With DC starting another weekly series and Figs anxious to continue his Morrrison-athon, this seems like a good time to take a look back at 52.

 

<SPOILER ALERT> .... Due to the amount of plot building and foreshadowing in this series, spoilers aplenty will be tossed about. You have been warned. ... <SPOILER ALERT>

 

DC has tried the weekly comic format a number of times. 

 

The granddaddy of DC's weeklies would be the Millennium crossover series.  I suspect this was issued weekly because DC wanted to confine its annual crossover to the summer.  Millennium started off with a bang but ran out of steam quickly after the initial Manhunter reveals.  One could argue that the story was forced to move too slowly to wait for each monthly to have a crossover.  In any case, DC’s takeaway was that another format would work better for their crossovers.

 

DC’s next weekly project was Action Comics Weekly.  This was run as an oversized anthology title with six different features; a Superman 2 pager, a Green Lantern 8 page lead, and four rotating 8 page features.  After 42 issues ACW was reformatted back to a regular length title, once again spotlighting Superman.  A number of the features received new titles and minis but DC did not try an anthology title again until the Showcase series in the 90s.

 

The triangle Superman titles were DC’s next go at weekly storytelling.  DC had four titles that were telling Superman stories, Superman, Action, Adventures of Superman, and Superman: Man of Steel, and they decided that rather than having each creative team look for a different perspective to differentiate their title, they’d have each storyline continue from one title to the next.  To make sure there were no gap weeks, Superman: The Man of Tomorrow was added to cover 5th weeks.  This system required lots of coordination and editorial control but lasted for a number of years, until the titles had a reason to separate after the death of Superman.

 

It was many years before DC tried another weekly, finally giving it a go with 52.  52 was a comic that DC put a lot of resources towards, essentially putting five of their top writers on one comic.  Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, and Keith Giffen crafted an anthology comic of interweaving stories set during a time the rest of DC’s line was restricted from using, except through flashbacks.  The comic was supposed to chronicle what went on during a missing year, and did to some degree, but ultimately wound up focussing more on the stories of its lead characters.  DC intended to have a puzzle that would be filled in, showing how the one year later status quos came about, causing fans to become more invested in their characters.  Fans became invested in 52 and its focus characters, making 52 DC’s most successful weekly to date, allowing most of the key characters to spin off into either minis or ongoings, and showing that people will read both weeklies and anthologies if the circumstances are right.

 

After the success of 52, DC almost immediately started another weekly, Countdown (To Final Crisis).  Once again, Countdown was set up as an interweaving anthology.  This time, the series was set up with one main writer and in the same time frame as the rest of the DCU.  Whereas 52 was off on its own, Countdown made a concerted effort to act as a “spine” for DCU current events.  This proved to be unwieldy for continuity and unsatisfying as a story.  Countdown proved to be a critical failure, mostly ignored going forward.  However, sales were high enough that DC decided to try another weekly the next year, Kurt Busiek’s Trinity.

 

Trinity was a more focussed story, with bigger name characters to increase its draw.  It initially focussed on the relationship between Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman but quickly veered into an alternate reality story about how the DCU would differ if Supes, Bats, and WW were removed.  By going with an alternate reality story, Trinity removed the need to coordinate with the rest of the DCU, however, it also became less “important” in the context of the DCU.  Ultimately, Trinity didn’t do as well as its predecessors, whether this was due to problems with the story or because Countdown poisoned the well is debatable.

 

The next weekly from DC was a departure in format, the broadsheet comic, Wednesday Comics.  This was an anthology set up like newspaper comic strips of old rather than comic books.  This had big names, working on varied characters, over a shorter time frame.  Each strip had its own flavour as the creative teams were varied and were not bound by comic book continuity.  Although, widely considered a creative success, more volumes have not been forthcoming.

 

This leads us to DC’s latest attempt at a weekly comic, Before Watchmen.  Before Watchmen is different from its predecessors as it’s more accurately 7 minis with a common backup and trade dress.  It remains to be seen if the backup will in some way relate to the other stories or if the minis will have any themes in common beyond working towards Watchmen.  Regardless though, with its scheduling and a backup that requires all the minis for the full story, this has to be seen as a type of weekly comic.

 

So, as DC turns away from the interweaving anthology weekly in favour of linked mini series, the time has come to take a look back at 52 to determine what made it so uniquely successful.

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Issue 6

As far as I know, this was the first appearance of the Great Ten, broadening DC’s international diversity.

