52! Week Twenty-Nine

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Batista, Jadson, Sinclair, Fletcher, 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

“Name Calling”

Week 29, Day 2

Wildcat and the original Green Lantern and Flash are the only ones who gather at the JSA headquarters, lamenting the possible end of their team. Outside, the members of Infinity, Inc. pass by as part of a Thanksgiving parade. Inside, Wildcat grumbles that these new kids “fight with no heart”. It is then that Infinity, Inc. introduces its newest member, Jade.

Obsidian appears, telling his father, “This isn’t right.” Jade tells the onlookers that she and the rest of Infinity, Inc. are here to do the superheroes’ job better. Obsidian then breaks through the window, demanding that Jade take off her uniform. Green Lantern steps in, stopping his son from doing any more harm. Nuklon tells Green Lantern that “the world doesn’t need antiques watching out for it when it’s got hundreds kids like us.”

On Oolong Island, the mad scientists have gathered for dinner while Sivana carves a ptero-turkey breast with a chainsaw. Dr. Magnus leaves the table after being drenched in ptero-turkey, and Dr. Cale follows him, revealing that she knows he stole Komrade Krabb’s gold watch. She also tells him that her specialty on the island is alien technology: “A higher, brighter, more terrible world has fallen to earth …. Oh, to live in such times. To see the world changed, forever.”

Chung Tzu arrives, seemingly irritated that he was not invited to dinner. He then demands an update from Dr. Magnus on the slow-moving Plutonium Man project. Dr. Cale then suggest that Chung Tzu remove Dr. Magnus’ medication to allow his “wild, dangerous, creative streak he’s been suppressing” to return. As guards take Magnus’ meds, he begs Professor Morrow for help.

At JSA headquarters, the Flash and Wildcat have finished boarding up the windows and Flash leaves to join his family, leaving Wildcat alone.

Week 29, Day 3

Dr. Avasti visits the Steelworks and finds John Henry Irons’ silver skin falling off. He tells her that Luthor’s Everyman program has “an expiration date.”

Thoughts

In the spirit of the issue’s title, there’s nothing sadder than a bunch of has-beens complaining about the new generation, right? And how appropriate that my least favorite DC Comics character is the whiny baby doing the complaining? Put a sock in it, Wildcat! I did like the panel where Green Lantern says, “Extant is dead,” with a picture of his dead daughter behind him. Though, maybe that was a little too on the nose?

When Obsidian assaults the new Jade, demanding she take off her uniform, now!, what did he expect her to do, unclothe in public? There was talk in this issue about how Obsidian has been crazy before but that he’s now better, but is he? Given how the “old” guard acted in this scene, perhaps Nuklon has a point?

The table setting on the splash page was kind of fun, especially with the ptero-turkey tray on a set of tracks (though, given how long the tray is, there’s no way it could turn the small corners) and the sheer glee on Sivana’s face as he slashed that bird.

In her last appearance, Dr. Cale seemed to be sane amongst the insane, but her discussion with Dr. Magnus and later her pricking her finger and sucking her blood proves otherwise. Plus, she is a cold one revealing Magnus’ Achilles heal as she did (but how did she know about his medication?).

It’s unfortunate that the creators decided to lean into the absurdity of Chung Tzu in this issue. He’s already absurd looking, but why also make him insecure and homicidal? It just served to diminish his authority to me. However, Professor Morrow’s silent indifference as Magnus was hauled away, pleading with Morrow to help him, only made Morrow more interesting to me. As Sivana told him, “Thank God there’s still some real evil in you, Tom. Thought you were turning pansy.” While this a great bit of characterization, I still have hope that Morrow will end up helping his former protégé.

By god, I am starting to loath Steel and his constant whining about Luthor’s experiment. Put up or shut up already, Irons! If something doesn’t change soon regarding this lot, Steel may join Wildcat on my most-despised list. They should have just given us another two-page Origin instead of this broken record.

