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

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?

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 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.

52! Week Ten

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

“Stop the Press”

Week 10, Day 1: In Kahndaq, Black Adam meets with his allies and potential allies. He is interrupted by the young woman, Adrianna Tomaz (who was given to him as a gift in issue three), who is attempting to flee.

Week 10, Day 2: At the Daily Planet, Perry White reprimands Clark Kent for allowing the Daily Star to get the scoop on the newest Metropolis superhero, Supernova. Perry tells Clark that because of his poor performance over the last few months, Clark is fired. Clark then sees Supernova flying by the Daily Planet and jumps out the window. His tactic pays off because Supernova catches him, allowing Clark to interview him.

Black Adam’s palace guards release Adrianna from her overnight holding cell and she and Black Adam have a conversation. She tells him that he will “plunge this world into war”.

Week 10, Day 3: Lois chastises Clark for throwing himself into harms way for a story, the irony of which is not lost on her husband. He tells Lois that he thinks Supernova is on the level.

Week 10, Day 4: Booster Gold is feeling sore that he’s had to relocate from his penthouse condo to a three-room rental and is looking to take it out on Supernova.

Week 10, Day 6: Will Magnus visits Dr. Morrow again, and he shows Morrow an empty cocoon that Dr. Sivanna had been treating with radiation.

Thoughts

Look at the artistry on display with this Jones/Sinclair cover. The folds and wrinkles in Clark Kent’s clothing and the look of the newspapers falling around him are just spectacular.

Notice the issue title is “Stop the Press”, not “Presses”. Aside from Clark’s employment issue (which is quickly resolved), these phrases usually mean that urgent information has come to light and needs to be disseminated. So what is that information this issue? That Black Adam’s mission will fail? That Clark is not a great reporter? That Dr. Morrow is still grateful that Magnus visits him?

The opening scene with Black is interesting for a couple reasons:

  • One, he says “Shazam” but the lightning does not come. He appears to be intrigued, but what will come of this? I love how the artists drew this scene, especially the middle panel: it’s just Adam staring into the sky with some birds in the distance — its a quit moment for him before all of the drama.
  • Two, the gathering. I have to confess, while I did recognize the big guy from the Great Ten and a Rocket Red, I had to look up the others in this two-page spread. From left to right, we have: Queen Cobra (who is new, according to my internet source), Sonar (whom I thought I recognized but wasn’t sure because of the way he was drawn), Lady Zand (whom I thought at first was Blackfire), Ibis the Invincible (whom I thought was a new Sargon the Sorcerer at first), August General in Iron, Cascade (whom I did not know was from the Global Guardians), and Rocket Red. I’m sure some of the “normals” in the scene are based on people who either work at DC Comics or from the artist’s life — there’s just too many of them looking at the camera to not be more than background characters.

Clark Kent is fired for underperforming. This is just calling out what we already know — Clark, in normal circumstances, is the equivalent of an athlete who is doping. Is he even a good reporter? I’ve always disliked that Clark got his job because he cheated (writing about himself), and it seems this reliance on his super abilities has only continued over the years. Hell, he even borrows a page from Lois’ playbook by falling into the arms of a superman! (And the later scene of her chastising Clark for that act was priceless.) Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

I loved the scene between Adrianna and Black Adam with her speaking truth to power. She’s also not a bit player and not a victim. Is their argument their meet-cute?

The scene with Lois and Clark is notable not just for their conversation about what Clark did and Supernova, but also for the fact that this is the first scene with one of the Trinity since the series started and we get an update on the other two! Speaking of Supernova, we see that he apparently can teleport, flies, has destructo-vision or something (more teleportation, perhaps?), and he gets Superman’s seal of approval.

Finally, in the scene with Morrow and Magnus, the former doctor is tidying up his cell by returning some books to a shelf. One is Brave New World and the other is 1984. Given the dystopian futures in both novels, how ominous is this message? Is Morrow preparing for his role in this future (taking inspiration from the stories) or are these just his version of “light” entertainment? In the next panel, we see Frankenstein, which is more up Morrow’s alley, but what do all of these books have in common with him, his situation, or this series generally?

History of the DCU, part 9

by Jurgens, Lanning, Napolitano, Cox, Major, Berganza, Cohen, and Schaefer

This installment was a reminder of everything going on between Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis, including Villains United, the Rogue War, the return of Hal Jordan, Day of Vengeance, the Rann-Thanagar War, the murder of Blue Beetle by Max Lord, Batman’s OMAC Project, and Wonder Woman’s execution of Max Lord. There’s also the rebirth of Jason Todd and Donna Troy, so this time in DC Comics publishing history wasn’t all about distrust, death, and destruction.