 

52 was a very ernest attempt to increase the diversity in the DCU, and to develop and deepen the background to the world. Black Adam's story starred exclusively 'Middle-Eastern' protagonists, Montoya and Batwoman were.. y'know! The geeky outsider science-villains are pusjed to the centre-stage as a group.

 

DC Comics often run the risk of blandly 'narrowcasting' towards the prejudices and worldviews of their core readers, instead of exposing them to other ways of looking at the world.

 

PC tub-thumping aside, it makes for more interesting stories, more varied interactions, and often a little more of the good kind of 'realism' that spices up superhero comics - when we see some of the complexities of our own world reflected in superhero comics.

 

Some fan communities have a word for when there is a very US-centric worldview in the comics - USian. It sometimes refers to when the writers think that what they are presenting wil seem as natural as apple pie to their readership, but for someone outside the US, there are a lot of questions being raised but not addressed. Having read to issue 13 or so of 52, it is fun to see Johns stretching himself to writing the non-US anti-hero Black Adam and his society. Maybe there is an exoticism going on there, rather than any kind of realism, but I can't find much fault with this primarily Johns-scribed part of the story so far. Johns naturally sides with the insiders, and doesn't question their values, so it is great to see him getting into the head and the story of an outsider like Black Adam. Maybe that's why I am enjoying the Black Adam thread so far.

 

The Green Lanterns are trying to stop yet another alien arms’ smuggler... it seems to be a trend.

 

The arms-smuggling seems to be the plotpoint that is starting to tie the various threads together. I'm glad there is an overt Fourth World connection as the whole plot point is very much in the vein of Kirby's Fourth World, where the King came up with the idea of a technological super-power starting to interfere in the doings of less advanced societies. Given the callbacks to the Vietnam War etc in the original Fourth World books, I'm starting to wonder if kirby was deliberately satirising America's own interference in countries that were none of its business by presenting the machinations of Apokalips as a direct parallel. Maybe off the point of 52, but they are all one huge text at the end of the day, and we have 5 fine creators here developing Jack's very dense text yet further. Everything comes back to Kirby.

 

Skeets claims that the Kord tech in the lock is an ancestor of his, (echoing Hourman’s relation to Tyler corp.); a little too linked for me but YMMV.

 

I too don't like to see every single element of a superhero mythos tied up tidily. There should be a little wriggle room. I thought that having Martha Wayne in the recent Batman Earth One be one of the Arkhams was just too 'neat' and incestous for my liking.

 

Still, it's not hard to imagine that Skeets' tech incorporated the best 'algorhythms and programming of previous generations of computers. Good technology of the future would have many parents, I think...

 

I meant to add regarding issue 5:

 

Other items of note:

- Once again Starfire is bathing/swimming naked, but in this case it doesn’t seem exploitive, it’s for the characters benefit instead of the readers.

 

Well worth pointing out. I'm sure you were thinking of the early scene in the Nu52 Red Hood and the Outlaws comic where Starfire comes slinking out of the sea.

 

The scenes are so similar, they'd reward some comparison. The TPB notes for issue 5 mentions that the writing team settled on the team of Starfire, Animal Man and Adam Strange because she was such a free-loving spirit and they were two of the DCU's most happily married men. To cut a long story short the differences between the same basic scene in 52 and Outlaws seem to exemplify the differences in tone and direction that the writers of 52 wanted DC to go down, and where managment eventually took it. 52 was interested in studying commitment, responsibility, and repect, whereas much of the New 52 was about titillation, cheap spectacle and appealing to our less worthy instincts.

 

Issue 7

 

Day 1: Adam Strange is trying to fix the spaceship but isn’t getting any help from Starfire or Animal Man who are gorging themselves on some weird fruit.  Despite being blind and not receiving help, he expects the ship to be ready to take off by the planetoid’s sundown.

 

Despite this being Morrison's thread, some of it doesn't quite work.  Having spent some time reading old Adam Strange comics sinc e I last read 52, and becoming a big fan of the guy, I can't say that Morrison does much with the character, or even writes him properly in character.  What are we supposed to make of someone who is struck blind and immediately just goes about dismantling, fixing and putting back together a spaceship?  Who could do that?  It's a bad note in the tapestry, if I can be allowed to mix my metaphors...

