52! Week Thirteen

52 13
By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Nauck, Alquiza, Sinclair, Napolitano, 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 for its 15th anniversary. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Haystack”

Week 13, Day 2

Ralph calls upon his Justice League friends Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Metamorpho, and Zauriel to infiltrate a Cult of Conner resurrection ceremony, but he needs to decide if he wants to allow the Cult’s attempt to bring back his wife, Sue.

In southwest Asia, Black Adam and Isis free some children from a slavery ring, and Isis convinces Adam not only to not kill the perpetrators, but take in the parentless children as wards of Khandaq.

Ralph does decide to not go through with the ceremony, and he accosts the leader, Devem, causing Wonder Girl to attack Ralph and then Green Lantern. The fight is swiftly over, but a fire breaks out after Devem kicks over a brazier. Ralph continues his angry tirade toward Devem but is interrupted by the dummy stand-in for Sue, who calls out to Ralph. He tells the other heroes to stop, that the ceremony “wasn’t a trick”. Cassie leaves with Devem while the assembled heroes begin evacuating the building. Ralph stays inside, hugging the Sue dummy as the building collapses.

Week 13, Day 3

At the ruins, Green Lantern announces that there is no body, meaning that Ralph got out alive, but worries about his friend’s sanity. We see Ralph under an overpass, repeating “try again” as he cradles the burnt remains of the Sue dummy.

Thoughts

So, I don’t get the issue title. It has to be the “haystack” from the proverbial “needle in a” idiom. But what is the needle? Sue’s soul (the dummy appears to be made out of straw)? Or is it “hope” (to tie both storylines together)?

There are a lot of talking heads this issue with perhaps far too much storyspace taken up by the resurrection ceremony, but I do love seeing the camaraderie between the Justice League members. As Metamorpho says, “Ralph called. I came runnin’.” Green Lantern also tells Ralph that the play is his to call, showing the respect between them.

Isis continues to have a positive affect on Black Adam. He tells her, “You show me hope. And no one has done that in so long…”, as Adam and Isis walk behind the freed children while the sun sets before them.

The panel showing the Sue dummy crawling toward Ralph was very creepy and a great page turn choice. The panel sequence that follows of the dummy speaking to Ralph and his quick realization that the ceremony appears to have worked, with two panels closing in on his face first and then his eye, was superb — Todd Nauck deserves kudos for this.

That final image of Ralph cradling the remains of the Sue dummy is unsettling, especially considering that Sue’s body was burned after she was killed. I do not care for the immediate “he’s lost his mind from grief” trope, especially because Green Lantern just expressed worry for that potential on the previous page.

The Origin of Elongated Man

by Waid, Nowlan, Nap, Richards, Wacker

Now this origin summary makes sense because Elongated Man appears in the issue and is a central character to 52. It’s a good recap of how Ralph became EM and the first superhero to reveal his identity. Speaking of, this is the most interesting aspect of Ralph’s superhero career and something that begs for more. Reading 52 makes me want to read more Elongated Man and Sue Dibny stories.