52! Week Twenty-Six

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

“Halfway House”

Week 26, Day 1

The Black Marvel family transport Renee Montoya and Charlie 57 km east of Nanda Parbat, where they are greeted by Aristotle Rodor and Richard Dragon, who announces to Renee in a cryptic way that class is now in session.

Week 26, Day 2

John Henry Irons, Steel, appears on Jack Ryder’s talk show, You Are Wrong, to voice his accusations against Lex Luthor’s Everyman project. Natasha joins the interview to refute her uncle, and then gets a call about an explosion and she rushes off to help.

Week 26, Day 4

The Black Marvel family join Dr. Sivana’s ex-wife, Venus, and their children — Junior, Georgia, Beautia, and Magnificus — for dinner. Lady Sivana then requests the Black Marvels’ help in locating the missing Dr. Sivana.

At Oolong Island, Dr. Cale arrives to help the other assembled mad scientists with the Four Horsemen project.

Bored at dinner, Osiris leaves, and then the rest are seemingly attacked by a mutated crocodile, who grabs some food off the table and escapes. Later, Osiris encounters the crocodile man who tells Oriris that Dr. Sivana experimented on him, turning him into the creature he now is, and that he is so very hungry.

Thoughts

I love the old Hollywood horror movie inspired cover. It teases us with the red coming from the Black Marvel family but ending in a claw shape — is the claw symbolism? Plus, while red here denotes evil or blood or danger (at minimum), you get to see Black Adam in Captain Marvel red and yellow, which totally subverts the symbolism while reinforcing it. Deftly conceived by Jones, and, my god, Sinclair owns this image with the beautiful coloring.

The cover title, “The Beast Who Came to Dinner”, is a much more descriptive one (if perhaps too on the nose), but the writers/editors just had to be cute and call attention  to the fact that we’re now halfway through the series (where is the “halfway house” concept in this issue anyway? Perhaps Nanda Parbat for Renee?). And now that we are halfway, where are we in the story? Not that closer to resolving any of the mysteries or conflicts set up for the last 25 issues, but perhaps setting all that up was the point of the previous act? And we get even more characters thrown into the mix! Given how many creators are on this book and all of the characters and plots, this series should have been a disaster. Thank goodness it wasn’t, but I’m now thinking they put form over function a bit, sort of how a television series will often have some “filler” shows to meet that 22-24 episode requirement, i.e., some of these plots are a bit thin and they just keep stretching them out (I’m looking squarely at you Irons family drama) to fill 52 weekly issues.

Specifically regarding this issue, I do like the little flourish that Olliffe adds in the first scene with flowers springing up on the ground where Isis stepped.

The whole scene with the Sivana children was a nice comedic distraction. It also sets up a future, potential plot-point with Waverider appearing briefly on a monitor, saying, “I know why.” And there’s something about the fact that Venus Sivana’s $20M donation to Kahndaq’s children’s hospital makes Black Adam accept her dinner invitation — he’s become quite the politician in such a short time.

Finally, a minor quibble. Ii the Oolong Island scene, some dialog is mixed up in the last panel where it appears that Dr. T. O. Morrow addresses Dr. Magnus as “Morrow”, or perhaps he’s just entered that phase of megalomania where you refer to yourself in the third person.

The Origin of Hawkman and Hawkgirl

by Waid, Bennett, Jose, Sinclair, Brosseau, Richards, Wacker

This describes accurately the state of affairs of Hawkman and Hawkgirl at the time of publication, leaving out the creepy way that Carter hit on Kendra. That was the only misstep of the Hawkman reboot started in the JSA series and continued in the Hawkman (2002) title.

52! Week Twenty-Two

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

“Burial Ground”

Week 22, Day 1

Supernova’s taunting of Lex Luthor (as Superman did) drives Lex to test the metagene therapy on himself.

Week 22, Day 2

Jon Standing Bear, a veteran with a spotty service record, arrives in Metropolis after throwing a rapist out the window of a moving bus.