 

I know in the old stories there wasn't much more to Adam than just being someone who never gave up trying when he had to get back to Alanna's side, but Morrison doesn't add to him in any way or develop any part of his personality.  Think of the wonderful work Moore did with the character, all fifties sleekness and chivalry on the outside, but roiling with violent sexual urges on the inside.  Mark Waid is a 52 collaborator who annoyed at least one JLA fan (me) by going to extreme lengths to bring back Adam Strange's old status quo in the pages of Morrison's own JLA, but neither writer seems able to do much with the character here.

 

Adam Strange is ratpack-era comicbook royalty, as far as I'm concerned, but he's badly served here.  Maybe he will be better developed as we go on, but I don't recall that as being so...

 

(I was hoping to read Adam Beechen's much-praised Adam Strange mini-series before 52, as another way to dovetail my Adam Strange and Morrison reading threads, but that didn't happen.  But even so, it doesn't look like Morrison is doing anything with that pre-Infinite Crisis version of the character either.)

 

Another bad note with the space team at this point is how little seems to be done with the 'forbidden fruit' plotline.  Starfire and Buddy both eat it and become indolent, but then stop eating the fruit and get batter.  It's not really a plotline is it?  Sometimes Morrison just likes to point to how his stories mirror classical/mythic texts, but he doesn't really do anything with it.  We are just supposed to be impressed that he's referenced some literary/esoteric stuff, even though he hasn't really put in the wrok to make us emotionally engaged with it.

 

It's interesting that you see an inverted Book of Genesis story being presented, with the Tree of Knowledge etc, as I saw it entirely as a reference to the Lotus Eaters section of Homer's Ulysses.  Maybe that's a bit of subtlety and craft there, that I missed the first time?

 

In any case, Morrison used the Lotus Eaters motif much better in the few frames that Green Lantern was tempted away from his quest for the Holy Grail Philosopher's Stone in JLA Rock of Ages.

 

In another callback to Kirby, the world the Space Team get stranded on and the villian they meet there are both from the last issue of Forever People.  I posited that the world 'Adon' has a special place in Kirby's output, and I think that Morrison tries to do it justice.  The Adon/Eden connection ties into your Book of Genesis musings, Mutt.  Morrison even subtly alludes to the how the world seemed to be in its own universe, locked away from ours in the Kirby story.  In 52, Starfire refers to the legend of the paradise-planet that only appears n our universe for a short while between long intervals.

 

There is good menace built up with the idea that somewhere so beautiful during its long days might harbour something terrible during its long nights.  That's a philosophically interesting idea, but it turns out that the only menace is from Devilance the Pursuer, so its another missed opportunity in the Space Team thread.  I guess Devilance has been stuck here since that issue of Forever People in 1972!  If so, Devilance doesn't miss a beat in getting orders from a higher power to entrap the Space Team for the Crime of Seeing Something They Shouldn't Have!

 

In some ways I'm not as demanding as yourself regarding what happens in these comics.  I wouldn't really object to Ralph looking Booster up in Metropolis.  For me, comics work largely on the level that if they show me something happening, then I just accept it.  I accepted Ralph going to Booster because Booster was getting a reputation, in Superman's absence, as a can-do sort of hero.  (If you need something done, go to a busy person...)  Anyway, I wasn't a fan of the 'Geffin League' (just haven't read much of it although it looks like fun) but I can see that the B and C list heroes would keep try to sort out their problems amongst themselves rather than call in the A-listers to help them out.

 

In the notes Waid discusses at length how he wrote the scene between Ralph and Booster.  Originally, he thought, 'how am I gong to avoid Ralph asking about Booster's knowledge of the future' but then realised that the best thing he could do would be to confront it head-on in their dialogue.

 

Rereading this series again, I'm surprised that Booster's plans go awry so early on (only issue 7).  For such a long series it seems the writers became conscious at an early stage how little space they had in which to lay everything out and develop their many plotlines.  (The notes say that there were actually 8 main threads working through the whole series!)

Issue 8

 

Day 3: Supernova makes his first appearance in Metropolis.

 

Supernova arrives!  Yay!  It's not often we get a genuinely new superhero in the DCU.  And this guy/gal seems to be all about getting the job done!

 

- Didn’t Booster learn Clark’s identity in JLA?  If so, then Booster was definitely rebooted in Infinite Crisis.

 

I guess that's how we have to take it.  Best not to sweat it, so.

 

No-one would have known more about Booster's relationship to Superman than Waid, Johns Morrison and Geffin combined.

