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.