52! Week Twenty-Seven

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Moll, Jose, Benes, Ramos, Rollins, Nelson, Pantazis, Brosseau, 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

“The Past Best Hope”

Week 27, Day 1

Ralph Dibny takes charge of his journey with the Helmet of Fate and they visit the Spectre. Ralph asks if the Hand of God can bring his wife back, to which the Spectre declares, smiling, “Absolutely”. Spectre then takes Ralph and the Helmet of Fate to deep space where the Eclipso possessed Jean Loring is imprisoned. Ralph accepts the Spectre’s bargain, and Ralph tells Jean Loring, “I’ll show you hell …”.

Week 27, Day 2

Elsewhere, Waverider sits in a room with many clocks. At 5:25:20 a.m., the Time Commander appears, trapped in an hourglass. He chastises Waverider for betraying him and the other time stealers and then disappears. Immediately, Skeets appears, and Waverider asks it if it’s Skeets’ fault, “You’re the one Rip Hunter was warning us about”. Skeets’ denies that it is not the one who is “splintering the historical mainline”, but demands to know when is Rip Hunter. It proceeds to torture Waverider for the information.

Week 27, Day 5

While Richard Dragon trains Renee Montoya, she discovers that Charlie has cancer and doesn’t have long to live. Meanwhile, Aristotle Rodor examines the Crime Bible and one particular passage makes Renee think that Kate Kane is in danger.

Week -84, Day -2

Ralph has transported Jean to the past, to the moment before she has called Sue and murdered her. Using Spectre-given power, Ralph transforms Jean, suppressing the Eclipso entity so that Jean will experience the guilt in an eternal loop. Jean begs for forgiveness, and as the phone rings, she turns to Ralph, telling him, “Ralph … look away … You’re only punishing yourself …”. Ralph screams and takes them back to space, his deal with the Spectre undone. Ralph tells the Helmet that he knows that he can get Sue back, and to do that, they need to go to Nanda Parbat.

Thoughts

First, I love the detail that Jones and Sinclair put into the Spectre’s hood and glove — they look like they’re made of actual fabric! Speaking of the Spectre, his (its?) smile when he says to Ralph, “Absolutely!”, is creepy as hell.

I love that the confrontation between Waverider (Is this room full of clocks where he was last issue too? Was he hiding specifically from Skeets or something more sinister?) and Skeets lasts in between the space of one second. I know they had to use the 5:25:20 time to make the 52 reference work, but is there some significance to two fifty-twos? Is this a heretofore unknown reference to the Dark Multiverse? ;)

Charlie dying is one of the main things I do remember about 52, and Renee taking on the mantle of the Question was one of the best things to come out of the series (besides the reveal of the return of the multiverse).

But it is the scene set in the past that is the best part of this issue. First, I love the negative values of the time caption — who had to figure that out and is it even accurate?! I have to wonder if the issue title is a play on a line from Lincoln’s second State of the Union, “the last best hope” (please don’t tell me whomever chose that title was merely a Babylon 5 fan …)? If so, the “best hope” has to be a reference to Jean Loring’s redemption, right? That brief moment when she shows concern for Ralph was very moving. Anyway, I found it interesting that DC wanted to redeem Jean to a degree, while still having her remain as Eclipso (I was never a fan of her in that role). Now I want to find out what happened to her next.

The Origin of Black Canary

by Waid, Chaykin, Pantazis, Napolitano, Richards, Schaefer, Siglain

Did Dinah’s mother get pissed at her teammates going behind her back to train her daughter? I would be. I did like that they didn’t mention the events in The Longbow Hunters, something that seems to define and haunt Black Canary.

52! Week Twenty-Four

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Jimenez, Lanning, Baron, Brosseau, 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

“Just Imagine”

Week 24, Day 1

While talking to reporters about his Star City mayoral campaign, Oliver Queen receives a call on his JLA communicator from Firestorm, who asks him to join the new Justice League. Queen turns down the offer and tells Firestorm not to call anyone else.

Week 24, Day 2

At the original Justice League of America’s HQ in Rhode Island, J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, talks to himself, addressing his former JLA member, Booster Gold, saying how he has helped eliminate Checkmate in retaliation for its role in Blue Beetle’s murder.

Week 24, Day 3

Black Adam and Isis speak to the Great Ten, announcing an alteration to the Freedom of Power Treaty, which no longer includes executing metahuman criminals. Oriris, however, is bored and wants “to do something fun”. Black Adam tells August General that the Black Marvel Family is available to help if the Great Ten and China need it.