 

We've talked about these rebootings before, and I have had long discussions with Philip too.  Ultimately, I'm in favour of them, if it means that the stories are more exciting and discernable for newcomers to the comics.  I was a newcomer to Booster/Geffin's JLA when I read 52, so sharing a knowledge gap with the hero seems very natural.  The alternative is that there's this club of heroes and longtime readers who know everything about all the characters and there's lots of off-putting references to older stories and much presumprtion that the reader should know certain stuff without which the story doesn't make much sense.

 

Stories have to have drivers and ignorance on the part of characters and/or readers is a strong one, so long as the story is structured around serving that knowledge-gap instead of just leaving it there as a barrier to new readers.

 

*On a personal note, whenever I see an issue that relies so heavily on facial expressions, I feel nostalgic for Kevin McGuire’s work.

 

This criticism could be directed at most of the comics produced under DiDio's watch.  DC in his era obviuosly favours dark scratchy 'photo-realistic' realism, which is fine for showing men in tights grimacing, but comicbook faces have to allowed much more cartoonish variety of facial expressions if they are to get across a wider spectrum of emotions and reactions.  So men in tights grimacing has been largely what we've got for the last 10 years.  I've been reading widely around 1998's DC One Million crossover, and much of the art then was quite cartoonish, and the emotional spectrum of the stories was wider.  Even the likes of JLA's Howard Porter and Starman's Peter Snebjerg weren't afraid to go beyond 'realism' if the emotional moment demanded it.

 

So there you go.  I have to admit that I wrote these responses without having the comics to hand, as I have moved house lately and certain issues have got  waylaid.  I'm looking forward to continuing on with the rest of the series.  It's not a flashy series, and not a 'quick flick' easy read, breezing from one 'big moment' to the next as current comics do, but it has depth and a sense that the creators are trying to do something serious and worthwhile, while still being a fun superhero comic.

 

Even though 52 was a huge seller for DC at the time, I am seeing 'the road not taken' here, when I compare the type of craft that was put into these comics to how later comics were put together!

Some fan communities have a word for when there is a very US-centric worldview in the comics - USian

As a North American, I don't really have a horse in the race but this has never bothered me.  My feeling has always been that writers should write what they know, (you know, like alien mind controlling starfish and stuff ;)).  So, while I like to see more diversity, I've never had a hankering for more international representation.  I guess, I'd rather not see certain things than see a hopelessly mangled and ignorant version.  I'm content with the international stories generally being off page, so to speak.

As an aside, I wonder just how widely American comics are read elsewhere?  I've always assumed that most countries that aren't American satellites, cough Canada cough, have their own comics industries.  Is this an ignorant assumption on my part?  Obviously, the UK must be an important secondary market, not to mention the rest of the English speaking world but when you get into other languages, do the big two even really service them?

I too don't like to see every single element of a superhero mythos tied up tidily. There should be a little wriggle room. I thought that having Martha Wayne in the recent Batman Earth One be one of the Arkhams was just too 'neat' and incestous for my liking.

I actually liked that aspect of Batman Earth One.  Old money families intermarrying is something that rings quite true and having Arkham blood instead of say, Kane blood, opens story possibilities.  I have to say though that the truly cool idea to me is the Arkhams being heavily involved in building Gotham.  It's one of those ideas that's so simple yet almost game changing.  It hearkens back to the role that Vanity played in Aztek.  A simple idea that just explains so much.  But I digress, back to 52.

It's interesting that you see an inverted Book of Genesis story being presented, with the Tree of Knowledge etc, as I saw it entirely as a reference to the Lotus Eaters section of Homer's Ulysses.  Maybe that's a bit of subtlety and craft there, that I missed the first time?

I didn't really notice all the biblical allusions on my first read through but it does seem to add that extra layer as setup for the crime bible.

I guess Devilance has been stuck here since that issue of Forever People in 1972!

Wow, a continuity tie-in that's older than I am.  Haven't seen one of those in a while.

I can see that the B and C list heroes would try to sort out their problems amongst themselves rather than call in the A-listers to help them out.

I guess this is more of a modern perspective.  In the old days, the League was A list.  If you were in the League, even if you had insecurities, you were an equal to the other League members.  Sure, Superman, Green Lantern, or Wonder Woman might have had more raw power but each of them was in the League because they couldn't handle everything alone and they enjoyed the company of their peers... even Green Arrow.  I guess this probably shifted during Morrison's JLA where the trinity were basically hero worshipped by the other heroes.  So, while I can see going to those you have the strongest relationship with first, I would expect Ralph to have a stronger relationship with Superman who he served on the satellite era league with rather than Booster who he was never on the same team with during the JLI years.  Maybe that's something else that was retconned.  I find the idea that the more powerful heroes, (plus Batman), would only associate with each other a rather sad commentary on the DCU.

