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 Thirty-Five

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Jimenez, Jurgens, Lanning, Rapmund, Hi-Fi, 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

“Rain of the Supermen”

Week 35, Day 1, New Year’s Day, 12:00:01 A.M.

Everyman Project recipients fall from the sky in downtown Metropolis. A gas main erupts, trapping the nearby citizens, but Supernova arrives, transporting them to the city limits. Infinity, Inc. helps out civilians elsewhere, and Natasha realizes her uncle was right.

Week 35, Day 2

Superheroes from various teams help transport the injured to Saint Camillus Hospital. Plastic Man reunites with his son, Offspring, who saved over 20 civilians. John Irons tells Beast Boy to “get the Titans together” so they can find out why Luthor took all those powers away.

Week 35, Day 3

Lex Luthor tells the Infinity, Inc. members, save Everyman, that they are clean of the “errant gene-sequence” that “caused so many participants to spontaneously reject their enhancements”. Later, Natasha confides in Skyman what her uncle told her, and wants his help to find proof against Luthor. Skyman tells her he will help and that he loves her.

Week 35, Day 6

Adam Strange confronts Lobo who tells the others that they don’t need to figure out how to fight Lady Styx and her armada because he’s taking them to her.

Thoughts

I simultaneously love and hate the issue title, but given Jurgens’ involvement with this issue and his work on Reign of the Supermen, I’m leaning towards love.

Those opening pages by Jimenez and gorgeous and grotesque. The tragedy unfolds as if in slow motion in the way the panels and action are shown on page 1, and then the enormity of the moment hits you with the following two-page spread. That’s some great comic book storytelling. It’s a pity Jimenez couldn’t have drawn the whole issue — not that Jurgens is bad, but side-by-side, there’s an obvious difference in skill and presentation.

I love how Supernova responds to a reporter’s accusation that he vaporized the crowd: “Don’t be absurd.” If you weren’t sure if this Superman or not, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that he’s not.

Has anyone ever touched on one of these Everymen and how this experience affected them? What was the fallout for Luthor?

In the scene between Natasha and Skyman, right after he tells her he loves her and they hug, we see a picture of the team behind them with Natasha next to Everyman — what a great mirroring of the fore-image (and is it foreshadowing???).

In the scene with the space travelers, it’s implied pretty heavily that Lobo isn’t helping the trio against Lady Styx, but is delivering them to her for the bounty, but I wonder if this is just a ruse that we’ll see play out next issue?

52! Week Thirty-One

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Batista, Ramos, Green, Meikis, 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

“Human Resources”

Week 31, Day 1

Adam Blake, Captain Comet, sends out a telepathic distress call five light years wide, asking for help against Lady Styx’s hoard. Meanwhile, two Green Lanterns investigate the disappearance of one of their own, thus hearing about Captain Comet’s efforts to save the people of Vardu. The Guardians, fearing an unknown threat, recall their officers from the occupied zones. Comet continues his telepathic SOS, describing the destruction of a planet’s ecosystem by the Believer Cubes and then the assault by the walking dead who chant Lady Styx’s creed: “Believe in her.”

Week 31, Day 2

Jade, of Infinity Inc., confides in Starlight (Natasha Irons) that fellow member Everyman creeps her out and she suspects that he has invaded her room. Skyman joins the conversation, grossing Jade out with the idea that Everyman, whose shapeshifting abilities require that he digest the organic material of his target, might be looking for her toenail clippings or hair. Natasha leaves, intending to talk to Jade, after she kisses Skyman, who then transforms into Everyman.

Week 31, Day 3

At the Superboy memorial, a constantly drinking Ralph Dibny asks Cassie Sandsmark if anyone in her Cult of Connor were spellcasters, necromancers, or telekinetics. She tells him no, and then reveals that she now agrees with Ralph that the Cult leader, Devem, is a phony and that she believes Supernova is Superboy.

Week 31, Day 4

Ralph meets with Supernova, telling him he should tell Cassie that Connor is not behind the mask. Supernova is more interested in knowing how Ralph deduced who he was. After Ralph vaguely explains, Supernova tells Ralph not to contact him again, and flies away saying, “There’s too much at stake.”

Week 31, Day 6

The Green Lanterns on Vardu are defeated, and the Guardians refuse Lantern Xax’s call for help. A terrified Comet sends out his last telepathic call before he jettisons his own consciousness.

Week 31, Day 7

Two Green Lantern rings are delivered to Lady Styx and she eats them. Nearby, Starfire, Animal Man, Adam Strange, and Lobo watch Styx’ armada leave Vardu.

Thoughts

What a scary opening! I had completely forgotten this part of 52, and man, it has put Lady Styx and her hoard in a new light, something that her appearances before now, not to mention the discussion about her, has not accomplished. In fact, that ending shot of Captain Comet with the look on his face and flayed body was positively chilling!

Not having remembered Lady Styx from this series, upon rereading I thought she was a knock-off of Annihilus and its Annihilation Wave from Annihilation, but the concept predated Lady Styx’s first appearance by six months (I believe)! So unless the writers at DC had advance knowledge of what Marvel was doing that year, it’s yet another example of Big 2 publishing coincidence or Keith Giffen was burning the candle at both ends….

Captain Comet is one of those DC characters I have little experience with or frankly interest in, but man, reading his appearance in this issue now has me very interested, not to mention wanting to discover what happens to him later in this series (if there’s more…).

The Guardians are such assholes and cowards. Nuff said.

Speaking of assholes, Everyman assuming Skyman’s identity to get into Starlight’s pants is just such a soap opera cliché. Everything having to do with Natasha Irons in this series is just bad, isn’t it? (Though, I will admit, I like that Everyman has to digest the organic material of the person or creature to which he transforms. Yes, it’s gross, but a nice twist on the whole shapeshifting power.)

Did you deduce Supernova’s identity from the clues Ralph threw out? I know who Supernova is and I still don’t get those clues!

The Origin of Robin

By Waid, Williams II, Sinclair, Fletcher, Richards, Schaefer, and Siglain

Dick Grayson will always be my favorite Robin, but Tim Drake comes close! I’ve always loved that he deduced who Batman and Robin were when he was a child! And then to prove himself to Batman and his other trainers, plus be the most measured, and smartest, of the Robins, just makes him an enduring character. Unfortunately, Damian Wayne eventually was introduced, sending Tim into an identity crisis: Robin, Red Robin, Drake, Robin again? Hot take: I think Tim should retire and become the new Oracle.

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.