Week 24, Day 6

While the new Justice League is talking to reporters, they are attacked by pirates and cyborgs emerging from a rift. Suddenly, many of the bystanders transform into their Everyman personas to help. Skeets also appears and tells Firestorm it is responsible for the pirates and cyborgs to draw out an enemy. Skeets then attacks Firestorm and the assembled Everymen and Justice Leaguers, including Super-Chief, who is transported to a land of the dead. The original Super-Chief, Flying Stag, retrieves the Manitou Stone and tells Ralph Dibny that “Magic never comes without a price”.

Week 24, Day 7

J’onn J’onzz, in his guise as an advisor to the President, is present when the President is told that Checkmate has been recertified as a U.N. agency, negating J’onn’s efforts.

In Belle Reve, Amanda Waller has Atom Smasher picking members for a new Suicide Squad mission.

Thoughts

Phil Jimenez’ and Andy Lanning’s art is a welcome change to this series, especially because of all the group shots and different and varied body types/faces (Perez clone that Jimenez is — and I love him for it!).

Both Martian Manhunter and Ollie Queen are after justice this issue: J’onn refers to justice being served for Blue Beetle’s murder, while Ollie’s campaign slogan is “Justice … For All!”. Also, Ollie’s campaign manager is named Maggin, presumably after Elliot S! Maggin, a long-time DC Comics writer (who also wrote stories about Green Arrow).

The new Justice League has an intriguing membership: Firehawk (a character whose design I’ve always liked, even if Jones gives her a new costume on the cover), Firestorm, Bulleteer, Super-Chief, and Ambush Bug. How did this group get together? It makes sense that Firehawk and Firestorm team up, but Super-Chief (who just took on the mantle and has now joined the team)? Ambush Bug?! Speaking of Ambush Bug, we get an issue filled with his fourth-wall breaking and pop culture referential dialog. His shirt on the cover reads “This Shirt’s a Clue” and his first words are the title of the issue, with the background of the word balloon filled with “Week 24”. :) Other references include:

  • He yells into the phone, “The weekly grind is tearin’ me apart! Fifty-two!” Is this commentary from Giffen and company?
  • His Bugs Bunny (or other Warner Bros cartoon character) like dialog:
    • “…so I says to Schwartz, I says…”
    • “Doink!” as he stabs two pirates in their eyes.
    • “Mommy”, just after Super-Chief is zapped away and Bug stands triumphantly over a defeated pirate.
  • “Didn’t mean to interrupt your exposition-filled conversation…”

It’s kind of creepy the way J’onn infiltrates the U.S. government, despite his noble purpose. Also, how he has created statues of all the fallen JLAers in the cave. It seems like he’s gone off some deep end — out of guilt about Blue Beetle?

Osiris has quickly become annoying. How can you take a new character with such potential and immediately make him unlikable? The short answer being, of course, you’re not supposed to like him. I recall what happens to him in the end, but not the journey. Speaking of newly debuted characters, why introduce Jon Standing Bear in the previous issue just to kill him off here?! Wasteful! Not so wasteful are the Dial H like characters (Luthor’s Everymen) with great or not so great names like:

  • Dynamole
  • The Crimson Ghost
  • Jack of All Trades (who looks somewhat like Spider-Man)
  • The Tornado Ninja (an homage to Samurai from the Super Friends cartoon?)
  • E.S. Pete (sounds like something from the Silver Age Legion of Super-Heroes)
  • Poledancer (yikes!)
  • et al

I’ve long suspected Skeets of being up to something, but here, he’s using his time hopping abilities to draw out some, as yet unnamed, enemy, and it doesn’t care who gets in the way. In fact, its now on the offensive with weapons and attacking the heroes.

Other bits:

  • A Jack Ryder advertisement can be seen on the trolley outside Ollie’s campaign office. It reads “You Are Wrong!”
  • Ambush Bug is eating from a bag of chips that features a squirrel. The logo cleverly reads “Ch’ps”, so this has to be an homage to Green Lantern Ch’p.
  • Wherever the new JL is when Firestorm calls Ollie, there is a poster on the wall of Starfire in a bikini (thank you again, Mr. Jimenez). I wonder if this is from one of the photoshoots she did in New Teen Titans?
  • In the J’onn J’onzz monologue, there is a reference to Secretary of State Kakalios. It was an unusual name, so I looked it up and discovered that James Kakalios is the author of The Physics of Superheroes, which was published the year before 52. That has to be a tip of the hat to the author, right?
  • A pirate closely resembling Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow is seen in a newspaper near the end of the issue.
  • The ambassador talking to the President is named Trautmann, after artist/designer Eric Trautmann?
  • Every issue ends with some preview images from the next issue. Here, Ambush Bug is playing the roles of the Question, Isis, and Batwoman. You gotta love a running gag.