 

- Didn’t Booster learn Clark’s identity in JLA?  If so, then Booster was definitely rebooted in Infinite Crisis.

 

I guess that's how we have to take it.  Best not to sweat it, so.

Actually, continuity reboots don't really bug me, (within reason), otherwise I wouldn't be a DC fan.  The reason I keep bringing it up is that I don't know if it's a reboot or a clue.  I guess we'll just assume reboot and look back and reevaluate if it turns out not to be.

 and the emotional spectrum of the stories was wider

We have colours for that now. ;)

Even though 52 was a huge seller for DC at the time, I am seeing 'the road not taken' here, when I compare the type of craft that was put into these comics to how later comics were put together!

Sure there's a lot of garbage coming out of DC for a few gems... but that's always been the case.  While 52 was published, the Hawkman series (and character) were pretty much destroyed again, Green Lantern lost all momentum and started to have a reader exodus, and the Legion title got completely taken over and bogged down with Supergirl.  In fact, I think you'd be hard pressed to find very many titles that benefited from the One Year Later initiative, even ones written by the 52 team.  So, while that time gave us 52, it also gave us a lot of crap.  It doesn't seem that different from today to me.

That being said, I do wish we'd get more self contained stories rather than crossovers and story fragments.  I just hesitate to say things were better back then.  I don't know, is it a case of looking back with rose coloured glasses or looking forward with blinders?

 

 

 

We still have a lot of ground to cover before the end of the year so I'm going to try to get a lot more consistent with the postings here... we'll see how that works out. :)  Anyway, on to:

52 # 10 - Stop The Press

 

Day 1: Black Adam is having a diplomatic party to spread his “Freedom of Power Treaty” wider when Adrianna, the “gift” from Intergang, escapes her tenders and crashes the party.  She makes a point of calling Adam a terrorist and spits in his face as she’s being carried away.

 

Day 2: Perry White is in the middle of firing a non-super Clark Kent for poor work performance, and specifically dropping the ball with the Super Nova story, when Clark spots Super Nova flying near.  Clark takes a page from Lois’ book and throws himself out the window so that he can be rescued by Super Nova and get an interview.  Over in Kahndaq, Adam visits Adrianna and informs her that she’s a refugee not a prisoner and she is free to leave.  Instead of leaving, she gets into an argument with Adam over his foreign policy.

 

Day 3: Clark recaps to Lois, (and us), the details of his Super Nova interview.

 

Day 4: Booster is forced to move to less pricey accommodations, as his endorsements have suffered, and appears to decide that Super Nova is largely responsible.  Skeets suggests that instead of focussing on Super Nova, they should focus a little more on why time is diverging from his data records.

 

Day 6: Dr. Magnus again visits Morrow, who, while unpacking some books seems to be expecting to leave soon.  Magnus reveals that they couldn’t salvage much from Sivana’s lab but they did find the remains of a cocoon he’d been irradiating.  This gets Morrow’s attention.

 

This issue had a ton going on, with hints and foreshadowing and many of the plots addressed; consequently, I think it was one of the strongest issues so far.

 

Black Adam is continuing to push for his “Freedom of Power Treaty”, (another treaty that would appear to do the opposite of what its name would imply).  It would seem Russia is now on board and Adam is attempting to broaden its acceptance further, in essence, trying to form another “super power” to recreate the cold war, this time with meta-humans as the weapons.  Some of the attendees are lucky they’re heads of state or they might themselves be targets of the execution provisions of the treaty.  Meanwhile, in explaining the need for the execution provision, Black Adam’s own fall is foreshadowed.

 

The idea that dangerous super powered criminals should automatically be executed is another idea that seems obvious from our real world perspective but doesn’t generally come up in the DC world.  This is not unlike making penalties more severe for gun crimes, except in this case, the individuals don’t have the choice “not to carry”.  Basically, this would cause another class of citizen that gets treated differently under the law.  So, while it would seem to have parallels, this would be a case where the DC world would actually be more morally ambiguous than our own.  What’s a country to do?

