52! Week Thirty-Seven

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Olliffe, Geraci, SInclair, 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

“Secret Identities”

Week 37, Day 1

Skeets threatens the bottled city of Kandor demanding that Rip Hunter and Supernova surrender themselves to it. Rip tells Supernova to stall Skeets while he reassembles the circuitry of Supernova’s costume. Supernova exits Kandor and he is revealed to be Booster Gold. Rip tells Booster to tell Skeets everything to buy them more time.

Booster tells Skeets, “I’ve known what’s up with you for weeks now”. When Booster visited Rip’s lab, Hunter appeared and told Booster the truth about Skeets and they formulated a plan: Booster would gather weapons after faking his death and assuming the role of Supernova, whose abilities were the result of the Atom’s size-changing belt and the circuitry of the Phantom Zone projector in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

Rip joins Booster in the Fortress and activates the projector on Skeets. However, as Booster observes, Skeets has “eaten the Phantom Zone…!” Rip makes a hasty retreat with Booster, but Skeets follows.

Week 37, Day 4

While Green Lantern helps repair Star City’s electrical grid, Oliver Queen talks with Black Canary about Ralph Dibny, telling her that he’s unstable in trying to bring back his dead wife.

Week 37, Day 5

Lobo presides over Animal Man’s funeral, and then Adam Strange and Starfire head back to Earth. However, Animal Man wakes up, calling out to his comrades, “Don’t leave me!!!” Then the aliens that gave Buddy his powers appear saying, “And so it begins.”

Thoughts

What were they thinking, spoiling the reveal on page 4 on the cover?! That was quite the reveal, though, which can only be overshadowed by the upcoming one regarding Skeets. I like the whole bit about Booster’s dead body being from his future — I wonder if that was ever dealt with in any way in his solo series that followed this?

This issue, with the exception of the Star City interlude, was chock full of revelations: 1) Animal Man didn’t actually die and 2) his alien benefactors appear with an ominous sounding proclamation. Could you imagine the dread Buddy is feeling in that moment when he awakens, thinking he was abandoned light years from home and no way to get there? Alas, he has no time to ponder his predicament. Is there a connection to these aliens and what Rip Hunter is dealing with regarding the timeline and what Skeets has become?

But wait! They’re not done with us yet! This issue also features Dan DiDio’s DC Nation column that proclaims “This column is a clue!” under the 52 banner. I remember the message boards being abuzz about the secret code that, as I recall, I found out some months after this. I’ve never been one to try and figure out stuff like this*, content to let others with more time and inclination to do the legwork. What I don’t recall is if I found out the reveal at the end of the series first or this secret message — I think it was the former. I even went on one of those boards and proclaimed my appreciation for the new paradigm, something I don’t think I repeated.

In case you’re curious, the message was “The secret of fifty-two is that the multiverse still exists.”

The Origin of Firestorm

By Waid, Igle, Champagne, Sinclair, Lanham, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

Was fusing with multiple people a new thing with Jason as Firestorm? I only read a few appearances of this version of the character, and I know his series was a favorite of one of my friends, but I’ve yet to read it. I liked this time at DC Comics when the successors to these characters were younger and not another white dude (like Blue Beetle and not like Kyle Green Lantern).

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 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?