The Origin of Booster Gold

by Waid, Jurgens, Lanning, Sinclair, Brosseau, Richards, Wacker

I feel like we have already visited Booster Gold’s origin in this series (in story), but this  time, the origin entry has an additional tag: “An excerpt from the Justice League archives”.  My problem with this is the meta-editorial commentary (such as the “gratuity not included” notation) in this entry, so which Justice Leaguer has supposedly written this “excerpt” (though Batman does have a dry sense of humor…)?

52! Week Nineteen

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Olliffe, Geraci, Sinclair, Brosseau, 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

“History Repeats”

Week 19, Day 1

Skeets investigates Daniel Carter’s apartment, but is discovered by Daniel. Daniel then proceeds to tell Skeets how he was a star football player who was injured and later became an insurance salesman. Skeets tell Daniel that it needs to get back into Rip Hunter’s lab and Daniel can help it. In return, Skeets can make Daniel a superhero.

Week 19, Day 2

Starfire, Animal Man, and Adam Strange enjoy a “pitstop on the pilgrim trail” while Lobo performs his duties as Archbishop of the First Celestial Church of the Triple Fish-God. Lobo tells them they are in space sector 3500, where a “hundred complex, thrivin’ systems” are “now a big sky fulla screamin’ headstones”. It turns out the same being who laid waste to sector 3500’s systems is the same being who pit a bounty on Earthbound trio’s heads. And then Lobo reveals he’s in possession of the Emerald Eye of Ekron.

Week 19, Day 3

The Weather Wizard is flooding a Metropolis bank in an effort to kill the manager, when Supernova arrives to help those trapped inside. Wonder Girl captures Weather Wizard. The two heroes talk, and Wonder Girl is surprised that Supernova doesn’t recognize her. As he leaves, she calls him Kon-El.

Week 19, Day 4

Daniel, wearing Booster’s goggles, gains access to Hunter’s lab. Skeets has Daniel examine some writing on a wall, and when Daniel asks Skeets about the message, “It’s all his fault”, Skeets announces, “He knows”, and allows the doors to shut and then initiates the defense systems. Skeets sets the lab to reopen in 1 million A.D., and Daniel is sucked into a timeloop vortex.

Thoughts

Wow. Appearances of the number 52 return. Daniel’s jersey is numbered 52. The cover has a few. It also sports some significant years, such as 1938 (Superman’s debut), 1939 (Batman’s debut), 1941 (Wonder Woman’s debut), 1956 (the Silver Age), and 1985 (Crisis on Infinite Earths). Is 3006 a reference to the 31st century Legion? 4006 and 5252 have some significance relating to angels, according to my Google search, but as far as DC Comics, I don’t know. There are some other numbers as well, but I can’t make them out (is one them 1935, the beginning of what would become DC Comics?). Finally, cover-wise,  I like how Booster Gold is positioned, holding Skeets like a football, as if he’s running for a touchdown. Like ancestor, like descendant, right?

Other bits of trivia: in Daniel’s apartment, we see that he played for the Manchester High Spartans, and there is a magazine with Booster on the cover called Worlds Finest. Later, we see an ad for Skeetles Candy, proving Booster had no shame. Finally, Lobo can speak “17,897 galactic languages” — who knew?

Animal Man’s reaction to being among all the aliens was interesting. After spouting some word gibberish (“sweat that smells of … roses underwater, kettles in blue grass…”), he tells Adam Strange, “I can’t describe this using English…” I appreciate the writer trying to show us the wonder and awe a simple Earth man (albeit a superhuman) might experience in outer space. Later, there’s a nice splash page of the “bad guy” (Lady Styx) responsible for the bounty on the heroes’ heads and for the destruction of sector 3500’s worlds. On the same page we get to see Lobo in possession of the Emerald Eye of Ekron! The Emerald Eye has long been one of my favorite items in DC lore, first in Legion of Super-Heroes and then L.E.G.I.O.N.

I’m not as interested in Wonder Girl’s supposition that Supernova is her dead boyfriend (where did that come from?!) than I am in his reaction to her near caress: “Respect my personal space, please”. It’s rare we see a rejection of the soap-opera trope for such a blunt response between superhero characters.

Finally, there’s definitely something up with Skeets. I mentioned this before, but it’s quite obvious that Skeets isn’t … Skeets. But who is it?!