 

The Clark Kent sections are very well done and address a little how the world is working without having its Superman.  Clark personally is floundering, as he tries to adjust to not having powers, being forced to not only do things differently but also to consider things he normally wouldn’t even think about, (such as not being able to pick up a hot pot bare handed).  The public is off balance and “freaked”, not because the disasters were necessarily worse but because its reliable heroes are now missing.  This is the “world without a Superman” I would have liked to have seen, and while we get a number of great stories with 52, this is a storyline I wish they’d shown more.

 

Magnus’ latest visit to see Morrow yet again packs a ton of great moments into a relatively small scene.  We see Morrow being appreciative of his friend and yet jealous of him at the same time.  Through Morrow’s fiction selection we are reminded of both his and Magnus’ parallels to Frankenstein, (in fact, add in Sivana and we get a continuum, with Magnus being the only one who’s even barely acceptable to society), and get a little window into his view of society by showing that he relates to Brave New World and 1984.  By Morrow paying only marginal attention to the Sivana investigation details after being so interested before, we can infer that he now has an idea of what happened to him.  The somewhat veiled goodbye to Magnus even shows that there’s a level of trust between them.  Add in the reminder/hint about Mr. Mind and that is one hefty two pages.  (As an aside, I do wonder if Geoff Johns isn’t setting up Morrow so he can be used more like this in Justice League.  A part of the scientific community who begins to feel more and more disenfranchised as he looks deeper into the abyss.)

 

Other items of note:

- Another party is interrupted but with a different outcome.

- Black Adam says Shazam and nothing happens.  Another major icon away from the world.

- A hint is dropped about Super Nova - “he has an air of experience”.

 

Questions:

- I wonder what countries Kobra and Ibis represent?

- Black Adam is being called Mighty Adam again in his home country.  Is this just a sign of respect or an indication he’s unhappy with the way the world sees him?

 

Best line:

“Stop confusing me with logic.”

 

Honourable mentions to the tag line

“You’ll believe a man can fall.”

52 # 11 - Batwoman Begins!

 

Day 5: Ralph accosts a couple of young members of the “Cult of Conner” for information but gets distracted when he’s notified that his storage locker has been burglarized.

 

Day 6: Montoya and Sage meet up with Renee’s ex, Kate Kane, to learn who had been renting the warehouse with the alien weapons.  This information provides them another piece of the puzzle indicating Intergang is involved; eavesdropping from the shadows, Batwoman learns of this as well.  Investigating further, Montoya and the Question are able to learn of a shipping connection through Kahndaq, however, they are then captured by were creatures in the employ of Intergang.  As they are about to be executed, Batwoman bursts in and bails them out, but not before Renee recognizes Kate in the costume.  Meanwhile, in Opal City, we find out that the “Cult of Conner” has made an effigy of Sue, dressed in her stolen clothes and wearing her wedding ring.

 

With this issue, we learn that stupidity runs rampant in the DCU.  In Elongated Man’s story, we learn that the cult has been pushing and stringing along Ralph for weeks, all so that they can get a chance to bring Sue back; obviously, this would be the best way to approach that goal.  On the Question’s side, we find out that Montoya and the Question are incredibly bad detectives as it took them six weeks to determine ownership but luckily, once that’s accomplished, everything else is already answered in his van, (hmmm, maybe he’s an incredibly good detective).  Batwoman decides to get in on the stupidity race by stopping Montoya from shooting a were creature so that she can use the “much less lethal” approach of kicking him out a skyscraper window.  Needless to say, not one of the stronger issues.

 

Other items of note:

- The History of the DC Universe backup ends this issue with a reveal that there are multiple Monitors.  Another hint of the return of DC’s multiverse.

 

Best line:

“There is no way this isn’t about to suck.”

52 # 12 - Mighty

 

Day 1: Montoya makes the decision to follow the Intergang pipeline to Kahndaq.  Meanwhile, in Kahndaq, Black Adam at Adrianna’s suggestion, redirects water to an isolated village.  Adam then takes Adrianna to the Rock of Eternity to see about granting Adrianna power and making her a member of the Marvel family.  In Philadelphia, Ralph confronts Wonder Girl and offers his willing support for a resurrection ceremony for Sue.  Finally, Adrianna takes the power and is transformed into Isis.

