|May. 7th, 2007 11:50 pm 52 Down, 52 To Go|
So 52 is finally over. Other than some necessary wheel-spinning in certain weeks, it rounds itself off to telling a nicely complete story or, several of them. Plus, Booster Gold gets to totally be the hero, and I have a soft-spot for that kind of thing. Thanks to 52 Pickup (http://www.silverbulletcomics.com/news/story.php?a=1394) for keeping track of certain lesser-used plot points.
52 is not high-literature. It’s particularly niche to fanboys and girls. 52 could’ve not happened and you really wouldn’t have noticed.
However, as an experiment, and an act of completism, it collects high-marks. Its primary mistake has been forcing the DCU to drag its feet over the past year, waiting for 52 to resolve so we could get around to what most of us have known/been able to guess for the past year: Hey, the Multiverse is back!
Great, now get to telling us what that means.
The story of 52 does deserve some credit for being a nice mosaic piece that told a well-managed story in the space allotted with nary a scheduling hiccup in sight. Even if the thing was crap from start to finish, maintaining the scheduling and quality would be worth writing home about. Was it crap from start to finish? Read on.
Below I’ve broken it out by storyline, going from my least to most favoritest.
Steel and Natasha Irons: The Power of Every Man
I like Steel, and I liked the heart of this arc: Uncle John can’t seem to connect with his niece.
It’s a family piece at its heart. It promotes solid work ethics, and a do-it-yourself attitude which should certainly be the legacy of a dude named John Henry. The guy who took it on himself to become a Superman when there was a Superman-shaped void in the DCU.
Speak of a Superman-shaped voids, Luthor gets antsy without an arch-enemy to bate. So he decides to pick on the next closest thing, Steel. Luthor is probably one of the greater casualties of 52. Lex has been so many things since the last Crisis. Through 52 and OYL he’s been reduced to an unambiguous pseudo-scientific goober (more in-line with the hammy movie versions than the storied comic character).
He’s eeeeevil again, which is a shame as far as I’m concerned. It calls out his concept as a sham. Given the opportunity to humble all the world’s heroes by handing out superpowers, Luthor already has a plan to take away those powers and commit mass-murder. Then he gives himself superpowers so he can be a jerk whenever he wants. I wish there were some question about his motives left on the floor, but there aren’t.
He pulled a supervillain b/c he couldn’t think of anything better to do with his time. This is supposed to be one of the world’s strongest scientific minds, a man outraged by what Superman represents in the face of mankind’s achievements. Yet he squanders this opportunity to pick on Steel, Natasha, Supernova, and a thousand faceless extras just b/c he can. Boo-hiss to you sir. I said, good day.
This story was good for Steel, and good for Natasha. It was terrible for Luthor ever being perceived as more than a four-color archenemy. I like some of the returns to Silver Age sensibilities, but villainous villains for villainy sakes aren’t nearly as interesting. I don’t mind a few nefarious ciphers, but your second-most recognizable villain should probably have more going on than that. It’s especially odd in contrast to the other eggheads in other parts of 52.
This story is the first to reach fruition and resolves fairly early in the year. Really, I was glad when it was done. It had already gotten as interesting as it was going to. John and Natasha learn to work together, and will be kicking off some kind of new Infinity Inc. later this year. Good luck to them.
RIP anything interesting about Lex Luthor.
I’m not sure who wrote this part, if I had read more JLA, especially when Steel was a member, it would probably be easier to suss out. I expect it was either Morrison or Waid pulling the lion’s share here, but have no strong leaning either way.
Black Adam Family: Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
As the real centerpiece of 52, you could’ve expected more from this story. It spends a lot of time changing Black Adam, only to put him right back where they found him. Wow, I love spinning my wheels. Lookitmego… nowhere….
Not all of it was bad but most of it sucked. It makes a big to-do about starting a Black Marvel family, and giving the man some much needed respite from his full-time job of hating everything ever.
He starts a family again. He even takes them behind the statue of his old family and gives them a little jolt of Marvel whammy so they’ll be better than his old family. Oh, them? They’re the reasons he went batshit crazy like, a million years ago or something. Just focus on this new family. Look, they have a talking crocodile and a cripple cum sidekick. Truly, tragedy hath left the house of Adam.
Yeah, yeah, we all believed that.
No. They get creamed, he gets all pissed off, kills wantonly, blah blah blah World War III.
World War III was okay for what it was. A way to crunch OYL into one week, kill some more people, and have massive superhero fights! Rad!
The problem with the giant superhero fights is our cherished heroes’ --who have thwarted villains time and time again (including Black Adam-cough-cough)-- best plan is ”Rush him!” This happens, like, 80 times, and nobody stops and wonders if there’s another way of looking at the problem. Where’s the Question when you need him…? Brrr, did it just get chilly in here?
