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 Seven

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Lashley, Draxhall, Sinclair, Lanham, 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

“Going Down”

On that alien planet, Adam Strange is still repairing the Thanagarian warbird so he, Starfire, and Animal Man can go home. However, his companions are being no help at all because they’re eating fruit that is messing with their minds. Strange squabbles with Starfire, goading her into looking for a mysterious power source they detected.

Week 7, Day 2. It’s been weeks since Renee has seen The Question, but she still ponders the clues she has and discovers one literally under her nose.

Week 7, Day 3. Ralph visits Booster to talk to him about the Cult of Connor, but Booster is distracted by a threat over the phone and an impending future event he is supposed to stop. It’s then that Ralph realizes that Booster could have known about Sue’s murder and this makes Ralph. Very. Upset.

Renee crashes a soiree at the Kane estate to ask Kate about 520 Kane Street. After punching Renee and some discussion, Kate agrees to help her former lover.

In Metropolis, Booster arrives at a LexCorp building and is confronted by the actor he hired to play a villain previously. The actor spills the beans in front of the crowd and press. Ralph piles on, asking Booster, “How many other of these … ‘death-defying rescues’ have you staged to improve your marketability?”

On that alien world, Starfire appears to have found that power source. As she looks up at it, we see a giant behind her reaching for its staff.

Thoughts

First, another noteworthy cover by Jones and Sinclair. I love the contrasting qualities of the red border and the black and white, printed-in-a-tabloid “photo” of Booster attempting to shield himself from the camera with the word EXPOSED! across his image. Just lovely.

Interesting that the first sequence on the alien world has no timestamp (it did in issue 5), but I also like that because time seems to relative when it comes to isolation, not to mention when the day appears to be as long as weeks. I wonder if the creative team had been thinking of that? About this scene in particular, I didn’t care for the exposition from Adam to the two people who already know this information! They may just as well have had Strange say, “As you know…”. But then, we get this exchange between Strange and Starfire about the fruit she and Buddy are eating where she almost laments that Strange doesn’t “know how delicious it is” because he won’t eat any, and a little later, she echoes that thought: “…you won’t eat any…”. It’s not just that the fruit is intoxicating, it’s possibly a way to trap prey? Is it being used by the mysterious predator discussed in issue 5?

In Renee’s scene, we see a shot of her cast upon which she has drawn many question marks. Now, we have already seen her as obsessive, but to mark her arm in that way? Is this merely hinting at the future (she is becoming the question) or just that the artist thought it would be funny to draw all those question marks? I am tired of seeing Renee pose with that alien looking gun. I have a gun and I don’t pick it up as I’m thinking through something. But to each their own, I guess.

I loved the scene between Ralph and Booster. The artists drew Ralph’s face in shadows and almost always looking down, suggesting the grief that consumes him. Besides that, when Ralph realizes that “this whole era is history” to Booster, he shoves Booster into the wall, screaming at him, “why the hell didn’t you warn me my wife was going to die?” Booster tells Ralph that he was just as surprised about Sue’s death, saying, “I didn’t learn every little detail…” (about the past), Ralph responds through gritted teeth, Little. DETAIL?” I love how the creative team took these two sort of joke characters and are giving them some real-life drama to deal with.

In regards to the Kate and Renee scene, it almost feels like I missed something because this doesn’t seem like the Kate Kane I am familiar with, but that’s probably more to do with my lack of familiarity or were there changes in the future continuity of her character? I seem to be bumping against this idea of Kate as a debutante and former military. Not to say that a person can’t be both, but the difference seems too far? I guess I’ll find out as we move along.

I knew that actor would be bad news for Booster, but I expected that plot point to be more drawn out. And what does the actor expect to get out of this exposure? Despite what he says, him coming clean about his involvement in this scam doesn’t exonerate him legally, but I guess if you sway public opinion enough…? And then to have Ralph kick Booster while he’s down is a great counterpoint to the earlier scene between them.

In the final, wordless scene with Starfire, we see what looks like a Kirbyesque (or is it an actual Kirby character?) giant. I have no idea who this is, so I’m looking forward to the next scene and to see if this giant plays a larger role in the story.

Finally, the art this issue (specifically the inking), for the first time, is not to my liking, coming across as uneven comparatively in the different scenes. So far, this series has been superbly consistent, but this really highlights how well the team has been doing on this WEEKLY series. If it normally takes weeks to produce a comic book that is printed monthly, I can only imagine the chaos that was this book. It’s really a testament to all the creatives and editors who worked on it.

History of the DCU, part 6

by Jurgens, Rapmund, Major, Cox, Leigh, Berganza, Cohen, and Schaefer

The events of Zero Hour get the spotlight here. One item that piqued my interest was the comment by the Orb that Hal Jordan, as Parallax, in his desire to erase the “destruction of Coast City and other events that he didn’t like”,

He would have created multiple universes with multiple Earths, unwittingly restoring much of what existed before the Crisis.