The Origin of Animal Man

by Waid, Bolland, Hollingsworth, Brosseau, Richards, Wacker

It’s lovely to see Brian Bolland art, even if for just two pages. The way the aliens are discussed makes them seem more sinister than what I recall from reading this brilliant series. In fact, they seemed a bit more bumbling than malevolent, but I could be forgetting something. Regardless, what were the aliens’ intentions for grafting humans to the morphogenetic field?

52! Week Eighteen

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Barrows, Stull, 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

“Dismantled”

Week 18, Day 1

Detective Chimp, Terri Thirteen, and Edogawa Sangaku arrive at the House of Mystery to find their colleague, Tim Trench, wearing the Helmet of Fate. When Terri touches Tim, his body turns to water, leaving the Helmet in a puddle.

Week 18, Day 2

Charlie is awarded the Order of the Crescent for helping to stop the suicide bomber by Black Adam and Isis. Renee was supposed to have been present as well, and her absence offends Adam. Adam finds a drunk Renee with a Kahndaqian woman. When Adam tries to give Renee the medal, she swats it away, angering him. He picks her up by her throat, and Renee tells him, quietly, “… just do it…”, but Isis intervenes. Charlie tells them they are focusing on the suicide bomber instead of why she was at the wedding in the first place: they should be going after Intergang.

Week 18, Day 3

Detective Chimp has tracked Ralph Dibny to Marseilles, France, and has brought the sealed Helmet of Fate with him to enlist Ralph’s help to unravel the mystery. Ralph tells him it’s time to call in the Shadowpact.

Week 18, Day 4

Clark Kent is in Cincinnati, OH, to cover Booster Gold’s funeral. While there, Skeets encounters a young man who seems “vaguely … familiar” to it. He is Daniel Carter, who, according to Skeet’s scans, is a direct ancestor of Booster’s. Skeets tells Daniel to contact it to talk about his future.

Week 18, Day 7

The Shadowpact and Ralph have assembled in Giza, Egypt, the “shadow of the helm’s birthsite”, to scry what has happened recently to the helmet. The Helmet begins talking to Ralph, telling him that it can give him the “answers you seek” if he is prepared to “make every sacrifice I ask of you”. Ralph announces he is ready, and walks off with the Helmet. The Shadowpact look on puzzled, and Enchantress says, “Is it just me, or does he think that the Helmet was talking to him?”

Thoughts

This might be my favorite issue yet. In fact, I want to do a spotlight episode on the podcast on this issue! So many things to cover and explore….

First, here’s another cover I love. It has a very pulpy paperback cover feel to it, especially with the large Helmet of Fate looming over everyone and the scratchy letters, “Calling Dr. Fate”, in the bottom corner. Plus, Sinclair’s coloring of the Helmet here is gorgeous with the way light bounces off the metal — it’s not a spit-polished helmet by any means; that helmet has some history to it!

I also love the way they roll out the credits in the first few pages. Usually, they presented in a banner-like way across the pages, but this issue, they’ve placed the credits on pages framed to the walls or on mirrors in the House of Mystery. It helps direct our eyes to the other items on the walls, giving us a brief look into this group of occult investigators, the Croatoan Society: Detective Chimp, Terri Thirteen, Edogawa Sangaku, Tim Trench, and formerly Ralph Dibny. Ok, this was a new group created in this very issue (as far as I can tell), but the way they are written, it seems like they’ve been working in the DCU for a while. And their base of operations is the House of Mystery! How did this not turn into a series (or at least a mini)?! Given that this is the Sangaku character’s first appearance, I found this bit of trivia, so you know the collaborators on this issue are having some fun, especially because nothing came out after this issue regarding the character. Oh well.

Renee is reverting to type, unable to cope with killing the young girl from the previous issue (and I don’t blame her!), but it’s the way she taunts Black Adam, knowing what he could do to her — that she wants him to do it — that is heartbreaking. I’m glad that they’re showing the consequences of Renee’s actions, i.e., she isn’t instantly over it. But how long will this continue to haunt her?

I love that Ralph is the detective that Detective Chimp seeks out regarding the Helmet of Fate, a “locked-room mystery with a severe touch of the weird”. It adds a dimension to Ralph that I don’t know has ever been explored, but I’m also not well read on the Elongated Man’s adventures. Unfortunately, we do find out that Detective Chimp is a member of the Republican National Party.

Booster’s funeral provides us with some characters rarely, or only just, seen, as far as I know. In fact, while I recognized two, I had to look them up. Of note are Beefeater, with his punctuated “oi”s, and Odd Man, who first appeared in Detective Comics #487 in a story I read for the first time only a few month’s ago (at the time of this writing).

