Day 7

Fire visits Sue Dibny’s gravesite. She picks up a wedding ring from atop the gravestone, crying, and whispers, “Oh, Ralph…”.

Thoughts

I misinterpreted the final scene with Renee from last issue. I thought it was in tribute to Charlie, but it was the final phase of Renee’s transformation.

This issue had quite the reveals! Ralph knew nearly all along that Faust was behind everything, from the Sue mannikin to his missing wedding ring. And then there was gingold and the Wishing Gun. What a cool concept, and it completely subverts the scene with Ralph supposedly about to kill himself. We see what transpired before the panel shown in issue 1, with Ralph saying, “I wish I were with Sue”. Knowing what happens to Ralph next, I guess he gets his wish after all. However, I find the “façade” Ralph has been portraying for weeks to be a bit disingenuous — after all, last issue he seems quite callous and oblivious to his actions. I suppose besides being the world’s stretchiest human and a great detective, we should also consider him a world-class actor? I don’t care for these kinds of mysteries where we don’t get to see all the clues, or am I just that unobservant?

Ralph says at one point that he’s waited a while to get Neron present, and it wasn’t to make a deal with it. Did he figure out some way to get to be with Sue if Neron was his murderer? And I loved the panel showing the smile on his face as he died, telling Neron, “I got you …”. It was a very low-key version of “I’m not locked in here with you; you’re locked in here with me!”

I found the final page scene confusing. Fire picks up Ralph’s wedding ring? Why was it there, four days later? Why is Fire (whom we haven’t seen since issue 4, I believe) at the gravesite? Did she and Ralph have a friendship from their time on the Justice League (I really don’t know — that era of Justice League history is foreign to me)? Or is this signaling the next chapter in Ralph’s “life”?

The Origin of Green Arrow

By Waid, McDaniel, Owens, Sinclair, Lanham, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

Every time I see Green Arrow in his Silver Age costume, I think how much I miss the red gloves. Reading this origin, I also want to read more about Oliver’s time as mayor of Star City.

52! Week Forty-One

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Camuncoli, Ramos, Sinclair, 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

“Miracles & Wonders”

Week 41, Day 1

Adam Strange and Starfire are attacked by bounty hunter Meklon, and their ship is severely damaged. However, they are able to defeat Meklon and continue on their journey home.

Week 41, Day 2

Renee Montoya returns from meditating with mountain monks. After sparring briefly in an ice cave, Richard Dragon challenges her to “deal with who you are … so you can see who you can be”. She tells him that she can’t and runs off.

Week 41, Day 3

Ralph Dibny visits Haven Correctional Facility to visit an inmate. He bargains with the director to let him see an inmate by telling him the way that Doctor Morrow escaped was teleportation microcircuitry embedded in the security cameras.

Ralph then talks to Professor Milo, revealing that he knows Milo has smuggled the Silver Wheel of Nyorlath as part of his wheelchair. Ralph rips the wheel off, causing Milo to fall. Haven’s director bursts in, calling for Security. It’s then that Ralph realizes that Milo had not been faking paralysis as he thought, and then the Helmet of Fate transports Ralph, with the Wheel, away from Haven.

Week 41, Day 5

Renee has a conversation with Diana, who is in Nanda Parbat to meet with someone who will help her “start a new life, I suppose…”. Diana tells her,

You are looking for reason, and you are looking for it without. But the only reason you will find will be the reason you bring to the experience … and that can only come from looking within.

Later, Renee sits in an ice cave with a lit candle and a contented look. When the flame goes out, the smoke forms into a question mark.

Week 41, Day 7

Adam is despairing as his and Starfire’s ship is tumbling into a K-type star. Starfire, who was injured by Meklon earlier, threatens Adam, inspiring him to try something. Then  Green Lanterns Opto309V and Mogo arrive, saving them.

Thoughts

Another nice cover tying into Renee’s ice cave and the other events of the issue. Plus, there’s the connection to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave at work here, with Renee no longer trapped in the prison of her own making.

Well, it’s about time Renee accepts who she has been since Charlie got sick. Now what will she do as the Question? Her encounter with Wonder Woman was completely unexpected, and honestly, I didn’t realize it was Diana at first. This marks the first time we see the third part of the Trinity as we head into the last part of the series. Given what transpired with Wonder Woman previous to 52, and why she’s in Nanda Parbat, Diana’s journey during this time is the most relevant and interesting over the men — it makes me want to read Wonder Woman comic books from this time to see how it was dealt with in her title (or was it?).

Ralph just sinks lower and lower. In his drive to bring back his wife, he is losing bits and pieces of his humanity along the way. If Sue could see him now, she’d be ashamed.

The Origin of Starfire

By Waid, Benitez, Sinclair, Leigh, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

It’s mentioned that her closest bond is with Dick Grayson, “the only Titan accustomed to having a partner that intimidating”. That’s fascinating if you consider how Starfire has been depicted during the years leading up to and after 52 and is very different from how she was shown originally, but still no less intimidating.

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 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.