Some of the dogpiles are hilarious too, b/c, like Green Arrow, Arsenal and Vixen are rushing Black Adam. Teth-Fucking-Adam doesn’t give a fuck about Ollie, Roy, or Mari. Someone needs to JLA-port their asses out of here. Seriously, it’s not safe. I also don’t suggest the Doom Patrol or the Teen Titans should be out after dark trying to fight Black Adam. Teth Adam craps bigger than Frankenteen on his days off from crapping things bigger than Robotman. Cuidado! Go home!
Seriously, get some Green Lanterns, get Donna, Power Girl, some Marvels, and Martian Manhunter, and have a plan. Like dragging his ass into space and beating the Teth out of him. Have a Plan B. Have Plans C through G ready as well. I’m not saying Teth Adam is small change, but let’s face it, the DCU is built with some large change. You shouldn’t be resorting to Oliver Queen or Garfield Logan yet…. Raven can stay.
Eventually the Wisdom of Solomon thinks of something else, and the day is saved. Whee.
I call Geoff Johns, and then I call shenanigans on Geoff Johns.
Animal Man, Adam Strange and Starfire: Lost in Space
Three of the most interesting characters in one of the least interesting stories. This was mostly a road cum war movie through unrecognizable space. Tonally and information-wise, this story ambled away from its earthbound cousins. I guess I expected a tour through New Earth’s New Space. Complete with Green Lanterns, Omega Men, Fourth World, established DC space, maybe some pre-Legion-themed nonsense.
Admitted, most of the above list made it to the party in some way or another. It apparently set up some Omega Men story, and gave us Devilance the Pursuer for a minute. It introduced the Emerald Eye of Ekron straight from the Emerald Head of Ekron. For some reason it world-built Lobo. Some Green Lanterns show up, albeit a little too little a little too late.
This was no delightful jaunt through the literal DC Universe. Nary a Thanagarian, Tamaranian, Khund, Gordian, Daxamite or Bizmolian in sight.
The story was never bad, but it was never great either. It was filled with enough tasty character to get you through it, but it never really went anywhere that really matters. (shrug) Not every story needs to.
I call Grant Morrison. Not just for the Animal Man --though I think that’s compelling evidence. It’s all the little nuance that Grant brings to the table. Devilance, the whacky Lobo theocracy, the character studies, the fourth-wall breaking, the yellow aliens, the Emerald parts of Ekron, the thrice screwing of all the characters but ultimately happy ending. All smack of Morrison. In a good way. Without him it could’ve easily been unreadable since there was very little to fanboy about. Unless you’re one of those people who doesn’t get that Lobo is a joke.
Elongated Man: Stretched Thin
In the end of Identity Crisis, wasn’t Ralph coping and getting better? Can’t a hero just deal with loss like normal people? Apparently not. Ralph is on the verge of batshit crazy through most of 52. He drinks too much, joins cults, spooks his friends and talks to a helmet a lot. What I expected in space happened here. Ralph takes us on a tour of the magical world of the DCU. Literally magical, not Disney magical.
The worst part of this story was, never knowing if it was actually going anywhere. Weeks on end of wondering why they were beating up Ralph like this. Parts of the story were nigh-unbearable, if only b/c you expect and want better for Ralph. Heroes acting loathsome is often uncomfortable, and not always in a good way. Thank the goddess for good storytelling b/c it never lost you entirely. Ralph found himself unable to take revenge on Jean Loring for instance. That was nice, and reminded us our hero was still in there somewhere.
Ralph spends the entire year trying various ploys to resurrect his dead wife. Eventually this has him following the Helmet of Nabu (aren’t you supposed to be hurtling through space?) through the mystic underbelly of the DCU. Hell and back again (a Hobbit’s Tale). Somewhere in the story it becomes a scavenger hunt for various arcane doodads to perform some big-time gris gris that will finally bring Sue back to him. Ralph drinks more and more on-panel and even steals from a cripple (albeit a supervillanous cripple).
Finally the stage is set. The big ritual comes. A drunken Ralph is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to get his wife back.
Then there’re three or four reversals, all of which make Ralph awesomer and awesomer for the plot twists. He reminds you he’s a detective, and a hero.
You go Ralph. You’ll be missed if you’re really dead… or if you don’t find some posthumous career.
I believe this story is Mark Waid all over. It pulls a bunch of DC reference volumes out, and walks the fine line between melodrama and legitimate emotional storytelling. All of which I consider Waid traits. My second guess would be Rucka if only for the mystery and tonal aspects.
Renee Montoya and Victor Charles Szasz (Sage): Answer the Question
This story drug its feet a lot, but it was often the story I looked forward to the most each week. Certainly a favorite. Renee Montoya is flushing her life down the toilet because they cancelled her comic or something. The Question decides to pick on her, b/c it’s pretty much what he does. This is why most heroes fear the Question. He’s a pain in the ass. He’s that guy who, when he senses you don’t want to talk about something, just won’t let it drop.