Finally, we get to see Shadowpact, which is a group that I love, even if the series wasn’t all that great. But we do get a great moment at the end of this issue when Ralph walks off with the Helmet of Fate after its conversation with him, and Enchantress reveals to us that the Helmet hadn’t said anything! So, is Ralph hallucinating or is something sinister at work here (I’m guessing the latter).

So many good elements here, rife with old and now new DC history, with some plot-forwarding as well. I really enjoyed this issue.

The Origin of The Question

by Waid, Bennett, Sinclair, Napolitano, Richards, Wacker

I’ve never been a big fan of The Question. He’s a detective-like character with a pretty basic gimmick, his pseudoderm mask. Oh, and it just so happens he was trained in martial arts by Richard Dragon. Yawn. However, when they changed the Question in the Justice League Unlimited animated series into a conspiracy theorist oddball, that’s when he became interesting. Given what happens to Charlie in 52,  I think the passing of the torch to Renee was a good evolution of the concept.

52! Week Fifteen

52 15
By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Moll, Nguyen, Sinclair, Fletcher, 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

“Outshined”

Week 15, Day 1, 3, 4

Booster Gold is forced to remove his Ferris Aircraft sponsorship from his uniform. He continues to receive Past Due notices in the mail and starts drawing on the NewsTime cover photo of Supernova, complete with comical mustache and knife stabbed into the new hero’s head. Finally, in frustration with the online coverage Supernova is getting, Booster appears to pour water on his laptop.

Week 15, Day 5

A desperate Booster is looking for anything to get him into the good graces of the people of Metropolis. Skeets obliges when it announces that a nuclear submarine will crash in midtown.

In Kahndaq, Renee Montoya is removed from her jail cell to be interrogated (but she states it’s torture). When they pass by what looks like an empty cell where Charlie was, Renee becomes very concerned for her partner. But Charlie uses his binary gas to create a diversion, allowing Renee to take out her guards and free Charlie.

Clark Kent discovers that the nuclear sub is being carried by a mythical beast called a Ballostro, and he races off to get the story. Booster arrives, trying to defeat the beast, but only succeeds in causing a blackout. Supernova arrives, providing light for the nearby citizens and teleporting the Ballostro away. He stops to check on Booster while the crowd heckles Booster. Booster attacks Supernova and they fight. Skeets informs Booster that the nuclear sub is leaking radiation, and Booster uses his supersuit to raise the sub high  into the Metropolis sky, where it explodes. Supernova catches Booster and reveals that Booster is dead.

Thoughts

Another great cover image with the blood spatter and Supernova reflected in Booster’s goggles. Some of the cover text is done as if the comic book was the news document, a diagetic element I really like. The cover suggests, possibly, that Supernova is responsible for Booster’s defeat (demise?), but in a way, he really is.

Booster’s growing hatred of Supernova is comically rendered at first, then takes a darker turn when Booster assaults the new hero, and then the story as a whole takes an even darker turn when Booster apparently dies. I have to say, when I first read this issue 15 years ago, I was genuinely surprised but still skeptical because why infuse this series with so much of the character and then kill him off not yet a third of the way through? Did Supernova have something to do with this situation leading to Booster’s death? After all, his comment to Booster about not letting what the crowd was saying about him get to him, and then jabbing at him with, “Of course you aren’t. I mean … why start now, right?” This is the first time Supernova is shown to be something other than a stereotypical, altruistic superhero. His comments perhaps suggest that he has some sort of connection to Booster, or it could just be that he, like the Metropolitans, doesn’t hold Booster in high regard. I think I remember where this ends up, and while I don’t recall the details completely, it is a fun twist that possibly (I assume?) sets up Booster’s 2007 solo series (?) — I have that run of comic books but have not read them yet.

Death seems to be a theme in this issue because things do not look good for the Question. After Renee frees him from his cell, Charlie weakly tells her, “I’m … ngk … with you to the end, Renee …” — notice the emphasis. If this is indeed the beginning of the end of Charlie, I’d forgotten this start of it.

The Origin of Steel

by Waid, Bogdanove, Sinclair, Napolitano, Richards, Wacker

I still don’t know Steel’s backstory that well. I knew about his work with Amertek and the guilt he felt, but I didn’t know that he tried to commit suicide.

The bit about Luthor’s scheme to end Steel by transforming John’s skin to liquid metal makes no sense. Besides having steel for skin (paging Power Man …), what’s the downside? I sure hope there’s more to this story in 52 as we go forward. Also, in the Powers and Weapons section, apparently Steel’s hammer “whose kinetic energy increases with distance thrown”. Was that part of Steel’s transformation or always a part of his hammer? I find that an interesting part of this hero, but why move him away from his armor to this steel-skin thing? It’s not like DC didn’t already have metal men roaming about.