 

This issue is very much focussed on decisions.  Montoya decides to follow the weapons to Kahndaq, (a decision that the Question sat back and waited for her to make).  (If it wasn’t clear previously, this comic leaves no doubt that the Question is training/preparing Montoya.)  Elongated Man’s head is jolted back into the game by another violation of Sue’s things and, after tracking Wonder Girl easily, he states his decision to help the Cult of Conner bring Sue back.  (Whether he really decided to do this is up for debate.)  Finally, Adrianna makes the decision to accept the power and become Isis.

 

With the introduction of Isis, Black Adam’s 52 story really shifts into gear.  In just a couple of issues, the Freedom of Power Treaty that seemed like it would be such an important part of the series gets backburnered as Adam’s priorities shift.  Adam begins to focus on the personal side of his life and building his “Black Marvel Family”.  It’s interesting to note that when Adrianna becomes Isis her priorities suddenly shift to finding her brother.

 

Other items of note:

- The Life Story of the Flash was apparently published in the DCU.

- Adam downplaying his desire for worship rings a little hollow when he’s talking about turning Adrianna into a Goddess.

- Captain Marvel appears to be taking advice from the sins as much as from Solomon.  (No wonder he looks unbalanced.)

- Cap reactivates the magic word, possibly setting up more additions for the Marvel families.

- Pride is happy about the turn of events which makes sense as Adam’s love and pride in his new family will lead to his fall.

- The two page origins begin in this issue starting with Wonder Woman.

 

Best lines:

“These are my guests and... you shut up now.  That’s rude, Lust!”

52 # 13 - Haystack

 

Day 2: The Cult of Conner is attempting a ceremony to resurrect Sue so Ralph has brought Green Lantern, Zauriel, Green Arrow, and Metamorpho in under cover to observe, offer opinions, and back him up.  His decision made, Ralph has the heroes break up the gathering but has some major last minute buyer’s remorse when it seems like something might be animating Sue’s effigy.  Meanwhile, over in Asia, Black Adam and Isis stop a slavery ring and rescue a bunch of orphans in their hunt for Isis’ brother.

 

Day 3: After the incident the night before, Ralph has hidden himself away from his friends and appears to have gone a little off his rocker.  A shadowed observer looks on.

 

This is the Elongated Man’s issue and it really takes a different tact with the story.  Ralph has assembled an Angel and a bunch of resurrected friends to help convince himself that the Cult can resurrect Sue.  When his friends don’t give him reason to hope, they disrupt the ceremony.  Their justification seems fairly limited beyond, “if I have no hope, why should you?”  In essence, the heroes have become the villains and Ralph’s lack of faith may just have cost him a lot.

 

Ultimately, the ceremony’s outcome is left vague.  Was it working despite not having any real materials?  Is it possible the materials were real but Green Lantern and Metamorpho being scientific heroes were unable to determine mystical properties?  Was someone deliberately trying to mislead Ralph in the final moments?  Or perhaps a more scientific explanation, did seeing the picture of Sue in the fire recall too closely Identity Crisis and cause Ralph to have a psychotic break?  What really happened is left up to the reader in yet another strong issue.

 

Other items of note:

- The blood kryptonite taking life essence brings to mind the classic Legion revival of Lightning Lad.

- Much like Kingdom Come, this issue seems to suggest that without its moral compass the DCU heroes act much less heroic.

 

Other questions:

- If Black Adam and Isis have spent a week dismantling slave camps, do they have the same argument as to what to do with the slavers every time?

 

Best lines:

“You’d be surprised how often this happens when someone lets me into a church.”

52 # 14 - Sand and Rust

 

Day 6: Montoya and the Question arrive in Kahndaq.  Steel’s self imposed exile at the Steelworks is interrupted when Doctor Avasti checks on him.  Dr. Magnus blows off some government goons interested in the Metal Men to go visit T.O. Morrow and in the process witnesses an attempted prison break before finding out that Morrow has actually escaped.

 

Day 7: Montoya and the Question stumble into a setup and are taken into custody by the Kahndaq authorities.  Magnus uses some machine code that Morrow left for him to get the Metal Men working again.

 

With Montoya and the Question now in Kahndaq, we’re about to have two of the storylines dovetail together for the second time in the series.  Likewise, for the second time in the series we have an item introduced that has an immediate pay off, (rat poison used to prevent people from ratting out Intergang), that is also setup for another plot point down the road.  Rucka however really ups the game by perfectly placing two separate spots of dialogue that foreshadow future events.   “... not knowing who I am”“Well that’s the question isn’t it?” and “I swear before this is over I’m going to hold his dead body in my hands.”  A quiet issue plot wise that still packs a punch.