Week 22, Day 3

Luthor receives the news that his genes are not compatible with the metagene therapy, and that does not make him happy.

Week 22, Day 4

Standing Bear attends his father’s funeral, and after, argues with his grandfather, who reluctantly wants to give his grandson the Manitou Stone, which, according to Iraquois legend, grants its bearer great strength, speed, and senses. Those who possess its power are called “Super-Chief”.

Week 22, Night 4

Standing Bear stands over his grandfather, holding in one hand the Manitou Stone and the other a pillow, which he is using to smother his grandfather. He tells him, “There. We’re both of us saved.”

Week 22, Day 5

While Steel watches Lex Luthor declare his School of International Business Studies open, Luthor is challenged by a Mr. Ferry about Luthor’s ability to turn on and off the powers of those who have undergone his metagene therapy. Steel later tells him that he will listen to Mr. Ferry’s story and “I’ll make sure the world listens”.

The government arrives at Dr. Magnus’ house intent on taking the knowledge of how to reproduce the Metal Men. Magnus is able to stave off the assault using science, but then a giant robot arrives that blows up Magnus’ house.

Thoughts

Luthor’s thinking that Supernova is Superman in disguise is another demonstration that while the guy is a genius, his prejudice clouds his judgement. It reminds me of Byrne’s Superman #2 when Luthor was presented with data that proved Superman was really Clark Kent and Luthor could not accept that conclusion. Everyone has their blind spots.

The bus Jon Standing Bear uses as he arrives in Metropolis has the tagline “Go Fastback” with a logo of the Zoo Crew character. Also, the back window advertisement is for a Silverblade movie. Silverblade was a 12-issue series from 1987 (which I have not read) about a man who could become any movie character he played. I love it when the creators play around with details of the DCU like this. What I didn’t like was how the police just shrug off Standing Bear’s assault of the convicted rapist — I know the guy’s a bad dude, but Standing Bear threw him out of a moving bus on the freeway! I guess this is to show how edgy Standing Bear is, but we also get that with him smothering his grandfather.

Super-Chief was a new character to me when I first read this issue, and I did not realize it was a character dating back to 1961 (All-Star Western #117)! However, his design reminds me a bit of Black Bison. This is an entirely new character introduced nearly halfway through this series, so what is Super-Chief’s role in 52 to be? Given that I have no recollection of this character at all, it must not have had a great impact.

I don’t understand the scene with Luthor at his business school. We already know (and have been told twice and having seen it in action) that Luthor can turn off the powers of those who undergo his metagene therapy. If we’re to have a distraught “client”, why not have it be a member of Trajectory’s family so at least we have a throughline? Plus, Steel already has data that claims Luthor can do this, so what is he waiting for? I wish this storyline would end.

I liked the Magnus scene because we see him struggling with his “mad scientist” persona (which is why he’s on medication) but still showing he’s a scientist who can address a crisis when he uses his knowledge of the Metal Men to defeat a few of the “clones” sent after him. What I don’t get is why the government sent the Metal Men “clones” to gather Magnus’ research/data. Human agents have visited him before, and based on every movie or tv series I’ve seen, when the government comes for you, there’s not much you can do about it, unless they knew he had activated Mercury and anticipated a struggle? This scene and the issue ends with a giant robot (whose head reminds me of a Sentinel — or is it something specific to the DCU that I’m not understanding?) arriving, causing the agents to scatter. When Magnus sees it, he says, “I don’t want to be crazy again” and the robot responds, “Mad scientists only, Doctor Magnus”. That is such a great line, and ties into the developing plotline of the disappearing mad scientists. Who is the voice behind the robot, though?