Ok. First, I don’t recall that aspect of Zero Hour (and now I want to go read that series again). Second, the way that sentence is written, it implies that restoring the multiverse was not a good thing. Now, I know DC editorial thought so, but in universe, what is the meaning behind this? Plus, given what is going on in Death Metal and Perpetua and the omniverse, this comment takes on an almost prophetic tone. Could this have inspired Scott Snyder??? ;)

It’s interesting to me now that this History of the DCU is focusing on all the crises because it’s highlighting the transitory nature of the DCU, and perhaps not so positively. I mean, I read all of those crisis books as they were being published, and I was excited about them and what these changes could mean, but looking back on it in this way seems almost to devalue the characters and the “universe” that DC Comics had been building for decades.

52! Week Five

by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, Chris Batista, Jimmy Palmiotti, Alex Sinclair, Phil Balsman, 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

“Stars in Their Courses”

Week 5, Day 1. Ellen Baker, wife of Buddy Baker (Animal Man), takes down a “Welcome Home” banner from her house, telling her daughter that her neighbors told her that she is in “denial”. Just then, Alan Scott, the original (and best) Green Lantern appears to tell her that Animal Man was missing in action. Ellen replies, “‘Missing’, huh? So there’s still hope”, as she unfurls the banner.

In Metropolis, Lex Luthor has announced that synthesized the metagene, which means that “every man and woman can be a superhero”.

Steel is listening to this news when he receives a call to come to St. Camillus, a hospital that now treats superhuman ailments. He consults with Dr. Pieter Cross, aka Doctor Mid-Nite, and Green Lantern Alan Scott, asking about the 25-foot tall, unconscious Hawkgirl that he saw outside. Green Lantern explains that she was part of the team he led into outer space and that there was an accident involving zeta beam technology. It fused Firestorm and Cyborg into one, deformed body and pieces of Red Tornado into Mal Duncan’s (Herald) body. Alan thinks the fractured zeta beams also tore apart Adam Strange, Animal Man, and Starfire. And we learn that Alan’s daughter, Jade, also died. It’s then that Mal goes into cardiac arrest.

In Gotham City, Captain Maggie Sawyer pays a visit to the recuperating Renee Montoya. Sawyer wants to know what exactly happened to Renee because despite what Renee told her, the warehouse is clean and there is no evidence of what Renee recounted. Sawyer is concerned that Renee is in over her head and wants to help, but Renee rebuffs the Captain, who then leaves.

Back at St. Camillus, Steel shock’s Mal, causing the attached Red Tornado part on his chest–a speaker–to replay Tornado’s last words:

It’s coming! 52! 52!

Week 5, Day 7. On an alien world, Buddy Baker wonders aloud to Starfire if the heroes back on Earth won. Starfire wonders how far away from Earth they are and if Adam Strange will be able to get them back home. Buddy encourages Adam to work faster because something is out there, waiting.

Thoughts

The first thing that struck me about this issue was the title. “Stars in Their Courses” has to be referencing Isaac Asimov’s astronomy essay, “The Stars in Their Courses” (and not the Civil War book by Shelby Foote), but I don’t know what connection that essay has to this story. Anyone read that essay and can shed some light on this?

How odd that we only have two days this week. I reviewed the issue multiple times in case I had missed a time stamp. However, I like that not every issue has to have the same time structure (i.e., every few pages is a new day) within the already established pattern of every issue IS a week in the DCU.

Lex Luthor’s metagene announcement should have had more of an impact on this series and the DCU, based on what I can recall, so I’ll be paying more attention to that this time around. I liked the look that Lois and Clark give each other as they listen to this news.

I love Ellen Baker’s belief that her husband will return and Buddy’s total devotion to his wife despite a wet, naked, alien princess walking around him — he doesn’t even really look at Starfire. I know from reading The Last Days of Animal Man that there is some sort of connection, perhaps even attraction?, between Buddy and Koriand’r, so I’ll be looking for that in this series (but I hope it’s not there — that would be easy, lazy storytelling).

A small thing: when we see Hawkgirl lying unconscious on the bed of a semi, I estimated her height based on the other characters around her and thought she was between 20-25 feet tall. It was gratifying when Steel explicitly states she’s 25-feet tall. I appreciate that attention to detail by the artist.

Alan Scott’s emotional state was the highlight of this issue. He was referred to in The Golden Age as the “big guy”, and while that’s an Elseworld’s story, I’ve thought of Alan as the big guy ever since. However, even big guys break down at times, and seeing Alan’s stoic composure start to crumble as he describes what happened to his team was a small, but powerful moment.  After that, he pauses and then looks at Steel, asking him,

A man shouldn’t have to mourn his own children, should he? We shouldn’t have to bury our children.

Gut wrenching…. We didn’t really need the button a few word balloons later where Alan tells Steel that his daughter, Jade, also died.

Finally, “52” as a concept makes itself known in the series. I remember wondering what this could mean. Sure, the sly references to the series title up to this point were cute and all, but what did Red Tornado see?! I also recall being happy about what it did eventually mean, but we’ll get to that much later.

History of the DCU, part 4

by Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Guy Major, Jeromy Cox, Rob Leigh, Eddie Berganza, Ivan Cohen, and Jeanine Schaefer

The major losses in Crisis on Infinite Earths — Supergirl and Flash dying — and the finale of the series is summarized. This installment offered me nothing new or interesting. Why are they wasting valuable pages on this stuff?! I know, I know, it’s to inform any new readers pulled into the DCU after Infinite Crisis, but they could at least try to make these few pages interesting to old timers too!