 

Other items of note:

-The Haven prison facility for mad scientists must have been designed by mad scientists when even the ice cream vendors and the animals are part of the security system.  It sort of reminds one of The Prisoner.

 

Other questions:

- Why did Magnus’ robots suddenly stop working?  Was this a con by Morrow to win respect?  

 

Best lines:

“Any idea what we’re looking for?”

“You’ll know it when you find it.”

“That you’re way of saying ‘I don’t know’?”

“Yeah, but my way is more poetic.”

52 # 15 - Outshined

 

Day 1: Booster receives notice that Ferris Aircraft is cancelling his endorsement deal.

 

Day 3: A frustrated Booster defaces a magazine cover spotlighting Supernova.

 

Day 4: Booster gets upset with a Planet article stating Supernova’s star is on the rise while his popularity is bottoming out.

 

Day 5: In Kahndaq, Montoya and the Question escape from prison.  In Metropolis, an Atlantean monster shows up attached to a nuclear submarine and begins wrecking havoc downtown.  Booster’s attempts to stop the monster meet with limited success until Supernova arrives and teleports the monster away.  Angry at Supernova’s condescending attitude and theft of his spotlight, Booster lashes out at Supernova until an imminent threat of the sub exploding draws them both up short.  Booster uses his equipment to save the city but apparently dies in the process.

 

This was Booster’s issue, as we see him spiralling the last of the way down before attempting to redeem himself and apparently perishing in the attempt; unfortunately, Booster doesn’t really come off very heroic.  He starts by only considering to help with problems that will make a media splash.  Then, when he gets upstaged, he lashes out at another hero.  Finally, he decides to rescue the people of Metropolis by taking the chance his equipment can deal with the issue instead of letting the teleporter guarantee the safety of the city.  So, even though this wasn’t a terrible issue, if it had truly been Booster’s swan song, this would have been a true disservice to the character.

 

Interesting writing choices:

- The passage of days is used well to emphasize Booster’s increasing frustration and help us believe he can reach the boiling point where he will strike out at Supernova.

- The idea that Supernova would only deal with half the problem and then proceed to taunt Booster, on the face of it, would seem like a poor writing choice that one would normally associate with mediocre writers or editorial dictate.  However, with foreknowledge, it can be seen as building and reinforcing the mystery by using comic book excesses as a red herring.  Could the writers have actually intended to allow a weaker issue to build their mystery?

 

Other items of note:

- The people of Metropolis still haven’t learned to run away from threats yet.

- Clark is getting better at working without his powers.

 

Best lines:

“They didn’t seem to like the fact that he had no face.”

52 #16 - Uhebbuki

 

Day 1: Black Adam proposes to Isis.

 

Day 6: Above the people of Kahndaq, Captain Marvel officiates Black Adam and Isis’ wedding while below, Montoya and the Question stop a suicide bomber associated with Intergang and the “religion of crime” from killing the crowd.

 

Day 7: Adam Strange, Animal Man, and Starfire finally escape the planet they’ve been trapped on.

 

Another issue where a couple of story strands come together and this one does a much better job. 

The Question and Black Adam sections inform and give background to each other, with the juxtapositions making each part stronger.

 

Adam and Isis get married above the people and both the text and subtext make it pretty clear that they don’t just view themselves as rulers of the people, they see themselves as their gods.  Their marriage begins in flashes of lightning and thanks to Renee, spilled blood.  The only objector to these ascendant gods turns out to be a disciple of the religion of crime, ironically enough a child, the group Black Adam has helped the most.

 

Meanwhile, Montoya deduces that Intergang is planning on killing the crowd from a clue that was planted a couple of issues ago.  Once again, 52 has a plot point used one way initially but that has a secondary purpose, so that the plot plays fair in the set up without overly telegraphing things.  Since this was just a component of a mystery, it doesn’t have quite the impact of some the other examples from the series but it still works well in context.

 

Other items of note:

- The idea of a Black Marvel Family is setup; a concept this series will play with extensively.

- The dynamic between Montoya and the Question has shifted, with Renee now in the drivers seat.

- Captain Marvel seems a lot healthier away from the Rock of Eternity.

- It’s kind of interesting that on Earth they can deal with the seven virtues while at the rock Cap has to deal with the sins.

- Mary’s back in red... I guess she didn’t want to wear white since she’s not the bride.

 

Best Lines:

“He’s psychotic.”

“He’s driven.”

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