He crawls up Renee’s ass and dies (no pun intended… until now). The various mysteries are okay, but mostly it’s just a great buddy movie. Renee is exactly the type of despicable person I like reading about, and Charlie is obtuse and pedantic in a way I really appreciate. Be warned, this isn’t the JLU’s conspiracy nut. If this is your first introduction to DCU Vic you’ll find there’s just as much to love.
The inevitable passing of the mantle could’ve annoyed me. But it took so long and was characterized so nicely. It was a welcome relief to have Renee finally accept what we’ve known for awhile. It was very organic. I hope fanboys don’t hate her out of office, b/c I rather like this move for Montoya. They flashed classic Vic on Earth 4, so take heart fanboys, and let Montoya do her thing.
I’d put my money on Rucka doing the writing honors here. He has a history with both characters. The pacing, Gotham, the mysteries, the fine characterization, the undeniable readability. None of which I have a problem heaping on Rucka’s desktop.
Doctor Will Magnus and T.O. Morrow: Full Metal Scientists
All the mad scientists are disappearing.
That’s a great setup. It immediately engages your imagination. What would someone do with all the DCU’s greatest mad-thinkers? What COULDN’T someone do with all the DCU’s greatest mad-thinkers? This was one of the more immediately interesting stories that slowed to a crawl in the middle but came back to have a tremendous ending.
It got off to a good start, setting up a very interesting relationship between Will and Tom. I would doubt this was a canonical friendship/mentorship, but it made enough sense that it was easy to go with. I like when superheroes and villains just shoot the shit, and you get a few weeks of just that. One mad scientist to another, “How’s the life?”
Then Doctor Morrow disappears.
Predictably, Will is snatched up shortly thereafter and taken to… Crazy Science-Shit Island! It’s like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory after a psychotic break. Intergang is collecting all these loons to build superweapons and junk. That’s the mystery.
Here’s a blank check; memo: Build me some crazy shit. Love, Intergang.
It slows down in the middle, but nutty scientists chasing robotic bugs is fun any day of the week, so I was almost always entertained. Will hit a batch of bad story in the 90’s which they’ve retconned as a breakdown on his part. Provided he stays on his meds, he’s less-crazy then his bunkmates. Which totally harshes everyones’ mellow. So Will is the timid underaged freshman, ala Real Genius; and Tom Morrow is his Val Kilmer. It’s pretty much just that stupid, and I dare you not to love it. They have Thanksgiving for Christ’s sakes! Sociopathic multinational geniuses celebrate Thanksgiving!
They become the catspaw for the better portion of the finale. Black Adam storming Oolong Island is hands-down my favorite issue of 52. It’s a riot, and the greatest minds on Earth do what all of Earth’s heroes couldn’t. They give Teth Adam the wedgie of his life. They deep six him, put laxative in his chocolate milk and stuff him in a locker. Indian burns. The whole package. The only thing missing from this PCU of the DCU was the snooty jock rich kid with whom to one-up. Ira Quimby is all too keen to point out, Black Adam is nothing, if not a snooty jock rich kid.
Will goes seven shades of crazy but gets to play good guy at the end, and so does Morrow a bit. It’s nice.
Which is why it pains me to say, this had to be Morrison. Had to be. I would shit my pants out of shock and awe if it wasn’t. You got me you Scottish bastard! You got me.
Booster Gold/Supernova: All That Glitters
Ah Booster. It all begins and ends with Booster. That makes my fanboy very happy.
I think this story ended up so good, b/c it started so bad. Similar to Ralph’s story. I couldn’t get over the idea that after all they’d put Booster through, the best they could come up with was to make him a jackass. A bigger jackass then he was at his inception.
It turns out that was on purpose. Booster cons us all as the audience by playing off his concept of a self-centered do-nothing. By the time they ‘splained everything, it kissed this stories boo-boos and made it all better. The mystery is certainly ruined by now, which is a shame, b/c this was a good reveal.
Booster gets to be ichiban big hero, and 52 worlds are a-saved with some really whacky pseudo-science. Yay! This wins the top slot even if its technically not the best. It had the best payoffs.
I give this one to Johns, which should show sometimes the kid is good. However, I suspect one of Geoff’s problems is he only listens to the first sentence you say, and then fills in the rest.
It’s as if someone told him, “Booster Gold? Yeah, he’s this screw up football player from the future, who steals a bunch of superstuff to come to the 20th century and become a commentary on the Reagan Me-Generation”.
“So he’s a time traveler? Awesome.”
“What? Oh, not really. I mean, he’s travelled in time, but—“
“Time traveler. Got it.”
I say that more based on the upcoming Booster Gold series written by Johns, but he really makes too big a deal out of Booster as chrononaut. Yes, Rip Hunter is in his rolodex. That just means he knows time travelers. But, whatever, Booster got to be kind-of awesome, Skeets is back around, and anything that gets his name out there is okay by me.
Good to have you back Michael.
Now go get Ted.
Bring on Countdown.
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