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52: Week Five

52: Week Five

Scheduled to arrive in stores: June 7, 2006

Cover date: August 2006

Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Penciller: Keith Giffen (breakdowns), Chris Batista
Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti

"Stars in Their Courses"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Week five, day one:

Ellen Baker, the wife of Animal Man, takes down a banner that reads "Welcome Home, Hero" as Alan Scott, the first Green lantern, descends from the sky. He explains that Animal Man went missing. Ellen maintains a coy attitude, noting that he's missing (IE no body).

On the news, Lex Luthor announces that he has synthesized the meta gene, enabling ordinary men and women to be superheroes. He intimates that the world no longer needs superheroes.

Steel, meanwhile, gets a page to come to Saint Camillus, a meta hospital, where they're wheeling a 25-foot-tall Hawkwoman in on a flatbed truck.

Alan Scott explains to Steel, arriving on scene, that there was a teleporter accident on the way back from space. Hawkwoman grew, Alan lost an eye, and, as Steel sees to much horror, Cyborg and Firestorm have fused into one being. They are in time stasis, thanks to Dr. Mid-Nite.

Mal Duncan is spread out, with Red Tornado's processor fused into his chest. Steel begins to brainstorm ways to fix the boy, explaining that he had to replace his own hand once.

Alan explains that they don't know what happened, that he's lost one eye, and the other he has isn't even his original. He recalls a reality warping wave that came out from the healing power of the multiple Earths coming back together, and how they barely made it out. He breaks down a bit, recalling that Jade didn't make it back either.

Mal Duncan goes into arrest.

Captain Sawyer visits Renee Montoya, and they share a beer. Sawyer berates Montoya for doing detective work without a license, and Montoya suggests that Sawyer help her in getting one. Sawyer cautions her against rogue activity.

Mal Duncan is near death, but the crash cart isn't arriving. They're too busy trying to revive Hawkwoman. Steel reaches into some conduit and touches the young man's chest.

Duncan pops up, screaming Red Tornado's last words, that "52" is coming.

Week five, day seven:

On a far off planet, Starfire, Animal Man, and Adam Strange attempt to find a way back to Earth. Starfire enjoys herself, caught on a seeming paradise planet. Adam Strange, now without any eyes, seems to enjoy it less so, trying to get off the planet, and noting that there are things in the wilderness.

We see a beast's eyes.

BACKUP STORY: History of the DCU - Part 4
Writer (and layouts): Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Norm Rapmund

Donna Troy continues on her journey of discovery in the DCU, reliving the death of Supergirl, the end of Flash, and Superman of Earth-2 and Spectre banding together to fight off the Anti-Monitor.

3Main Story - 3: I'm very unsure, as a reviewer, what my responsibility is to this story. I'm still feeling it out, so bear with me. A lot of the issues raised by this series and a lot of the steps that are being taken are new, bold, innovative, and may fall flat or soar. The problem being, that's hard to know now, and it's very hard to criticize. Imagine this as Infinite Crisis, or the trade standard or six issues. This is 5 weeks into a 52 week story, so essentially, we're halfway through one issue of an EVENT. Can you say that it would be fair to judge Infinite Crisis on half of the first issue? No. I can't either.

So I'll just be as thorough as I can, I guess.

How's the series so far? Random. Chaotic. Setting up a TON of things that will either play our or will not. Is this bad? No. Because it's still in the stage-setting time. It doesn't bother me. There's all kinds of stuff going on. The cult that seems strangely like Gog's from The Kingdom (Waid is in here, after all), there's Montoya, the Rucka touch. Steel is figuring prominently, Booster, the heroes from space are returning and the consequences are being addressed. Lex Luthor is in the background. An entity (which I find altogether cheesy as an idea so far but will give the benefit of the doubt) called 52 is coming. We have Natasha. Lois and Clark are lingering, as is the Elongated Man and Question. We haven't see the main heroes yet.

Is this what I thought it was in the first issue so far? A B-list parade? Yes and no. It's gotten more diverse. It is, as the modus of the series seems to be, a tale of what would happen if the trinity weren't around. Usually that's done in Elseworlds. Usually it's done for a few issues. Usually it fails, but here it's working all right, so far.

I'm glad the focus is less on Booster, and instead goes more from character to character and explores more of the universe.