The Origin of Green Lantern

by Waid, Reis, Albert, Sinclair, Lopez, Richards, Wacker

It’s interesting that Hal was chosen for his “fearlessness and honesty” (emphasis mine). The former makes sense given the development of the emotional spectrum (green overcomes yellow, i.e., fear) in the GL mythos, but honesty? I know that is what Abin Sur tells Hal as to why he was chosen, but why that combination? Does willpower in the DCU stem from the combination of fearlessness and honesty? I think you can be fearless and possess great willpower and not be an honest person (just look at Lex Luthor), so this aspect of Hal’s (and by extension all Green Lanterns) origin is curious.

52! Week Twenty-One

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Bennett, Jadson, Baron, Lanham, Richards, Schaefer, Wacker. Cover by Jones and Sinclair.

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series for its 15th anniversary. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Teambuilding Exercises”

Week 21, Day 1

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

Week 21, Day 2

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

Week 21, Day 3

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

Week 21, Day 6

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

Week 21, Day 7

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

Thoughts

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

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

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

52! Week Twenty

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Batista, Jose, Sinclair, Lanham, Richards, Schaefer, Wacker. Cover by Jones and Sinclair.

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series for its 15th anniversary. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“God Is Fragged”

Week 20, Day 1

Supernova appears in the Batcave, looking for something. He uncovers a few cases, including the one containing Jason Todd’s Robin costume. Then he uncovers a case holding a purple and green gauntlet.

Week 20, Day 3

Steel helps some Metropolis fireman as they evacuate a burning building. Doctor Avasti arrives to show John an analysis of Luthor’s metagene therapy with the revelation that Luthor can remove the superpowers his technology has given. To Steel, that spells trouble.

Week 20, Day 6

The planetoid where Lobo, Starfire, Animal Man, and Adam Strange have stopped at is attacked by, as Lobo describes them, “interstellar carrion that feed off dead an’ dyin’ planets”. The heroes do what they can to protect the assembled aliens, but it is only by using the Emerald Eye of Ekron that the carrion are destroyed. Lobo announces it is time to leave because by using the Eye, the Head of Ekron will soon be coming for it, placing everyone on the planetoid in grave danger.

Thoughts

Weird that Supernova invades Batman’s personal space like that, and what is that gauntlet and why does he want it?! Plus, the way that he pauses when he uncovers the case with the Robin costume, is that out of respect? Did Supernova know Jason Todd as Robin? Or is it more generally about the death of a superhero?

Steel seems to be enjoying his time as Power Man, I mean, the protector of Metropolis, but what does Doctor Avasti’s analysis mean for him and his niece?

I like the sci-fi elements in the Lobo/Trio of Heroes storyline:

  • The interstellar carrion that feed on dead and dying planets (that seems like a throw-away idea that could have been developed into something larger, maybe in the Green Lantern book?).
  • The Head of Ekron, flying through space searching for its right Eye — it’s reminiscent of Brainiac’s ship, though with apparent organic material and mechanical parts. I also love the design: the brain dome, the double tusks, and those huge teeth! It’s a mish-mash of elements that just looks cool.
  • The spontaneous regeneration of Lobo’s body from his pool of blood. It’s disturbing and awesome.

So here, I believe, is where DC retcons the origin of the Emerald Eye. Once relegated to the 30th century, the Eye did make an appearance in the 20th century DCU in the 90s series L.E.G.I.O.N., but in this 52 issue it is revealed that the Eye is part of a living (?) head. The nice thing about this change to the Eye’s history (and future history), is that it all still works.

The Origin of Adam Strange

by Waid, Nowlan, Lanham, Richards, Schaefer, Wacker

Adam Strange, as a Silver Age concept, seems like fun — blonde-haired man from Earth who travels to another planet and serves as its (white) savior? But looking at it now, from the lens of recent politics (and a bit of the take presented in the King/Gerads/Shaner Strange Adventures series), this origin does not sit well with me. Plus, if a civilization as advanced as Rann could develop an interstellar teleportation beam, why couldn’t the beam have been more precise? The way this origin tells it, it’s by chance that Strange was zapped by the Zeta beam. I guess Sardath was more of an idea man than scientist?