This issue in particular didn't do much in terms of plot, but did a lot for character. Alan Scott, Steel, even Animal Man and his family. Some of the beats fall really dry, some of them fall especially poignant. Alan talking about parents not having to bury their child is touching. Renee Montoya being adversarial with Sawyer and then clutching her gun for no real apparent reason fell flat. The beat where the teleporter malfunction is shown and described was incredible. The tense feeling of the heroes being revived played out well. Animal Man's wife and her seeming apathy to her husband's return fell a bit flat.

All in all, I've really been enjoying most of the issues of 52, but this one really didn't do that much for me in terms of THIS ONE story. But it's like reading one issue of Cerebus and reviewing it. This will probably make more sense when there are larger things at play. So take my 3 to mean that the story is going along, and may become a five in the bigger picture, or a 1 if things don't pan out. I know, as a reader that's not very satisfying, but I think I've jogged around why it's hard to peg this as an easy rating enough...

I have two technical issues. The first being that if Luthor now can control and remove and give the meta gene, why isn't Luthor giving himself superpowers? Why isn't he taking them from heroes covertly? Perhaps he will, but this is like giving Lex Luthor the kryptonite "web" in Birthright. It's such a powerful weapon and a big can of worms that if they' re going to open it, it better get used. He can literally say "NO MORE MUTANTS," if you follow my metaphor.

And also, what's up with Steel? Last week he was writing and covered in synthetic goo and getting backstabbed, now here he is acting normal. Yeah, Alan Scott won't know something is up, but how about a hint for the reader for the a to b there? But then, I'm guessing that's another thing that's gonna get ironed out (Lord, I just realized I typed that after, and the pun which it entails, so I'm gonna leave it to teach myself to pay more attention and be self-deprecating) in the next few issues.

All in all, I get the feel that this is a good series, but not an EVENT. I actually kind of prefer that, and I hope that the story will continue to thicken and deliver as it has. Don't take my rating to mean a pan for the series, just that it's not SHINING yet.

3Art - 3: This, however, you can take at face value. The art, beyond the teleporter scene, isn't really that grabbing to me. Yes, you can tell who everyone is, and you can tell what they're doing, but it's a bit staccato, and it even loses some of the writing beats in the paneling. Maybe that was kind of the writing, too. When John Henry says, "Does anyone really think he 's reformed?" about Luthor, and then, instead of following that up, jumps right to Hawkgirl, and you see the apathy on his character face, it's disconcerting. YEAH, he's Steel. He can't change expression. But neither can Spider-Man's eyes shrink and grow like they do in comics. You can make him worried, sad, etc. Also, heck, just leaving out the bit about Luthor might have saved the beat its awkwardness.

I don't know if the art could have fixed that, but there are a lot of very normal, very blocky panels. Flip through and there is a LOT of 4-5-6-9 panel-by-the-book boringness. As a writer, you can vary the panels, but it's the artist's job to keep those variations dynamic. Half the time it succeeds, half the time, it goes by the book in this issue, thus the average. Maybe that's the deadline rush, I don't know.

4Backup Story - 4: This is hard to rate, mostly because so little happens with each issue, and because the plot is really something of a contention for me. It's "History of the DCU," so I expected at very least a history of the DCU. For instance, how the changes implemented in Infinite Crisis changes the origins of the characters I know and love. Instead, it's just a VERY VERY VERY well-drawn version of the wikipedia article about the Crisis on Infinite Earths, at least so far, and it's a quarter over. What about the previous heroes? The Golden Age, the Silver Age? How does it all fit. This may come to pass, but so far it's just basically Jurgens does Crisis. Which, as a story, is not so hot.

5Art - 5: BUT, that said, this is Jurgens does Crisis. Dan Jurgens, one of my faves of all time, examining the pivotal moments of the DCU. I can't complain about the art. I'd love to watch him draw Brainiac's gay assistant sidekick from the earlier drafts of the Superman movie. ANYTHING.

And he's doing it well. Great paneling, great work, all of it is thusfar incredible. The only downside is that I know he can PEG iconic, and there's iconic reconstruction to do here...and I want to see him get to it.

4Cover Art - 4: I've been loving these covers, and this one is no exception. Giant Hawkgirl, chaos that actually happens in the issue, that great logo. Not much to say beyond that it's a good, solid effort, and a great image.

Minus one point though, because why is CYBORG on the bed there? I mean, it's pretty obvious he's in a different position in the story. Why not put in Duncan or even Scott?

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

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